From Songwriting to Watchmaking: a Conversation With Lorca Watches’ Founder Jesse Marchant

This story originally appeared on the Gents Cafe Newsletter. You can subscribe here.

In this interview, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jesse Marchant (@jessemarchant), the founder of Lorca Watches (@lorcawatches).

Jesse founded Lorca Watches in 2022 in New York City with the goal of offering uniquely designed timepieces that are not only beautiful and well-made but also affordable and reliable.
As an NYC-based recording artist, Jesse’s vision for Lorca Watches was born out of his own need for a watch that was missing from his tours. His aim is to evoke a sense of romance and pride in those who wear his watches.

In our conversation, he shares his journey from being a songwriter to a watch brand founder, and the obstacles he encountered while bringing his vision to life.

Photo credit: Jen Steele

Hi Jesse, tell us a little about your background.

I was born in Montreal, Canada to a Swiss mother and Canadian father. I moved to the US at the age of 19 to pursue a life in the arts and began writing and performing songs in my twenties. I lived between New York and Los Angeles most of those years and have now settled, somewhat permanently in New York City.

I have released 5 studio albums since 2010, which I toured extensively. In 2022, I formed Lorca Watches, and in March of 2023 we launched our first model, a 36mm automatic GMT with 200m WR.

Can you tell us about the initial spark that led you to start Lorca Watches, and the journey from being a recording artist to a watch brand founder?

I have been admiring and collecting watches since I was s kid. After receiving a gold dress watch which had belonged to my Swiss grandfather – a man I much admired and looked up to, I became more intensely fixated. I began learning as much as I could. I started Lorca because I long had in mind a watch that I felt should exist but didn’t. I wanted to create a robust, elegant GMT that wore more like a vintage daily wearer than a decidedly tool-ish sports watch. It was the piece I felt would be ideal to wear on tour. Discrete and elegant enough to wear on stage – competent enough to take adventuring.

As a brand, what core values and beliefs does Lorca Watches embody, and how do these inform the design and production of your products?

The core goal of the brand is to offer watch enthusiasts an object that is beautiful, well-made and reliable, at a price that is in line with what is being obtained. We intend to create objects that evoke romance and a sense of pride in those who wear them. While some enthusiasts inherit beautiful heirloom pieces from the golden age, most of us don’t. We want to create watches that have some of the feeling of those beloved references, while holding a distinction all their own.

Can you tell us about any unique or distinctive design elements of Lorca Watches that set them apart from other luxury watch brands?

The Model No.1 differs from many vintage-inspired pieces in that it does not take, as its starting point, a pre-existing reference. The design emerged from desired dimensions and the inspiration from looking at and learning about watches from many different decades.

How do you balance creating elegant and visually appealing watches while also making them affordable and easily serviceable for daily wear?

Most of the elegance is in the dimensions and proportions. Scrutinizing the design for a long time before prototyping – sitting with the proportions within the dial to make sure they settle and stand up to repeated viewings several months apart.

For daily wear, manufacturing quality is of supreme importance. Watches that are correctly manufactured can, and should, last several lifetimes. The case and bracelet quality is extremely important. Sharp, well-finished cases are expensive to manufacture but worth every penny as they stay beautiful even when they get scuffed.

For serviceability, we chose a Swiss Soprod movement that can easily be taken apart and cleaned by any competent watchmaker. It is a solid movement that keeps impeccable time. After having observed the timekeeping and shock-absorption of our prototypes, we believe the movement is grossly underrated.

In the future, we would like to open an atelier to perform required maintenance in-house.

What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in building the Lorca Watches brand, and how have you navigated these obstacles?

The biggest obstacle is manufacturing. Watch components come from numerous suppliers, that range vastly in quality, so it is of utmost importance to select the finest ones that use quality materials and care for details. Lead times are a challenge too, particularly with Swiss movements, as those are often scarce and not readily available.

Earning the trust of consumers to buy the watch 9 months ahead of time is also a challenge, but we got there. We were lucky to get some very positive reviews from publications and enthusiasts that we, ourselves, would trust. That helped instill confidence, in that respect.

Looking ahead, what can we expect to see from Lorca Watches in the future in terms of new products, collaborations, or other exciting developments?

We will be introducing models with different functions/complications that share the core design language and values of the Model No.1.

We intend to create a restrained catalog of watches over the next five years, that we will maintain and make improvements to over time. We want our offerings to remain limited and focused so we don’t intend to produce many variations or limited editions. Some collaborations we do have in mind, and we’ll announce those as they further develop.

What public figure, past or present, do you feel best represents the overall style of the brand?

No one person comes to mind. Many of my friends who have been testing the prototypes are artists. Actors, photographers, cinematographers, etc. Open-minded, conscientious, and curious people who love life, and whose work I admire. I have enjoyed seeing them wearing the watches proudly, as I would anyone that finds the piece special and wears it with joy.

Finally, as the founder of Lorca Watches, what message or feeling do you hope your watches convey to their wearers?

I believe that mechanical watches, at best, can evoke feelings of warmth and wonder, invoking a deep connection with, and confidence in, an inanimate object. This is a curious and mysterious phenomenon. We like the idea of our watches living in that space – with the potential to become beloved, cherished objects.

Photo credit: Jen Steele

Never miss a story – subscribe now to the Gents Cafe Newsletter, a bite-sized read about men’s lifestyle to enjoy over a coffee or a nice cocktail.