Posted on May 18 2023
That's the first thing I noticed about the young British brand Olivier Meylan. There are a hell of a lot of names associated with this watch company.
Some of them weren't familiar to me - Rugby has never been my thing, so Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Dave Ewers weren't on my radar.
But Russell Kane I was more familiar with. Then I came across a reference to Snoop Dogg. Really, a link between the famed US rapper and a microbrand watch company from Exeter?
Having dug a little deeper I also found connections to some of the big names in Swiss watchmaking, including Jaeger LeCoultre and Audemars Piguet. It was a little surprising and definitely intriguing. Let me explain how it all ties together.
Olivier Meylan Players Edition
Olivier Meylan Players Edition Review
I guess the easiest way to begin this story is to explain the references you'll have seen regarding the Swiss heritage of Olivier Meylan. It's a British brand founded in Devon during the Covid pandemic and the Swiss connection isn't obvious.
But David Meylan's family has a watchmaking lineage stretching back a hundred years, with his Swiss-born Grandfather starting his career with an apprenticeship at Jaeger-LeCoultre. Based in Switzerland's Vallée de Joux, the Meylan family had already married into the Audemars, LeCoultre and Piguet families.
That's some connection to Swiss watchmaking.
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Olivier Meylan founder David returned to Britain in the mid-90s and became Head of PR at Exeter's Timepiece nightclub. But all those visits with his father to the Vallée de Joux's luxury watch manufacturers had stuck with David.
Spurred on by the birth of his son Olivier, David founded his own watch brand and very quickly gained traction. Within a year or so he had a watch worn on Made in Chelsea and by Russell Kane on his TV show. As you'll see, he also collaborated with ambassadors from professional Rugby.
And Snoop Dogg?
Through his connections in the music business, David was able to convince the US rapper to perform an unexpected gig in Exeter, leading to talk that Snoop Dogg now owns an Olivier Meylan watch. A quick look at the brand's Instagram confirms that he does.
And that brings us up to date and to the Olivier Meylan Players Edition watch that I have sitting on my desk. It's a limited edition watch that boasts creative input from four Exeter Chiefs and England Rugby players, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Dave Ewers. It's made an impact too, with a mention in the Independent's list of top watch brands.
Created to mark ten years in the professional game, it's a mid-sized steel sports watch with a reliable Swiss Quartz movement. It's not quite as angular as say, an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, but it has a similar aesthetic. There are plenty of strong lines and an integrated stainless steel strap.
It's certainly got an interesting backstory, so let's take a closer look at the watch itself.
The Olivier Meylan Players Edition Watch in Detail
The Olivier Meylan Players Edition came to me shortly after Northgate's Club 40, with both watches sharing a common look as well as being similarly priced. I'm definitely a fan of this niche. Microbrand steel sports watches, with quartz movements and priced under £300. What's not to like? Of course, the most important element that both watches share is that they're equally impressive. Similar styling, similar build quality and a similar price. One proudly British and one as equally proud of its Dutch roots.
I really liked the Northgate, so what was my first impression of the Players Edition?
It's a very nice watch that ticks the boxes that I'd expect it to.
It's 42mm wide, so is very much a man's watch. The brand has a separate women's line that offers more feminine models and I like that. Remember, this is a watch designed with input from Rugby players so it feels appropriate that it has a strong masculine character.
And that's my first takeaway from this watch. It hits that sweet spot that has made this style of watch so popular. It has a versatile aesthetic which means it works as a sports watch but also has an elegance allowing it to dress upwards in formal settings.
In part, this is achieved by the simplicity of the design. Yes, when you look closely there's more going on than is first apparent, but at a glance, this is a pleasingly straightforward watch.
There is a variety of case colours available, and this variant has what Olivier Meylan describe as frosted Stainless Steel. The case, as expected, is angular and features polished and brushed finishes. On top sits a rounded polished bezel that has six distinctive grooves. And that's what I mean about the depth and versatility of the Players Edition. The colour palette is simple, but the finishing and small touches add a layer that keeps the watch interesting.
That theme continues with the dial.
The dial is white ceramic and gives off a slight blue tinge when in sunlight. It's a very simple layout that is reminiscent of a Rolex Oyster Perpetual, as are the hands. There's a date window that I found too small to be practical, but its size does mean it doesn't detract from the spartan nature of the dial.
The dial text is subtle and simply states the brand and model names. The small text at the foot of the dial mentions the company's Swiss Heritage rather than the more common, Swiss Made.
The most obvious sign of Olivier Meylan's collaboration with its Rugby ambassadors is the engraved number 10 on the modestly-sized crown. It's a reference to the player's decade spent with Exeter Chiefs. When viewing the crown from the side it becomes clear just how slim the watch is. The sub-10mm height helps the watch wear comfortably and the Swiss quartz movement keeps the weight down - handy with a watch that features so much steel.
Engraved on the screw-down case back are the brand's logo and the model details.
The brushed steel integrated bracelet is a crucial element of the steel sports watch style and the Players Edition bracelet doesn't disappoint. It's signed with the brand's logo and features a handy butterfly clasp. The bracelet finishes off the watch nicely and helps maintain the design cohesion. The watch is mostly steel with a simple white dial and plain black wording and that simplicity works for me.
Of course, that's the watch I have at hand.
There are also the black, gold-coloured and two-tone models - but the overall impression is the same on each variant. This is a practical and versatile sports watch that subtly references its Rugby inspiration, but without compromising the ever-popular look we've seen from big names like Audemars Piguet and Patek Phillipe and more affordable brands like Northgate.
The Players Edition from Olivier Meylan does the basics well. It's a straightforward steel sports watch that utilises a popular style. It's also mid-sized, versatile and well-made.
A closer inspection reveals a variety of finishings that keep the watch interesting, as does the contrast of a round bezel and an angular case. This young brand clearly has ambition and the Players Edtion encapsulates that vision. There's input from the brand's ambassadors and references to the founder's Swiss heritage.
I'm always excited to see a new British watch brand and Olivier Meylan looks to be a name we'll see more of over the coming years.