Ernst Benz as a brand is many things - with an interesting assortment of watches and celebrity relationships. For me, Ernst Benz is most importantly the brand that uses the Disney font for their logo. Who else can claim that? Now you'll never look at their logo the same way again. For review I have been strapped to their new Chronolunar Officer - a steel beast with a heart of gears.
Does it measure up? Well it is 47mm wide. So yea, it is a sizable watch. Ernst Benz's head guy likes to share with people a comment I made about the brand a few years ago when reacting to the collection as a whole. I mentioned that the best thing they do is nothing wrong. He took that as an incredible compliment. The gist of my meaning was that their designs don't exhibit material mistakes, sacrifices to legibility, unexpected design element features, or poor execution. They are 100% retro aviator inspired watches in modern sizes with bold yet conservative personalities. Both John Biggs and I got to play Officer with the Ernst Benz Chronolunar. I got to see the piece on someone else's wrist in addition to wearing it myself. I have to say that this piece specifically fits John's personality which tends to endorse complex tool watches. With a 7751 one in there, this is hardly a boring three-hand automatic.
All of this started with a watch called the Chronoscope. The Ernst Benz Chronolunar model is essentially a Chronoscope with a 7751 versus 7750 movement. I am of course talking about the Swiss ETA Valjoux 7751 automatic movement which is having a bit of a renaissance these days. Built on the tried and true 7750 automatic chronograph, the 7751 adds a lot of stuff including an annual calendar, moon phase indicator, and synchronized 24 hour hand (AM/PM indicator). With the 7751 movement, a watch brand can get a lot of bang for their buck - as this is one of the best values when wanting a complex movement with a good base. Having said that, it is hard to design a wrist watch dial around it. I've mentioned this several times before, but I don't expect everyone to be an Ariel Adams' 7751 commentary expert.
The 7751 has two main quirks in my opinion. First is the peripheral date hand. The movement uses the entire dial with a special hand as the date indicator. This makes the date hard to read and adds an additional large hand that you don't want getting in the way of more important things like the hour and minute hands. In fact, I personally don't really like date dials versus windows at all. When using the 7751 you need to take this into consideration and do your best with what you have. Ernst Benz did their best. The hand is as thin as it can be with only a red crescent being conspicuous at the top of the hand. This moon-like bowl cups the date marker which Ernst Benz thankfully leaves as fully written out Arabic numerals on the dial. On a large dial like this, the Chonolunar Officer offers as much legibility as possible when it comes to reading the date.
The second quirk of the 7751 is the empty right side of the dial. The layout of the dial is almost lopsided, with everything on the center and on the left of the dial. I don't claim to understand this, but I have a feeling that the movement designers just couldn't put anything there and it was later saved as "logo space." The trick for watch designers is to occupy the empty right-side of the dial in a way that balances it out. Ernst Benz does this as best they can, supplementing their text logo with the graphical logo and two extra lines of text. Again, it is about as good as you can expect. One element that does help the dial look balanced is the used of full applied Arabic hour numerals. These are further filled with SuperLumiNova and help keep things in order. They also really improve legibility along with the properly sized retro aviator style hands (also filled with lume). Other appreciated dial details include the rings around the subsidary seconds dials and the snailing texture therein.
Ernst Benz offers four dial styles of the Ernst Benz Chronolunar Officer. Two black and two white, with either steel or gold trim. The steel case is polished all over and has a classic, timeless feel to it. The lugs are on the longer side so people with small wrists should certainly try one on before getting one. I do appreciate the overall well-composed feel that the watch has. Luminant is really good and the watch has an AR coated sapphire crystal over the dial. I further appreciate the large, easy to operate crown and comfortable chronograph pushers.
In all, the case design melds well with the dial in a respectable and predictable manner. Ernst Benz isn't trying to pave new design roads, but is rather attempting to execute a comfortable design that you feel as though you have seen before. Plus, to do it in a polished manner that befits your expectation of a high-end timepiece. For the most part they succeed. If there was one improvement I would have suggested it would be to offer a more decorated 7751 movement for the price. With a name like "Officer," I want Ernst Benz to deliver a decorated 7751 complete with traditional polishing and blued screws to match the theme of the piece. A nicer automatic rotor would have been appreciated as well. Again, Ernst Benz didn't do anything wrong in this area, but it could have been just that much better.
The Ernst Benz Chronolunar Officer is available with five strap choices. Well four straps and a metal bracelet. Interestingly enough, the brand offers leather or alligator straps in both standard or aviator style (does that mean with rivets?). The piece I reviewed had the standard alligator strap - which was really nice and comfortable I should add. Prices for the Ernst Benz Chronolunar Officer range from $6,900 - $7,450, and is $7,200 as tested.