If youâ€™re like me, that review we did a little bit ago on the Merci LMM-01 sort of came out of nowhere. Â Unless youâ€™re local to Paris or travelled through there, Iâ€™d say itâ€™s even money that you had never heard of Merci before. Â I, for one, am glad to have learned of them. Â Though, one always wonders when a new watch pops up out of nowhere,Â particularly when driven from an already established store. Â So, to that end, we conducted a quick interview with the CEO of Merci, Arthur Gerbi. Â Read on to learn how he decided that now was the time to introduce the LMM-01 to the world. Â As it turns out, he really is a watch guy at heart, from an early age.
WristWatchReview (WWR): Â CanÂ youÂ tell us a little bit ofÂ yourÂ background, and howÂ youÂ came to the helm at Merci?
Arthur Gerbi: Â My name is Arthur Gerbi, andÂ I am 32 years old. I was born in a very entrepreneurial family in the fashion industry. Â While I ultimatelyÂ went to business school, IÂ haveÂ always been attracted to design, architecture, and fashion.
WWR: Â CanÂ youÂ paint us a picture of where Merci fits within the retail space?
Arthur Gerbi: Â This is a hard question to answer. Merci is the opposite of the retail paradigm. We opened in the middle of nowhere on the Boulevard Beaumarchais (which is now – thanks to Merci – oneÂ of the coolest neighborhoods in Paris). Â Surprisingly, we also donâ€™tÂ haveÂ any windows on the street. Â In place of windows, we have our â€œcoupoleâ€ where we exhibit every month a trend we see in the society.
Merci is actually a store that focuses on how we want to live today and what the everyday life means. Â AtÂ Merci, we wake up every day to sublimate the everyday life.
Past anything retail-related, Merci was also born as a project to develop an education project in the south east of Madagascar. We support since our beginnings an associationÂ called ABC Domino.
WWR: Â So, there are quite a variety of uniqueÂ qualitiesÂ to the brand – to which you justÂ recently added the LMM-01. Â Why didÂ youÂ decide that now was the time to design and releaseÂ yourÂ ownÂ watch?
Arthur Gerbi:Â Upfront, I must be clear – thisÂ has been a longtime project for me. I feltÂ thereÂ was too much of everything on the market, and really not enough watches that had educated references.Â Past that, Â I still donâ€™t understand the connectedÂ watch (ed note: Â smartwatches). Wanting to be connected to everything disconnects us from what is the most important. So, we went the opposite direction. Â We wanted to make aÂ watch that connected to the most important thing: the present moment.
WWR: Â Thatâ€™s quite a purpose statement for the watch, but it does give things a focus. Â With watches – in general – how would you say they have figured into your life?
Arthur Gerbi:Â Â I fell in love with watches very early in life – around the age of 7. Then there was the day I discovered on my older brotherâ€™s wrist that his watch Â (a Rolex Explorer II) was not doing tic-tac with a 1hz beat but titititititi with a 4hz beat? Â That was a revelation for me. The beauty of that connection to time remained anchored in my mind.Â For me this, little second hand beating at 4hz represented the best of craftmanship.
WWR: Â It is tremendous how we can hone in on the smallest of details, like a second hand, and have itÂ define a watch (or watches) so precisely for us. Â WhatÂ watch, or watches, wouldÂ youÂ say influenced the LMM-01?
Arthur Gerbi:Â Maybe all of them!Â I am passionate about watches; I can honestly say I love all watches. By way of illustration, when I meet new people, I remember what watches they are wearing, and how they are wearing them. (ed. note: Â who hasnâ€™t gone watch spotting in public?)
But back to your precise question. Â The case was inspired by military models of the 1930â€™s. The dial was inspired by train station clocks and off course field watches of the same time. Â In the end, it was important that LMM-01 was a true ToolÂ Watch.
WWR: Â And that was something I definitely picked up. Â In our own review, I was drawn to the rugged yet elegant simplicity of the LMM-01. Â AsideÂ fromÂ yourÂ ownÂ watch, whatÂ othersÂ doÂ youÂ haveÂ inÂ yourÂ collection?
Arthur Gerbi: Â IÂ love vintage swatch from the 80â€™s and 90â€™s. IÂ haveÂ a fantastic Longines Marine that I love, as well as Â a vintage Longines diver.
WWR: Â We canâ€™t see anything wrong with those choices! Â Past what youâ€™ve acquired, isÂ Â thereÂ any particularÂ watchÂ thatÂ youÂ would consider aÂ â€œgrail”?Â
Arthur Gerbi:Â Â Of course – there are many of them! Â First off, Iâ€™d mention the Â Longines 30CH with Luminova hands. Â For another specific model, I like theÂ Nivada Grenchen Datomaster. Â Then, to round it out, Iâ€™ll cast a very wide net and point to any pre-Daytona Rolex.
WWR: Â Well, with all those options on the grail list, Iâ€™m certain at least one will land on your wrist some day! Â Letâ€™s turn back to your own watch.Â Â Whatâ€™s been the biggest manufacturing or engineering challengeÂ youÂ faced so far?
Arthur Gerbi:Â Â The glass of theÂ watchÂ was quite a subject of concern. Â We wanted toÂ haveÂ aÂ watchÂ with a curved mineral glass. As we started out,Â our Swiss manufacturers had quite a hard time with this requirement. We finally found a factory in Switzerland that could make it.
WWR: Â Thatâ€™s intriguing – of all the parts of a watch, I would not have pegged the crystal as for being a difficulty. Â But, as you mention, itâ€™s a different shape than weâ€™re used to seeing on most watches. Â With the LMM-01, what would you sayÂ definesÂ yourÂ watch? What characteristics are identifiably â€œMerciâ€?
Arthur Gerbi:Â Â We want to make watches thatÂ haveÂ something to say, that bring something unique to the market. Â Doing a step caseÂ watchÂ in 2018 – when all the competition is focused on the design of the 1960â€™s and 1970â€™s – was important for us. Â And, in some ways, it was also an act of resistance!
We tend to think that being a forerunner in, terms of design, is important for us. As a company, Merci has always been at the beginning of trends. IfÂ we launch a product, like the LMM-01, we just donâ€™t want to be riding in on a trend. Â We actually want to try to start something new.
WWR: Â In my book, youâ€™veÂ succeededÂ there, for sure. Â Were youÂ surprised to see the LMM-01 on the wrist of President Macron?
Arthur Gerbi:Â Â What a surprise to discover that Mr Macron was wearing a LMM-01 with a mechanical movement! Â When we went to Switzerland in 2014 to start the design of theÂ watch, all the factories we met with thought we were crazy.
WWR: Â Why was that?
Arthur Gerbi:Â It may surprise some, but doing a mechanicalÂ watch – one that is Swiss-made – was not actually the direction of the market. Everyone at the time was focused on the smartÂ watch. Â For us, though, the mechanical component was key. Â We thought from the very beginning that winding aÂ watchÂ could be a gesture that corresponded to our time, and tied us to the moment.
WWR: Â Back to the surprise of the LMM-01 being on President Macronâ€™s wrist. Â HowÂ doÂ youÂ think thatÂ â€œcelebrity endorsementâ€Â has impacted the interest in theÂ watch?
Arthur Gerbi:Â Â TheÂ watchÂ was a success from day 1, even before this. Â That said, the fact that even the president of France – oneÂ of the most important leaders in the world – took a few seconds each day to wind hisÂ watchÂ was a real point of pride for us. Â Itâ€™s also a true proof of concept for our project! Weout of stock at the moment, but are taking orders on our website.
WWR: Â When it comes to design (both watches and otherÂ offerings from Merci), what areÂ yourÂ guiding principles when making design choices?
Arthur Gerbi: Â We focus on making a product that is not a copycat of something else, but brings a reflection in terms of usage and design. Â We also always want toÂ doÂ something with educated references.
WWR: Â HowÂ doÂ youÂ think about design and its role inÂ yourÂ life?
Arthur Gerbi: Â I think it is a very important subject. Design is the most beautiful when it has a meaning. This shows in the LMM-01 – we love ourÂ watchÂ because it is a true toolÂ watch.
WWR: Â What would the crowning lifetime achievement be forÂ youÂ andÂ yourÂ brand as a company?
Arthur Gerbi: Â Rather than an over-arching goal, weÂ just keep looking to the future. Â Merci is a project-driven company; the next project is where we look forward to.
WWR: Â DoÂ youÂ think thatÂ youÂ will create other watches in the future?
Arthur Gerbi:Â Â I think for us it is just the beginning. Â merci-merci.com