Furlan Marri Mr. Grey: 50 Shades Of Success11 November 2021
Those who think that the world of watchmaking never changes and is not capable of real surprises have a good reason to change their mind today. This reason comes from a brand, Furlan Marri, from a watch, Mr. Grey, and from an incredible success story, perhaps beyond the expectations of those who believed in the project: the two founders of this young brand, Andrea Furlan and Hamad Al Marri.
A success that made the two gentlemen enter the world of fine watchmaking through the main door, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2021; their Mr. Grey chronograph, Ref. 1041-A, was first nominated for the “Horological Revelation” award – and then won it. But who are the architects of this boom?
FURLAN MARRI: BETWEEN SWITZERLAND AND SAUDI ARABIA
Andrea Furlan is a Swiss industrial designer with a solid background who has always been passionate about watchmaking. After working several years for prestigious brands, with internships in Chopard, Hublot, HD3 Complication – to name a few – he collaborated with Dominique Renaud, founder of Renaud & Papi. He then moved to Asia and California, where he became a watch design consultant for many major groups.
His travels, especially to Asia and Singapore, led him to meet his current partners, those who have been supporting him in the creation of the project since November 2019. He understood that he had everything he needed to make high quality watches at a super affordable price.
Hamad Al Marri is a Middle Eastern watch collector and artist who studied business management in Australia. From an early age, he frequented auctions and nurtured a passion for independent watchmakers and fine watches, which he brings to the Furlan Marri collections and vision.
Al Marri not only often attends Phillips’ and Christie’s auction circuits, but he also frequently visits the Vallée de Joux, wandering among the haute horlogerie manufactures and the independent ateliers. During his travels, Furlan began sharing his vision on watchmaking with Al Marri, with whom he has been friends with for seven years: once they met, their entrepreneurial spirit, their love for well-made timepieces, and Covid did the rest.
PATEK PHILIPPE’S INSPIRATION
When the pandemic hit, Furlan and Al Marri, like millions of people, found themselves locked in Switzerland and Riyadh. And it was around that time that they started discussing the idea of a brand they both felt a strong need for. Both the designer and the collector were in love with some icons of watchmaking; both loved the 1930s and 1940s watch designs, especially that of the Patek Philippe ref. 1463 “Tasti Tondi”, which featured the famous waterproof case by François Borgel.
The two were fascinated by the idea of creating a tribute to this watch, while modernizing it and bringing a personal touch to the design. Roger Dubuis had already done this a few years ago, using both the reference 130 and the 1463 as inspiration for the Hommage chronographs. But those were very expensive watches, while Furlan and Al Marri wanted to create affordable pieces. From these premises and on these aesthetic codes, Furlan Marri’s collections were born: among them, today, we focus on the GPHG 2021 winner, Mr. Grey Ref. 1041-A.
MR. GREY, PLEASURE
A name that evokes scandalous novels and movies, but which in our case only recalls the beautiful grey color that distinguishes a watch whose architecture rests on three main pillars: the 11.3 mm thick, 38 mm steel case, the dial, and the movement. The case itself is inspired by that of the ref. 1463, with the screwed decagonal caseback in Furlan Marri’s Mr. Grey. Water resistance to 50 meters, in this case, is not guaranteed by the crown’s cork gaskets but by modern materials.
Then the dial, created starting from the typefaces. The choice fell on two fonts: Decimal, designed by the American Hoefler & Co – famous for creating the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris campaign poster and for supplying fonts to several watchmaking companies – and Henderson, designed by the Argentines of Sudtipos, for the logo and the lettering. The characters define the tachymeter scale on the light grey rehaut and the chrono counters, while the inner part of the dial is in a darker gray and the counters are silver.
The refined details certainly don’t stop there. The indexes are applied and the central leaf hands are curved to follow the domed crystal treated with an anti-reflective and anti-fingerprint treatment. Beautiful with its vintage look, the engraving on the case between the lugs at 6 o’clock – ORIG FURLAN MARRI DESIGN CASE NUMBER – and the reference number of the case itself. The chronograph pushers are refined with an elegant sunburst pattern.
A HYBRID HEART
And the movement? That’s what makes the difference. It is a hybrid movement, the so-called meca-quartz, precisely the Seiko VK64 caliber. Meca-quartz chronographs combine an electronic quartz caliber for measuring time and a mechanical chronograph module. They have the precision and stability of quartz, are easily handled like mechanical chronographs and are generally compact. They are an excellent solution in terms of performance and if, on the one hand, the watches they drive are cheaper than fully mechanical chronographs, their downside is that they rely on a battery.
The first meca-quartz watches were created after the quartz crisis in the late 1980s by Swiss and Japanese brands, almost simultaneously. In Switzerland, the first meca-quartz timepiece was invented by LeCoultre and Piguet, in Japan by Seiko. This type of movement has also put in motion valuable watches, such as the IWC Pilot IW3741 or the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph in the 90s. Furlan and Al Marri, however, have plans for mechanical versions of their watches.
A RICH OUTFIT
The two founders of the brand did not spare themselves even on packaging. The watch is delivered in a fine leather case lined with velvet, a certificate of origin and an “archive for posterity” document. Furthermore, two leather straps are supplied: one in gray suede to match the dial and one in black calfskin.
In addition to Mr. Grey, Furlan Marri has created four other references in line with the GPHG champion and the 1940s inspiration: Tasti Tondi, Laccato Nero, Havana Salmon and Farro. The first, starting from the name, is a tribute to one of the most famous Patek Philippe references, the 1463; the second, as suggested by its Italian name, is characterized by the delicate lacquering of the dial; in the same way, the color of the dial of the third watch, very warm and very vintage, defines its name; the latter has a rose gold plated case and hands, which make it even more elegant.
EVERYTHING STARTED… FROM KICKSTARTER
The project came to light on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, which is teeming with ideas dedicated to watchmaking. Few projects, however, really manage to emerge and the fact that Furlan Marri is among them is significant of the quality of the venture.
The positioning on Kickstarter was rather elementary: the first 300 people supporting the project by buying the watch had it for 330 dollars, the following ones for 350. The selling price – exclusively online – was then set, in euros, to 434 excluding VAT. Kickstarter pre-orders began on March 10, 2021, and the watches were delivered by August. They vanished in an instant: not only the Mr. Grey, but also all the timepieces of the other four Furlan Marri collections are sold out and, according to the brand, they will no longer be produced.
To confirm how much the Furlan Marri project and, specifically, the Mr. Grey is already a success, there is not only the award at the GPHG – which is the equivalent of an Oscar awarded to a small independent director for his film shot and edited with the iPhone 12. Searching on the Chrono 24 platform, the brand’s watches can be found well over 2,000 euros, with an average price around 1,500 for the Mr. Grey, more than 5 times its starting price on Kickstarter. Does anyone still think that there is no room for surprises in watchmaking?
By Davide Passoni