Grönefeld – managed by brothers Bart and Tim Grönefeld – is a household name in high-end independent watchmaking. The brand, based in the Netherlands, is known for its contemporary design, immaculate finissage and technical complications. For a long while, watches with technical complications such as the tourbillon, remontoire and deadbeat seconds were the only norm for the Dutch brand. It wasn’t until 2018 that Grönefeld went back to basics, so to speak, by presenting the brand’s first timepiece with no complication. The 1941 Principia was indeed Grönefeld’s simplest offering (time-only) and the brand’s first watch with an automatic movement. The watch was named after the ‘Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica’, often referred to as simply the Principia. The Principia is a work expounding Newton’s laws of motion and his law of universal gravitation; in three books written in Latin, first published in 1687. Gravity is seen as a ‘frienemy’ in watchmaking – an enemy because it exerts a positional effect on the hairspring and therefore timekeeping; a friend, because it is fundamental to the function of the winding rotor in automatic movements.
Grönefeld 1941 Principia Special Edition for Sincere Fine Watches
In 2021, a special edition of the 1941 Principia was released exclusively for Grönefeld’s Singapore retailer, Sincere Fine Watches. Limited to only 12 pieces worldwide, the watch, with its unique aesthetics, remains the most decadent variant of the 1941 Principia. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the 1941 Principia Special Edition for Sincere Fine Watches.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The Principia Special Edition for Sincere is housed in the brand’s 1941 case, just like the Remontoire and Grönograaf models. Named after the year the Grönefeld brothers’ father Sjef was born, the case is elegant and nuanced simultaneously. Measuring 39.5 mm in diameter and 10.5 mm in height, the 1941 Principia Special Edition for Sincere is restrained in size, making it comfortable for daily wear. But while its dimensions are restrained, Grönefeld has gone all out on case design. The sculpted stainless steel case is executed using specially shaped cutters to create the characteristic hollowed, concave recesses and convex surfaces. In between each additional cutting phase, the case is polished prior to the next stage of milling, ensuring the precisely defined contours of the case are retained. Each lug is secured with two hidden titanium screws, positioned inside the case. The lugs can be detached, if needed, for remedial polishing or replacement.
As impressive as the case is, it is really the dial that distinguishes one 1941 Principia variant from another. Grönefeld allows its clients to choose between five stunning dial options, ranging from salmon to cream lacquered, when purchasing the regular 1941 Principia. The Sincere edition of the 1941 Principia, however, comes with its own special dial. Made of silver, the dial is acid-corroded and blasted with brass particles to achieve a frosted effect. The rose gold and khaki colours of the dial are obtained by gold and nickel electroplating, respectively. Applied Breguet numerals are used to mark the hours. Every numeral is given a glossy black appearance, except for number 12, which is mirror polished for contrast. Where regular 1941 Principia variants are inscribed with the words ‘PRINCIPIA AUTOMATIC’ (just above the seconds sub-dial), the words ‘SPECIAL PRINCIPIA EDITION’ are printed on the Sincere edition instead. The hands on 1941 Principia Special Edition for Sincere is flame-blued, just like in the regular versions.
Driving the 1941 Principia Special Edition for Sincere is the Calibre G-06, built from the ground up and not derived from the movements of other models. The movement is Grönefeld’s first and only automatic movement to date. It is also the only one with no technical complications. Consisting 226 parts, the Calibre G-06 has a comfortable power reserve of 56 hours while operating at 3 Hz frequency.
The Calibre G-06 may be mechanically simpler compared to the brand’s other offerings but its architecture and finissage are no less sophisticated. The iconic stainless steel bridges, seen here and in several other Grönefeld movements, mimic Dutch bell gables, paying tribute to the Horological Brothers’ homeland. The edges of these bridges are of course hand-beveled and polished to a sheen. Jewels set in gold chatons add a pop of colour to these otherwise monochrome, frosted bridges. The most eye-catching part of the movement is undoubtedly the 22-karat red gold monobloc rotor. The same treatment given to the bridges is applied to the rotor: micro-blasted, with edges beautifully beveled and polished. The key difference between the movements of the Sincere edition versus other variants is in what’s engraved on the rose gold plate affixed onto one of the bridges. In the former, the rose gold plate denotes that the limited edition watch is ‘1 of 12’.
The Competitive Landscape
Time-only watches are a dime a dozen but the 1941 Principia is in rarefied company. Few manufacturers in the world are able to elevate a simple timepiece to such an extent. The 1941 Principia Special Edition for Sincere is arguably even more elaborate than the regular versions given its absolutely opulent dial. Limited to only 12 pieces worldwide as implied by the engraving on the movement, the watch, which retailed for SGD61,890 at Sincere boutiques, is more likely than not sold out.
No conversation of elaborate time-only watches is ever complete without mention of MB&F. The MB&F LM101 Frost YG is perhaps the specimen that comes closest to the 1941 Principia Special Edition for Sincere when it comes to aesthetics. Much like the latter, the gilded dial and bridges of the LM101 Frost YG are frosted. But that’s about where the similarities end. Clearly visible on the dial is the Legacy Machine’s signature V-shaped balance bridge and high-flying balance wheel. The time and power reserve are displayed in lacquered sub-dials. The architecture of the movement appears more old-school than in the 1941 Principia but it is finished to the highest level possible. The flame-blued screws, as well as the polished bevels and angles contrast spectacularly against the frosted surface of its golden bridges. The watch, limited to 18 pieces only, was priced at CHF58,000 back in 2015 when it was introduced.
For something a little more classical but as meticulously crafted, look no further than the Grand Seiko 20th Anniversary of Spring Drive SBGZ001. The watch, rendered in platinum, showcases Seiko’s iconic “snowflake” dial with a hand-carved case that matches the dial in appearance. The Spring Drive Calibre 9R02 that powers the watch arises from the famed Micro Artist Studio where the finishing is applied by the artisans responsible for the critically acclaimed Credor Eichi II. Suffice to say, the finishing on the movements of both the Credor and the Grand Seiko are identical, and identically superlative. The SBGZ001 is a limited edition of 30 pieces and was priced at USD76,000 when it debuted in 2019.
The 1941 Principia Special Edition for Sincere with its bold aesthetics isn’t going to be for everyone. But one thing everyone will agree on is how immaculate the craftsmanship is. The word ‘handcrafted’ is always thrown around when describing fine watches, but with the 1941 Principia Special Edition for Sincere, it’s more a fact than a buzzword. Grönefeld remains one of the few brands outside of Switzerland capable of truly artisanal watchmaking and surely the torch-bearer for the Netherlands in the field.