The Kees Engelbarts Tourbillon Organic Skeleton
Extraordinary engraver Kees Engelbarts loves his skeletonized watches as they do very much showcase his art form.
In this day and age of machine-controlled everything, a hand-engraved watch is a special sight to behold, especially since very few timepieces today are actually hand-engraved. They are generally either machine-engraved, lasered, or acid-treated (a chemical process also known as Dutch bath). These methods allow for very fine and detailed renditions, but still lack an artisanal quality that a knowing eye will see and the connoisseur will just “feel.”
Dutchman Engelbarts is based in Geneva and since 1997 his main business has been engraving timepieces for brands and other watchmakers (for one such timepiece, please see Speake-Marin Kennin-ji Temple Masters Project). And as beautiful as these rare pieces always are, the watches that he has been creating for his own pleasure are rarer still and are often even more interesting as he has the freedom to try out new things. New things such as his freshly conceived “organic” style of engraving.
“I wanted to make another kind of skeleton watch,” he says about his latest creation called Tourbillon Organic Skeleton. “Most skeleton watches are, as you know, very symmetric. My plan was to make a skeleton watch without a drawing or plan before starting, by just taking away material from the base plate and bridges that is not needed.”
Much like the process for creating a sculpture, this starts out very roughly; only little by little in a long and delicate process does he get to the final shapes. He must work very, very carefully as the last thing he wants is to bend or deform any of the bridges of the movement, which started out as a TechnoTime Caliber 791 with one-minute tourbillon. The tourbillon cage and steel parts have been hand-beveled and finished.
The result is a “strange” contrast between the technical elements (wheels, pinions, tourbillon, barrels, steel parts) and the oddly shaped ruthenium-plated base plate and bridges, a look that Engelbarts calls “organic.”
It goes without saying that there are many, many hours of hand-finishing on each individual movement component.
A watch by Engelbarts would hardly be a watch by Engelbarts without his signature mokumé gane elements. Mokumé gane is Japanese for “wood eye metal,” a name reflecting the metal’s appearance of grained wood. Close to damascened steel, which might be a more well-known term, mokumé gane is hardly known and rarely seen outside of Japan. It is manufactured by diffusing or bonding metals with compatible properties of ductility and malleability, which are fusion-layered (without the use of solder) and laminated.
A new molecular structure is created between the layers of metal, making it into one homogenous mass. The patterns that appear like wood graining are topographical and cannot be predicted, although a certain desired pattern can be created by drilling holes into the metal before laminating.
To this, Engelbarts has added shakudo, a gold and copper treatment that ends up resembling lacquer. The etched red gold crown of the Tourbillon Organic Skeleton is crafted from shakudo mokumé gane, while the hands were handmade from twisted and etched red gold and shakudo mokumé gane.
For more information on Kees Engelbarts’ unique work, please visit www.kees.ch.
Movement: base TechnoTime Caliber 791 with one-minute tourbillon, double spring barrels, and five days power reserve, ruthenium-plated and fully skeletonized.
Case: red gold; 43 mm, crown in shakudo mokumé gane
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: unique piece