Rare, ingenious craftsmanship
Inside the creatively conceived limited editions of Moritz Grossmann's Benu Tourbillon
Christine Hutter cherishes her long golden tresses because strands are intriguingly used to fabricate a human-hair brush of a patent-pending stop-seconds mechanism in the Benu Tourbillon, crafted by her company Grossmann Uhren.
Christine Hutter. Marcus Krueger
"We had a product-development meeting, and the watchmakers said that artificial hair didn't work. So I joked that after getting a cut at the hairdresser, I would give them my hair," said the CEO of the Glashutte-based firm. "Two weeks later, they told me that my hair worked perfectly. So my DNA is in the watch."
Clients can also request a Benu Tourbillon with their own or a loved one's hair as a part of the mechanism as long as it is not too fine or curly.
This is not a gimmick, as human hair offers the strength, elasticity and resistance to ageing required for the stop-seconds mechanism, which helps assure the precision of the tourbillion.
The German brand has a reputation for ingenuity in fine watchmaking based on the legacy of eminent 19th-century watchmaker Moritz Grossmann, who cofounded the German School of Watchmaking.
"His essay, 'On The Construction Of A Simple But Mechanically Perfected Watch', is the basis of our philosophy, which dictates that we think not only in the present but also of the future when crafting fine mechanical watches," said Hutter.
Delivering uncompromising precision, the white gold Benu Tourbillon with the flying 3-minute tourbillion represents a new concept to the simple but mechanically perfect watch.
She rediscovered the Moritz Grossmann heritage and revived the atelier, which had been dormant for 120 years.
"We started from scratch, such as in setting up production and developing in-house movements, while transferring Moritz Grossmann watchmaking traditions to crafting 21st-century timepieces," said the CEO, who founded the company in November 2008.
Typical hallmarks include hand engraving, German silver and cut of the 2/3 plate; raised gold chatons; triple-band snailing; pillar movement; and a cantilevered balance cock with the Grossmann micrometer screw.
Hutter will always remember the moment her watchmakers told her to come see the movement of the first prototype. "My heart was pumping, even more so when I saw the movement running," she recalled.
The inaugural model was named Benu after the Bennu-bird of Egyptian mythology. A symbol of rebirth, the bird is consumed by fire every evening and leaves behind an egg, which hatches the next morning.
Besides the tourbillion model, the range now include Benu and Benu Power Reserve in white gold, rose gold and platinum, with only a small number produced.
As one of the few female CEOs in the watch industry, Hutter said it's not tough to be in a business dominated by men, as she thinks like a watchmaker rather than a woman.
The native of Eichstätt completed her watchmaking apprenticeship as best in a class of her peers in Bavaria, in 1989. The apprenticeship introduced her to 19th- and early-20th-century pendulum clocks, pocket watches and chronographs with fantastic movements, and she had the opportunity to restore them, which made her appreciate mechanical timepieces.
Later, working for Germany's largest luxury-watch retailer and producers gave her the experience and know-how to set up her own business, which within less than a decade has expanded to Asia with a boutique in Japan. Moritz Grossmann watches are also retailed at Kronos, at the Starhill Gallery shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur.
"Unlike big brands, which may feel the impact of the economic slowdown, we are not pressured to sell quantity as we focus on quality and limited editions," she said. "We are a niche brand that emphasises craftsmanship, with everything done by hand, in offering unique and user-friendly timepieces."
White gold Benu Tourbillon. Moritz Grossmann
Benu Power Reserve. Moritz Grossmann