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Robust or elegant, take your pick  — that’s been the prevailing paradigm in watchmaking for decades, but in launching the Mille-Mer, French brand Bohen Watches set out to challenge this concept by creating an incredibly tough (1000m water resistant) dive watch that is exquisitely nuanced in its design and artisanship. By partnering with the top manufacturers and suppliers in Switzerland, Bohen has created a luxury dive watch that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the top Swiss luxury brands, but do so with their own unique design language and a surprisingly accessible price tag.

In creating the Mille-Mer, Bohen’s founder and designer Blaise-Dominique Giuliani decided to start from scratch, designing each component in-house then relying on the best manufacturing partners in Switzerland to help him produce the final product to his exact specifications. Despite the high demands placed on his manufacturing partners, Blaise-Dominique was determined to keep the prices accessible. After a decades-long career in high-end design and haute couture, Blaise-Dominique has plenty of experience being criticized for designing watches that were too expensive to manufacture. Rather than change his philosophy, Blaise-Dominique decided to oversee his own brand, ensuring that he had total control over the design decisions in order to remain true to his vision. The exacting standards, handmade finishes, and quality control at all stages demanded by Blaise-Dominique mean that production takes roughly 150 days for each watch. As a result, the brand will only produce a few hundred pieces per year, with an initial batch of 500 now available to reserve.

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Unfortunately, in the traditional watch industry, much of the price of luxury watches comes from massive margins that hinge on brand recognition and marketing rather than reflecting true quality. Not to mention the added cost and markups that come through supporting a network of retailers. Bohen wanted to rewrite this equation. For Bohen, luxury = true design with a unique identity + outstanding quality + handwork + rarity. Sum that up and the luxury timepiece that results won’t be cheap. But rather than inflating the price with unreasonable margins and lining the pockets of retailers, Bohen watches have adopted small, transparent margins (1.6x the cost of manufacture for the first 500 pieces, 2x later) and a direct to consumer model. The result is a luxury timepiece available for 1,659 as opposed to the $12,000 you may expect to pay from a traditional brand.

Now, elegance certainly doesn’t necessitate petite dimensions, and creating a watch capable of withstanding 1000m of depth requires a sizeable package. The Mille-Mer is housed in a 43mm-diameter case with a 50mm lug-to-lug distance and 17.5mm case height. In other words, the Mille-Mer wasn’t created to satisfy the current trends, but to last over the long haul. As Blaise-Dominique says, “The Mille-Mer is a highly technical tool. In this context, it is not the watch to adapt to its owner, but the owner to adapt to the watch. I didn’t create the Bohen to please everyone; I just have to satisfy those who will appreciate my approach between elegance and technicality.”

Speaking of technical specifications, Bohen has gone above and beyond in producing the Mille-Mer, from choosing alloys crafted from aerospace-grade materials (316L steel for the case and Grade 5 titanium for the caseback), equipping the watch with a helium escape valve and ceramic bezel, and opting for sapphire glass created by a Japanese company that produces lenses for satellites. Though the watch is Swiss made, the most important factor was finding the best components — even if they cost twice as much as their Swiss counterparts. The case is finished with a mix of finished techniques, including straight and circular brushing and the time-intensive, but utterly gorgeous, “black-polish” finish.

Every detail of the Mille-Mer’s inky black dial was carefully considered, from the deeply recessed dial to the applied indices. The markers and hands share a unified design language that, much like the case itself, has strong, yet elegant, lines and a unique design language. Continuing the theme of going above and beyond, Bohen has opted to use Supe-LumiNova X1. This new grade is modified for Bohen to receive a special gel formulat (not ink) that offers unprecedented luminous intensity and lasts twice as long as typical Super-LumiNova. Rounding out the dial details is an internal date-magnifier. Now, this is no ordinary magnifier; instead, it is created from a double bridge placed between the glass and hands — a world’s first invention patented by Bohen.

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Bohen didn’t stop designing when it finished with the case and dial. Powering the Mille-Mer is a Swiss Soprod M100 automatic movement, modified to Bohen’s exacting specifications, including rhodium plating, high anti-magnetic resistance (including an anti-magnetic cage), shock resistance, and ample decoration, including pearl bridges and a rotor in Côte de Genève. But the beauty of this movement is more than skin deep, having passed the Chronofiable A8 standard from the Dubois laboratory. In other words, you get +/- 4 seconds/day accuracy and 42 hours of power reserve. As Blaise-Dominique says, “A Bohen is refined to the smallest detail, even what cannot be seen.”

The Mille-Mer is equipped with a tapering stainless-steel bracelet that echoes the brushed and polished surfaces of the case. Equipped with a universal link, strap changes are quick and painless with no need for a tool. In keeping with current trends in the luxury watch industry, the bracelet is equipped with a ratchet buckle for quick tool-free size adjustment.

Clearly, Bohen has cut no corners when it comes to the production of the Mille-Mer. Despite the fact that the watch is produced by the brand by many of the same manufacturing partners and at the same cost as larger brands that sell their watches for many times more, by using a direct-to-consumer model and prioritizing quality over profit margins, the brand is launching the Mille-Mer for only €1,659 excluding taxes. To reserve one of the 500 Bohen Mille-Mer watches, be sure to visit the brand’s website. Available now for reservation, the final purchase time will occur in October, with delivery in March 2022.

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