Time Pieces 2
Circling the Drain – becoming enchanted
a. Genius – meet the watchmakers
b. Hook – “you’re lending me what?”
c. Line – hands like no others
d. Sinker – when a watch becomes your friend
2.a Genius – meet the watchmakers
You start circling the drain of watch obsession when you meet the watch making geniuses who make them. The work they perform is extraordinary. They pour their souls into the pieces they bring to life.
So much so, that I don’t know whether the deep connection I feel to these good people could be because they have put so much of themselves into the watches that their work connects us on molecular level? It’s just as believable as quantum entanglement.
Here are links to a couple of videos which show the watchmakers in action.
This one is on the Grossmann website and is quite short. Excellent introduction to high end watchmaking skills:
This one is also on the Grossmann website. It’s a virtual factory tour – the only type you can do during a lockdown – and it’s a little longer at nine minutes. There are some beautiful images of watchmaking:
This one was done by a friend of Moritz Grossmann, Max Hänsli. In depth, it shows you a still more detail of some of the techniques our wonderful colleagues use to bring metal alive:
It would take too long for me to introduce the whole team to you, but here are some of the wonderful people I have met in Glashütte. Some of the pics here are mine, some from MG and some from Max Hänsli. Apologies to those I haven’t included. You are all amazing.
Andreas Gelbrich. Works in prototyping which takes a special class of genius: inventing ways of making things that nobody has ever made? Not easy. He is the guy who is trusted to service Hermann Goertz’s astronomical clock at the museum. #priceless
Christiane Schneider. The person who had the original idea for the Tefnut Twist – which was shortlisted for the Grand Prix Horologie de Geneve. That makes Christiane watch royalty!
Mike van den Burg. The poor guy who was mostly responsible for making the Tefnut Twist movement production ready. A really tough assignment. But he’s still smiling. And also watch royalty!
Jörn Heise. Heads up the mechanical engineering team. The main brains behind making the Hamatic movement the engineering masterpiece that it is. I described him on the Tock Show with Scottish Watches as being so clever that he has no idea he’s clever. A very modest man.
Jürgen Vogel – now retired – glowing in the light from the machine that matches finished CNC parts to the blueprints they’re taken from.
Jana Claus. Works in finissage. One of her specialities is the index adjuster assembly. Finishing the twelve pieces of this assembly takes her about 3 days. It would take you or me considerably longer.
Jana polishing the index pointer. If you look carefully, you can see the tiny step she has polished in already.
Martina Hanzsch was a watchmaker before the Wall came down; she left watchmaking to work in medical instruments and is now back doing what she was born for – handmaking. Here applying the final touch. With a hammer!
As well as being one of the best handmakers in the world, Martina also has great fingernails. Give that lady a Tefnut Twist!
Sebastian Hutkai, before……..
Sebastian Hutkai, after…….. Proving that handmaking is intense enough to make your hair fall out. Sebastian also worries that his English won’t be good enough when he does handmaking demonstrations. It is of course. And the demonstrations are simply sensational.
Patrick Rehwegen working at the three band snailing machine. He is controlling the pressure with the back of his hand to put in a step of about 1 micron between the different steps. He says he never gets it wrong. I would.
What Patrick does: Dreifachgestufter Sonnenschliff is the German word, remember?
Stephan Gläß concentrating really hard – probably on making a minute adjustment to a balance wheel. Wheels are adjusted by taking micrograms of metal from the wheel by changing the chamfer angle on the holes a microscopic amount. Check out the videos. You won’t believe it until you see it.
The assembly room always seems very quiet. I can barely breath in there because the work is so delicate.
Christin Hennig handling some small gear wheels in the movement assembly area. She’s on maternity leave currently: i.e. working with bigger things right now – though just as precious.
Sabine Fleischer is one of the most experienced people in the assembly team. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her without a loupe to her eye! Note the protection on her fingers. Not to protect her, but to prevent the German silver alloy from tarnishing which it does immediately if you touch it.
One of Sabine’s skills is cutting the spring, making the Breguet bow by hand and fitting the balance to the spring. Very delicate work. And you can see it’s another skill that requires great finger nails.
Tom Vietze in the assembly area. He’s the guy entrusted with finishing and assembling the tourbillon. A big job! Moritz Grossmann must be looking down on this new generation of Glashütte watchmakers and feeling great pride in his legacy. #youngwatchmakers #GermanSchoolOfWatchmaking #legend.
2.b Hook – “you’re lending me what?”
After my first visit to Glashütte, one thing led to another and pretty soon I became their agent for the UK.
I went back to the factory for my induction and an in depth product briefing. And the next step in being hooked occurred.
I was given a platinum Benu Power Reserve, retail circa £40,000, as loan watch.
Platinum Benu off for a meeting – we’ve done a lot together.
We’ve done a lot together since then as you can see from my Instagram account.
I love its weight.
I love its gravitas.
I love its elegance.
And I can look at its little splashes of red for a looooooong time.
Red 60 at the top of the sub-seconds dial
EasyJet wine glass whilst returning from Germany. Smythson for EasyJet contrast.
Distraction in my garden office – plus a startled cat
A German watch for precision timing breakdowns of a British car #Jag
Eiswein (pic @JustinHast)
Underwear plus rug – #classicposes
Berlin Schoenefeld Airport – ultimate luxury plus Iron Curtain shreds
2.c Line – hands like no others
Hooked by the platinum Benu, I was further entangled by hours of contemplating the hands in the travelling collection I was baby-sitting.
I’ve written already that the hands are our signature and that they are the best we can do to pay visible homage in every piece to Moritz Grossmann himself.
Here’s what we’re shooting for:
Original MG pocket watch – inspiration for Only Watch 2017 (see “Humanity” chapter). Note “Dresden” on the logo. The watch was made in Glashütte, but at that time the town was unknown so they kept the Dresden provenance for a while. Little white lies, but good intentions.
MG micrometer gauges – 19th century side-line. Needle sharp hands a requirement.
Handmaking is photogenic. Whereas blanks are precision cut using a wire erosion machine, all the remaining work is done by hand. To make three hands normally takes a whole working day. The complication is the final step, which takes little more than a minute, but which can destroy all the good work done before.
Look at the picture below and follow the arrow through the different production steps of a Benu hour hand.
Hand templates showing different production stages
The flat blank is filed so that the muscular shoulders of the hand start to emerge. I’ve had a go at shaping the hands. It didn’t go well.
When the shape is fully there (the third in the photo sequence), the hand is then polished until it has a flawless shine. And for some of the darker dial pieces this hand is now almost ready.
Polished steel hands on a Tefnut DLC #stealthy
The last step is to subtly fold down the tip so that the hand brushes the minute scale and thereby eliminate parallax error in reading the time. #precision
The last stage is to bend the tip to reduce parallax error. Seen here on a brown hand (photo MG)
But on many MG watches there is an intermediate and crucial step: annealing, or heat treating.
When steel is heated, it changes colour in a highly predictable, but highly sensitive way. As the temperature climbs the polished silvery steel becomes straw coloured, then yellow, then red, then brown, then blue – which is the traditional colour of most steel watch hands.
Blue is traditional, lovely to watch, and sounds great! Seen here on my Benu Enamel (#3/18)
On the transition point between brown and blue there is a phase that we call ‘brown/violet’. It’s not one colour – rather a continuum between brown and blue. Browner at the lower end of the temperature range and bluer at the top, the different possible colours are quite beautiful. But not all the same! And the heating is done by hand. And the temperature range from brown to blue is only 10o C.
So the chances are that one hand will not be the same colour as the next. So hands are batched into sets of three that do have the same colour.
That’s unless the hand is not all one colour throughout. If it’s mottled, it must be thrown away. Whatever your knowledge of thermodynamics, you’ll understand that getting the thickest bits and the sharpest bits of the hand to the same colour at the same time is very hard to do.
Hamatic hands – as thin as a hair. Extreme watchmaking.
I think it’s amazing that only about 10% of the hands are discarded. I’ve seen Sebastian mess one up. I haven’t seen Martina do it yet!
Wonderful, fun and humble: Sebastian Hutkai does a demo at William & Son
Annealing kit includes mini omelette pan and Aladdin’s lamp
Annealing takes less than two minutes
And it ends in a rush: “it’s a good one”
After and before
Below: procrastination – when you can’t decide what to have for elevenses and you own four different MGs and a macro lens for your iPhone…………
BENU 37 – bluer end of brown violet
ATUM Enamel – browner end of brown violet
ATUM High Art – polished steel with Hi-Ceram insert
BENU Enamel – cornflower blue
Definition – brown violet hands on the limited edition Cornerstone Enamel. Really pleased with this picture!
These ones will do – photo MG
2.d Sinker – when a watch becomes your friend
By summer 2017 I was circling the drain.
I had been formally appointed Moritz Grossmann UK agent. We’d done a design event with Superyacht Charities (see “temptation”). And I’d lined us up to participate in Only Watch for the first time (see “humanity”).
I worked out that I needed an Instagram presence. Having never used social media at all, I posted for the first time. 4 likes. Including from @takuolised – a loyal follower ever since.
Reveille – first post featuring German watch and British Lions jersey. Doing my bit for European integration
I then had a dilemma. I was going on a long road trip summer holiday with Jane and Evie, my wife and daughter, and knew I had to keep posting but didn’t know about taking a dress watch on an outdoor pursuit holiday. What to do?
I decided to take the least expensive piece from the travelling collection I then had. That way, if it all went wrong and I wrecked the watch and the insurers didn’t like what I’d been doing, then at least I could pay the bill without breaking the bank.
So with a blue ATUM Pure on my wrist, I set off. And kept posting, reaching the dizzy heights of 11 likes before the end of the trip.
And that may sound entirely trivial. But I had built an emotional commitment to Instagram. And I’d shared an amazing adventure with a beautiful watch which I had grown to love.
And that is how I worked out that – like other people – I could own a Moritz Grossmann if I wanted to. And I did want to. So I ordered the blue ATUM for myself, but with the High Art movement. Number 3/15 was duly reserved and was delivered later in the year.
I had disappeared down the watch collecting plug hole without even knowing it.
By the time I got through Only Watch in November, then BaselWorld in January I was ordering multiple pieces. #addicted
Flecto of the skyline in St Mark’s Square at the Venetian in Vegas, before seeing ‘O’ by Cirque du Soleil at the Bellagio
Next stop – Nine Quarter Circle ranch deep in Montana’s Rocky Mountains. Thoroughly recommended
All day ride – nine hours in the saddle with big skies and grizzly bears
10,000 feet up on horseback in Montana. Whoa.
My trusty steed, Cutthroat – named after a trout, not a renegade. I’d have brought him home if I could have
Jane fishing for cutthroat trout after riding into the middle of nowhere.
Homebound after outdoor supper. Brits wear riding helmets. Locals not so much.
Next stop Jackson, Wyoming and the solar eclipse
No words. You have to see one.
Evie gearing up with all the key accessories
Dinosaur flecto at Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, on the road south
My girls hiking at Arches National Park, Utah
11 likes! PB
Big finish – prepping to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, Arizona
Grand Canyon night before – luxury. Mary Colter Suite at the El Tovar Hotel
Canyon hike day 1 – not so much luxury. Temperature too hot to measure at the bottom. Spent the afternoon sitting in a stream.
Grand Canyon day two – bottom of the gorge, early start. That ridge line is NOT the top. Not even close.
Grand Canyon day three – not so far to the rim now
Grand Canyon day three – did it! Evie was shorter than Jane then. Not any longer.
Happy time but feeling blue – back home. (photo @justinhast)