With splendid grace a new collection of timepiece from Chronoswiss and Jochen Benzinger combined, fully realizes the beauty potential of guilloche and hand engraving. These are the new Zeithzeichen watches, with three models and strictly limited numbers. The often admired art of dial movement engraving is easy to come by these days, but true masterwork is often reserved for the larger manufacture houses who can dedicate whole departments to such styles of decoration. Cartier, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and others each have models with engraved decorations, but they often choose between hand engraving or machine engraving (which in a sense is also done by hand as they are manually operated). For this reason I am so pleased to see that this line of watches actually uses both styles of decoration combined together for stunning results.
I've mentioned this in the past, but continue to be amused at the ironic name of Chronoswiss, as it has "Swiss" in the name, yet is a German watch brand. They have worked together (no doubt not for the first time) with the work shops of Jochen Benzinger - also in Germany - for the Zeitzeichen watch line. There are many models in the Zeitzeichen collection (limited to 33 pieces total) while the pictured watches are the CH 6721ZWV "V"(fully skeletonized floral design), the CH 6721ZWVI"VI" (retains some of the dial with floral designs on exposed areas), and the CH 6721ZWVII"VII" (fully skeletonized with dragon and stars decoration. Not only is each beautiful, but they showcase the roles that such styles of decoration can take in a luxury timepiece. For example, the Zeitzeichen epitomizes the results of a fully skeletonized watch using abstract decoration (typically floral or arabesque) designs cutting away as much of the movement as possible, while the Zeithzeichen VI retains a chapter ring with hour and minute markers that is itself guilloche engraved as well a ring for the subsidiary seconds dial. Here the functional elements of the watch are preserved while all unnecessary areas are reserved for engraving and movement visibility. Lastly there is the Zeitzeichen VII that presented a different execution of the theme. It uses movement engraving to illustrate a distinct scene or object. Here, it take the form of an Oriental style dragon again a backdrop of further decorated components much of which are in blued steel, some of which is coated with blued platinum. Other types of decoration include polishing and finishing such as the perlage polish which has been applied.The machines that Benzinger uses for such decoration are either highly maintained antiques, or specially made by their workshop. The base movements used for decoration are ETA 6498-1's that are modified and use material such as blue steel or platinum coated steel. The dials, if there are any are in sterling silver. The watches comes in 44mm wide cases that are in either 18k red or white gold, and diamond bezel decoration is also available. The watch case is standard Chronoswiss in design with straight lugs and the "onion" crown.
Each version of the limited edition of 33 pieces Zeithzeichen watches have the elaborate decorated movement, while some have more "complete" dials allowing for a more classic look. While a fully skeletonized dial is beautiful, it is not always easy to read. The collection is beautiful and a testament not only to German watch making, but the incredible results that can be achieved from guilloche machine and hand-done engraved decoration. Chronoswiss is a master of classically styled timepieces, while Benzinger is the clear champion of this type of decoration.
By Ariel Adams