Every springtime unfolds in Stuttgart one of the biggest retro and classics automotive fair in Europe – Retro Classics. Between historical and rare cars, spare parts and automobile tuners I had a pleasant surprise to meet Mr Hermann Grieb, the first part of the Grieb & Benzinger brand name.
Mr Grieb was somehow amused that I have recognised him and we connected instantly. Ok, maybe the fact that I already knew Mr Jochen Benzinger and wrote about him and his watches helped… But still, the connection was real and he invited me to see one of their brand’s achievements: – the one and only Blue Sensation Unicum. Unfortunately, I was not able to take very good quality photos.
I think you can talk about this watch for hours without repeating yourself in terms of finishes but I will be brief.
I will start with the most insignificant part – the buckle. I was so impressed by the overall piece, that I completely forgot to make a picture of the watch’s buckle, but believe me when I tell you that it is gorgeous: – made from Platinum PT950, the pin buckle has the visible part hand guilloché with a beautiful pattern and if I remember well, it’s the same pattern as the one used on the case bezel.
The watch has a deep shade of blue alligator leather strap that completes harmoniously the entire watch appearance.
The case is a consistent part of the watch’s 235g total weight: a single 1Kg PT950 block was used to carve the solid 49mm and 165g watch case. The entire case’s side and lugs’ sides are vertical brushed with highly polished screws for the strap system. The lugs are on the top and bottom with polished surfaces finished.
The most spectacular parts of the case are the top bezel and the case back. The top bezel has a beautiful grain d’orge guilloché and an anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal. The bezel has the guilloche pattern delimited with high-polished circles that together with the polished and oversized side make a nice contrast that highlights the bezel’s beauty.
In the picture bellow is visible the late time of our conversation – 10 minutes after the closing time – this didn’t stop us.
The case-back with a flat sapphire crystal offers a great view to the one-of-a-kind movement, but suffers the same great treatment as the rest of components – hand engraved with cursive handwriting: “Patek Philippe for Tiffany Split Second Chrono Regulator Grieb & Benzinger PT950 Unique Piece“. Only the amount of work for this inscription is tremendous.
The Chrono pusher and the crown are made of solid platinum and decorated with guilloché pattern.
Another breathtaking element of the Blue Sensation is the dial: hand-skeletonized, from sterling silver, decorated with original Breguet frosted finish – an almost lost technique that is well mastered in Grieb & Benzinger Manufacture’s atelier.
The dial has overlapping displays and it was decorated with several guilloché techniques: Satiné Circulaire – this surface is used for the printed Roman numerals, in the case of the hours subdial, minutes subdial and small seconds subdial, inclusive split second big dial with printed numeral and indexes. The satin finishes are delimited with Sauté piqué (piqué relevé) or Cremaillère guilloché pattern for the subdials. The hands are the purest Breguet style possible, blued for the hours, minutes and chronograph with a gold split seconds hand.
And if you already think that the case and the dial are a lot, this is because they have to reach the high level of the movement used.
The ultra rare and historical Patek Philippe caliber was built in 1889 and it was sold to Tiffany New York in 1890. I think that finding this movement was just as hard as transforming it into the marvel that it is today.
The caliber is impressive even for today: a hand wound split-seconds chronograph movement with 26 jewels and a compensation screw balance with a blued Breguet hairspring beating at 18,000 vph or 2.5Hz. I was firmly convinced that the beating frequency is much higher, the impression was given by the very big Breguet balance wheel.
After the movement was completely disassembled and restored, it was modified to encompass a regulator display. The base plate was first skeletonized so the entire movement can be easier observed, then it was guilloché and, at the end, 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.” –
The view from the bottom is gorgeous, but also the top, under the dial has a lot of elements to be studied. Below a picture with the visible bridges and plate under the dial. The level of details and finishes is one of the greatest available.
This watch is a grail: it’s unique, has a rare and special movement, top materials, one of the best collection of finishes and techniques available, more than 1000 hours of work, beauty and a price to match – 245,000Euro. I saw watches more expensive than this one, but none made me shiver.
I would like to thank, from my deepest heart, Mr Grieb for his time. It was a pleasure to chat with him also on other subjects than Haute Horlogerie.
He will be present at Baselworld, so go, greet him, have fun…