For me it started with a birthday present from my Mother in 1975 at the age of seven. A watch… a timepiece… a work of art! It had a white face with a white rubber strap and it was housed in a white case with an automatic movement. I can still remember the lovely vanilla smell of the strap. No one else had anything like it.
From there on my passion grew and I started my collection. It was made easier as the rest of the family were just as obsessed as me. My younger brother would wear 4-6 watches on his wrists to try and synchronize them all in time. He had a huge collection of clocks and drawers full of watches. You would walk past his room and hear a loud ticking and even chimes in the middle of the night. Ticking I didn't mind but a chime was pushing it! I dedicated my first Magrette watch to my brother Marcus McAsey (1969 – 1990).
My collection didn't really start growing until I started work. In the early days it consisted mostly of fashion watches and brand names. In the 1990s I formed a passion for 1940s military style watches and 1970s dive watches. I think that is where most of my influences have come from with regards to the MAGRETTE brand.
How it started…
The MAGRETTE story began while I was working as Managing Director of a Creative Agency. I was busy working on designs for a French-Canadian watch company when the inkling of an idea was born… why not build my own watch brand?
The first thing I had to do was conceive of my brand. What were to be its design features and principles? What allusions and associations would my brand suggest? How could I capture my vision in a name?
Mysterious, alluring, old-world, and strong—that name was Magrette
I was thinking of an older world and the stories in the lines on the faces of elderly people. I imagined black Italian suits and stark white shirts. I saw cobblestone roads and the well worn buildings of days gone by…the simplicity of the past. These images were to inform my vision of a timepiece that wouldn‘t be influenced by trends, but something that was time tested and true. Indeed, something that might still be stylish when our grandkids are all growing up. Oneday by chance, I glimpsed a name that spoke these words to me - Mysterious, Alluring, Old World, Strong – that name was MAGRETTE (pron. Mar-gret-tee).
Next had to come the New Zealand connection. As a fan of classic yachts I knew my brand had to associate itself with yachting and that‘s when I felt the package was finally coming together.
Now that I had a plan of where I wanted to go with MAGRETTE I began work on my first website. I had the skills to do it myself but not the skills to take it to the level I wanted. It was therefore necessary to test the market with a minimum of outlay to see if my concept was viable. As it turned out this phase has become a part of Magrette history. I ended up selling out of my first model, the Marcus Chronograph Manual Wind, and still have people asking for it today. Without that initial success I would have ended up with gifts for a lot of male friends! Once it became clear that a market existed I knew just the guy who could build my website to the high standard you see today.
When you are selling on the internet you have to make it easy for people to come to you if they have a problem and have faith that it won't take forever to fix. For example, the stopwatch tended to stick on my first prototype but that was soon fixed - all part of the learning experience! Now, all Magrette watches come with a 12 month guarantee so in the unlikely event of there being a malfunction, components are quickly replaced at no cost to the customer.
I then moved on to the Vintage Series model and simplified. This watch has an uncomplicated movement and has been a great seller as well. I decided the case on this model should become my signature case for all new models. With that in mind, my next design was the Bacchus. This is when I realized I could grow a real future in the watch profession. I reinvested all my profit back into the business by stocking up on components and movements.
I have had good luck running into the right people at the right time. I was lucky in the sense that these key people approached me through my website just as I was planning to look for them. The best thing of all is that they are good at what they do and they have a passion for timepieces. I think this makes it a lot easier to get your vision across when people already have an understanding.
Of course this is not to suggest I haven‘t encountered strategic difficulties along the way. For example I would spend hours every day reading watch forums and watch news articles. I often found myself being dragged in other directions by new inventions and designs. But at the end of the day you have to stick to the vision that stimulated you in the first place - mysterious, alluring, old world, strong.
At first I struggled with finding suppliers that would take me seriously with such small runs of components. I also had to search long and hard for a case manufacture who could produce a small run. The first few companies I tried just laughed at me, but in the end I found one that has worked for me well. Our Vintage Style roll case is made to a very high quality here in Auckland while all the watch components are sourced from overseas. Currently we have straps made by a specialist in Canada, graphic design work done by a kiwi in Taiwan and dials supplied from Germany!
My vision of Magrette from the start has always been long term. It is a business I want to work in till a ripe old age. Flexibility is important. My business is set up so I can work with all my key people remotely. These include case maker, movement supplier, dial maker, metal band supplier, leather strap maker, buckle maker, photographer, copy writer, graphic designer and technical advisor. This is how MAGRETTE will continue to grow into the future.
The Magrette emblem promotes our design philosophy and heritage. Our logo combines the strength and protection offered by the shield with the poignant symbolism of the koru. Magrette cases have to be strong and bold in their design to protect the intricate automatic movements we use in all our timepieces. The koru complements this synergy beautifully with its suggestion of perpetual movement carried in the unfurling of a fern frond—a symbolism unique to traditional New Zealand culture. The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new positive beginnings…
Dion Wynyard McAsey - Founder of MAGRETTE Timepieces.
Auckland (City of Sails), New Zealand