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Brief Impressions Review: Moritz Grossmann Benu Tourbillon

by Peter Chong on April 6, 2014

The Glashütte story, so well told by the late Günter Blümlein for A. Lange & Söhne, has become a legend of German watchmaking. And many brands are jumping onto the bandwagon to lay claim to Ferdinand A. Lange’s founding of the German School of watchmaking.

 

Moritz Grossmann logo on the buckle.

Moritz Grossmann logo on the buckle.

 

And along comes yet another Glashütte based manufacture, laying claim to the same roots. But there is more to this than just plain conjecture. Moritz Grossmann was a longstanding friend of F.A. Lange and was invited by the latter to the area to establish the school of watchmaking. The various houses in Glashütte existed until the city until the establishment of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) after WW2. All watch companies were then nationalised under the communist rule under  VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB). In the 1989, with the dissolution of the GDR, GUB was allowed to be privatised. Blümlein and Walter Lange were the first to return to Glashütte to re-establish A. Lange & Söhne. The rest of the brand names were consolidated under GUB and was later purchased by German industrialist Heinz Pfeifer, who rebuilt the manufacture known as Glashütte Original. All the names existing then came into the possession of GO, which was subsequently bought by the Swatch Group. All, except for Moritz Grossmann. In November 2008, Christine Hutter aquired the rights to the name and established the company.

 

The Moritz Grossmann Benu Tourbillon.

The Moritz Grossmann Benu Tourbillon. The movement features a three minute tourbillon, caliber 103.0 with a regulator styled dial. The hands are annealed steel which are heated to a permanent brown-violet hue.
The movement features an indirectly driven continuous second hand at 9 as the tourbillon journeys one revolution every 3 minutes.
The indirectly driven subsidiary seconds hand features an arbour which is made of guaiacum spp., an oily wood. This wood is used for the brake ring of the fourth-wheel arbour. The use of this wood on the arbour is common in clockmaking, but unusual in watchmaking. The intent is to provide for a smoother interface to prevent slippage of the subsidiary seconds hand.

 

The first collection Benu was presented in September 2010, and the present watch under review the Benu Tourbillon was unveiled in November 2013.

 

The caliber 103.0 in unfinished German Silver, but with the gear train in ultra modern ARCAP.  The movement is finished with wide Glashütte ribbing, and hand engraved details.

The caliber 103.0 is entirely developed in-house in the new Grossmann building, which formerly houses the UROFA (one of the GDR brands) factory in Glashütte.
The movement is finished with wide Glashütte ribbing, and hand engraved details. Also interesting is the use of white sapphire jewels which are held in gold chatons with brown-violet steel screws.

 

The watch has several rather interesting technical features. For us at Deployant, the most interesting being the three minute Helwig styled flying tourbillon, featuring a stop second mechanism.

 

The 3 minute tourbillon, magnificently finished. The tourbillon is freely suspended from a cantilevered, hand engraved cock (visible only from the back of the movement as this is a flying tourbillon) made of German silver. The cage is rather large, with a diameter of 16mm, and features only two posts.

The 3 minute tourbillon, magnificently finished. The cage is rather large, with a diameter of 16mm, and features only two posts held by a V shaped balance bridge.

 

In the hundreds of years since the introduction of the tourbillon by A.L. Breguet, the possibility to stop the tourbillon’s second hand, and the movement was not offered. In 2008, Lange unveiled the Cabaret Tourbillon a world premiere when the tourbillon movement featured the ability to hack the seconds. Since then, all new Lange tourbillons have this feature, and to date, only Lange offer this complication. And with the Benu Tourbillon, the Moritz Grossmann tourbillon also join the ranks with a hacking tourbillon.

 

The tourbillon bridge from the rear of the caseback.
The elaborate and beautifully finished bridge holding the jewel of the third wheel and the jewel of the cantilevered tourbillon cage. This bridge is a rather interesting arrangement to implement the traditional Glashütte lever originally used by Grossmann in 1866. The Glashütte lever is a variant of the English lever escapement in place of the now common Swiss lever.

 

But the implementation of the Benu’s stop second mechanism is rather interesting. Instead of a double pronged brass finger to either make contact with the tourbillon cage or the balance wheel, as implemented in the Lange tourbillons, the Benu utilizes a brush made of human hair to make contact with the balance wheel. The claim is that this is a gentler approach. This is in line with our observation. With the Lange method, the balance stops and starts almost instantly. And with the Grossmann method, the tourbillon stops quickly but not instantly, and does take a few seconds to restart.

 

The 20 or so strands of Christine's blonde hair shown here making contact with the balance wheel, stopping the movement.

The 20 or so strands of Christine’s blonde hair shown here making contact with the balance wheel, stopping the movement.

 

 

The finishing is very nicely done, with traditional finnishing like anglage and black polishing done extremely well. While the movement is a 3/4 plate movement in German Silver, it does feature a modern ARCAP alloy is used in the going train wheels, instead of the traditional brass.

 

Small touches abound. Like the hands and steel screws in the balance which are annealed to a brown-violet hue.

Small touches abound. Like the hands and steel screws in the balance which are annealed to a brown-violet hue. And this arc, shown between the hour dial on the right and the seconds hand on the left displays the minute reading from 25-35. The minutes are read off the longer arm of the minute hand around the main dial, but when the arm is over the tourbillon opening, it is difficult to read the minutes, defeating the purpose of a regulator. The Benu solution is simple and elegant. The minute hand is pivoted such that it has a long arm and a short arm. When the long arm is over the tourbillon orifice, the short arm is used to read the minutes in the arc above. In our view, this is a more elegant method of solving this problem than the one implemented in Lange’s Richard Lange Pour le Mérite Tourbillon which uses a the complicated switching subdial.

 

The crown is also interesting. One pull of the crown puts the watch in time setting mode. But when pulled, the crown does not stay out, but returns to the original position. However, the watch is in time setting mode, and the hands can be moved to the correct time. A push at the small button at 4 makes the watch return to winding mode, allowing the watch to be wound.

 

While we find the design and execution to be well thought out and very practical, we cannot help but feel that some of design features seem to us to be put in place just make Moritz Grossman’s offering to be different from her more famous neighbour. But there is no question to the finishing of the watch: case, dial, movement, hands to be exceptionally well done.

 

Moritz Grossmann Benu Tourbillon on my wrist. Comfortable.

Moritz Grossmann Benu Tourbillon on my wrist. Comfortable.

 

Is the Benu Tourbillon yet another claiming to Glashütte ancenstry, or a interesting new watch company, wrestling for its place in the horology ecosystem? At a suggested German retail price of €168,000, it does beg comparison to the Lange 1815 Tourbillon at €132,500. Do you think the Moritz Grossmann is worthy of some €35,000 more than the Lange?

 

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