July 21, 2017
by Ariel Adams
I’m not typically a fan of minimalist watches as I normally find them boring. With that said, when there is something genuinely well done that gets things like proportions and design right, I’m a happy guy. The Maurice de Mauriac L1 watch is a good example of a minimalist watch from the Zurich-based brand that I can stand behind. It certainly isn’t the cheapest watch of its type out there, and it clearly has its share of competition, but this particular Bauhaus look is one that won me over with its simple good looks and small quirks which add welcome character to the overall design.
I initially debuted the Maurice de Mauriac L1 watch here back in 2014. The model I am reviewing is the same, however, Maurice de Mauriac has since added this black DLC-coated case as an option. For me this, black L1 is the model to get. What makes the L1 – and now L2 diver – special products in the Maurice de Mauriac brand, is that they are designed by also Zurich-based designer Mr. Fabian Schwaerzler – who normally designs furniture (mostly chairs). The L1 and L2 are his only timepiece designs, and they are of course exclusively offered by Maurice de Mauriac.
Allow me to go on a brief tangent talking about chair design. I happened to read a book some time ago that discussed chair design. This is easily the most intellectually nerdy and challenging of all furniture design in my opinion. People don’t give chairs enough credit for their complexity. They combine function, durability, good looks, and ergonomic necessity while being effective as sitting devices for more than one human. Chairs also combine a social status element, where materials, size, and sitting posture all remark on the person sitting in the chair.
In their own way, chair appreciation is very much like watch appreciation. You might call them the timepieces of the furniture world. OK, enough about my fascination for chairs… Just pointing this all out because I think it makes a lot of sense for a chair designer to make watches – since in concept the two items have a lot of parallels. You know who else went from chairs to watches? Marc Newson.
The Maurice de Mauriac L1 watch begins with the premise that a timepiece is supposed to be about utility. Schwaerzler eschews decoration for decoration’s sake with a look that isn’t entirely minimalized but is a study in ideal proportions and pleasant looks.
Unlike most totally minimalist watches, the case isn’t delicate looking. As a man’s watch, the sharp lugs are proud and a bit larger than one might expect from a simple dress watch. The bezel is thin, allowing for a wide view of the dial, while the overall look and feel is modern, with a bit of masculine strength to it. Over the dial is an AR-coated (bottom only) domed sapphire crystal, which helps add a more “high-end watch look.” Flat crystals on this design would, in my opinion, make the watch look a bit more boring than it deserves.
At 39mm wide in DLC-coated steel (and not too thin) the L1 feels like the right size. I rarely wear 39mm wide watches (as I prefer larger ones) but I found no issue with size here, and gladly wore it with short sleeves. For me the fact that the lugs are spaced as they are and that the case is not too thin helps the overall proportions at 39mm feel fantastic.
The dial reminds me of a three-hand Omega Speedmaster – if there were such a thing. That isn’t a bad thing of course. The hands are a tad shorter than I would have liked, but I didn’t find myself complaining too much while easily reading the time. The dial is separated into thicker painted hour markers, with a row of thinner minute markers on the periphery of the dial. A simple and non-obtrusive date window is placed at 3 o’clock, with an appropriate use of a black date disc.
A note on the dial text, which is actually very small. This is one of the design quirks that I find charmingly amusing. Look for example at the “automatic” text above 6 o’clock. It is painfully small to read – but then again no one needs to read it. This is a pure use of a design mechanism which is just a bit less minimalist than total minimalism. With that said, the text size is minimalist. I see this as a sort of subtle humor in the overall design, making fun of minimalism while also embracing it. This is what I meant when I said the L1 watch had charming design quirks – and it is something you need to look at for a long time to really appreciate.
Inside the watch is a nicely decorated Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic movement. The movement is visible through a sapphire crystal display back on the watch. Given the simplicity of the overall design, there is intentionally no text or symbols on the watch case at all. The case has a screw-down crown, and I believe it is water resistant to 100m.
Maurice de Mauriac is a serious strap fetishist, and straps available for the L1 watch do not disappoint. In various shades of brown, gray or black, with welcome black color on the siding, the straps are a high quality Barenia leather which Maurice de Mauriac claims is the same type of leather that Hermes uses. Matching this comfortable, simple watch to a high-quality leather strap was a good idea. I can easily say that no one getting a Maurice de Mauriac watch will complain about the strap quality.
The follow-up to the L1 watch is the slightly larger L2, which builds on this design as a minimalist dive watch. It is also available in bronze, which is really cool – and I look forward to review that Maurice de Mauriac watch next. For anyone looking for a comfortable daily timepiece that is well-designed and simple in its presentation, the L1 fits the bill. It is more detailed than most minimalist watches out there, a bit more masculine, and in my opinion does most of details right. Cost is a bit on the high side, but that is a small detriment when considering that you are getting a watch from a cool, boutique brand. Price for the Maurice de Mauriac L1 watch is 2,300 CHF in brushed steel and that goes up to 3,200 CHF in DLC-coated black steel. mauricedemauriac.ch
>Brand: Maurice de Mauriac
>Price: 2,300 – 3,200 CHF
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Independent watch lover seeking a well-designed European-style minimalist Bauhaus men’s watch.
>Best characteristic of watch: Case and dial proportions are excellent. Manages to be masculine yet simple. Straps are excellent in quality.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Could be considered a bit expensive. Would have preferred a sapphire crystal with AR-coating on both sides.