Regular readers of The Watch Lounge will no doubt already be familiar with the work of Grieb & Benzinger. This small German-based Atelier specializes in the creation of unique timepieces powered by the restored antique movements of past master watchmakers. And so it was with great anticipation that we awaited the unveiling of the brand’s latest achievement earlier this year, known simply as the Blue Danube.
One Of A Kind
The incredible complexity involved in the construction of each piece combined with the rareness of the movements used means that the brand only creates a handful of these individual masterpieces each year. The Blue Danube for example uses a historic base movement originally made by Patek Philippe for Tiffany in about 1890 and features two main complications; a minute repeater and a split-seconds chronograph.
As you can imagine, working with a movement that is over 120 years old requires a great deal of skill, technical know-how and of course patience. Every single component must be treated and restored, with some being replaced entirely (a feat made possible thanks to the traditional watchmaking machinery amassed at the Grieb & Benzinger workshop). In fact, according to the brand, the detailed restoration of the more than 400 components of this movement required intense attention and took more than 6 months. Plus don’t forget they all had to be reassembled to form one functional unit after the extensive “special treatment” they received!
Of course the restoration of the movement is only one part of the process. To make the Blue Danube a truly remarkable timepiece the talented craftsmen of Grieb & Benzinger have applied all their skills to completely transform this historical calibre’s aesthetic appearance.
In trademark style every single bridge has been hand-skeletonized, guilloché and rhodium-plated. The base plate has also been hand-skeletonized and hand-guilloché before being coated with blue platinum, a signature element of the brand designed to honor the famous student of Abraham-Louis Breguet, Charles Oudin, who built movements with blue base plates in the 1820s. Even the wheels have been guilloché, and the heads of all the steel screws hand-polished and classically tempered a cornflower blue over an open flame.
The dial itself has also been hand-skeletonized and features a Breguet frosted finish, a technique developed by the late master of the same name that involves using a combination of oxidation by means of an open flame as well as a special acid mixture. The practical purpose for this application is to seal the surface, thus protecting the dial from oxidation however the aesthetic effect is also quite striking as the process creates a silvery-white surface that is reminiscent of frost.
Presented in a 43mm case crafted from solid platinum, complete with navy blue alligator skin strap with platinum buckle, the Blue Danube is a one of a kind work of art and will sell to one lucky collector for somewhere in the region of US$ 450,000
The Final Word
Although I am more than familiar with the work of Grieb & Benzinger and in particular their Platinum series of one-of-a-kind pieces, it never ceases to amaze me what this small brand is capable of. The attention to detail and level of hand-finishing is simply astonishing and truly is a tribute to the supreme skill and dedication of these master craftsmen.
For more information please be sure to visit their official website: www.grieb-benzinger.com