Millésime Merveilleux

You may have already read about Benjamin Chee HH's watches in these pages. Through his Maison Celadon brand, he has created Chinese luxury watches without compromises like the Yue Fei and Imperial. On September 30, he launched his new brand Millésime, to produce practical, affordable luxury watches, this time using Swiss mechanical movements. We were lucky enough to have three prototypes of the first model, the Merveilleux, on display at DC's District Time watch show on launch day.

Millésime Merveilleux salmon pink

The Merveilleux maintains classic dress watch proportions, measuring just 39mm wide, 47mm long, and 11.8mm thick on an 18mm strap. The round case has convex sides, a double domed and anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal, teardrop lugs, and - huzzah! - a flat signed crown. Unlike most dress watches, water resistance is a hardy 100m, so you can actually swim with it although I doubt you would. The watch's overall shape is soft, sensual, and steeped in 1950's style. All versions are mirror polished, the review samples are finished in rose gold PVD. "Millésime Merveilleux" is engraved on the left side of the case and while I usually find such case branding unnecessary, I think it works here, operating more like a finishing signature than a vulgar stamp. 

Millésime Merveilleux signed case

I have to go back to the crown. To my eye, nothing ruins a dress watch, or even a somewhat dressy watch, like an overlarge crown. I don't know if it's laziness or a deliberate style choice, but too often it seems, designers are content to fit chunky, tool watch crowns to every model they produce. The Merveilleux gets it right. You can easily lift it into position with your fingernail, there is more than adequate surface area and tooth to offer grip, and when you are done, it sits nearly flush to the case just as the watch gods intended. 

Behind the threaded exhibition caseback lies an ETA 2824 automatic movement.  This unit should be familiar to watch nerds: 25 jewels, smooth 28.8k bph sweep, hacking, hand winding, Etachron regulator system, and a 38-hour power reserve. It is a reliable workhorse that has been dressed up for the occasion with gold finishing and a custom signed rotor. 

Millésime Merveilleux Navy and movement

Like the case, the dial reflects a mid-century aesthetic, while studiously avoiding the clichéd faux-Bauhaus "minimalism" plaguing watch design as of late. The markers are linked by a ring applied as one complete piece.  Bands of color alternate in tone as they progress from the lighter, brushed center, to a darker matte just beyond the ring, returning to the lighter tone at the perimeter. A printed gold railroad track index frames it. Given the way the light plays off the dial, I initially assumed it was radiant sunray brushing, but the direction is actually circular, another uncommon touch. 

Millésime Merveilleux navy

Faceted rose gold dauphine hands and a fine blue second hand mark the time. I should note that the blue color comes from heat treatment, which is exceedingly rare at this end of the market, and indicative of the kind of craftsmanship Ben insists upon in his watches. Again, the proportions are spot-on. The hour hand exactly meets the hour markers at the ring and both of the longer hands graze the outermost index. The final touch is the Millésime script logotype positioned high on the inside. There is no other text present to detract from the dial. 

Millésime Merveilleux burgundy

I sampled three colors: Burgundy, Navy, and Salmon Pink. Navy is an easy choice for a dress watch and the Burgundy looks appropriately regal. I had my doubts about the Salmon, but oh was I wrong. It is not pink like the fish but pink like pink gold. It is a warm, coppery color that highlights the different finishes on the dial in a way the darker hues cannot. At the show, this was the watch that drew people to the table. They liked the navy and burgundy, but they all picked up the salmon to hold it in the light. Other choices include Chocolate, Ivory, and British Racing Green. Polished stainless steel cases are available for each.

Millésime Merveilleux strap and clasp

The Merveilleux comes fitted with a quick release, 18mm leather crocodile print strap on a signed butterfly deployant clasp. It is neatly constructed, and the design suits the watch, but the stiff leather is a letdown. This is the same criticism I levied against the Maison Celadon Imperial. Of course, it is an easy fix, but I wish the strap had exuded the same level of quality as the rest of the watch. 

Millésime Merveilleux wrist shot

The Millésime Merveilleux will sell for $648 USD but you can get it now at the introductory sale price of $498,  and if you are one of the first 30 to order your particular variant, you will also get a pair of "Double Ten" stainless steel cufflinks (a $298 value).  [Update 12/16/2019: The introductory offer is long gone The price of a Merveilleux is now $1748 Singapore dollars, or about $1290 US.]

I like what Benjamin has done with Millésime's debut model. It is a high-quality piece and hard to believe that this is actually positioned as a value leader in the lineup; the higher-spec Magnifique and Magnifique Haute Horology models are still to come. For more information or to order one of your own visit ⬩
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