Earlier this year I accompanied the watchnerd to visit Meridian Watches in the heart of Norwich, Norfolk. A new English brand, it is the culmination of a longstanding friendship between locals Simon Michlmayr, a WOSTEP and Peter Roberts Hackney trained protégé who has a successful second generation watch and clock business (est. 1986), and Richard Baldwin, long time collector, enthusiast and CEO of Arcadia.
Meridian HQ is part of Simon Michlmayr’s business, the workshop sharing the same premises. Many of those working for the brand are long time employees of the clock and watch business, so the horological hum is a mix of current jobs and the new Meridian workshop and watchmakers are similarly.
At the time of my visit I had heard of the brand from the watchnerd, but apart from seeing some photos and a bit of rather general information, all I knew was that they are fiercely English (their slogan is “Made in England…for the world”). What became evident during the day we spent was them was their desire to have as much made in-house as possible, and their equally strong desire to be as ‘English’ as possible.
Their first model is called, naturally, the ‘Prime’, MP-01 to MP-10 being the model designations.
Where else to start but the case? To start with, Meridian’s approach to cases is to manufacture them in their workshops from a single piece of solid stainless steel to maximise metal consistency and durability, with the cases individually hand-polished, taking 3-4 hours each. The case backs are screw-down with a Meridian logo engraving and the cases come in hand-polished or hand-brushed stainless steel, or ‘Meridian Black’. At a hefty 46mm in size, the Primes are not for the faint of wrist, and they sit very much like a 46mm-sized watch (as opposed to some which seem to sit smaller than that on the wrist).
The dial options for the Meridian are black or white sandwich dials with a small seconds at 6 or 9 o’clock. Stylistically, with the triangle marker at 12 o’clock etc, the dials are a familiar legible style to watch lovers. The dials are, naturally, made in-house, and on the day of our visit we saw a number of them lined up in the workshop. The matching skeletonised hands are also made there, and painted by hand.
Yes the same theme is appearing – handmade, in-house. An uncompromising approach to having the watch done to their standards.
As we were guided through the workshop, this obsessive attention to handmade detail reached its apogee when we came to the buckles. They are made by hand by a single watchmaker. That’s right, he makes each of the eleven parts of each buckle. Whether or not you think this attention to detail is necessary, there is no doubt that this was no ‘afterthought’ buckle, and they are quite stark but beautiful.
A similar approach was taken with the watch boxes, which can be ordered separately (the watch comes in a rather nifty and sturdy wallet, which can double as a travel wallet). The issue was the hinges, which both Simon and Richard could not source to their satisfaction, so they simply decided to make it themselves.
The straps are also very ‘English’, hand-stitched and made in the Home Counties.
Each watch comes with one nylon webbing strap and a leather one in the watch wallet, which also contains two Meredian hex keys (the straps are attached to the watch with bars that are fixed with hex screws), a small glass vial (a rather beautiful design that they are having hand-blown because they cannot find a commercially available one of the correct size) containing the spare screws and strap bars.
So what’s inside the watches? They have a large supply of NOS ETA Unitas 6497/8 calibres which they have refinished, engraved, decorated, frosted and bevelled.
Prices for Meridian watches start at GBP4,695. A number of people have asked me about the pricing. What I can tell them is this – there is an incredible amount of work that goes into these watches every step of the way, and the pricing reflects the labour and detail that goes into them. When I left Norfolk it was with a newfound understanding of their drive and desire to meet their own high standards. For those wondering about the calibres, yes they are working on their own in-house movement as well, of course.
To find out more about the watches or to contact Meridian, go to their website.