Magon Fórsa Titanium Automatic Column Wheel Chronograph By Stephen McGonigle: Incredible Engineering And Unparalleled Quality For The Price
by Ian Skellern
There’s a lot to like about beautiful handcrafted watches by the world’s greatest independent watchmakers. Unfortunately, they all tend to have one thing in common: astronomical prices far beyond reach for most of us. There’s no getting around the fact that quality costs, and developing and crafting an entirely new movement in small quantities costs even more.
Stephen McGonigle, owner and co-founder of McGonigle watches, knows this too well. He has been regularly asked by friends and watch aficionados over the years to make something that they could afford – or at least aspire to.
For McGonigle, making a cheap watch is easy, too easy. But making a relatively affordable watch that he could be proud of? That’s a challenge. A challenge he has met with the first watch from his new Magon brand: the Fórsa Titanium, an automatic column wheel chronograph in a distinctive tonneau-shaped case.
“I did not want to do a lazy watch, I wanted to put as much thought and effort into an affordable watch as I would in a more expensive one,” explains Stephen McGonigle.
McGonigle didn’t want to make a round case: that was too easy and not distinctive enough. Tonneau-shaped cases are harder to make, and he wanted both more of a challenge for himself and to offer a more distinctive watch for friends and collectors.
Magon Fórsa Titanium: case
A good watch design has to be cohesive, and as a big fan of rugby McGonigle used the oval shape of an official rugby ball to tie all of the elements together. It’s worth noting that while the Fórsa is rugby-ball inspired, it’s not a “rugby watch.” The design is coherent without knowing anything of its backstory.
As McGonigle says, “If people don’t know of the rugby ball inspiration, most would not immediately see any link to the game or ball.”
The Fórsa is available with either a matte black DLC-coated or polished grade 5 titanium case, whose curves follow the oval lines of a rugby ball. Unusually for a tonneau-shaped case, the Fórsa is water resistant to 100 meters. It’s no-show pony; this is a watch to be worn.
McGonigle nearly abandoned the black DLC-coated case. The sapphire crystal is hand-glued to the case to avoid a visible seal and needs to be glued three separate times to get 100-meter water resistance. The polished titanium case is no problem because it’s easy to clean any excess glue off. However, excess glue, even when meticulously cleaned off, microscopically penetrates the titanium and creates shiny spots on the matte surface when the DLC coating is applied.
McGonigle was told by the DLC company that its other clients had given up on matte black DLC on titanium long ago. He persisted and eventually found a company that could apply the DLC to his standards, however there’s still around a ten-percent rejection rate.
Note that matte black round cases do not have this problem because they usually have rubber seals between the crystal and case rather than the crystal being glued to the case.
The chronograph pushers are also oval, following the same curves (and rugby ball inspiration) as the case.
Another nice touch is the distinctive notched crown of the Fórsa, which is a tip of the hat to the ancient Celtic Ogham alphabet notched crowns of the more expensive McGonigle watches.
While the case is an imposing 46 mm long x 43 mm wide, that length includes the “lugs” with the spring bars and strap. And the strap hangs down rather than sticks out. I’d normally dismiss any watch over 42 mm as too big for my small wrists, but Stephen McGonigle also has small wrists.
And while certainly large, the Fórsa sits very comfortably and securely – it doesn’t tend to roll around the wrist as many large watches do on smaller wrists. That said, the Fórsa is no shrinking violet; it has a commanding presence.
Magon Fórsa Titanium: dial
The dial of the Fórsa by itself took two years to develop, in part because McGonigle had to find a manufacture that could meet his high demands. Most cheap tonneau-shaped watches have flat dials that look, well, flat and uninspiring. McGonigle thought that such a dial would be lazy and devalue the watch. He wanted a dial following the curves of the case, dropping lower all around the edges. The Fórsa dial is flat in the center for the (also oval) subdials, then curves down from the edge of the subdial indexes.
McGonigle tried and gave up on three dial manufacturers who told him that a curved dial like this was outrageously complicated and uneconomical for a watch at this price point before finding one that could curve the dial as he wanted.
The dial is one piece, including very three-dimensional hour markers. It starts as flat block that is stamped around 12 times to the required shape. Stamping is the most accurate way to make a three-dimensional dial, but the company had never stamped a dial with the depth of the Fórsa before.
The Super-LumiNova is hand-painted, including the hour markers, Magon logo, and second hand. Even the numerals and tiny indexes around the subdials are hand-painted Super-LumiNova. The white Super-LumiNova glows electric blue in the dark.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the dial is not just slapped on top of the movement. To make the Fórsa as thin as possible (it comes in under 8 mm in height), a circular disk is reamed out of the back of the dial so that the top of the movement fits into the dial.
Magon Fórsa Titanium: strap
The custom-designed Biwi rubber strap (the same strap manufacture that Greubel Forsey uses) has small dimples on the surface, which both add a nice texture and mimic the surface of a rugby ball. The back of a quality rubber strap needs a strong embossed pattern to provide ventilation between strap and wrist.
Rather than use a standard pattern, as he was creating his own mold for the surface dimples, McGonigle wanted something original and coherent for the back of the strap as well. What at first looks like an H pattern is inspired by rugby goal posts (uprights). Again, one of many small details that you are unlikely to notice unless you know.
Magon Fórsa Titanium: movement
The chronograph movement is from La Joux-Perret, but as you may have discerned by now McGonigle wasn’t going to be satisfied with an off-the-shelf model. The movement used here been highly customized, including bridges, screws, and the standout electric green rotor (symbolizing Ireland).
The column wheel is coated in black DLC, while the screw heads are also polished and coated in black DLC. Bridges are bead-blasted matte. McGonigle wanted the column wheel and rotor to jump out, with the rest of the movement fading into the background. He put as much effort into the movement (while keeping it as affordable as possible) as everything else.
At €9,800 the Magon Fórsa Titanium automatic chronograph is by no means a cheap watch, but it packs in incredible value for money at that price point. It’s a distinctive and extremely high-quality watch from one of the world’s best independent watchmakers.
That’s a hell of a lot of bang for the buck.
For more information, please visit www.magonwatches.com.
Quick Facts Magon Fórsa Titanium automatic chronograph
Case: 46 x 43 x 7.9 mm, matte black DLC or polished grade 5 titanium,100 meters water resistance
Movement: automatic modified La Joux-Perret Caliber LJP7772 with column wheel chronograph, 55-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; chronograph
Strap: custom Biwi rubber strap, hand-stitched
Limitation: 50 pieces each in black DLC and polished titanium
Price: €9,800 including shipping (excluding taxes)