I have worn and wielded the wares of many exceptional craftsmen – from Japanese tailoring to British umbrellas. But one world-renowned name that had remained on my wish list was that of French eyewear specialist Maison Bonnet, whose glasses have been worn by the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and Le Corbusier. And now me, as I recently had a pair of made-to-measure frames created for me in the London atelier that was opened by fourth-generation lunetier Franck Bonnet and his team last year.
Walking past the small Maison Bonnet shop window in Mayfair, there’s little to suggest that some of the finest glasses in the world are created downstairs. For while the basic frame shapes are usually cut out in Burgundy – from sheets of acetate, horn or vintage tortoiseshell – the other stages are done here, by hand, on Stafford Street, from the filing and polishing to the final moulding of the frame to fit the face. If needed – for a quick turnaround, for example – the entire bespoke process can be done on site.
This is something that sets Bonnet apart for craft enthusiasts like myself, and I was impressed – indeed, slightly surprised – at the level of workmanship involved in the process. I was expecting a fine fit and feel, given the pair was made to measure, but I wasn’t expecting to see a noticeable difference in the finishing. However, my acetate Mr Lin panto-style spectacles (so called for their tilted, pantoscopic lenses, with a high hinge and full base; from £1,300) are smoother and more consistent in some areas – such as the junction between the arm and the frame – than those I have by other makers, thus nudging Maison Bonnet ahead by a nose.
Simon Crompton is an author and journalist and the founder of a leading website on luxury and bespoke menswear, PermanentStyle.com, which receives over a million visitors every year. He is the author of several books including The Finest Menswear in the World (Thames & Hudson). @permanentstylelondon.