November 15, 2021
A couple months back, Bohen gave us a teaser of its inaugural release, an overbuilt and impeccably finished luxury diver dubbed the Mille-Mer. Combining high-end specs and finishing in a robust package (including 1000m of water resistance), the Mille-Mer promised exceptional value in a rugged, yet refined, luxury dive watch. After some final tweaks and additions to ensure the watch was up to Bohen’s exacting standards (all the photos shown here are of the final product), the Mille-Mer is now in production and available for pre-order.
The response to Bohen’s initial announcement of the Mille-Mer was overwhelming, but the watch wasn’t quite ready to be released to the world. Blaise-Dominique Giuliani, the brand’s founder and designer, felt there were still a few changes that could make the watch even better before it reached the wrists of customers. These exacting standards aren’t exactly a surprise coming from Blaise-Dominique. A veteran of the luxury space, he spent decades working in high-end design and haute couture, developing a reputation for designing watches that were simply too expensive to manufacture. Indeed, it was this very frustration — having his vision constrained by practicality — that led him to launch Bohen watches.
The goal in creating the Mille-Mer was to produce a robust dive watch that would rival the fit, finish, and capability of watches like Rolex Sea-Dweller, with a distinctly French design ethos, and do so at a fraction of the price. Bohen wanted this masculine and bold watch to proclaim its capability even at a quick glimpse and that’s exactly what it does. If you’re into cars, an easy comparison to make is to Aston Martin: classy, sporty, and full of exclusive details.
Measuring in at 43mm in diameter with a 17.5mm case height, this is no petite dress watch. It’s a purpose-built luxury diver. Yet, despite these dimensions that may seem large on paper, by using a mix of steel and titanium, the watch wears lighter than the dimensions suggest and, thanks to the ample curvature on the case, it easily conforms to smaller wrists, like Blaise-Dominique’s own 6.8-inch (17.3cm) wrist. In describing why he didn’t produce another cookie-cutter diver that you’ll find saturating the market, Blaise-Dominique doesn’t mince words: “The Mille-Mer is a highly technical tool. In this context, it is not the watch that adapts to its owner, but the owner that adapts to the watch. I didn’t create Bohen to please everyone — I just have to satisfy those who will appreciate my approach between elegance and technicality.”
The Bohen Mille-Mer is crafted from a mix of 316L stainless steel for the case and Grade 5 titanium for the caseback. The addition of a titanium caseback is a small, but challenging addition to the construction of the piece that most brands would never consider simply due to the added cost and complexity. But it’s the little details that separate good watches from great watches. For example, the crown at 12 o’clock ensures that there are no pressure points from the crown on the wrist and allows the 43mm watch to wear comfortably on a wider range of wrist sizes.
Rounding out some of the technical specs, Bohen equips the Mille-Mer with a helium escape valve, ceramic bezel, and a sapphire crystal sourced from a Japanese manufacturer that produces lenses for satellites. Sure, Bohen could have opted for a Swiss crystal (the watch already far exceeds the requirements for Swiss Made designation), but the goal was to create a watch with the best components possible, regardless of the increased cost. Case in point: A date magnifier affixed to a flat crystal is an easy solution, but Bohen was adamant about using a double-domed sapphire crystal. Thus, to incorporate a date magnifier, Bohen came up with an elegant and functional solution by creating a double-bridge placed between the crystal and hands (an invention patented by Bohen).
The dial on the Mille-Mer was designed to create a sense of depth and texture. The recessed, inky-black dial is offset by the larger markers and hands that share strong lines and a unified design language. The result is a dial that’s complex, eye-catching, and extremely legible. And, to ensure legibility regardless of the light conditions, Bohen has opted for the strongest lume available on the market: Super-LumiNova X1 grade in a concentrated gel formula.
Rather than an ETA or Sellita movement, Bohen chose to equip the Mille-Mer with a Swiss Soprod M100 automatic movement, modified to Bohen’s precise specifications, including rhodium-coating to harden the metal in the movement, high anti-magnetic resistance (including an anti-magnetic cage), and ample decoration, including pearl bridges and a rotor in Côte de Genève. It’s a beautiful movement, even if you don’t get to see it through the titanium caseback. More importantly, it’s exceptionally accurate, 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 ladder bracelet that mirrors the brushed and polished surfaces of the case. The bracelet is another example of Blaise-Dominique’s perfectionism — though the late prototypes were exceptionally well-made, they weren’t quite perfect. By adding 8g to the band, Bohen was able to balance the heft of the watch head, creating symmetry on the wrist. Rather than a traditional spring bar, Bohen also switched to a push-button system for tool-less strap changes. Rounding out the small improvements, Bohen redesigned the engraved ratchet buckle (patent pending) to smoothly and easily adjust the fit without tools.
With his vast experience working with many of the top names in the luxury industry, Blaise-Dominique was able to subcontract the production of the Mille-Mer to Swiss manufacturing partners that produce components for the top Swiss brands. However, he was determined to keep prices accessible and avoid the inflated markups found elsewhere in the industry. As Blaise-Dominique explains, “Our watches cost the same price to manufacture, and every component embodies excellence. There is absolutely no compromise when it comes to quality. For example, the indexes of our extra-deep dial are not molded but machined. The result is sharper, like diamond-cut pieces. In order to make 500 perfect dials, we need to machine 750 sets of indexes and discard 250 sets that would not meet our required finish expectations.”
So, how does Bohen manage to keep the prices accessible? Simple: The brand is working on a set margin of x1.66 for the launch price. In other words, the brand keeps pricing completely transparent — the price you pay is 66% more than the price to manufacture. To put that number in perspective, if you’re looking at watches from a big Swiss brand, a 400-500% markup is common. With the Bohen Mille-Mer, you get a true luxury dive watch with its own unique design language at a much more accessible price point.
Since opening for pre-orders a few short weeks ago, Bohen has seen a surge in sales, with one-third of the 500 watches in this first production run already spoken for. If you’re interested in the Bohen Mille-Mer, pre-orders are open now with watches slated for delivery in March 2022. Launch pricing is set at €1,659 (excluding taxes); to pre-order your Mille-Mer and learn more about Bohen, head over to the brand’s website. If you have any questions about the watch or the brand, Blaise-Dominique is more than happy to chat. Just send him an email at the website, and he’ll get in touch and even share his phone number if you’d like to chat about Bohen and the Mille-Mer.
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