The split seconds chronograph is one of the master crafts within the repertoire of a watchmaker. It is more complex than a standard chronograph, and many testify that it is more virtuoso to make and adjust than a tourbillon. Also known as the rattrapante (French: to catch up), or Doppel Chronograph (German: double chronograph), the split seconds chronograph is the speciality of one Richard Habring, who now showcases his mastery in his latest creation: the Habring² Doppel 3 Split Seconds Chronograph.
Richard and Maria Habring: Habring²
The husband and wife team of Richard and Maria Habring operates their watchmaking business out of Völkermarkt, Austria, perhaps the only watchmaking outfit out of Austria.
The town of Völkermarkt is the home town of Richard, who grew up there and went on to pursue his watchmaking dreams in Switzerland. He landed a job in IWC, assisting the renowned Kurt Klaus, and was principally responsible for developing a cost effective method of making the split seconds chronograph in 1991. The traditional method to do a split seconds chronograph is to add a second column wheel, a second wheel, brake, zero reset system to the base chronograph. The split seconds is one of the most difficult complications to execute properly, often needing more care in the design and more attention in the adjustment than a tourbillon. But Richard managed to find a way to make the split seconds chronograph without any column wheels, thereby making it simple and inexpensive to manufacture. IWC patented the system in 1991. More on this later.
The design was fitted on the IWC Doppelchronographs as seen in the Pilot and Portugese cases and later in the Da Vinci in 1995 for its tenth anniversary where it gained its 10th hand – the split seconds hand. And most recently in the IWC Antoine de Saint Exupéry Doppelchronograph. The design also found its way into the top of the line IWC Il Destriero Scafusia which was released in Baselworld 1992. Richard worked on evolving the IWC Grand Complication (which was essentially the work of Dominique Renaud and Gulio Papi who devised a minute repeater module over the perpetual calendar equipped Valhoux 7750 chronograph base). In the Il Destriero Scafusa, Richard added a split seconds works to the chronograph (the base is now the Valjoux 7760 – the hand wound version of the 7750 as the watch was to be manually wound) and converted the escapement to be a tourbillon.
Richard was also responsible for developing the Deep One for IWC, and was transferred by Günter Blümlein, then CEO of JLC, IWC and Lange to Glashütte to work at the erstwhile young A. Lange & Söhne in 1997. The author met Richard then and have developed a deep and lasting relationship which exists today.
In Glashütte, Richard met the young Maria who was then a Travel Consultant. Maria is from the Dresden area, and the two got off famously and was soon married, and moved back to Richard’s home town of Völkermarkt. They began to work on watch movement development and small series assembly of watches and clocks. They often took special commissions of tourbillons which is a speciality of Richard’s. In 2004, they founded Habring², the “2” standing for the two Habrings. The company offers a range of watches with numerous complications based on a modular system. Some of the interesting ones include the Doppel 3, a Jumping Seconds watch, a Foudroyante with seconds morte, and a Tourbillon among the other time only offerings.
The Doppel 3 is one of their current range of watches, and like the rest of the range, is a well designed, well priced watch. Let’s go to the review:
The Habring² Doppel 3 Split Seconds Chronograph
The IWC Doppelchrongraph’s split seconds module was invented by Richard Habring while he was employed by IWC. IWC promptly patented it in 1991. The patent expired after 20 years of exclusivity, and in 2011, Richard had the ability to update his invention and use it in his own watch. The result of this update was incorporated into the Habring² Doppel 2.0. The name Doppel 2.0 was specially selected to hint to the fact that the original Doppel was also a Habring invention. The Doppel 2.0 won the 2012 GPHG Sports Watch of the Year award. Only 20 pieces of the Doppel 2 were made, and the Doppel 3 is the extension to that, although the 3 will be available in a limited production of 20 pieces a year.
What are the updates which brought Doppel 2.0 to Doppel 3?
- The dial design is updated, or rather retro-dated to bring the split seconds closer to the sports watches of the 1960s.
- The Doppel 2.0 has three buttons for the chronograph functions, like many split seconds chronographs. The Doppel 3 has only 2. Only one button is used for start-stop-zero reset.
- A modular system which allows customisation of the Doppel 3, such that it can be ordered with a center based minute counter (known as the Doppel 3.1) or even with a full calendar. Our review sample is of the base Doppel 3, with neither.
The case, dial, hands
The immediate aesthetic impact of the watch is very impressive. The colour choices of the dial, the sub-dials, the hands, the strap and the contrasting stitching is striking.
Three dial options are available: grey, black or silver.
Our review sample was in black anodised dial with silver subdials. The dial layout is a traditional dual counter, which is very classical. The main chronograph hand has a red lacquer treatment while the split hand is an oxidised finish. The hour and minute hands have SuperLuminova. However, as the chronograph hands are not so equipped, so only the time can be read in the dark but not the timing functions.
The dial is clear, cleanly designed and very legible.
The stainless steel case is in 42mm diameter and quite handsome, and is made by German case maker Fricker.
The movement: A08MR-MONO
The base movement is based on the Valjoux 7760, like in the original IWC Doppelchronograph.
The base Valjoux 7760 does not have a column wheel as designed by Edmond Capt. This was revolutionary in its day, and made the chronograph manufacture relatively affordable as compared to the classical column wheel chronograph. Richard’s modification added the split seconds module to the base chronograph, and in the same spirit, respecting the genius of Capt, is also controlled by a cam rather than a column wheel.
The column wheel is a classical interpretation of the chronograph and is a precision instrument demanding equal precision in its manufacture and adjustment to provide optimal results. In a traditional split seconds chronograph, two column wheels are required, and this increases the complexity multiple folds.
In the Habring design based on the 7750/7760, there are no column wheels, and the base chronograph and split functions are coordinated by the use of cams. These cams are blued, as can be seen in the photograph above.
The system works flawlessly. The pressure required to start the chronograph, do the split, do the catch up, stopping and reset are not exactly equal, but for a cam operated chronograph, it is remarkably good. This is one area where other than the good looks of the traditional column wheel chronograph excels over its cam operated cousins. The pressure needed to operate the column wheel which commands and orchestrates the operations, can often be adjusted by the skilled watchmaker to be very light while yet retaining a positive engagement feel, and also to be equal for each of the operation. A benchmark of this is best exemplified by the Lange Double Split, where each push is light, positive and indeed a delight, and the pressure required for each of the operation is equal to the other. However, the Double Split retails for more than 12 times the Doppel 3.
Movement finishing is not done to the usual high haute horlogerie level. But rather at a modest engineering level afforded by the relatively low asking price. All the mechanical needs for polishing and finishing are executed, with no embellishments to satisfy the haute horlogerie enthusiast. ²
The competitive landscape
When we started our survey of the competitive landscape, we already knew this was going to be an almost impossible task. The Habring² Doppel 3 is perhaps unique in several ways. First, it is a nonopusher chronograph base. The second pusher is only needed because it is a split seconds chronograph.
Second, at its price point of S$10,500 with GST or € 6,750, there is perhaps only one competitor, unless we look at quartz movements, which we are loathe to do and thus will not. The price point will find us hard pressed to recommend a simple chronograph, let alone a split seconds one. As a comparison the Doppel 2 was retailed at € 6,000. For that money, one can perhaps buy a Tudor Black Shield (US$ 4,500, converting to approx S$ 6,200), which is not a split seconds chronograph, but in a ceramic case. Or the Omega Speedmaster CK2998 (S$ 8,400), which is also not a split-seconds chronograph.
In our estimation, the closest and only competition with a Split Seconds Chronograph is perhaps the Sinn 910 Anniversary Split Seconds Chronograph for for € 5,500 (the Singapore retail is a higher S$9,800 with GST in a steel case, limited edition of 300 pieces). The Sinn is based on the Valjoux 7750, so it is an automatic winding watch. The design incorporates the addition of a Sinn designed and built column wheel for the split seconds functionality. The design is also more conventional with three chronograph pushers.
As a comparison the IWC Antoine de Saint Exupéry Doppelchronograph (in steel for S$39,700) uses a similar Habring designed split seconds chronograph works.
At the upper end, the Lange Double Split at US$ 128,000 in pink gold, or the Vacheron Harmony Ultra Thin Grand Complication in platinum for US$ 369,200, or the Patek Philippe 5370P in platinum at US$ 249,200. So the little Habring² is punching way above its weight class.
We find this to be an remarkable split seconds watch. But keep in mind that the author and Richard Habring have been friends for a good part of nearly two decades, although he vouches that this friendship has not clouded his examination of the Doppel 3, and his conclusions.
The Doppel 3 comes in at a very competitive price point. The only split seconds chronograph near that price is the slightly cheaper Sinn 910. And the price difference is so small that we deem it inconsequential. The design of the chronograph of the Doppel 3 is more pure, keeping Capt’s design on the Valjoux 7750/7760’s lack of a column wheel. And the use of only two buttons is an additional feather in its cap.
The looks are handsome. The colour combination of the dial, hands, strap are harmonious and pleasing to the eye. We find the Doppel 3.1, shown below to be even more beautiful, but we have not yet have the opportunity to get a hands-on with it yet. The Doppel 3.1 has an even more clean dial layout, and the move of the minute counter from 3 o’clock to the center is nicely done. While not exactly the De Bethune Maxichronos, which is one of the most remarkable chronographs of our time, it is mildly reminiscent of that.
To Richard and Maria Habring, we say chapeau! And congratulations on a job well done!
Habring² Doppel 3 Technical Specifications
Price S$10,500 with GST or € 6,750 before taxes
-Hour, minute display, small running seconds hand;
Stop-seconds hand and 30-minute counter, split-seconds hand
– Triovis fine adjustment
– Escapement parts in chronometer quality
– Shock-proof in accordance with DIN and NIHS
– 23 rubies
– 48-hour power reserve when fully wound
– 101 service-relevant individual components
– Stainless steel, three-part, screwed, 42 mm diameter
– Water-resistant to the depth equivalent of 50 metres
– Concave sapphire glass, non-reflective coating on both sides
– Double-sealed crown, sapphire glass base
– Engraved selective serial number 01 – 2013 bis 20 – 2013 between the lugs at 6 o’clock
– Silver, grey or black galvanised metal dial with rhodium plated numbers and hour indexes with Superluminova coating
– Polished, rhodium plated, thread hands with Superluminova coating, oxidised counter hands, lacquered chrono seconds hand and split-seconds hand