If you were to ask an informed watch enthusiast to list high-end German brands, the name Moritz Grossmann is unlikely to come up. Instead, you’d get a list of the ‘usual-suspects’ but we reckon this will change in the near future, thanks to the efforts of Christine Hutter, Founder and CEO of the reborn Moritz Grossmann.
Before we discuss the reborn company however, lets take a look at the origins of the name. Moritz Grossmann was originally founded in 1854 by Carl Moritz Grossmann, who was born in Dresden on the March 27, 1826. In 1842 – at the age of 16 – he began a watchmaking apprenticeship, after which he began traveling as a journeyman, visiting cities such as London, Hamburg, Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Western Switzerland. In 1854 Grossmann returned to Saxony and established his own atelier.
Grossmann was an ultra-talented watchmaker, and set about creating pocket watches, pendulum clocks, and other precise instruments. He was also a highly acclaimed technical author and because he was keen to pass on his own accumulated knowledge, Grossmann established the German School of Watchmaking in 1878. The school’s curriculum was set by the man himself, and quickly gained renown thanks to its coursework, and the quality of watchmakers that graduated.
Sadly, Carl Moritz Gorssmann passed away suddenly in 1885, after which his atelier was liquidated. The German School of Watchmaking would continue training new watchmakers in his stead, until it too closed in 1992, after 114-years of operation. Thankfully, that was not to be the end of the Moritz Grossmann name or legacy.
Christine Hutter began her career as a watchmaker, working at brands such as Glashütte Original and A. Lange & Söhne, where she worked in marketing and distribution. Thanks to her keen interest in horology, Hutter became familiar with the then defunct Moritz Grossmann, and acquired the rights to the name in 2008. Hutter then set about drawing up a business plan, after which she naturally picked Glashütte to open a manufacture that would carry the Moritz Grossmann name once again.
Hutter’s focus then, and now, is to produce watches using highly-finished in-house movements. Relying on third party calibres or ebauche movements is out of the question, and in line with that vision, 38 of the brand’s current total workforce of 46, are watchmakers. The remaining employees are in business development, and marketing roles, which means you’re likely to see Hutter herself at the various watch exhibitions and fairs around the world. In fact our first meeting with Hutter took place one week ago, at Dubai Watch Week.
The brand currently produces approximately 200-watches per year, which means you’re unlikely to see many in boutiques or in the wild. The reborn brand’s first watch, the BENU, was introduced in 2010, and in 2013 two new families were introduced – the BENU Power Reserve, and the ATUM. The BENU Tourbillon is the flagship of the collection and earlier this year, Moritz Grossmann also introduced the TEFNUT and TEFNUT Lady’s model.
Hutter tells us that her manufacture will scale up production in the coming years, and if the BENU Tourbillon that we looked at is any indication, watch aficionados are in for a treat.
A quick look at the BENU Tourbillon
The name ‘BENU’ comes from ancient Egyptian mythology – ‘Bennu’ was said to be a large bird that resembled a heron. The bird was believed to have been consumed by fire, though it left behind an egg from which another Bennu bird hatched. As you might have guessed, the spelling was adjusted into German, which is ‘BENU’.
The BENU Tourbillon is a showcase of Moritz Grossmann’s expertise in watchmaking, and only 50 of these timepieces will ever be produced. The sample we handled featured a 44.5mm white-gold case and an attractive white dial. If you’ve handled tourbillons before, we’re sure that – like us – your eyes were immediately drawn to the massive tourbillon aperture at the six o’clock position. The aperture measures 16mm across, and holds what Hutter says is the largest tourbillon balance wheel (14.2mm) on the market today.
While the size of the tourbillon is a talking point, it’s overshadowed (in our view) by another super geeky detail. What we’re referring to is part of the patent-pending stop-seconds mechanism, which uses a fine-tipped brush that is made of – wait for it – human hair! You read that right, Moritz Grossmann has engineered a brush using strands of human hair, and in case you’re wondering who’s hair it is, we won’t leave you in suspense – the hair belongs to Founder and CEO Christine Hutter.
The brush gently stops the tourbillon when the crown is pulled, and we’re told it measures just 2.7mm in diameter. You can actually see it close to the 25-minute mark on the main dial, and Moritz Grossmann used human hair because it is very soft, and thus better suited to stopping the tourbillon, as compared to synthetic and other natural materials. Speaking of the tourbillon, this isn’t your typical 60-seconds tourbillon but rather a three-minute tourbillon that completes a full rotation every 180-seconds.
Human hair isn’t the only exotic material incorporated into the BENU Tourbillon however (why stop at just one right?). The calibre 103.0 (the brand’s second calibre) sitting within this timepiece also features guaiacum wood (yes, wood from a tree) for the pinion break component, rather than metal. The brand decided to use wood after being inspired by the works of renowned 1700s English carpenter and clockmaker, John Harrison.
Beyond these two interesting elements, you’ll find Moritz Grossmann has applied superlative hand-finishing to the calibre. The manually-wound movement offers a power reserve of 72-hours, and features no less than 245 parts. Like some of the other reputed German watchmakers, you’ll find a single large German Silver plate (rather than multiple bridges) staring back at you through the watch’s exhibition caseback.
The watch boasts a regulator dial with the running seconds sub-dial at nine o’clock, the hour sub-dial at three o’clock, while the main dial indicates minutes. As a consequence of the massive tourbillon aperture at six o’clock (it extends from the centre of the dial almost up to the very edge), it’s impossible to read the minute track between 27-minutes and 33-minutes.
To get around this, Moritz Grossmann has placed an auxiliary minute track with the missing minute indications between the two identically sized sub-dials, and has used a minute-hand with an extended and pointed tail. The idea is when the minute hand hovers over the tourbillon cage, the tail points to the precise minute indication on the auxiliary minute track. It’s an ingenious and elegant solution, which shows that the brand is focused on creating functional, as well as technical timepieces.
Another interesting aesthetic detail is the hands that Moritz Grossmann has used. They’re crafted by hand and are a beautiful brown-violet in color – this is a hue that we’ve never encountered on any other timepiece before. The hue is achieved by a process called ‘annealing’, which requires ‘a very specific temperature range, keen eyes, and instincts’.
On the whole, the BENU Tourbillon paints a solid picture of what Moritz Grossmann’s watchmakers and designers can achieve. It’s a brand that we’ll be watching closely in the coming months and years, and you can check out their watches at the Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons multi-brand store in the Dubai Mall.
Read more about Moritz Grossmann by clicking here.