There are plenty of high-end watch brands in the world, but none quite like German watchmakers, Grieb & Benzinger. The team explain why.
There are many incredible watches on the market, and there is no doubt that they are fabulous timepieces. But we believe some have lost their soul. Many of them are so-called limited editions but really there are lots of similar watches out there. At the Grieb and Benzinger workshops, we completely restore precious movements by the great old masters from 1880 to 1930. We take them apart down to their smallest elements and then they are worked on, guilloched, engraved and skeletonised to make a client’s very personal watch dream come true. Our watch clients get real one-of-a-kind watches made by existing masters and not by anonymous people at brand names.
Jochen Benzinger uses techniques that have more or less died out, particularly the art of guilloche, a craft that is not being taught anymore. He specialises in modifying mechanical movements the old way. Now that most production is computer-controlled, real craftsmanship such as Jochen’s has almost disappeared. One negative aspect of doing things the modern way if that everything looks the same. Perfect perhaps – but the same. We value individuality. Hermann Grieb is also a graduated master watchmaker and has chosen a path specialising in antique and historic watchmaking. Over the years, he has accumulated a collection of highly technical and beautifully crafted vintage complications from grande maisons such as Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, all dating between 1880 and 1930. We only make around 10 Platinum pieces each year – because there is simply so much to work on. A tremendous number of manhours is required to restore the movement, incorporate extra functions such as a moonphase or date according to the client’s wishes. We disassemble the whole thing and decorate each and every part.
Puritans will possibly not agree with our treatment of Patek and Vacheron movements. But the problem is that the brands themselves are unlikely to be able to pick up the pieces without at least a case and a dial surrounding them. Most watchmakers lack the skills to bring them back to life, so perhaps we should be grateful that these movements are finally being resurrected thanks to the talented craftsmen.
It depends of course according to each watch but to give an example, we recently made two watches (Blue Sensation and Blue Danube) which took about 1,000 hours all together. This included all work at every workshop station: restoration, technical modification, decoration, dial layout, dial production, and assembly. I would say for the Platinum watches we would usually talk about a delivery lead time of about 6-12 months but it really is variable. To explain – we have two watch lines; our Platinum one-of-a-kind watches and the Boutique line. For the Platinum watches we invest more time as the ebauches have to be totally restored and partially rebuilt. The creation is not just restoring the movement, it’s also about the watch case measurements and dials. The Boutique line is not quite as timely it is based on classic pocket watch movements which are often found brand new. Obviously we save a lot of time as there is no need for restoration. There is usually a delivery lead time of about 3-4 months for the Boutique line.
As I mentioned, the Boutique line is our basic collection and we have a maximum capacity of about 100 watches per year. The collection includes the fully skeletonised Blossom watch, also classic styles with Sterling Silver dials and technical modifications such as the Polaris and the Regulator Pharos. We are working on new models such as automatic and an extraordinary monopusher-chronograph to be built in quantities up to 10 pieces per year. The Boutique line in offered in rose gold as well as in white gold, and soon in steel and white gold. Prices in gold start about $42,500. The Platinum one-of-a-kind-watches are a different story. Due to the huge amount of work and time needed for one piece we make a very limited number every year. We originally intended to do about 10 watches annually but as we’ve become more and more well-known, more complicated watches are requested so we only end up making about 5-6 pieces max a year. Therefore prices needed to go up. Prices start about US$250,500 up to US$850,000.