The Stowa Marine line of watches are amazing. They’re based on the classic Kriegsmarine pocket watches that Stowa made for the German navy (Kriegsmarine) during World War 2, a pocket watch that lit up brightly at night using a luminous dial. But at the same time, they’re far from cheap.
Which meant I was very happy when I heard about Roland Kemmner, an ex-employee of the Fricker company. Fricker builds watchcases for brands like Kobold, Sinn and (formerly) Precista. In fact Precista was so satisfied with the work Kemmner did for them during his time at Fricker that they decided to continue working with him after he left. Kemmner now sells watches and parts under his own name through his ebayshop Erkahund. To set the record straight, we call these Kemmner Marines because he builds them, but they’re not official watches from the Kemmner ‘brand’ so to speak. You won’t find a finished Marine in his shop, in fact the shop is filled only sporadically and it’s quite difficult to get a handle on his inventory.
Instead of going through the shop it’s easier to contact him directly with pictures of other Marines he’d built, asking for the same. I got a prompt reply with an ordered list of parts needed, associated costs and additional charges for building and shipping. You even have the option of using different parts (different cases, cheaper Asian movements, etc) if you so desire, which he explains in the mail. After some deliberations I made my choices and the resulting watch you see above cost me 250 euro.
The pro’s: for an unbelievably low price you get a Marine style watch featuring a Swiss Unitas 6498 soigné grade movement in a polished 316L steel case with double side AR coated sapphire on front, mineral on the display-back. That’s a LOT of watch for the money.
The cons: Apart from the Swiss movement, we have no clue where the other parts are sourced. And some of these parts are going to be of lower quality, considering the price. I’m pretty sure the hands are lacquered blue, not chemical or heat treated, for instance (but check out my pics of the dial: the watch still looks amazing. ‘Lower quality’ is just a relative term here). There’s also no warranty – Kemmner has the reputation of being a good guy and taking proper care of you if something does go awry, but there’s nothing written down on paper.
If you can live with the cons and want a Marine watch on a budget, this is what I’d recommend.
Thanks for posting this in English and thanks for commenting on the Hodinkee post. I guess I hadn’t thought about the netiquette implications, but Hodinkee has always been about disseminating useful information to its readers, and I suspect Ben Clymer won’t be too angry! I’m going to check out Kremmner. That blued Marine watch is beautiful and I don’t think you can go wrong for the price. By the way I think atch enthusiasts need to start getting used to names like Unitas and Selita movements now that ETA is restricting access to its movements. Marvin watches puts out a great product and they use Selita movements. Thanks for the great info.
Hey Randy, it probably wasn’t an issue at all but it felt kinda awkward to discuss a budget alternative repeatedly in the comments when they’d only just reviewed the Archimede. Good to know the info was of use to you!
The Unitas is actually an ETA movement, ETA bought the company in the 80s. Just like we still refer to a Valjoux 7750 chrono movement (also made by ETA now) by the old name, ETA’s 649x movements are still called Unitas.
Personally I’m also quite interested in seeing if ETA’s decision to restrict access to their ebauches means that more companies wil start using Chinese ebauches, to the point of Asian mechanical movements becoming more acceptable to the currently still quite Swissophile watch consumers. Sea-Gull for example is already the second largest manufacturer of mechanical movements in the world (ETA, of course, being the first) and there have been Swiss Made movements found that are based on Sea-Gull ebauches (a movement can be called Swiss Made when 51% of the financial cost is Swiss. That happens pretty quickly when the base movement was Chinese).