We’ve been exploring the Dutch fields of watchmaking recently, with for instance the Van der Gang 20019 chronograph, the 3D-Printed watches of Dutch watchmaker Michiel Holthinrichs or the first watch by De Rijke Watches & Co, the Amalfi Series I. Today we shed light on yet another Dutch creation, driven by one man’s passion for the art of watchmaking, and backed by a long career and remarkable stories; the Dijkman Watches Versum, designed and built by Holke Dijkman, the single man behind the brand.
The ingredients for a lot of start-up niche brands are usually similar. First and foremost, it is almost always driven by passion, and secondly, it usually starts at a young age by tearing apart your dad’s old radio to see how it works. Or a clock, electric alarm, CD player or whatever you could lay your hands on. And so is the case of Holke Dijkman, who started his own brand with a unique idea for a first watch, after many years working his way through the Dutch field of watch and clockmaking.
Holke’s career was interrupted by the Dutch mandatory military service that was still around during the 1980s. At the time, after studying at the Horlogemakers (Watchmakers) Vocational School in Hoorn, the Netherlands, he was working as a clock repairman. His interest and skills in fine mechanics paid off in the army as he became an optical and mechanical instrument engineer.
Fast forward to 2001 when he took up a position with Christiaan van der Klaauw, then still headed by Mr. Van der Klaauw himself, an AHCI-member since 1990 and renowned for his clocks with astronomical complications. A little over a decade later, the company was sold to and repositioned by Daniël Rientjes, Holke Dijkman parted ways with Christiaan van der Klaauw. By that time the brand was solely producing mechanical astronomical watches, in which Holke played a huge role in developing gear transfers and prototyping for these complicated watches.
Currently working for Van der Gang Watches in Dokkum, in the most northern province of the Netherlands, he took up the challenge of making his own watch in his spare time. The project started about six years ago, and now he has delivered the first few watches. These first models are still going strong, as he stays in touch with his clients to get feedback on the precision, quality, and reliability of his watches. With low numbers like that, it is easily manageable but also highly important to keep track of your audience. Bad customer service or a badly finished watch is a killer for small brands. You won’t find any of that here though, a genuinely humble and down-to-earth guy making a cool watch that is technically impressive!
The most interesting part for any watchmaker, presumably of course, is the running gears and beating heart of a watch. The movement, with all its parts, working in unison to keep it running as precise as possible. And to be honest, for most watch lovers (or geeks), it is no different. I very much like a watch that has something going on, on the dial side. It keeps it fun and entertaining.
The idea for Holke DIjkman’s Versum was just about that. What if you could flip the movement, and have the running gear and balance wheel in plain sight with as minimal a dial as possible? The idea isn’t entirely new, as there are other examples out there, but there are a few technical challenges that are not easily cracked. First, you have to get the stems for the hand to rotate in the opposite direction to prevent time being displayed counter-clockwise. Second, it means cutting THROUGH the movement with these stems or wrapping the needed mechanics around it in some way or another. We’ll explain the details in a little bit.
Case and Strap
The case for a Dijkman Watches Versum starts out as a machined blank, which is then subjected to a process called Electrical Discharge Machining, resulting in an almost perfectly finished case. The final result is a robust, polished steel case that measures 42mm across, with sturdy lugs and an equally sturdy crown with a gear-shaped decoration on top.
The case is approx. 13mm in height, which gives the watch a bulky profile – but this was intentional. It needs to house the inverted movement and the accompanying extra set of gears to create the unusual timing indication. The height varies between the two versions, as one is fitted with a flat crystal and the other with a slightly domed crystal.
Dial and Hands
The dial – or lack of dial to be precise – is rather unusual due to the inverted movement. First, you gaze into the gears of the movement, that allows for it to be inverted and still indicate the correct time. It is a real spectacle to wind or set this watch as you have a pretty clear view of the gears.
Time is indicated on two separate chapter rings, available in two versions: an industrial version, with Arabic numerals on the hour ring, and a version with Roman numerals on the hour ring. Just above, and on the outside of the hour ring is the chapter ring for the minutes.
The hands for the Dijkman Watches Versum are quite a different story. The hour hand is a small triangle hovering over the inside chapter ring with either Roman or Arabic numerals. It is suspended from a large gear that is mounted underneath the chapter ring. On the inside of that gear is a small lip, with a stem holding the triangle in place. It appears to be hovering in the air, as a result of this construction.
The minute hand is positioned on the large, centrally mounted gear. It features a visible ball bearing and is driven from a gear positioned beneath the hour and minute chapter ring allowing a view of the gears advancing the hands.
Heat treating these hands is no option, as the variation in thickness due to the construction of them would result in uneven colour. Hence, these are lacquered in blue.
Holke selected a reliable Swiss workhorse for his DIjkman Watches Versum, the handwound ETA/Unitas 6497/6498 – relatively easy to acquire, very reliable, easily serviceable. What Holke does to the movement is reconstruct the indication of the hours and minutes (seconds are dropped).
On the back of the movement is a second indication of the hours, again on a large gear-shaped wheel in keeping with the overall look of the watch. Note that this is not a second time zone indication or anything, but a second hand that displays the current hour. A little bit of a gimmick to make the backside of the watch stand out a bit more. Some parts have been gilded or rhodium-plated by Holke in his own workshop, which adds to the depth of the watch.
Despite the extensive adaptations to the movement, and the added parts to the running gear needed to display time as it does, the movement holds about the same power as it did before; 46 hours. Holke Dijkman adds a total of 14 new handmade gears to the movement, 10 of which are needed to reroute the hours and minutes and four to replace the factory-made ones.
I was very impressed with the watch. Yes, you can argue what’s the point of flipping the movement and then create a way to indicate the correct time? But if that’s your train of thought, you’re missing the point. Many watchmaking endeavours search for an answer to the question “can it be done?” And much of watchmaking has to do about being unique, sharing your creativity and designing a product that has a story to tell.
I was also impressed by the level of finishing and the overall quality – especially for a watch made by a one-man-show. The case is large but well built and the watch itself feels very sturdy and comfortable. Yes, there are minuscule traces of tooling and touches that tell you this is a mostly handmade watch, but that adds to the experience of owning such a special watch. Consider it a mark of the maker, the touch of craftsmanship by the very hands that have constructed it.
The Dijkman Watches Versum comes on a padded leather strap and in a handmade wooden box. It is limited not only in numbers, 250 by the way, but also by Holke Dijkman’s production capacity as he makes the watches in his spare time. The first six watches have been delivered since the concept was completed and running to Holke’s liking. Price is set at EUR 5,750, which would seem like a lot considering the choice of movement, but acceptable when taking all the handmade parts into account. For more information go to DijkmanWatches.nl.