Grieb & Benzinger Platinum Watches
by C. Bradley Jacobs
Originally published in International Watch, August 2010
In the world of horology, myriad buzzwords and fleeting trends circulate, but there are few concepts that true watch connoisseurs respect so much as ‘quality’ and ‘exclusivity.’ A novel venture in Germany, featuring some of the most respected names in the business, is providing these to a small and privileged clientele through the Grieb & Benzinger Platinum line. In recent years, Hermann Grieb and Jochen Benzinger have been producing one-of-a-kind timepieces that combine fine vintage movements with world-class decorative artistry. Their aim to create the industry’s most interesting and exclusive products has led them to join forces with their friend Georg Bartkowiak, an experienced design and technical consultant to the watch industry. This trio is presently offering watches unlike anything available elsewhere: truly unique bespoke watches based upon historic high-grade complicated movements that are expertly modified, decorated, and housed in solid platinum cases.
An example of their work—the brand plans to offer no more than 10 watches annually—contains a 19th-century minute repeater caliber provided by Patek Philippe for Tiffany. The movement was restored for 4 months by Hermann Grieb, who modified it to a regulator display. For this watch and all others in the Platinum line, components needed for the modification are produced in-house by Herman Grieb. Grieb & Benzinger Platinum watches do not reply upon outside parts sources, nor do they depend upon modern manufacturing techniques. According to Mr. Bartkowiak, Hermann Grieb “uses the same techniques & tools to restore the watch that were available the days when the historic movements were built originally. This is pure watch-making in the spirit of Abraham-Louis Breguet.” To the modern mind, this singular concept may sound potentially limiting, but Grieb & Benzinger prefer to view it as opening up the possibilities envisioned by the masters of previous ages.
Grieb & Benzinger Platinum watches are also distinguished by the use of a stunning blue movement plate. This is a proprietary technique of blue platinum coating which was developed in homage of Charles Oudin, the student of A-L Breguet known for producing blue plates in the early 1800s. The decoration of G&B Platinum watches is provided by Jochen Benzinger utilizing a variety of techniques such as hand engraving, skeletonization and guilloché, the latter produced via a veritable museum of antique rose engines restored and maintained by Mr. Benzinger.
As is obvious from the dedication and focus of their makers, Grieb & Benzinger Platinum watches represent the execution of a complete vision for producing the finest wristwatches available. The client who commissions such a machine is integral in the conception and delivery of a tailor-made unique item, even to the extent of choosing the movement which will be transformed to the heart of the remarkable timepiece, of assisting with decorative design or perhaps mechanical layout. For such offerings, Mr. Grieb has been very selective in procuring an assortment of very fine and historic movements of the highest quality from such makers as Patek, LeCoultre, and Lange, many of which are repeaters or rattrapante chronographs. His preservation and reinterpretation of the original movement is merely the beginning of a painstaking process of remarkable transformation in which each contributor’s efforts are significant.
As the name suggests, the Grieb & Benzinger Platinum line features cases of that noble material as well as the high level of execution; only solid platinum cases are used. The cases are fashioned from solid platinum with no soldering of lugs or other elements. The minute repeater shown here has a case containing over 130 grams of platinum. According to Mr. Bartowiak, “this watch features the most solid platinum case on the market.”
Connoisseurs wishing to explore their options may contact Grieb & Benzinger directly or visit the brand’s representatives, of whom five will be named worldwide. Les Ambassadeurs in Switzerland is the first. Home service is available for consultation on the project and pricing of G&B Platinum pieces depends on the level of execution but generally start in the range of six figures (Euros). New pieces are continually being developed, such as a modified minute repeater with additional functions and a modified split second chronograph, expected to be available this summer. Before the end of 2010 the brand plans in to introduce a proprietary tourbillon movement—developed entirely in-house. The most current information is available by contacting Grieb & Benzinger via www.grieb-benzinger.de.
Text © C. Bradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.com; images © Grieb & Benzinger