Today I thought we’d take a departure from the “brand name brands” and examine a watchmaker of the road less traveled, so to speak. Benjamin Muller was born in 1975 in Besançon, France. Raised in the watch-making world, his father Jean Muller launched the Bugatti brand in the 1980s and went on to work with brands such as Girard-Perregaux, Tag Heuer, Louis Vuitton, Richard Mille and others. Following in his father’s footsteps, young Benjamin joined the family company in 2000 as creator, designer and watchmaker. Influenced by new technologies and the animal world, he’s inspired by cars and extreme sports; his vision of the watch-making is undoubtedly modern and technical but luxurious as well. Working under the brand name M. Benjamin, the first collection is named “Spyder” and is a tribute to watch-making and automobile beauty. For me, the Spyder is one damn cool avant-garde watch!
Wrist Shot: M.Benjamin Spyder Titanium Hour-Minute
The M. Benjamin Spyder collection first debuted at Baselworld 2011 but points of sale are still limited (always the challenge for a young brand!). The Spyder is offered in two distinct models: a manual tourbillon (titanium with or without black PVD) and a manual hour-minute (titanium with our without black PVD). A case set with baguette diamonds is also available. As would be expected, production is ultra limited — 12 each tourbillon, 88 each hour-minute.
An observer is immediately drawn to the distinct case shape of the watches and specifically the long, angular “spider leg” lugs which appear to extend onto the dial and run continuously from top to bottom of the watch case. The extended parts of the lugs on the dial actually function as the main plates of the movement and there really is no dial except the movement itself. The case at 44mm and 14.6mm thick seems just about right for the design — not too big, not too small. The watch is fitted on a rubber strap with full openwork honeycomb pattern — awesome. Alligator options are available.
M. Benjamin Titanium Manual Tourbillon
The tourbillon is made by Concepto but it is an exclusive architecture the design of which is patented by Muller. It runs at 3 Hz and has a 3-day power reserve (manual winding). Notice how the components of the watch run in the center of the dial, vertically aligned from top to bottom — mildly evocative of the Corum Golden Bridge, though not as minimalist and of course much more sporty.
Though hard to see from the images here, the finishing on the watch is quite nice and really adds to the cohesiveness of the design.
Tourbillon in black titanium:
M. Benjamin Titanium Manual Hour-Minute
This watch is very similar to the Tourbillon version, but there are differences. For one, the the hour-minute is more openworked. Secondly, the nicely confined architecture which runs from top to bottom of the dial on the tourbillon is not achieved here — notice some of the gears “spill over” into and beyond the “spider legs” inside the dial. Like the tourbillon, the manual-wind movement is done by Concepto, but adapted according to Muller’s specifications. In short, it’s a slightly different look for a much simpler watch (hour-minute vs. tourbillon!) whose ultimate merits can be decided by the beholder.
Hour minute in black titanium:
Price-wise the tourbillon runs around 130,000 Euros and the hour-minute is about 30,000 Euros. As indicated on the caseback, 88 pieces of each hour-minute will be made, and only 12 of each of the tourbillons.
So what does the future hold for M. Benjamin? Good things, I hope. In a fiercely competitive market, some of the smaller, independent brands such as this will make it — and some will not. M. Benjamin certainly seems to have come out of the starting gate with a superb collection. I know that I would be not only proud but elated to own such a unique and avant-garde timepiece. Overall I must say that I am quite impressed and I wish M. Benjamin all the best for future success.
Did You Know?
Watchmaking in Besançon
Ask any reasonably informed enthusiast about the finest watchmaking centers of the world and Besançon, France will most assuredly not be a place that they mention. Of course beyond Switzerland the list is not long — a smattering of talented artisans in Germany, Japan, and the United States round out the list of known producers of fine watches. But let’s take a look at the city of Besançon, France, where a resurrection of sorts is taking place. As a Perpetuelle reader you may already recognize the name because I have on several occasions featured another brand out of Besançon which has recently revitalized itself under capable hands — Dodane (click here for all my features on this fine brand).
Besançon is only about an hour from Geneva, right over the border, and by virtue of its geography it became the center for watchmaking in France. Perhaps its most famous brand is the now defunct LIP which was founded in 1867 in Besançon. For more on the revitalization of fine watchmaking in Besancon, please visit this excellent EuropaStar article from October 2011.