Solid body electric guitars tend to fall into two camps: those inspired by Fender, and those by Gibson.
If you like to rock, you play something related to a Les Paul. If you're an indie kid, then get yourself something with a little Telecaster in its DNA.
And so on. It's safe, it's predictable, and it's just a little bit boring.
However, Custom 77's 'The Watcher' seems to take all that and throw it in the bin. Instead, this guitar is born of a fusion of 50s Ray-Bans, leather jackets and naughty foreign cinema.
The price aims it squarely at the pro or semi‑pro player who's after something a little bit different, so naturally, we like it a lot.
That go-faster stripe you can see extending from the bridge to the strap button is actually a continuation of the neck; the body is just two mahogany wings that have been glued on to the sides. The benefit of this (apart from looking damn cool) is that the strings are anchored to the same bit of wood at either end of their length, meaning there's no neck join to sap the vibrations.
Custom 77 has made the most of this naturally resonant body type with a synthetic bone nut and a wraparound Wilkinson stoptail bridge. This is a sensible choice: it means there's only one point of contact between the strings and the wood, so tone and sustain are preserved.
The compromise with this sort of bridge is that it doesn't give you the same control over the guitar's intonation as something like a tune-o-matic would, but as long as you stick to a standard string gauge (and we're not sure that 'The Watcher' is aimed at purveyors of drop-tuned metal) you'll be fine.
Another benefit of through-neck construction is that the neck doesn't need to get any thicker towards the body, so it stays slim and playable across its length. Feel the quality!
Plugged in, 'The Watcher' gives you a bright, ringing, classic rock bite with the bridge pickup, which thickens to a roar when you thunk the switch up and engage the neck unit. It's bloody great, and the clean sounds are just as good.
Between the choice of pickups and a tone knob that actually changes the shape of the sound rather than just making things muddy, you've got a rich palette to work with. It's heady stuff, and it kept us coming back for more until well after the acceptable time for those who live in flats with thin walls.
We'll be honest: Custom 77 is a new name to us. Lovely though they are, the French company's offerings haven't been in any guitar shop we've visited recently, and they won't be any time soon either, because Custom 77's current business model is to sell through the internet only.
If there's any justice, though, you'll be seeing and hearing a lot more of them in the near future.