WATCH COLLECTING

A Unique Solid 18K Hand-Wound Swiss
Chronometer Wristwatch with 21 Jewels


Described herein is a one-of-a-kind reclamation project I undertook to save both a vintage chronometer movement, orphaned by gold scrappers, and an 18k Universal Genève watch case that had been acquired without a movement.


 

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First, I'll describe this elegant watch case:

I would say it was probably made in the late 1940s, judging by the style and need for female spring bars. It was produced by the venerable Universal Genève company (of Polerouter & Tri-Compax fame) and is stamped as such inside; the outside shows hallmarks for 18k gold. I bought this with the hope of having a custom watch built with an ultra-thin Piaget 12P movement I owned, but the project never got off the ground. Thus, I decided to find a high-grade classic movement of 11.5''' to marry with this exceptionally sleek and unusual case.

The condition of the donor case (Ref. 112124) was very good--there were a couple light marks, some evidence of having been opened with a case knife, and a bit of tarnishing under a couple lugs, but no significant damage or signs of age. Dimensions follow and plenty of photos of the case by itself are provided below:

40mm lug-to-lug
34mm width
5mm thick (without crystal)
17mm strap width
Weight: 0.7 ounces (20g)

As you can see, the shape is unusual. The elegant curved lugs are reminiscent of early-20th century fixed-lug cases, and the lugs' surface width is quite well matched with the width of the bezel. The full effect is of solid construction, even though it is a rather old and delicate item of soft precious metal.

Taking the crystal and metal ring into account, I would guess this contains a little under ½ ounce of gold which an early 2017 price-check valued at ~$1220/oz. Because this is 18k and not pure, I value it at something around $400 worth of gold.


Next, let's talk about the heart of this watch:

© WatchCarefully.comThe watch case houses an original Britix chronometer movement and dial/hands set. The movement is a chronometer-certified version of ETA Caliber 2370, most likely from the late 1950s. I searched for some time to locate a good quality movement to meet my criteria: 1) not so obscure that parts would be scarce; 2) something top-quality with a high jewel count, preferably a chronometer; 3) including the original dial in presentable shape, preferably with some character. Luckily, this uncased Britix turned up and met most of my needs, thus ending my search. I did have to find another good parts movement of the same caliber and, luckily, its finish matches that of the original movement, because the chronometer movement had arrived with a barrel bridge of a different color. Some work was needed to swap a couple parts and find the right size screws, etc.--but nothing terribly complicated or time-consuming.

It is a strong-running movement that has not been serviced because, frankly, when I received it from my source, it arrived clean and running quite accurately (still is--see images below), so I didn't want to mess with a good thing or jack up the price to cover the cost I would incur sending it out for service. (I can build 'em and regulate 'em, but I leave the eventual full service to others who have more recent practice at it...and I know lots of collectors have arrangements with local watchmakers for better prices than I get here in the Philadelphia area.) The movement is a high-grade version of Cal. 2370, with 21 jewels. The movement number (necessary for chronometer testing & identification) is 5706 but no chronometer paperwork is available, unfortunately. This movement was obtained after its original case had been scrapped for gold content, presumably, so no accessories were present.

Happily, I was able to save it from being forgotten in a drawer, rattling around with other movements, until it was nigh on worthless. Now, though it has a few marks and evidence of prior service, it is blissfully married to the gold case described above and protected from further exposure. This little timekeeping wonder undertakes its renewed duty with obvious pleasure.

And a little about its face:

The patina of the dial and case give this the right amount of 'Wabi-sabi,' in my opinion. There are many small 'age spots' and tarnish on some of the hour markers, but the overall condition is quite in line with that of the case. I felt quite lucky to have located a donor movement with its original dial and hands in such condition and I gave no thought to polishing the case or refinishing the dial Nor would I consider selling any of the components separately--this was a labor of love, and I was keen to see the project through to completion.

Since writing this, I found a good home for this watch, with a new owner who will appreciate its uniqueness and mongrel characteristics. Much as hot-rodders and resto-modders enjoy combining disparate parts to make a car of whose uniqueness they can be proud, this watch is sort of a vintage hot-rod itself. It's not exactly a '32 Ford with a Jag rear-end and later small-block Chevy motor, but the inspiration was similar, in my mind.

Please see the photos below (click for larger). Note: a little Interweb sleuthing has turned up an original UG watch with the same case that was offered on-line—it can be found by following this link.


The case and crystal as found:


Photo © C. Bradley Jacobs (WatchCarefully.com) 
Photo © C. Bradley Jacobs (WatchCarefully.com) Photo © C. Bradley Jacobs (WatchCarefully.com) Photo © C. Bradley Jacobs (WatchCarefully.com) Photo © C. Bradley Jacobs (WatchCarefully.com) Photo © C. Bradley Jacobs (WatchCarefully.com)

 

The movement and dial as found:

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The completed project:

© C. Bradley Jacobs (WatchCarefully.com) Photo by the author

Photo © C. Bradley Jacobs (WatchCarefully.com) Photo © C. Bradley Jacobs (WatchCarefully.com) Photo © C. Bradley Jacobs (WatchCarefully.com) Photo © C. Bradley Jacobs (WatchCarefully.com)

 


Text and photographs © C. Bradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.com
www.watchcarefully.com

 

 

First-generation watches by Gevril (ca. 1994-1999)

Displayed here are some of the earliest models offered by Gevril, a new brand founded in the 1990s. Using ETA movements, and employing a blend of highly sculpted cases with classic dial elements, these early models caught the attention of many collectors, and are sought-after today. Features such as elegant Breguet hands, dials with engine-turned patterns, and uni-sex sizes make these suitable for men or women seeking a reliable and uncommon watch for occasions formal or casual.

The case components are nicely sculpted: ribbed sides avoid the monotony of simple squared surfaces; the notches on bezel and case back align to provide continuity of form; the bezel slopes from the crystals edge to meet the case band and lugs, giving an already fairly thin watch the illusion of being even more so. The dial, set fairly deep in the case to accommodate 3 layers of hands, employs a tasteful variety of textures and depths. The central pattern steps down to a matte ring which borders the brushed hours chapter with applied numerals. Finally, a matte ring with applied dots forms the outer boundary. The flat sapphire crystal is devoid of anti-reflective coating, so the various surfaces with different reflective qualities are a welcome aid to legibility in different types of lighting. Elegant hands of proper lengths are thin and dressy but slightly curved and provide enough contrast for easy reading of the time. On the 3-hand models, the long counter-balanced seconds hand suggests the accuracy of an observatory chronometer.

Innovations found on some early Gevril automatics include an indicator at 3:00 showing whether the screw-down crown is sealed properly (see silver dial below), and many were housed in a wooden box with a spring-loaded watch holder. It is a very slick piece of modern design. There are rumors on the Internet that these early Gevrils were designed and/or built by Audemars Piguet. The quality is certainly high enough that this is plausible, but I have never read confirmation of this theory.

More information on these and other early Gevrils can be found in this article on the Gevril Group website. The photos below were taken by myself of watches I own(ed).

Photos: click for larger.

Model A0111, #2560:

Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author

Model AO111R, #1440:

Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author

Model F0141, #134:

Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author

Model F0141, #1178:

Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author

 


Text and photographs © C. Bradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.com
www.watchcarefully.com

Pre-WW2 Paul Vallette Split-Timer
made by Ed. Heuer & Cie. - Ref. 540

Vallette20dial20detail202Exhibited here is a rare vintage split-seconds timer made by the famous chronograph maker Heuer. It uses a 1/5-second movement based upon the famous caliber in the Semikrograph, Heuer's 1/50th-second timer, little brother to the historic Mikrograph 1/100th-second timer of 1916.

This timer was made for the US market and uses Heuer's Paul Vallette brand name, which was one of a set of alternates used by Ed. Heuer & Cie. and their US partner (Freund) to sell watches in America at a time when consumers preferred French names to German-sounding names (ostensibly as a result of the first World War backlash against Germany). This timer likely dates from the 1930s.

This watch has a stunning enamel dial, blued steel hands, and a lovely silver-plated movement with column-wheel stopwatch activation. The case has two hinged rear covers (with maker's signature) and a snap-on bezel.

Please see my photos below, which include period catalogue entries from Heuer (1930s-1950s). For images of another rare Heuer using a variant of this movement, I invite you to visit this excellent site: http://www.goldschmiede-zwehn.de/mikrographen.htm

Photos: click for larger

Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author  

 

Images from a 1936 Heuer catalogue:

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Note: serial number of movement in image is slightly newer than the number of the timer on display:

 

Image from 1946 catalogue:

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Text and photographs © C. Bradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.com

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A Custom Bridger Field Watch
Made by Montana Watch Company (2002)

 

Photo by the authorThis was delivered to me in late 2002 and, as the accompanying letter states, is an un-numbered prototype which is the first watch produced of the Bridger Field Watch line from Montana Watch Company. It features a lacquered white dial, nitre-blued steel case and buffalo-hide straps. The movement is a high-grade ETA 2824. The crown is 14k gold. This watch is not a standard model, it was custom-built for me after Convergence 2002, a collector trade show held in Lancaster, PA. The idea I had when giving input on this build was sort of a modern WWI trench watch like those made by Elgin and Waltham.

The watch is pictured with the original box, allen key, protective pouch, letter from the maker and a CD copy of the Winter 2002 catalogue from MWC (not pictured).

All the photos taken below were made 19 Feb 2016, and clearly show the pristine condition of this uncommon watch. The dimensions are 37mm wide, 10.5mm high, 16mm strap width at lugs. The dial is ~28mm. As demonstrated in the photographs, the overall effect is very much vintage/retro, but the presence of the watch is substantial, unlike many vintage pieces, which can be quite small (<35mm). Since it was delivered, the case of this watch has not been opened.

New watches from this line are very pricey and ornate. Examples of the early understated version are very rarely offered on the secondary market.

          Photos (click for larger):

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Text and Photos © C. BRradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.comwww.watchcarefully.com

Photo by the authorBrand: Favre-Leuba
Model: 36000 Chronometer
Ref.: 36503
Issued: Ca. 1970
Case: Stainless steel with screw back
Crystal: Acrylic
Bracelet: NSA 3-row with F-L logo on clasp
Movement: FL 1162, 21 jewels, gilt

Description: This is a rare F-L chronometer-certified wristwatch with hi-beat movement running at 36,000 vibrations per hour (ticking at 1/10th second).

The present example has a steel case with signed screw back (marked with reference number). The original bracelet by Novavit S.A. has a signed clasp (F-L hourglass logo) and fitted end-pieces. At present, the watch is in need of a balance staff, but is otherwise intact and complete.

An equally rare (if not more so) Favre-Leuba display box is present with this watch. Made by Cartolux S.A., this is a multi-piece sliding box that has lots of FL imagery and can be propped up to display the watch or closed to lay flat.. It includes the tagline: ça c’est FAVRE-LEUBA.

Photos: click for larger

Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author Photo by the author  

 


Text and images © C. Bradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.com

www.watchcarefully.com

Grieb & Benzinger Platinum Watches

by C. Bradley Jacobs
Originally published in International Watch, August 2010

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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. Photo courtesy G&BTheir 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. Photo courtesy G&BThe 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.

 


Photo courtesy G&B
To read about watches by Jochen Benzinger, including having a custom watch bulit, please csee my article here.


Text © C. Bradley Jacobs, WatchCarefully.com; images © Grieb & Benzinger
www.watchcarefully.com

 

 

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