On an exceptionally sunny 6th of October we met up with a group of fellow watch enthusiasts at Maison De Greef for a private Master Class in Haute Horlogerie. A Master Class it was, and Haute Horlogerie we witnessed very much indeed. Without further delay, the full report for your reading & viewing pleasure.
Watch enthusiasts & collectors from Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Germany & Switzerland gathered in Brussels to attend a Master Class in Haute Horlogerie organized with Maison De Greef. The men & women behind the centenarian Maison put up a fantastic show, perfectly executed & magically orchestrated. Read on to have a taste of what we were served on this very sunny 6th of October in the center of old-town Brussels.
Upon our arrival at location, we were all swiftly guided to a private area where the Class would take place. Unlike most classes that I can recall from my student days, this one only started after we were all comfortably seated, served bubbly drinks and presented with tasty finger food. Talk about a warm welcome:
Professor of the day was Guillaume from Maison De Greef. He has a background as a Lange trained watchmaker and is a bonafide watch enthusiast. Armed with a powerful microscope, a big screen TV and a breadth of horological knowledge, he was going to explain each and every single watch in the most minute of details. Little did we know, we were about to be taken on a wild ride as we were presented with ‘just’ four watches. A carefully curated selection of watches, the horological equivalent of a four punch knockout.
Please note that I keep the text succinct in this photo report for each watch. For those who thirst after that extra detailed look, individual ‘Hands-On’ reports will follow over the coming weeks.
Zenith Academy Christophe Colomb
Right out of the gate, the room went quiet as we were presented with this exceptional Zenith. This is not a new watch, but is certainly a noteworthy one. The Academy Christophe Colomb Équation du Temps won the award for “Best Complicated Watch Prize” in the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix (2011). That it is complicated, you can probably tell from the pictures. A watch unlike any other and a real treat to see from up close. The highly complex mechanics in essentially a tiny package made this an ideal candidate to put up for closer inspection under the microscope:
You are immediately drawn to that exceptional ‘Gravity Control’, a self-regulating ‘gyroscopic module’ designed to further enhance mechanical timekeeping precision. We looked at this under the microscope on the wide screen TV, where you could really see the marvelously complex mechanics at work:
The little sphere holds no less than 175 parts, and that’s just the sphere. It’s quite frankly a bit unreal to see it all ticking along in perfect harmony:
While it’s easy to get lost into the 360° tourbillon cage structure, we were also guided along the many finely polished details and finishing on the watch’s movement & dial. Another technical feature on this watch, as the name suggests, is the equation of time. It essentially shows the discrepancy between the true solar time (what you see on a sundial), and mean solar time (what you see on your watch). The difference, or ‘deviation of time’ between both can run between minus 16 minutes and plus 14 minutes (more or less), and the little gauge on the dial shows you precisely that deviation:
The curvature of the crystal around the gravity control module (360°) was surprisingly not uncomfortable to wear on the wrist.
Lange 1 tourbillon ‘Handwerkkunst’
How do you get a room filled with overexcited watch enthusiasts to calm down as they just gazed into those sparkling eyes of that Zenith? One way to do it is to quietly say: “And now, Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkkunst”. The room went silent in no time.
This particular limited release (20 pieces in the known universe) was created by Lange to celebrate an anniversary, so you know you’re in for something special. And special is an understatement. This particular L961.3 manufacture movement has details a plenty. The warm glow of the German Silver , gold chatons, blued screws and of course that Lange specific hand engraving on the balance cock or the tourbillon bridge…
Looking at the movement and hand engraving in detail was particularly eye opening. The high quality finishing and exceptional detail to the movement becomes undeniable at this point. You also start to understand why it takes a watchmaker over six months to make such a piece:
Here I went straight to the movement for this particular piece, but the finishing on the dial side is just as exceptional. The black enamel dial looks very luxurious in real life. It was quite difficult to snap a good picture under the spotlights for which I must apologize. Make sure to check the video above, it paints a better picture of the dial. It is all in true Lange tradition, simply perfect and then some. The dial being black enamel, the hands being gold and there being a diamond right at the center of the tourbillon makes for a visually compelling piece to say the very least:
We also relive the story of a watchmaker at the time of making the pictured watch for the first time. We learn that each and every single piece will potentially require minor adjustments by the watchmaker, all leading to an impressive time spent making the watch for the first time. This also teaches us why then a service of a watch (which essentially requires a full disassembly and re-assembly, much the same as when a watch is first made) takes so much less time than the initial making of the watch. Answer: because everything already nicely fits together which is not the case when the watchmaker receives the individual (imperfect) pieces at the time of the first making.
A quick snap before we let this one go…
Patek Philippe Gondolo Tourbillon
The 5101P was picked as the next watch. After the visual feast from the above two watches, the dial side of this particular watch, is quite sober. In fact, from a distance you’d potentially never know it is a Grande Complication. Without knowing this watch, you’d also have to have great eyesight to see that it is rocking a 10 day power reserve tourbillon. You’d also easily go through life not knowing this watch is the monetary equivalent of a house in a nice neighborhood. It is perfectly discrete, and a gentleman’s choice no doubt. Looking closer though, it becomes apparent why this is a testament to Patek’s master craftsmanship.
The watch really comes to life when looking at its movement and the gorgeous tourbillon under a bit of magnification (x 20 in our case). We spent most of our time looking at the detail on the tourbillon, the black polished tourbillon bridge, and the exceptional level of finishing. To get a good look of just how exceptional the finishing of each and every single part is, have a look at the video, it’s just incredible stuff.
The Salmon dial was a much debated topic in the group and also prompted the below – by now iconic – double salmon shot:
A loupe is a real must have when observing this type of watch, the details are just on a whole other level and deserve to be observed from as close up as possible:
And last, but certainly not least…
Patek Philippe Répétition Minutes Quantième Perpétuel
Closing the Master Class with the final piece with a massive bang. Or shall I say, gong?
This Minute Repeater from Patek Philippe was a visual & audible treat to close the Class. We looked in detail here again at the finishing of the movement, and the particular mechanics dealing with the Minute Repeater complication. Nested comfortably in our seats, we were also presented with the lovely tones of the Minute Repeater and an observation of the small & exceptionally silent centrifugal governor which controls the tempo of the hammers hitting the gong. The centrifugal governor, is essentially hidden beneath that glorious Calatrava cross on the picture above.
For a video specific to this watch, have a look at our past video snapshot of this watch released a while back, you can view it here.
A nice way to close the day, don’t you say?
In closing, we’d like to thank Maison De Greef for the hospitality, enthusiasm and a job extremely well done! When in Brussels, do yourself a favor and pay them a visit if you’re looking at expanding your watch (or jewelry) collection 🙂