When it comes to ordering your first luxury bespoke timepiece, you want something that is exactly that, bespoke. You’re not interested in compromise, what you want is a gorgeous timepiece crafted to your specifications, whose beauty even the most aesthetically ignorant will be able to appreciate. Enter Grieb & Benzinger.
Headquartered in Southern Germany, this tiny outfit has built an enviable reputation by crafting exceptional, unique pieces for their wealthy clients. Over time they have also grown to creating their own collections, although annual production numbers are still extremely limited due to the time required to make each piece.
The workshop – which clients are invited to visit before deciding on their next commission – is full of mostly historic special machinery and could easily double as an industrial museum paying ode to the pioneering spirit of Abraham-Louis Breguet and the like. This is because Grieb & Benzinger believe in doing things the traditional way.
You won’t find any movements skeletonized by CAD-driven, laser cutters here, no, everything must be done by hand to the highest possible standards, regardless of whether the piece is a one-off for the brand’s ultra-exclusive Platinum collection or a new addition to an existing entry-level collection.
I don’t expect you to just take my word for it of course though, which is why today I will be giving you a hands on look at one of the most incredible timepieces Grieb & Benzinger have ever created – in my humble opinion at least.
Grieb & Benzinger Blue Sensation – Platinum Collection
The Blue Sensation belongs to Grieb & Benzinger’s highly coveted Platinum Collection. There are currently only five pieces in this collection and each one is unique. For this series the company has only used movements that were built between 1880 and 1920 and feature high-end complications, such as minute repeaters.
The idea here is to stay true to the original masters and as such Grieb & Benzinger use the same traditional machinery and hand-crafting techniques from the old days to create their unique style timepieces. In this way classic old watches are thus turned into new and exclusive fine platinum masterpieces, incorporating increasingly rare techniques of craftsmanship for the finishing of the movements such as skeletonizing, engraving and guilloche, all of which is done by hand.
The Blue Sensation was first unveiled by Grieb & Benzinger in 2010 and is based around a complicated Patek Philippe split-seconds chronograph for Tiffany movement that dates back to 1889. As you can see in the pictures it has been painstakingly restored and modified by watch making extraordinaire Hermann Grieb and the end result is nothing short of breathtaking.
At the time Grieb & Benzinger reported that this masterpiece had been their most time intensive project yet, with the detailed workmanship associated with the skeletonization and guilloche processes as well as the technical modifications of the plates and bridges of the split-seconds chronograph requiring more attention than any other complex piece they had worked on before. No word on whether that is still the case but given the pedigree of the timepieces they had produced previously, that is still a pretty amazing statement.
Not for the faint of heart the Blue Sensation is housed in an oversized 49mm case carved from approximately 165g of solid platinum, making for some pretty substantial wristwear. Even the pusher and crown are made of solid platinum and feature hand guilloché. To be fair though the heavy skeletonization of the movement and dial goes a long way to reducing the overall weight, although in reality this exquisite timepiece was never intended as a daily wearer and so size and weight considerations don’t quite apply in the same way.
Besides, if you always have the Blue Sensation strapped to your wrist there’s no way you would be able to appreciate its true beauty. Countless hours were spent on the detailed restoration, regulator modification, hand-skeletonization, hand-engraving, and guilloché of the movement, to ensure that every last component was perfect. No compromises were made, even when the fine guilloché work of the plates and bridges necessitated moving original drilled holes by less than one-twentieth of a millimeter.
The base plate was hand-skeletonized before being guilloché and coated with blue platinum. The three-quarter plate was also hand-skeletonized and modified to change shape and guilloché, coated with rhodium and rose gold. Every single bridge was skeletonized so to change its shape, guilloché and rhodium-plated. The hand-engraved balance cock was rhodium- and rose gold-plated. The wheels are guilloché and all steel screws are flame-blued. No detail, however minor, was overlooked.
The incredibly complexity of the whole process meant that the movement needed to be continuously reassembled, adjusted, disassembled, and reassembled in order to guarantee full functioning of the great number of levers and wheels, despite their elaborate treatment.
Judging by the end result though I am sure you will agree it was all completely worth the tremendous effort required. Sadly very few people will ever get to see this piece in the flesh though, as it is now (and has been for some time) the property of a private collector. Of course, like any other timepiece, it still requires servicing from time to time, which means it must be sent back to Germany and can therefore (with permission) be handled and photographed by the likes of myself.
Don’t despair too much though, as I said before, Grieb & Benzinger apply the same care and attention to detail to all their timepieces and so it’s possible to get something for your own collection that is truly breathtaking, without having to mortgage your house and sell your yacht first.