Platinum blue masterpieces Featured

Classical timepieces are given new functions and a new appearance by Grieb & Benzinger

by 01 June 2010

Grieb & Benzinger Platinum is a remarkable and original concept in fine watchmaking. The craftsmen at this House work on unique, historical wristwatches containing exceptional movements that were originally made by masters of vintage horology, restoring them to their former mechanical perfection. But Grieb & Benzinger have their own approach to restoration, giving these classical timepieces new functions, and a new appearance, adding their own embellishments in the form of skeletonization, guilloché, and blued platinum plating. The results are exceptional: totally one-off timepieces with an extraordinarily refined appearance, as well as renewed technical accuracy, and extreme rarity.

This rarity is in part due to the fact that the craftsmen at Grieb & Benzinger are, in fact, Messrs. Grieb & Benzinger. Hermann Grieb is a master in the restoration of vintage watches, and he has worked with collectors from all over the world. In the Grieb & Benzinger Platinum process, he disassembles the original, vintage movement, and restores each component with meticulous attention to detail. New functions are incorporated into the timepiece to create a new horological masterpiece.

Jochen Benzinger is an outstanding craftsmen, a master of skeletonizing, engraving and guilloché. He grew up and trained in Germany's city of goldsmiths, Pforzheim, and after an apprenticeship with the city's top engraver, he went still further and taught himself the craft of guilloché, which had been abandoned by college curricula as far back as 1961. His cooperation with Hermann Grieb represents the perfect combination of technical excellence and visual beauty.

There is a third person involved in this story: Georg Bartkowiak. The fact that he studied economics at university provides a clue as to his function in the company, but in actual fact even during his studies of numbers, graphs and statistics, he was nurturing another passion, that for the development of avant-garde wristwatch concepts and designs. He has created many superb timepieces selected by royalty and international VIPs.

Grieb, Benzinger and Bartkowiak work together in a workshop in which classical equipment takes pride of place. Their work on historical timepieces, and Benzinger's use of traditional decorative techniques, calls for period machinery, and the result is an environment in which time seems to stand still. Their tools would not be out of place in a museum. In their work, the trio pay tribute to the original masters who created the movements, and they perpetuate the heritage of classical watchmaking.

The movements selected for Grieb & Benzinger Platinum timepieces are Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin originals made between 1880 and 1930. The House hunts for these valuable watches and conserves them in Pforzheim, ready for development. Grieb, Benzinger and Bartkowiak examine each one and develop their concept for the new watch, incorporating new functions and new decoration. More specifically, the "platinum" concept of the process was inspired by classical masters of watchmaking such as Abraham-Louis Breguet and his apprentice, Charles Oudin. Oudin developed complex movements for his former teacher, and as early as 1820 he specialized in blued movements, a rarity then just as they are now. All movements in the Grieb & Benzinger Platinum series are wholly or partly blue platinum-coated, with hand-guilloché dials, hand-skeletonized and engraved movements with blue platinum detailing, tempered hands and screws, in solid platinum cases. And so, what was already a unique vintage masterpiece becomes a one-of-a-kind watch.

An example: a minute repeater wristwatch with a 46 mm diameter case dating to about 1895-1900 was modified to incorporate a regulator display, new hand-skeletonized and hand-guilloché dial, blued steel hands, hand-guilloché base plate coated with blued platinum, guilloché bridges and cocks, a compensation screw balance with blued Breguet balance spring, and a skeletonized spring barrel bridge. All parts of the repeater mechanism were polished and bevelled. The result is a spectacular piece of horological technology and a true work of art. It is not surprising that only ten such pieces are made every year.

Grieb & Benzinger also make their own unique pieces, in steel, white gold or rose gold, based on contemporary movements, with their trademark hand-skeletonizing and hand-guilloché craftsmanship. These watches, comprising the Benzinger Boutique collection, are instantly recognizable for their style, and distinctive touches such as the position of the hour and minute displays above the dial. These also guarantee exclusivity, because only 100 watches are made each year, and they can be made to personal requests from private clients and retailers.

All considered, Grieb & Benzinger are unique players on the fine watchmaking market, combining absolute respect for their precedessors with a remarkably creative use of old and new technology. Ensuring that the time of the past is projected well into the future.