Grieb & Benzinger St. George
If you have been following my writing all these years, there are a few things you probably know about me. One, I am extremely enamored of the rare handcrafts that almost died out of the mechanical watch industry when it was declared dead during the quartz crisis of the 1970s and early 1980s. I am talking about unique crafts demanding high amounts of skill and concentration like guilloché (a particular favorite of mine), engraving, skeletonization and enamel. Two, I really, really like German watches. This is probably due to the pragmatic, unpretentious, quality and – let’s face it – often no-frills style that German watchmakers tend to use when approaching their creations. And three, independent craftsmen particularly intrigue me, though this does not mean that I don’t love brands as well. I’m sure it has something to do with the way I can personally relate to the individual artist as opposed to a corporate entity.
Grieb & Benzinger is a boutique brand that appeals to me highly on all of these levels, and even offers a cherry and whipped cream on top: Hermann Grieb is probably Germany’s top vintage expert, and Jochen Benzinger is surely one of the top craftsmen in the entire world when it comes to guilloché, skeletonization and engraving. His work embellishes the timepieces of many brands (which you may not be aware of).
When this duo teamed up with Georg Bartkowiak to form this little brand situated in Germany’s picturesque Schloß Dätzingen, the incredibly artistic ideas they had been cooking up started to take form. And – voilà – our industry is now enriched with timepieces like no others available on the market today: founded in long traditions, yet decidedly stamped with the artistic signature of their makers bringing them into the modern era.
Paying homage to St. George
Today, Grieb & Benzinger launches another of the boutique brand’s truly unique and fully characteristic timepieces, this time one to honor the Russian watch enthusiasts that have long been loyal clients of the luxury watch workshop. Just in time for Orthodox New Year (which was celebrated this past Tuesday, January 14), Jochen Benzinger has worked an engraved rendition of the country’s patron saint St. George into the gear wheel bridge of the Unitas 6498 that serves as the base movement for this solid piece of ticking art.
A soldier in the Roman army born in Lydda, Palestine, Saint George, who lived from about 275 to 303 AD, was later venerated as a Christian martyr. George is also inextricably associated with a dragon as the legend goes, and while there is no fire-breather here inside the watch, we do see a long rose gold-plated lance in George’s right hand. This fine detail is visible even without a loupe, nestled among the signature blue platinum elements, right above the screw balance, and surrounded by skeletonized, minutely guilloché details.
Some of this watch’s special elements are borrowed from Grieb & Benzinger’s Platinum line, which does not derive its name from the precious metal as one might otherwise suspect. It comes from the blue platinum coating that adorns the base plate, peeking out here and there among the skeletonized components and interplaying colorfully with the gold, white (rhodium plating), red (of the jewels), and blue (of the screws) for an elegant and intriguing look.
The alluring look of the meticulous movement is so captivating, in fact, that it might be easy to overlook the two-part, hand-guilloché dial that is very typical of Jochen Benzinger’s own line (which is simply called “Benzinger”) on the flip side. The dial cutaway positioned at 6 o’clock for the subsidiary seconds reveals a just a glimpse of the blue platinum-coated base plate, along with other rhodium-plated components and even the barest hint of a ruby-colored jewel.
The blued, hand-guilloché Sterling silver dial with frosted-finish minute track, hour circle and subdial is nothing short of compelling, especially in combination with the guilloché bezel and easy-grip, oignon-style crown. A version with 66 rare princess-cut diamonds on the bezel will be introduced later.
The boutique brand’s choice to use the Unitas as the base movement is a good one for three reasons. One, it is an incredibly reliable caliber thanks to its very, very long life. Two, Jochen Benzinger loves its spacious bridges, which offer him optimal room for practicing his art. And, three, it just really is a good movement, perfect for use in this type of artistic, traditionally-rooted style with its pocket-watch roots. Certainly, the hours and hours that Grieb and Benzinger have put into hand-crafting its special elements make it worth every single penny.
For more information, please visit www.grieb-benzinger.com
Case: 43 mm, 18-karat white gold with palladium in the alloy
Movement: modified, manually wound ETA Unitas Caliber 6498
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds
Dial: solid Sterling silver, partially blued, hand-skeletonized, hand-guilloché
Price: approximately € 43,000
Limitation: edition of 7 pieces only