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NEW BRAND

Brand New

vintage By Jonathan Bues

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03.2011 / international watch / www.iwmagazine.com


Los Angeles-based March LA.B mixes retro designs with French flair

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major trend over the past year has been a return to vintage-style watchmaking. We’ve seen it from many of the established brands, most notably Vacheron Constantin, whose Historique Ultra-fine 1955 won the Geneva Grand Prix Public Prize, and at SIHH this year in Geneva, where almost every brand had a classically styled ultra-thin watch to show. While it’s one thing to look back at the catalog and revive an erstwhile legend, its quite another to build an original brand with a “new vintage” concept. A new line of timepieces launched last year called March LA.B has

staked its position by making vintageinspired original timepieces. The firm is the brainchild of Biarritz, France-based Alain Marchic and Jerome Mage, a French-born Los Angeles transplant with several years of design experience in high-end eyewear and technical gear. Longtime friends, the two men created March LA.B out of a shared enthusiasm for vintage timepieces from the 1960s and 1970s. In conversations with watch enthusiasts, Marchic and Mage discovered a popular affinity for timepieces from this era, and the two became convinced

The JM1 Fullgold on a genuine lizard strap

A maker of modern watches with vintage inspiration, March LA.B has two “home bases,” Los Angeles, California, and Biarritz, France.

www.iwmagazine.com / international watch / 03.2011

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there was enough interest for a line of completely modern timepieces with decidedly retro styling. March LA.B launched its first pieces in Europe in March of last year, with the U.S. following in September. Jerome Mage has high hopes for his upstart brand. “We want to build something that is relevant, in the likes of Bell & Ross,” Mage told iW, referencing a brand for which he as a designer has great respect. In fact, one of the very first retailers to take March LA.B on is Parisbased Colette, which was Bell & Ross’s first point of sale worldwide. The current lineup of March LA.B watches comprises mainly quartz models. Mage said that this is so mainly because when the brand began placing orders in 2008, the mechanical watch industry

Above: a piece from the JC Series Right: Pocket watches from the 1805 series

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was booming, and there was a backlog of orders for Swiss made mechanical movements. He hopes to make more mechanical pieces in the future, and the firm is in the initial stages of developing a mechanical movement. Many eras

March LA.B’s inspired designs come from a number of eras. The AM1’s precursors are the sports watches of the 1970s, an especially creative time for watch design. The elegant, rectangular JM1 style is modeled after designs from the 1930s and 1940s, and is the dressiest of March LA.B’s creations to this point. The small company even makes a pocket watch, the boldest articulation of the founders’ enthusiasm for vintage timekeeping. The coming months will see a light cavalry watch, whose inspiration is Mage’s interest in artifacts from the Napoleonic era.


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All of the pieces are prototyped by hand and manufactured in Bienne, Switzerland. The leather straps, many of which also evoke a vintage feel, are made across the border in neighboring France. In a surprising coup for the upstart March LA.B, the firm has embarked on a partnership with Shelby. The chance to produce a limited-edition timepiece with the legendary maker of American performance cars arose when Mage visited Carroll Shelby at his firm’s Las Ve-

gas headquarters and proposed the idea. Mage, whose first car after moving to L.A. was a vintage Ford Mustang, was frank with Shelby, explaining that he understood the spirit of his brand and had the passion and the desire to make a special piece honoring the Shelby. While other watch firms had proposed such partnerships, Shelby, impressed with Mage’s passion and understanding, placed his trust in Mage and March LA.B. The first piece to result from the collaboration

Above: The Shelby watch on the wrist Above Right: Jerome Mage and Carroll Shelby

Left: The AM1 Shelby Limited Edition Middle: The JC1 Shadowplay Right: The AM1 Metal Silver

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honors the Green Hornet, a pure power muscle car that never made it to production because of changing emissions and safety standards. In addition to five points of sale in Europe, March LA.B can be found in a handful of Los Angeles retailers, among them Neiman Marcus and Fred Segal Man, as well as in New York specialty watch shop Kenjo. Prices range from $744 for entry-level quartz pieces to $1,144 for automatics. C


iW March 2011 Feature Press