Time Pieces Part 5

Time Pieces 5

Being Seen – marketing a niche brand on a small budget

a.  Humanity – the amazing Only Watch
b.  Splash – Christie’s NYC collection
c.  Watchfam – showing some appreciation
d.  Travelling – days out with the collection

5.a  Humanity – the amazing Only Watch

I have a pal called Richard Webb.  He’s very unusual.  I think the weirdest thing about him is that he skippered a boat across the Pacific, aged 18!  Eighteen!  It’s even more terrifying when you write it long hand.  His mum must have had a suitcase of Valium.

Richard Webb in his natural habitat.

These days, he runs a very successful superyacht components business https://www.marineguard.com  supplying the highest spec security – systems that can image baddies that are out of sight over the horizon; that kind of thing.  Probably more Valium required.

He knows luxury and he knows yachts.  So when I started helping out Moritz Grossmann, it was Richard that explained Only Watch to me.  What he said made the auction sound very attractive.  What I had in mind was brand profile.  I wasn’t prepared for how emotionally immersive the whole experience would be.

Only Watch is the brainchild of the wonderful Luc Pettavino who once ran the Monaco Boat Show.  Luc suffered a dreadful challenge:  his young son, Paul, was diagnosed with a life limiting disease:  Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Luc left The Boat Show and decided to devote his life to raising money to find ways of beating Duchenne.  Only Watch is his flagship fundraiser.  Every two years top brands donate one unique piece to be auctioned.  99% of the funds go to research.  The collection is launched in Monaco.

Powered up.  Arriving at Monaco for the 2017 Only Watch launch

The first auction took place in 2001.  Since then they have raised over €70m.  Each year, the buzz gets greater and the amount raised grows.  In 2019, Patek Philippe’s Grandmaster Chime sold for a staggering CHF 31m – making it the most expensive timepiece of all time.  And it’s not the first time Patek have broken this record at Only Watch.

Patek’s Grandmaster Chime front and back. Yours for ~ CHF31m

My association with Only Watch has been very important to me in three ways.


It has shown Moritz Grossmann rubbing shoulders with the best of the best.

Our 2017 contribution was Theo’s idea.  We took an original Moritz Grossmann pocket watch from around 1870 and made a faithful wristwatch replica:  hands, dial, numerals, logo all looked as though they had been made by the master.  We offered both pieces together as one lot which we called “ATUM Homage”.  The lot sold to a Monaco resident who I know is delighted.

Brochure picture of ATUM Homage – CHF 40,000 for medical research

Watch collectors gave our piece a great reception.    They loved the antique look and feel – in particular the vintage logo.  Cool fact:  in Glashütte’s early days, they still badged their pieces ‘Dresden’.  So far, this is the only one of our modern watches to carry this exact mark.

And we were auctioned directly after Patek Philippe.  Their titanium version of the Ref. 5208, with a minute repeater, a monopusher chronograph, and an instantaneous perpetual calendar sold for CHF6.2m.

Here they are rubbing shoulders before the auction in Geneva:

ATUM Homage with lightweight neighbour – by which I mean titanium. CHF6.2m isn’t to be sniffed at – though I suspect PP were disappointed!


It has boosted my knowledge of horology, and of the watch market – plus I’ve met some great watch people.  Christie’s (John Reardon in particular) have been very generous.  If I were to pick out one of the brand guys, it would be Ed Meylan, CEO of Moser, for his energy, marketing genius and great sense of spirit.

Here’s how I read the watch market through the Only Watch lens.

Gorilla in the roomPatek.  No commentary necessary.

Most happening independentFP Journe.  To make a unique movement for Only Watch is above and beyond.  To also style it as he does, is next level again.  And he fully deserves the profile that comes with auction prices rising from CHF550k to CHF 1.8m over three editions.  Truly amazing.  I was in the room for the auction in 2017 when his piece pushed through CHF1m.  The excitement in the room was at least double that which the Patek generated.  I’d argue that he’s the most successful independent today.  (Ok – only kind of independent these days after getting investment from Chanel, but I think you know what I mean)  @the_journe_identity

FP Journe!  I can still hear the sale room gasps.

Consistent Hard Core Support:  Tudor.  Each year, their humble estimate is slaughtered about 80 fold.  I was sitting three chairs from the guy that bought his unique Black Bay for CHF350k in 2017.  Respect.

Tudor Black Bay Bronze One – CHF350k

Charity Heavyweights:  Hublot, Louis Vuitton, MB&F and Kari Voutilainen have each averaged over CHF100k over the last three editions.  Plus Audemars Piguet have come in recently and bust the million barrier this year.

AP 2017 – Royal Oak with a stiff looking ceramic strap – or maybe that’s just me – CHF 800k raised so let’s not complain

Nailed 2019 completely:  De Bethune, Hermes, Boucheron, Czapek, Chaykin, Akrivia, Bovet and Breguet all did an amazing job in 2019 of attracting powerful bids.  Chapeaux!

Here was my own favourite in 2019:

Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain – CHF 360k.  Super stylish!


it has introduced me to the inspiring Luc, his family and supporters, and to some of the doctors that benefit from his fundraising.  It has shown me how a family can turn a tragedy into a resource that makes them strong enough to shine like a beacon.

Paul died before the 2017 auction.  God bless him.  He is well remembered through his family and his #watchfam.

Luc Pettavino:  fundraiser extraordinaire and awesome dad.  This is the total from 2019’s auction.  Pic Only Watch

My 2017 favourites.  MG ATUM Homage with Chaykin and Moser. 

ATUM Homage.  #PalmSunday

ATUM Homage.  #wristshot

 See the BENU in the background.  You can tell it’s white gold because the sub second dial is dark.  Platinum would be white.  That means this is when my platinum loan watch was back at the factory having the huge dent I put in the case polished out.  Oops.  I’m learning.

MG Only Watch 2019.  Reserve de Marche Classique.  Same vintage styling, but with a contemporary grey brushed dial.  CHF 36,000 for medical research.


5.b  Splash – Christie’s NYC collection

After meeting Christie’s at Only Watch, we came up with a great idea.  We offered to them that we would auction 24 unique pieces, on-line in their December auction.  The idea was to showcase our willingness to custom-make pieces for individual clients.

Christies agreed to do it – the first time they had ever auctioned a collection of new pieces from any individual watchmaker.

I was there to support the presentation of the watches in NYC in December 2018.  It was just great.

We introduced many collectors to the brand for the first time.

I got to actually shake hands with on-line friends such as @time_light_mind, @jonwatches, @spanishrob

We got fantastic support from the media – including from @jackjforster – editor in chief at Hodinkee.

And we sold every single piece.

  • We had 7% of the total pieces in Christies on-line auction; but we produced 25% of the revenue
  • We had an average price of 3x the average for the auction
  • We had the joint most expensive piece in the whole auction – a green dial tourbillon
  • We had three of the top six most expensive pieces and seven of the top twenty
  • And (sorry for sounding smug here) there were some ‘rare’ Rolexes estimated at higher than our hammer prices that failed to attract a bid, and were withdrawn.

I won’t show you all that we presented.  But here were some of personal favourites.

This collection really made the right kind of splash

Top price green dial TB, and my personal favourite – titanium case orange and grey.  Don’t know who got this – if you’re out there, get in touch!

The beating heart of ATUM M Orange DLC

BOOM!  Also in red.  I really liked this piece and it stopped people in theoir tracks who would otherwise have wandered by oblivious.


Skeletonised movement done for us by Skelettmeister Christophe Schaffo

TEFNUT Grande Dame – went to Sleepy Templar @horolson. 

The original that Grande Dame was modelled upon – still in the museum in Glashütte.  Present for Grossmann’s wife.

Super clean

ATUM 37 Homage plus twin.  Reviewed by Jack Forster for Hodinkee.

Yellow dial, DLC case.  Yes please.  Dresden colours too.

Case back of unique blue and white enamel BENU. All blue screws.  No 18. Hannukah friendly!

Extreme Skull.  Didn’t suit me.  Really suits top watch photographer Atom Moore.

ATUM Pure with brown annealed hands and indices.  Getting the colours to match was tough.

Original pocket watch for…… 

…..Henry P Egelston, Jan 1 1872…….

……see the snailing and the index adjuster?  Only one source of these today!

Enamel 36.  Purchaser popped up on Reddit.  Bought off the pictures having never known MG before.  Loves it.  Win:win.

The very first BENU.  Should really have sold for $250k.  It didn’t quite.  Somebody got a great deal on a piece of Glashütte history.  One that got away.

The whole gang.


5.c  Watchfam – marketing on a tiny budget

A young challenger watch brand isn’t all glamour, lavish parties and huge marketing campaigns.  In fact, it’s hardly like that at all.

So much resource is committed to design, engineering, innovation and building new stock, that there is often only buttons left for marketing.

That’s why an under-the-radar, exclusive brand like Moritz Grossmann benefits a great deal from its #watchfam.

The appreciation shown on line grows awareness.  Awareness grows advocacy.  Advocacy leads bit by bit to sales.  And sales revenue keeps East German watchmakers going – that and soul.  They then design yet more stunning movements – I give you the Hamatic.  They deliver classic design – I give you the Cornerstone.  They sweat bullets over the finishing – I give you the Vintage Benu Power Reserve.  And so the wheel turns full circle with more appreciation.

Thank you so much to all of the people who support us with posts of their own MG watches, or of pieces they have seen at watch meets and plan to add to their collection in future.  Your support is always oxygen – sometimes it’s dope!

Here’s a small appreciation of some stalwart supporters.

Apologies to the many I left out.


@victoriainparis.  Meticulous research, beautifully presented.  Supporter since early days


@budgecoutts  Always a magnificent image – macro or other wise

  @redbarlondon / @floatlite Helped dream up the RedBar tour.  Two watches put into circulation with RedBar members.  Starting with the Date – on the 11th, at 6:30.


 @whiskyblenderdude Not one of his posts, but is one of his whiskies!  Cheers, and glad you enjoyed having the Date with you for your US launch event.  And thanks for the whisky!



 @halfwatchtuesday, @jumpingjalapeno @a_second_after_midnight Unleashed watchfam creativity with >10,000 posts and counting.  And reposted me multiple times!  It’s an oyster perpetual  Jim, but not as we know it.

@barkandjack “This watch is very photogenic – it’s using too much battery”.  #firstworldproblem.  Note I can’t make him look as good as @thewatchdude2



@time.on.her.hands  MG super-fan and responsible for introducing Tunbridge Wells to the finest finishing.  And lots of style!

@watchdxb Gerald Donovan did a fantastic catalogue of the whole Only Watch 2017 collection, including this macro shot of the ATUM Homage index adjuster.  #wow

 @checkthewatch RedBar tour recipient.  Posted some stunning images including this half watch case back of the Vintage Power Reserve.  Taken in the dark as I remember.


 @scottishwatches  Gorilla marketing.  No, that’s not a typo.

 @katlen.watches.life. #katlenpose wouldn’t be a thing unless people loved her work.  She needs to learn to ski though.

 @dianaevansillustration  #unmistakeable.  And endlessly creative.  Amazing images again and again.  #chapeau.

 @csabapeterrakoczy Proper watch guy.  Great photographer.

 @justinmfrost. My first ever Basel appointment.  He went easy on me.

<20.15>  @watchrant  Ever inquisitive, ever restless, never follows the crowd.  Gets Moritz Grossmann.


 @ado_ado_jp. A guy who loves his watch!



 @thewatchdude2. Very accomplished photographer.  Always makes the most of challenging lighting to create images like this.


@horolson Simply glittering collection includes multiple MGs including this unusual piece from the 2017 Christies collection.  #style



 @watchesandart Boris Pjanic.  Fully invested MG super fan and happy owner.  Accolade from someone who knows watches inside out and backwards.



 @takazumi203 Has the same lucky watch as I do!  With a very cool strap by the look of it.  Might need a chat about that. 

 @takuolised  Long time MG fan.  Liked my first ever post much to my surprise.  Paying homage to the original BENU.


 @watch_abudhabi  Great image of maybe our best received haute couture piece – the Extreme Dubai that sold out before it was even launched.

@kevin_roberts100 RedBar tour recipient and remarkable poet!


5.d  Travelling – bringing you the collection.

By now, you’ll have realised that Moritz Grossmann needs about 300 buyers a year; and that’s a year’s production sold.  That’s all.

Showing people is the best way to market these very exclusive, super-high finissage, independent, hand-made watches.  Handling them, trying them on and appreciating them in the metal is a rich experience.  Adding back stories brings the watches alive further.

Hands on

Collectors’ dinners and retailer events have always had a place. 

Watch collectors’ clubs – such as the UK’s Watchmakers’ Club, or international clubs like RedBar for example – are becoming more important for reaching new collectors and turning them into advocates, or owners. 

RedBar lynchpin @floatlite completely absorbed pic @thewatchdude2

This type of event gets you in front of true collectors; and it starts the right kind of conversation.

MG desk at the Watchmakers’ Club.  You can tell it’s us because we’re three deep and because @peter_naid (green tie) and I both have the regulation hair style

Plus, groups like RedBar are up for something a bit creative.  We put two watches into circulation with UK and US members last year to let many collectors test drive the pieces.  Before the lockdown craziness started, plans were well advanced to auction these watches (with a charity element too) at the Global RedBar meet in September 2020.  We’ll cook up a plan B.

RedBar 1:  BENU Power Reserve in white gold and charcoal

RedBar 2.  Date in rose gold and argenté

Big jamborees like BaselWorld hadn’t felt for a while.  To celebrate our tenth Anniversary in 2018, we had a big new range to launch.  We took the lot to Basel.  Attending represented so much of the marketing budget, that there was little left over for big launches later in the year.   But the stories from Basel were all about some mega brand’s new green dial.  SO we quit Basel in 2019 as poor value for money for a smaller brand.

Here’s the weird thing:  without many of the smaller brands providing the horological draw, the big guys quit too.  And now Basel is gone.  Weird eco-system where the dominant players depend on the smaller guys for oxygen, then nick most of it anyway.  Just a view.

Basel 2018.  All of these new pieces launched – including three new movements – but the story is always somebody else’s amazing new green dial.

So we saved the Basel budget in 2019 and took our launches on the road in to Dubai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and London.  Spreading launches throughout the year gave better traction.  And you meet people at leisure.  You’re the story and they’re not rushing to another meeting. 

Hong Kong 2019.  Hamatik launch.  We were the only story.  Theo Staub is the tall guy with glasses in the centre.  Christine Hutter, slightly obscured, but dead centre.

TheWATCHES.tv covered the HAMATIC launch, in a video narrated by the wonderful Marc-André Deschoux.  It had more than 50,000 views which isn’t bad for a small brand.   See the video here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaWcqMlozGA.

Meeting people at these events is my biggest highlight of being involved in independent watchmaking.  Being denied that during this strange lockdown period is torture. 

Seeing people who are discovering Moritz Grossmann for the first time resonate with the Glashütte story, marvel at the hands and then go slightly quiet as they take in the finishing on the movement never gets tiring.

@thewatchdude2 captures a quiet moment as a RedBar Glasgow member meets the BENU Tourbillon for the first time.  And breathe.

Sometimes we are lucky enough to have a someone from the factory join us.

My friend and amazing hand-maker, Sebastian Hutkai, demonstrates hand making at an event at William and Son, Mayfair

Other times, it’s just the watches and the story tellers.

Grossmann brand manager Wolfgang Nutz and 20 watches – Watchmaker’s Club in London

Which brings me to a key point.  With the explosion in innovation over the last two years, the travelling collection became too big.  Too big to carry and too big to explain.

New pieces such as the Hamatic and the Cornerstone have been crowding out old favourites like the ATUM.

So some of the travelling collection pieces have been retired from the collection.  From time to time these are put through the factory for a complete service and polish and offered for sale as ‘certified used’.

They are immaculate, they come with the same two year guarantee – but since they have many thousands of airmiles behind them they are offered for sale at used watch prices.

If you want to know more about availability of ex-collection pieces, register with me on this site and will get you the up to date position. 

<22.11>  One of my favourite pieces – but now retired from the travelling collection.  TEFNUT Pure in charcoal and DLC steel case.  #stealthy

<22.12>  Another favourite – ATUM (now called BENU Index) in Anthracite and white gold.  I know a very happy UK customer who took this ex-collection stalwart to add to the two pieces he already owned.  #greatchoice