06/13/2016
 3 minutes

More Than Meets the Eye

By Robert-Jan Broer
More Than Meets the Eye
More Than Meets the Eye

Diving watches with visible tourbillon cages or dress watches with dials so cluttered you can hardly read the time between 2 or more tourbillons: The nouveau riche seem to love these pieces and the demand has been high for loud watches over the last couple of years.

How do they compare to watches that appear to be simple – perhaps even dull? What’s the difference between an understated watch that hides its tourbillon cage, or at least makes it only visible through the transparent case back, and the ‘yelling’ pieces that are as loud as their oligarch owners in a jet set night club?

The fact that these watches are discreet and do not reveal their complications or high-quality finished movements at first glance certainly does not mean they are cheap. On the contrary, many of these understatement timepieces are mainly hand-made or – in some rare cases – entirely hand-made. Most have price tags so high that many watch enthusiasts could only dream of owning one of these watches.

Let’s run by a couple of understated watches that are more than meet the eye.

Patek Philippe Grand Complication 5207

Patek Philippe Grand Complication 5207
Patek Philippe Grand Complication 5207 – View offers on Chrono24

Sure, this watch has a visible calendar (perpetual) on the dial, but it also bears a tourbillon and minute repeater, making it one of Patek Philippe’s Grand Complications. The reference 5207 has a chime with two gongs that are activated by a slide on the side of the watch case. Many regard the minute repeater as the most impressive complication, and Patek Philippe has mastered the art of minute repeaters over the last centuries – they sound extremly beautiful.

This 41-mm timepiece has an instantaneous perpetual calendar that displays day, date, month, leap year, and moon phases. The hand-wound caliber can be seen through the sapphire case back, which gives you a good view of the tourbillon cage. Did you know that Patek Philippe refused to use sapphire case backs on their watches until just a few years ago? They must have thought movements were something for watchmakers to admire, not for the wearer of the watch.

Grönefeld One Hertz

A high-end timepiece doesn’t always have to be designed, developed, and produced in Switzerland or Germany. The Dutch-made Grönefeld timepieces are exclusive watches with interesting complications made by two brothers (Bart and Tim Grönefeld) and their team of watchmakers in the east part of The Netherlands. The Grönefeld One Hertz timepiece does just that, it shows you the seconds tick away ‘per second,’ as opposed to the sweep seconds hand that you’re used to on mechanical watches. This ‘secondes morte’ (dead seconds) is a complication that was used on pocket watches in the old days, but only a few brands use this complication in wristwatches. Not only are the dial and ‘one hertz’ ticking interesting, the back is also mesmerizing. The hand finishing on the movement is simply stunning: It takes the watchmaker about two hours to finish a single bridge.

Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour le Mérite

Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Tourbillon
Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Tourbillon, Image: © Bert Buijsrogge

Lange & Söhne is often considered the German counterpart to Patek Philippe, but their timepieces are quite different from their Geneva competitor. What they do have in common is that their watches are often understated, have clean dials and beautifully finished movements. The Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour le Mérite is no exception. Not only does this watch have a (visible) tourbillon cage, it also has fusée and chain transmission. This helps ensure that the movement has a constant supply of energy and therefore will be more accurate, regardless of whether the spring is fully wound or almost unwound. In addition, the German silver ¾ plate movement (according to Glashütte watchmaking tradition) is beautifully finished, with a balance cock that has been hand-engraved by the fine craftsman in Glashütte.

Philippe Dufour Simplicity

If you are new to watches, or if you’ve been sticking to the big Swiss and German brands, the name Philippe Dufour might not ring a bell for you. But hopefully that will change quickly, as Philippe Dufour is considered to be one of the greatest watchmakers alive today. His watches are finished with the utmost precision and each one is created by hand. “Each one” means about 15 to 18 pieces per year, all painstakingly crafted by Dufour. The Simplicity has been around for 12 years, resulting in a total of about 200 pieces. A Dufour timepiece is all about (hand) finishing, that’s what he does best in his one-man workshop in Switzerland.


About the Author

Robert-Jan Broer

Robert-Jan, founder of Fratello Magazine, has been writing about watches since 2004. However, his passion for watches dates back much further. In fact, he sold his …

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