Grieb & Benzinger: Reviving historic horology
High-end watches have become available on a large scale for many, diluting the essence of luxury that is associated with such a historic craft.
In a time where collections of hundreds of watches are labeled as “limited editions” and similar stories of heritage and legacy are heard from several brands, few true masters remain to deliver authentic, luxurious timepieces. Grieb & Benzinger happens to be one such brand.
This German watchmaking brand is not usually seen in the large industry-wide business gatherings, such as SIHH or Baselworld, and it does not sell through retailers, operating in the purest definition of a niche brand. The largest number of units it has produced from a single model never exceeded 20 pieces. The marquee is used to creating niche pieces designed for, and with the input of, its clients.
“The biggest hot seller we have is the Black Tulip, a gold watch with a black skeleton movement, but we have only created roughly 20 pieces of it. All of our other watches are restricted to two, three, four or five units of each, or one-offs,” said Georg Bartkowiak, who heads the heads design and marketing for Grieb & Benzinger.
“We have many watches in the catalogue, but most of these have been built with the input of customers, like the Grey Collection – customers asked that we do something like the Black Tulip but in gray,” Bartkowiak added.
Along with two other partners, Hermann Grieb, who heads the watchmaking, and Jochen Be Benzinger, also responsible for the design and finishing of the watches, Bartkowiak is mainly tasked with travelling the world to meet with current and prospective clients and showcase Grieb & Benzinger’s gems.
“We are talking to an extremely niche market, to the top of the iceberg; we have an entry price of €40,000. That’s already a lot,” Bartkowiak explained.
Grieb & Benzinger’s latest collection of impressive timepieces was launched last November. Two of the timepieces created for the boutique line are explored below. These will sure make watch aficionados do a double take when on display, if they have not already been snatched up by buyers with deep pockets.
This timepiece was brought to life based on an ancient 1889 movement created by Patek Philippe for Tiffany.
The 49mm timepiece’s highlights are traditional Grieb & Benzinger: “We have totally restored and rebuilt the movement; it has also been technically modified, giving it a new shape. It is hand-engraved, skeletonised and coated with blue platinum, which is the DNA for us,” Bartkowiak explained.
The 49mm platinum case weighs 135 grammes and carries the design and execution elements of the house of Grieb & Benzinger. The company has made a name for itself in the market for restoring movements and manufactures everything in a watch except for the case and the straps.
The watch displays time like a regulator, with hours, minutes and seconds shown in three different displays that are not centralised within the hand-skeletonized and -guilloche dial.
“In 1889, the ‘Made in Germany’ label was launched to warn against the bad quality of German products and, nowadays, the label refers to a great product,” Bartkowiak said.
As a German brand, Grieb & Benzinger writes the phrase “Made in Germany” in German on their products.
The brand also claims that the Blue Sensation timepiece is the “heaviest platinum watch you will find in the market and that was just a coincidence. It weighs 235 grams in total,” Bartkowiak said.
This timepiece’s movement comprises a fully refurbished and modified Caliber L 902.0 by A. Lange & Söhne, which originated in a watch called the tourbillon Pour le Mérite that was manufactured between 1994 and 1998, and released in a series of 2,000 pieces.
The historic value of the movement is that it was “the first tourbillon they [A. Lange & Söhne] built after their relaunch,” Bartkowiak said.
“It was a metadeur of heart to get a watch done with that, because it is nearly impossible to get the movement, but we made one watch of it and we are very proud of that. It is also technically modified, there are more components than the original, because we skeletonised and had to do some other functions in it,” he added.
Only one model of each of these two timepieces has been created by Grieb & Benzinger.