Maison Bonnet glasses: Review

Friday, October 4th 2019
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These glasses I had made at Maison Bonnet recently are absolutely superb. 

As I wrote in the recent post ‘My glasses’ I’ve tried several different makers over the years, including cheaper and expensive, ready-made, bespoke and made to measure. 

These from Bonnet are as good or better in almost every category.

Which is good, because Bonnet is very expensive and comes with a very high reputation. It’s nice to be able to say they live up to it. 

Bonnet had been on my list of reputed menswear craftsman I wanted to cover for a few years. But it wasn’t until they opened in London that I took the plunge.

I don’t travel to Paris often, despite its proximity - perhaps once a year. And I wanted to be able to easily go back to the shop for repairs or alterations, or even to make more in the future. To establish a relationship, basically. 

In my first post on Bonnet, I covered the history of the company, the craftsmanship in terms of handwork, the finishing that produces, and the different services (eg MTM v bespoke). 

You can read all that on the post here. In this post I’ll cover a little more of the commissioning process, and then review the final product. 

Over a long period of trial and error, I’ve learnt how important personal advice and consultancy is in commissioning glasses. Franck Bonnet (above) was fantastic in that regard. 

Franck is the fourth generation of masters in the family, and clearly knows a vast amount about styles of eyewear, fitting and making. 

But the thing that came across strongest was curiosity. For over an hour we talked about what glasses I wore and when, what I had before, what I had liked and not liked about them, how I dressed, how I saw eyewear. 

Franck listened far more than he talked, always with his head at a slight angle. Suggesting advice and conclusions occasionally, but only when he felt he fully understood. 

It was the closest thing to a bespoke tailoring experience I’ve had with anything outside clothing. 

Franck suggested, for example, his father’s view that every person has the shape of prospective glasses etched on their face: you just follow the underside of the eyebrows, the sides of the eye socket, the top of the cheekbones and the edge of the nose. 

That doesn’t mean your glasses should be that shape - but it’s the framework around which you’re building, like your shoulders, chest and waist when cutting a jacket. 

He also made the point that most people try glasses on in a mirror that is too small.

Nothing wrong with using a small mirror, but it’s important to look at yourself in a full-length mirror as well. Because that’s how most people see you: few get as close as a small mirror would be.

The consultation process was made slightly easier by the fact that I came with a clear idea of what I wanted: a brown acetate frame in a classic ‘panto’ shape, to replace the Francois Pinton pair I had worn for so long. (Pictured above, below two potential Bonnet frames.)

I knew I liked that style, that it fitted with what I wore and with my lifestyle. Even so, it took a long time of trying on different shapes (from the shop’s 400 pairs) to settle on something. 

One interesting variation on that original Pinton pair was that the Bonnet ones would be in a lighter, warmer brown. 

A lot of eyewear makers have assumed that because I have dark hair and a beard, I need a dark frame. But actually that tends to darken my whole face too much. I can’t wear very pale acetate (eg here) but a warmer colour like this is more flattering. 

A few weeks after that initial consultation, we had the fitting. 

Bonnet has a bit of a reputation for long fittings, and it was more involved than anything I’ve had elsewhere. But I can’t argue with the results. 

Sitting downstairs, among the files and machinery used to make the frames, I tried them on a total of five times while the nose pads were filed down a little each time. They felt pretty good the first time, but noticeably better the fifth. 

Then there was the adjustment of the arms - which takes up most of the time at other makers. 

Not just getting the bend in the arm at the right place, but also working two or three times on the tilt, so the angle of the lenses was perfect - and close to my cheeks, but never touching, even when smiling. 

The result, as I said at top, is superb. 

A perfect fit: which could be defined as putting them on and immediately forgetting about them all day. Not the smallest adjustment needed since. 

And perfect finishing: clean and smooth around the bridge and nose pieces, for example, and perfect transitioning from frame to arm. Something quite a lot of handmade glasses fail to do.

The only thing we didn’t achieve was the style objective I set Franck: to make a pair of glasses that I think I’m always better-looking in, than with no glasses at all. 

No pair I’ve had achieve that (the Eyevan pair probably come closest). But of course that doesn’t mean I don’t think I look great in them - in the same way I look great in many coats, even if my navy Cifonelli is my favourite. 

The only big remaining question is price. At €1300 for made-to-measure glasses and €1600 for bespoke, Bonnet is the most expensive maker I’ve covered. 

I think my experience is enough to say that they live up to the reputation. But are they worth so much?

The quality of the acetate doesn’t vary much with quality makers. The quality of the work does, as I’ve mentioned, though it’s small.

Service certainly varies, and Bonnet excelled there - fit, advice, styling. The glasses are also all made in France, or partly in London if commissioned here, which will matter to some. 

But in the end it must be a question of budget and priorities.

If you have a lot of money, and know that Bonnet delivers in this way across all areas of quality, it might seem silly to spend less money on an inferior product. No matter what the price.

If it would be a real financial stretch, then it’s never going to be worth it, given the small differences. 

And if you’re borderline, then it’s a question of priorities - whether you care about small points of finishing or not, of the advice or not, about made in France or not. And of course, whether you want to spend your disposable income on it rather than pushing the boat out on food, travel and so on. 

There’s perhaps also an interesting, wider point about diminishing returns. 

It applies to all areas of clothing. When you pay twice as much for a pair of shoes, you don’t get twice the quality. The cheaper maker has done the most cost-efficient things already at their price, so it costs disproportionately more to do the next thing - like employing someone to do handwork, or using more sustainable materials. 

It’s a big area, perhaps for another post. But I think it helps explain why in luxury menswear prices can be much higher, for only small increases in quality. (Particularly given those companies take a similar attitude to how much should be spent on other things, such as sales and marketing.)

Clothing pictured:

Photography: Jamie Ferguson, except shots in the Bonnet shop, James Holborow

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David

Can you give us an indication of the price range for turtle-shell? I understand it varies widely.

Joel

Good read. Who would you then suggest if this is a stretch in the budget, or a borderline without the upmost priority?
I also loved you mentioned diminishing returns. While I definitely try to pay attention to, they’re very easy to overlook. Maybe a post on diminishing returns in the different areas of bespoke/mtm/off the peg could be interesting.

Richard W

As I keep saying on here, with glasses there is a much better return on your money than with say a suit. You wear them literally all day every day for for years. By contrast, how often do you wear a bespoke suit? Plus they have arguably a greater impact than clothing.

Ian F

If you can’t find frames in which you think you look better than without glasses the implication is that they all look the same or worse than without. Why not go rimless? Or use contacts?

E L

I think these glasses look great on you!

Although I don’t wear glasses, I would think that glasses would be arguably the most important item in your wardrobe on which to spend your money as 1) you are always wearing them (I guess this depends on how many pairs you wear–can you get away with just one?) and 2) they probably make the biggest difference to your appearance.

I am always a bit surprised by your reticence when it comes to the price of glasses, when you regularly drop double that on shoes and triple than on tailoring pieces which I can only assume you wear infrequently based on the size of your wardrobe, and which do far less for improving your appearance on a day-to-day basis (each successive suit isn’t so much an upgrade on your appearance as another option).

Also, which scarf from AS are you wearing? Is it, or one like it, on their website?

Rik

Hi Simon, does the price include eye test, lenses etc or just the frames?

ANM

Simon,

Glad to see you continue to give this essential part of anyone’s wardrobe coverage.

I do notice though that you favour round, acetate frames. Have you ever thought of giving a more squarish shape a go?

I suggest your next pair of prescription sunglasses, that would be a great start. And while some might say that a given face shape sets the parameters of what you can wear, I believe there is always a style withing a shape (square, etc.) that can work with any face shape.

One other thing, at the risk of promoting “fast fashion” in eye-wear, there has been a plethora of web – based startup with an incredible blend of design, materials (Italian Acetate, titanium, etc.) workmanship (usually Japanese), and price.

The service is decent, and the turn around is usually less than 2 weeks (European firms slightly longer when shipping abroad, similarly with North American firms shipping overseas).

I have used a few, and for $200-$300 USD have been very impressed, and have come out ahead of buying bland optical chain dispensary (usually Luxxotica owned) offerings.

One pair actually has had a few people stopping me on the streets to inquire I bought them

ANM

Simon,

Thanks for the reply.

On the online – sites potentially having some sizing issues:

They usually have a pretty liberal return policy.

In addition, if you either look at any current pieces of eye-wear one has, there is usually a sizing on one of the arms – 48, 50, and 52 are most common. This should give you an idea of your approximate side.

Finally, most online retailers have fairly detailed drawings, along with hints on sizing, and downloadable measuring aides you can print out.

All of the above doesn’t mean that your fit will be perfect, but it probably does a good job if minimizing errors.

Ajay

Simon, Any plans to try Ateliers Baudin?

Fernando

Hi Simon, the glasses look very good! I don’t know if I understood correctly, aesthetically speaking would you say these are your best everyday glasses? The Eyevan pair looks to much for me

graham

Mine were 1800 euro last year, you got a good deal.
I have 10 OTC frames from various designers, but the fit from Bonnet is perfect.
All the others feel clumsy on face.
MB will not sell you tortoiseshell for your first pair.
They insist on plastic. Then you can graduate up.
The price starts at 7000, and goes up to 50000+.
I asked Franck how they became so popular. The story he told me was Jackie Onassis became a client, she brought Aristotle. He was more or less the richest man in the world. He bought 10 tortoiseshell frames without thinking. And never stopped. The rest is modern history.
In France, the story is different. MB have always served the “Paris elite”. In other words they never had a shop, but would go in person to clients, etc.
Thus, there are, historically, two modern clients lists: “Hollywood”, and France.
In mine own case it took 12 weeks to make the frames, so I had to wait some time for the fitting. My comment to Franck was “You are the opposite of Amazon’ – he laughed.
For my purchase I took 3 of my favourite frames. One from “eyesite” (Theo,, Belgium), Cutler & Gross (vintage 1970s), and grotesque (Germany). Franck absolutely hated the metal frames, but loved the C&G! I mean Loved!!! So much that he said the second frames I bought from him could be a custom design.
You have to appreciate MB are the greatest craftsmen for specs in the world. How can you put a value on this? Corbusier, YSL, Mitterrand, Chirac….

Jan

Hi simon, I visited Bonnet a few days ago in Paris. The quality of the frames is extremely impressive. The finishing and smoothness is quite unlike anything I have seen before. But then then price tag is also substantial. Basically 2.000 Euros for the horn version. I was thus wondering how the Baudin offering compared in your view. Fit seems to not have been as good. Anything else one should keep in mind? As always, many thanks for your advice, best regards, Jan

Lars Carlberg

Thanks for your post on Maison Bonnet glasses, Simon. Over ten years ago, I selected and purchased a pair of bespoke frames (model Pure) in buffalo horn at the Maison Bonnet shop in Paris. I’ve been wearing them ever since and I need to go back for a second time to have my frames polished. Your acetate “panto” glasses look great. Is it a special model designed for you? Do you know the names of the two models that are below your Francois Pinton glasses?

Anonymous

That would be great. In my previous comment, I meant to say that my horn frames will require a third polishing, so I need to go to Paris again. In 2013 and 2016, I had my glasses polished and refitted. I’d also like to buy a second pair in acetate (either the model Pure or something similar to yours), despite higher prices. Unfortunately, I can’t afford the horn frames anymore.

Anonymous

I just looked at a blown-up photo of the three glasses. Your Francois Pinton is actually the one at the bottom. What are the two above? Franck surely had a model that was pretty close to your old glasses.

Lars Carlberg

Thanks again. I misread your photo caption and I wasn’t sure that I had to fill out the comment form on replies to you. That’s why I was anonymous.

Simon Crompton

Checked the model was the Monsieur Lin

Anonymous

What color did you choose Simon?

Cristian

Hi Simon,

So I was wondering – what is it that distinguishes MB? Is it the fit? The finish? The design? I appreciate that it’s probably a combination of everything, but I was wondering if there was something that MB specifically stands out in.

Cristian

That’s fair enough, Simon. I was examining a pair of MBs against my other frames the other day, and I think you’re quite right.

Although I would say that that somehow MB frames “blend onto” one’s face in a way frames from other makers don’t seem to. They seem distinct in that regard. Maybe it’s a thing with fit, or simply the effect of all the factors you mentioned.

Would love to see a post detailing how eyewear should pair with the rest of one’s clothing whenever you have the time!

Paul

Can you comment more about what determines good fit? I really believe the circular shape fits my face well, so that is what I am searching for. But maybe have the opposite problem of you in that my eyes are wider set and my face is also wider than yours. I understand proportions pretty well, but I am somewhat concerned that a ready to wear glass I get might be too narrow, say like the 55mm standard I see a lot. I would really appreciate any wisdom you can share from your bespoke sessions. For example I’ve found a Mont Blanc pair that look nice and the temples fit well, my eyes are fairly centered, but I don’t know if the lateral part of the frames are supposed to reach to a certain place near my temples, if that makes sense?

Jay Weir

This is the best capture of why investment in eyewear will indeed have a great ROI- monetarily and aesthetically. So well said- thank you Simon!

Alexis

I just had a bespoke pair made there, in horn. The experience was outstanding and I could not be happier with the result. By chance, my pair was also based on the Mr Lin design that Simon chose, I think, but i learnt about this afterwards. Loic and Delphine in the London store have been the picture of professionalism and passion for a job done perfectly.