As you might imagine, Timeless is extremely proud to carry Grönefeld, a leader in haute horology with something very unique to offer. Timeless has always focused on being an authorized dealer with a global focus, one of few in the United States to offer not only Swiss, but also German, and Japanese watches under a single roof. With the addition of Grönefeld, we get to add a new location to our growing list: the Netherlands.
Grönefeld is the product of two brothers, Bart and Tim, themselves the third generation of watchmakers in Oldenzaal, a small town of about 30,000 people. Together, they’ve created an extremely focused collection of haute horology. From the dressy, yet bold, Principia, to the avant garde masterpiece of the One Hertz, the brothers have managed to place themselves among elite company in an impressively short amount of time. Join us as we take a quick walk through the Grönefeld collection. It’s a short one, but they make every piece memorable.
We’ll begin with the 1941 Principia, named after their father’s birth year and Sir Isaac Newton’s magnum opus. Here, 1941 indicates the case, while Principia indicates the model. The Principia is by far the simplest and dressiest piece offered by Grönefeld. This by no means makes it boring, as the Principia is an especially bold watch, or at least it can be, because it offers quite a bit of customizability.
The Principa has the widest variety of any Grönefeld model (excluding bespoke pieces, of course), and in addition to being able to choose from steel, red gold, or white gold, you can choose between five different dials, including a vintage-styled dial with Roman numerals, a departure for the brand. Personally, I find the salmon dial to be the most impressive, owing to the enormous contrast with the blued hands. One of the lovely things about the Principia is that you have so much freedom to make it yours. In the unlikely event you saw another Principia in the wild, the odds are very low that it would be the same as yours. As I mentioned earlier, the Principia is the closest thing that Grönefeld has to a traditional dress watch, and configured for maximum subtlety, it’s quite well suited to it. The 1941 case is a good fit for both dress and everyday wear, thanks to its excellent (39.5mm across and 10.5mm thick) dimensions.
Although the Principia is both aesthetically and horologically the simplest watch offered by Grönefeld, the movement is nonetheless an exquisite masterpiece. Nothing was spared in creating a beautiful, yet reliable and accurate, movement, including a massive rotor made entirely of red gold. The balance is free sprung and utilizes white gold balance screws for adjustment. What it lacks (and I would argue that this is often a virtue) in complications it more than makes up for in refinement.
The next Grönefeld we’ll look at is the gorgeous, and award winning, 1941 Remontoire, so named for its exotic and extremely rare remontoire mechanism. The remontoire was developed to create an incredibly predictable, linear power delivery to the escapement, the part of a movement responsible for timekeeping. In virtually all mechanical watches, including most high-end mechanical watches, power is sent to the escapement more or less directly from the mainspring. That turns out to work pretty well, but mainsprings send different amounts of power from fully wound to almost dead, meaning that the escapement is affected by variations. The remontoire in this Grönefeld, on the other hand, is essentially a second spring, re-wound by the mainspring once every eight seconds, that is capable of delivering a virtually perfectly flat amount of power to the escapement. It is thanks to this property that remontoires are sometimes referred to as “constant force” mechanisms.
Apparently the inspiration to do an ultra-rare remontoire watch is based on the church clock at the center of town that their family has maintained in Oldenzaal for generations. This clock also relies on a remontoire mechanism, so in a sense, the 1941 Remontoire may actually have the greatest Grönefeld symbolism of any of their pieces. Regardless of its inspiration, it closely resembles the Principia (or vice versa) with a relatively modest dial. It also uses a 1941 case, making the Remontoire and Principia very close relatives.
The Remontoire’s aesthetic pièce de résistance is, of course, the remontoire. Yes, that strange open heart-esque aperture is a direct window into the remontoire itself. And no, it isn’t just a static look into a cool, yet inanimate, mechanism, you can actually see it work every 8 seconds, which is kind of an unusual feat.
Ordinarily open hearts or tourbillons give us constant animation on a watch face, but the Grönefeld Remontoire is a very static dial, aside from the hands of course, until it’s time for the mechanism to be re-wound, meaning that you get a relatively still dial and then a sudden burst of activity. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something quite like it.
Rounding out the top of what might be thought of as the 1941 collection is the Decennium Automatic Tourbillon. The case remains the same as the last two watches, but now the remontoire has been replaced by that most iconic of mechanisms, the tourbillon. Like the Principia, but unlike the Remontoire, the Decennium Tourbillon is automatically wound, a surprising touch of practicality for such an exotic watch.
Aesthetically, the Decennium is very similar to the other two 1941-cased watches, but with the addition of a large, and beautiful, tourbillon at 6:00. It’s a gorgeous watch, although unlike the last two, there is no customizability on this model. Every Decennium gets a platinum case and matte gray dial, although that’s certainly no great loss. The far greater issue is that, owing to the fact that the watch was made to honor the brand’s 10th anniversary, just 10 were made.
Moving now to the bold, avant garde Parallax Tourbillon. This is the kind of styling that helped make Grönefeld the player it is in elite independent watchmaking. Like the last watch, it features a beautiful tourbillon, but unlike it, the dial is far less traditional in terms of layout and complications. The entire dial appears to be rotated clockwise 30 degrees, with the tourbillon at 7:00 and the “main dial” around 1:00. It’s entirely clear that legibility wasn’t the aim of the Parallax, but rather, this is art for horology’s sake.
But there’s more to see here than an unusual layout. It’s also got a power reserve complication, but far more interesting is something akin to a “setting” complication. This cool, yet thoroughly unnecessary, subdial shows the wearer whether the crown is in the winding or setting position. This has to do with the unique way this watch is set. Unlike an ordinary watch, where the crown is pulled out from the case to set, the Parallax is actually pushed in to change the “mode.”
Superfluous? No doubt, but the combination of what amounts to four subdials, off-centered, gives this gorgeous piece of haute horology an appearance that feels almost more like a scientific instrument than a watch.
The central seconds, divorced from the timekeeping subdial, also gives it a bit of a regulator flair, visually implying that split-second precision is crucial. The Parallax Tourbillon has a few options, from a very sporty black and orange dial in a platinum 43mm case, to a salmon dial in platinum, and a pair of silver dial watches in your choice of red gold, or surprisingly, stainless steel.
As amazing as the Parallax is, there is one watch that stands above all other Grönefelds, at least, thus far. That’s the watch that really made the world take notice of the small Dutch brand, the One Hertz.
Like the Parallax Tourbillon, the One Hertz takes an extremely avant garde approach to styling with a similarly off-centered layout. Comparisons with other iconic watches like the Lange 1 are inevitable, but the One Hertz is an altogether more unrestrained watch. You’ll notice, for instance, that the seconds subdial isn’t exactly what we might even ordinarily call a subdial. It’s enormous, taking up the vast majority of the face. In fact, the seconds subdial receives so much attention that it is allowed to overlap not only the power reserve complication, but even the main hands at 2:00. On a design level, it signals to the wearer that the seconds hand is by far the most important element. Everything else takes a backseat.
And that’s fitting, because this watch features yet another ultra-rare mechanism, known as “dead seconds.” Here, in quite a reversal of standard watchmaking dogma, the seconds hand advances only once per second, as opposed to the smooth sweep generally associated with mechanical watches. Dead seconds watches, though extremely rare, have a small but dedicated fanbase. In some ways, the staccato nature of a dead seconds movement makes it easier to time events in easily understood one-second increments.
You might think that this is quite easy, given that many watchmakers, such as Grand Seiko and Zenith, spend so much time and effort increasing the smoothness of their seconds hands, not reducing it, but that’s not the case. The One Hertz in particular is a wonder in that it goes about the complication in an unusual, and sophisticated, way. In the Cal. G-02, which powers the watch, the seconds hand has its own mainspring entirely dedicated to it, while a second mainspring powers every other part of the watch. Both work off of the same escapement, but by giving the seconds hand its own private power source, interference in power delivery is significantly reduced. All that just so the seconds hand beats only once per second.
But, like all Grönefelds, the watch is more than a beautiful movement. It again showcases the highly creative nature of the brothers, seemingly unrestrained by any existing rules regarding watch design. The seconds subdial, as I mentioned, is so enormous that it overlaps part of the hour and minute hands, at least at some points of the day. The off-centered placement of the seconds subdial, I speculate, is due to the fact that most of the time, this will place the seconds closest to the wearer’s eyes for even greater priority. Again, we see the return of the unusual setting/winding complication, owing to the unique method of pushing in the crown, as opposed to pulling it out, to alternate between winding it and setting the time.
It can be safely said that the One Hertz is both impractical and, at least for what most of us prioritize, even difficult to read. But precisely as a result of its wild, borderline reckless, aesthetics, it’s truly wonderful, a watch that, in more ways than one, has virtually no peers. Competing in a field of watches that are basically miniature works of art, the One Hertz truly distinguishes itself from a crowd. As a result, it’s easy to see why the watch has so resonated with commentators, such as myself. It’s just so refreshing in a sea of faux-vintage divers and tasteful, but commonplace, high-end dress watches.
So that’s a brief rundown of Grönefeld’s current offerings! Click the image above to be taken to our new Grönefeld brand page and see every variation of each model in detail.