New Zealand has plenty of international exports: The All Blacks, Taika Waititi, anything to do with Lord of the Rings… Not, however, watches. In fact, the country’s a bit of a blank spot on the horological atlas, just under ‘here be dragons.’ Or at least, that was the case before Magrette. Riding the wave of cool, new brands popping up across the world, Magrette is, in style at least, New Zealand’s answer to the classic Florentine diving watches of yore. If you’re a fan of Anonimo or even Panerai, this is one NZ export you should be paying attention to.
The story begins all the way back in 1975 when Magrette founder Dion Wynyard McAsey was given his first watch at the tender age of seven. Why you’d give a seven-year-old a watch is beyond me, but McAsey was enraptured with the white mechanical timepiece, something that evidently stuck with him.
It wasn’t until decades later that the epiphany to create McAsey’s own watch brand struck. There was no grand life-changing event, no seizing of a unique opportunity, just the simple thought of… why not? The idea was to combine old-world Italian style with the world of classic yachts – and so Magrette was born in Auckland, City of Sails.
Of course, one does not simply build a watch brand. It takes a good amount of groundwork and, most importantly, testing the waters. And so Dion built his first watch as a test pilot. In hindsight that may not have been all that necessary given that the Marcus Chronograph Manual Wind – named after Dion’s late, watch-obsessed brother – sold out in next to no time.
From there Magrette, fledgling brand though it was, went from strength to strength, securing suppliers across the world. In fact, the brand is a truly international affair, with the components sourced from overseas – straps from Canada, designs created by a fellow Kiwi in Taiwan and dials from Germany, all of which are brought together under the Magrette Emblem: a shield emblazoned with a Maori Koru.
The timepieces themselves are everything you could expect from an Italian-inspired sailing brand, with lovely cushion cases and a chunky, vintage feel to them. That’s particularly true of the Moana Pacific Waterman Bronze, with it’s impossibly lovely bezel and otherwise clean, blue-on-bronze look.
That said, if you’re after something a little more hardcore to take on a regatta or two, the Moana Pacific Professional Titanium has you covered. A serious dive watch able to reach depths of 500 metres, the hard-wearing titanium case and engraved ceramic bezel would survive a shipwreck easily enough, whether you’re wearing scuba gear or not. Both Moana models have Swiss automatic movements too, so reliability is not an issue.
At the other end of the scale, there’s the Waka, Rangi & Papa and Tamanuitera, a triplet of beautifully engraved pieces created with Christchurch-based master engraver Andrew Biggs. They go perfectly with the brand’s cushion cases, and with elements from Māori culture, are unmistakably New Zealand.
Despite the variance in models, Magrette remains a small-batch watch brand, ensuring quality and creativity in everything it does. It might not have made it over here as wholeheartedly as Flight of the Conchords, but give it time; there’s a lot to love.
More details at magrette.com