Thursday, October 29, 2009
Nothing compares to the beautiful classic elegance and sense of artistic wonder like the result of guilloche machine hand operated engraving. When mixed with hand engraving, you get results just like this, and no one does it quite like Jochen Benzinger in Germany. Let me clarify. Germany-based Benzinger is one of the finest specialty watch engravers in the world. Their work is a mix of personally branded watches, as well as engraving work for select watch maker clients.
Benzinger watches take Swiss mechanical movements and performs numerous forms of engraving (both hand and machine), as well as movement skeletonization. Pictured are a number of examples where you can see the results of this amazing craft. I find it easy to fall in love with these watches as they combine a mixture of classic design, and a masterful attention to detail as done by dedicated professionals. The best part is that Benzinger watches are an impressively good value in terms of price.
Above you'll see the Benzinger Volkskelett Floral watch. A fully floral pattern engraved and skeletonized watch that uses a Swiss Unitas 6498 hand-wound movement. The German made steel case is 42mm wide, while the strap is alligator. Notice that fantastic level of detail in the decoration. A combination of hand and machine engraving techniques greet you, while a stylized "JB" (Jochen Benzinger) sits close to the crown on the dial. Screws and hands are blued, while the hands are done in a Breguet style.
Here you have the caseback view of the Benzinger Zeitfenster watch again with a hand decorated Unitas 6498 movement. Instead of being totally "see through," the watch has a PVD black, decorated plate in the middle of the movement. The watch has a classic Breguet style dial and hands, with partial skeletonization - allowing for a good mix between an open movement, and classic elements. The case is also 42mm wide in steel, and serves as fantastic statement for what Benzinger is capable of.
Next is a beautiful watch, as seen from all angles. This is the Offene Subskription IV timepiece. Notice the high level of classic decoration on the dial, and continued on the back. This watch displays mostly the beauty that can be achieved from guilloche machine engraving. Once again we find a Units 6498 movement, and can see how dynamic the movement is, having a new look each time it is decorated differently. The coined bezel on the watch and wide level of decoration make this a serious classic and object of desire.
This is an engraved rotor from Bezinger's Chrono Drache, a Swiss Valjoux 7750 movement based watch. The front of the watch (not pictured) is subtle with a guilloche decorated dial, and an easy to use chronograph. Flip the watch over and you'll be impressed with the dragon form engraved on the automatic rotor in 18k yellow gold.
Last you will find the face of two more Benzinger watches. Highest is the 3/4 Skellet watch using a Unitas 6497 manually wound movement with a subsidiary seconds dial at 9 o'clock and a mostly sketelonized dial. A watch like this is a good choice for people who want the beauty of a skeletonized dial, but also want to preserve legibility. Below it you have the quite modern looking Benzinger Subskription Black VI watch with its use of circular shaped to create the distinctive dial design. It once again uses a manually wound Unitas 6498 movement, with a PVD coated middle plate and a large amount of guilloche engraving on the movement and dial surfaces.
All Benzinger watches are made with quality in mind using sapphire crystals, carefully made Pforzheim region parts where available, and a focus on wearing comfort and usability. Most watches are either limited editions or very limited in production.
By Ariel Adams
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
From Finland comes boutique watch maker Antti Ronkko who nicely epitomizes independent watch makers from the region. His Minute Repeater watch creation combines his personal tastes and ability to craft watch cases and dials, with an early 1900's Touchon & Company manually wound minute repeater pocket watch movement inside.
The case itself is all handmade by Ronkko costing him 100s of hours. It is 48.5mm wide in 316L steel, being comprised of three parts. This large size is due to the fact that movement itself (coming from a pocket watch) is 39.5mm wide alone. The lugs are integrated into the case as part of one uni-body construction.
Most minute repeater watches include a slide lever on the side of the case to active the minute repeater function. Ronkko wanted to do something different, so the this watch uses the a twist of the bezel to charge and then activate the minute repeater. It is a clever use of a winding bezel. I further enjoy his stencil mold style name plate to indicate the brand on the lower part of the dial.
The beauty and complication of the minute repeater movement alone, made for a suitable dial, especially since exposed movements are in. The movement has a subsidiary seconds dial located at 9 o'clock, while all hands are done in an attractive arrow style. The dial segments built by Ronkko also include brass, in addition to steel. Overall the look of the case is very appealing with a high degree of focal interest emphasized on the movement. I would have however liked for Ronkko to include dedicated hour markers that would have made the watch easier to read. These could have easily been included on the darkened dial plate ring.
Antti Ronkko is still in a very limited boutique phase, but has proven to have an ability to make interesting and highly capable watch cases that embody interesting movements made by others. I suspect the watch loving community will see Antti Ronkko models in the near future made in larger quantities. Plus, this is another sign that Finnish watch makers are becoming serious about the country also being know for creating interesting watches.
By Ariel Adams