Baselworld Day 3- Antoine Martin, Grönefeld & De Bethune

Rounding up day three in Basel, we made our way over to Hall 4 to meet up with on old friend of mine from 10 years back, when I was asked about one of his watches by a collector in the SF Bay Area. In doing some research and a few phone calls later, we ended up being a representative for Martin Braun. In time, Martin needed a injection of capital into his business in order to develop his own caliber and expand his business into more of a brand. His choice of partner was Watchland aka Frank Muller group, he was to stay on and work only in the development of new caliber, leaving all the oftentimes messy business aspects to the group and it's minions. After a year or so, he realised this was a bit of a mistake, and the rosy picture that had been painted wasn't quite so rosy. So he departed his namesake company and went into developing his own caliber again on his own terms and found a partner in Bruno Jufer, a veteran of the Swiss watch business, who could put all the other bits and pieces of a small watch company together.

As you can see I have followed Martin's progress closely and find him a straightforward and all around good guy, who has been in a tough situation or two, and has I hope come out on the other side better for it. He is also a damn good watchmaker, who designed a lovely automatic chronograph 6 or 7 years ago , that I thought was superb and very reasonably priced. Alas it was not to be, and I think the caliber being owned by Watchland, got used in a completely different brand of watch!

Anyway, fast forward to today, last year he created an interesting manual wind perpetual calendar caliber with a huge slow beat balance wheel, using his own design of a silicon anchor and escape wheel for precision and less maintenance over the course of it's life. This year he showed a new watch, the Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar. Speaking with Martin, one gets his excitement about watchmaking and I am very happy for him in his new work environment. Enough talk, to the pictures:

Last years offering, the mighty RG silver dialed Perpetual Calendar.

From memory the huge balance wheel is 17.5-18mm in diameter!

A new DLC version, a sharp looking watch!

Here it is, the RG Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar with a regulator style dial. Gone is the big date in favor of a retrograde date and again the massive titanium balance wheel in the titanium tourbillon cage.

The WG version with the stunning black dial!

Here is a close up of the tourbillon showing the silicon or silicium, same thing BTW, anchor and escape wheel designed by Martin. Quite hi-tech and as described by Martin, a significant improvement over the standard lever escapement. We are also excited to announce a watchmaker dinner with him in October around the time of the WatchTime/Jeff Kingston "Inside Basel/SIHH " events in San Francisco and Los Angeles. We will also be attending these two shows as representatives of Antoine Martin.

Heading over to the AHCI again, I finally got to see the Grönefeld brothers, Tim & Bart. I had seen them over the course of the show, enjoyed a coffee or two with them and a beer, but hadn't to this point seen their new versions of the One Hertz in my hand. Five years ago they sketched out the idea on a piece of paper for me in Basel and I was intrigued, the first version cased in steel and limited to 12 pieces sold out, now this year they showed a stunning platinum version, again limited to 12 with a lovely galvanic blue dial and a titanium version with 3 differing dials variants. I only got to see the grey/orange dial in the Ti piece and of course the platinum piece. I have to say I still love the One Hertz 3 years on, and I think offers collectors a truly interesting and unique execution of complication, the independent dead seconds. Tim & Bart are great watchmakers, having worked in Switzerland for Renaud & Papi, in their complications department, Tim specialising in Tourbillons and Bart, Minute Repeaters. They returned to their native country, Holland, and to their ancestral town of Oldenzaal, and opened their own business. The workshop now resides in the same building where their grandfather, a watchmaker, had a workshop 100 years ago. To the watches...

The lovely platinum One Hertz with a great blue dial. Love this version! Then I am a sucker for blue dials especially in platinum.

The killer movement.

I just happened to have the perfect suit on that day, to wear with this watch...different lighting has an effect on this lovely creation.


Here is the titanium One Hertz Fire with the modern dial

After leaving our Dutch friends, we headed over to see another friend Scott Rosen, who now works for De Bethune. A client had asked me about a particular piece, the Mayan watch, so while making inquiries for him and snapping some pictures, I was able to see a few of their special pieces. Although I am not a representative of theirs, I appreciate what they are doing and thought I'd share these pictures.

A trick silicium balance wheel amongst other things!

Love this piece!

Mirror polishing of the bridges and plates, unique finishing to my knowledge and not easy to execute!


A tourbillon!

The Mayan watch, checkout the sapphire crystal hands with blued steel ends and edges, meanwhile, the dial is beautifully done!

Close up of a tourbillon with a dead seconds mechanism.

Another version of the same complication, this time dial side.

Well that's all for now, stay tuned for my final report, my friend the crazy Finn, Sarpaneva and Marco Lang's only new watch of 2012, which wasn't shown publicly, except to a few lucky people...