June 17, 2016
by Ariel Adams
Watch brands come in a variety of flavors – which is good for the consumer but at the same time can make it extremely challenging to navigate the larger world of timepieces. Take Maurice de Mauriac, for example. Founded by design-focused watch industry veteran Daniel Dreifuss, the Zurich-based brand is primarily set up to handle foot traffic that comes into the Maurice de Mauriac store/workshop (profiled here on aBlogtoWatch back in 2010). The idea is really about taking some core designs that the brand offers and playing with them using a variety of colors, sizes, materials, and strap options… especially strap options.
Today, I’m looking at the Maurice de Mauriac Chronograph Modern Defender. In military green-style colors, this 42mm-wide version of the Chronograph Modern comes in a titanium case with a bold and legible dial, as well as a casually fun take on the classic field watch. Combining the curated approach to the colors and materials, as well as the boutique nature of the brand, there is a lot of value here – especially when it comes to having a timeless-looking watch from a boutique operation whose founder is going to walk you through the process of getting a timepiece.
Inside this and all Maurice de Mauriac Chronograph Modern watches is a Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic movement. That might seem ordinary, but it is decreasingly so. ETA isn’t selling these movements very much anymore, so getting this durable and high-quality movement in brands outside those coming from the Swatch Group will be increasingly rare. Nevertheless, most Maurice de Mauriac watches contain this popular movement, which is decorated and visible through the sapphire crystal caseback window on the rear of the piece.
The ETA Valjoux 7750 operates at 4Hz (28,800bph) with a power reserve of about 42 hours. The movement’s full functionality is available on the Defender which includes the time, 12-hour chronograph, as well as day and date indicator windows. For the latter, Maurice de Mauriac chose to use black-colored discs (with white text) which makes for an interesting contrast to the otherwise monochromatic forest green and white dial.
The watch dial itself is rather refined and attractive even though Maurice de Mauriac has more or less been using the same dial design for a while (albeit executed in different ways). It is more conservative in style, and mixes design elements from both racing and pilot watches. An angled chapter ring has a tachymeter scale, while the markers and indexes are appropriately designed for maximum legibility. This is also the first time I’ve seen Maurice de Mauriac use totally white hands (the centers of which are painted with luminant). Note that the hands on this particular watch are early prototypes, and the watches consumers will get should have more crisply painted hands.
While Maurice de Mauriac offers a few case size options for the Chronograph Modern, the Maurice de Mauriac Chronograph Modern Defender comes in a reasonably sized 42mm-wide case, here in all-brushed titanium. The case is meant to be simple in style, but has modern sharp angles and is minimalist in that it is mostly free from embellishment and branding. The crown and chronograph pushers screw down, though the case is rated at only 50 meters of water resistance. When asked about why the watches aren’t rated to a greater depth, Dreifuss said that each is actually tested to 100 meters but there is some built in wiggle room to be “safe.” That sounds like a very Swiss thing to say, so if I understand him correctly, then the Chronograph Modern watch cases are in fact water resistant to 100 meters, despite saying “50 meters.”
Over the dial is a domed AR-coated sapphire crystal which lends itself well to the design (versus a flat sapphire crystal). The simple but bold dial with its attractive green color might not be prime for daily wear, but the straightforward good looks and simplicity of the design grew on me more than I had expected. Dreifuss is a master of taking conservative designs and livening them up a bit using color. The difficulty, of course, is in choosing the right colors (or lack thereof), which is where the skill comes in. This can also lead to a significant issue when trying to choose what watch he makes that you like, but ultimately, the consumer wins because the more choices available, the more opportunities there are for an relatively exclusive look that matches that owner, versus asking the owner to match the available looks.
Independent watch makers like Maurice de Mauriac are not per se rare, but each of them brings something unique to the table and is worth considering individually to understand what they are strong at. If you are looking for a good-looking, conservative yet fun sports watch that will make you smile when thinking about the charming experience you had getting it, then a brand like Daniel’s is the way to go.
In addition to the titanium case, I think customers can also opt for a steel case for the Maurice de Mauriac Chronograph Modern Defender. The fabric strap is said to be Kevlar material and has a Lorica lining – which is a synthetic material made to look like leather, but that will last longer. The strap (bespoke for Maurice de Mauriac) is also padded and overall very comfortable on the wrist. For those wanting a handsome watch for all-around wearing that matches… well, anything you have that is forest or military green (say, a Land Rover Defender…) then this is certainly a watch to look at. Price for the Maurice de Mauriac Chronograph Modern Defender is 3,750 Swiss francs in titanium and 3,450 Swiss francs in steel. mauricedemauriac.ch
>Brand: Maurice de Mauriac
>Model: Chronograph Modern Defender
>Price: 3,750 Swiss francs as tested
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Guy who likes classic-looking sports chronograph watches, but needs one to go with his love of green clothing, cars, or outdoor equipment.
>Best characteristic of watch: Good-looking design with very comfortable case and strap. Chronograph Modern watch is aging well… but aging nonetheless.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Not really too much new in terms of features or characteristics to persuade existing Maurice de Mauriac watch owners to get something new – unless they love green. Dial could use more luminant.