It’s fair to say it took me quite some time to write this review. Not because it’s particularly long, or in-depth, just because I didn’t want to take Felix off my wrist. If you’re looking for a dress watch, on a budget (relatively speaking), with an in-house movement (that you can see through the caseback) and also happens to come from an intriguing independent watchmaker, we may have found the watch for you: the Habring² Felix – which happens to be the winner of the “Petite Aiguille” prize at the GPHG 2015.
Habring² is the brainchild of husband and wife combination Richard and Maria Habring. For their 10-year anniversary they have developed their first in-house movement. The model we had the pleasure of spending some time with is the Felix Gold version. Each “Felix Gold” edition contains a gold coin whose weight corresponds exactly to the weight of its case in gold. This makes the “Felix Gold” the first “gold watch” with real investment value. The reason Habring² have offered this is so the owner can sell the coin without affecting the watch itself! Ideally, the thought process is that the increase in the value of gold coin over the long term will fund the maintenance every automatic watch requires.
Let’s start by taking a moment to appreciate the design element of Felix. It is a simple looking watch. It is after all a time-only watch with no complications (other than a small second at 9). For me, its charm is in its simplicity. Its lack of complexity has allowed it to become the new entry level model to the Habring² range. Felix has a circular, stainless steel 38.5 mm case and it is the first creation from Habring² that features their own movement. The production of this new calibre also had special significance to Habring² as it coincides with their 10-year anniversary.
As mentioned, the Habring² Felix is certainly not a complex watch – and it doesn’t profess to be so. The version we had here is the “Felix Gold” edition. instead of making the watch case in gold, Habring² decided to manufacture it in steel for technical reasons. However, not just so. Every “Felix Gold” edition contains a Philharmonic coin whose weight of 31.103 g and 24 carat corresponds exactly to what the case would weigh in gold. This makes the “Felix Gold” the first “gold watch” (sort of) with real investment value, given the coin is billed at its current value on the day of purchase and can be sold at any time without reducing Felix’ practical value. In a best case scenario Felix would therefore generate the cost of its maintenance through the increase in the value of gold forecast for the long term (although we are certainly not looking to forecast what the price of gold will do in the months and years to come).
Dial and hands
Felix has a pleasing, minimalist dial layout. If we look at the dial specifically, you can see the Habring² logo featuring at 12, which to me, although beautiful, is tough to read from a distance. It’s near ascetic appearance is underscored by a fine-grained, silvery-white dial. Only two dial designs are available: with either an Arabian or Roman “12” and, on request, without the characteristic second at 9 o’clock.
The sub seconds dial at 9 o’clock is beautifully cut into the dial. Which under closer inspection reveals intrigue in the tiny details. The combination of the black-oxidised thread hands and black baton markers on the dial, make reading the time easy. If you look very closely, the minute hand is also slightly curved at the end to ensure it lines up perfectly with the markers on the dial.
Case and strap
It is not only the movement that has been created in the Austrian Alps. The case also originates from the same region. Produced in the mountains of Carinthia, the raw materials required for the case come from the Böhler smeltery in Kapfenberg. It is worth noting, unlike many larger manufacturers, Habring² do not brand their crowns or their buckles. They feel that because these are parts that often get replaced, they couldn’t accept the waste created. The case of the Habring² Felix is, as said earlier, crafted from stainless steel and measures a reasonable, elegant and well proportioned 38.5mm. The profile is slim at approximately 7mm, which makes it an easy and comfy watch on the wrist – and a watch that can be worn with a classical / business attire, with Felix hidden under your cuff. One thing though is the shape of the case, that can be seen as discreet or, to some, a bit too simplistic (a remark we could also make to the complicated Habring² Doppel 3 we reviewed earlier). Nothing dramatic however.
Although it shares the same base as other models in the Habring² range, the main difference we see in the Felix is the omission of the Habring² module system. Its movement, the A11B (“A” for “Austria” and “11” for the start of its development in “2011”, “B” for Basis), represents the simplest mechanical method of measuring time, albeit with the utmost precision. the finishing is sparse. Don’t expect a highly decorated movement. However, the surprise is that this A11B movement is almost entirely manufactured and fully assembled in Austria (Habring² have partnered with a select group of Swiss and Germany). Proprietary movements were generally the reserve of the large brands with investors or a parent company. This is because it is certainly not cheap to develop your own, unique movement. Habring² is one of the very few small manufacturers (especially in this price range where watches are usually powered by ETA or clones) to take on this technically and financially demanding challenge.
Whilst comparably small brands rely on industrially produced, older or more recent basic movements and give them a new look by fitting the wheelworks on their own bridges, the A11 by contrast is a new design, produced in small numbers by Habring Uhrentechnik OG and in partnership with a few small companies in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. The main criteria for Habring² in these partnerships was that they had to be family-run businesses.
Since 2007, all Habring² models have been based on wheelworks from ETA/Valjoux 7750/7760. Due to the widely-publicised withdrawal by ETA to safeguard their own production, it seemed only logical to Maria & Richard Habring to create an equivalent replacement under their own steam. This also included the escapement, balance wheel and hairspring in addition to the entire wheelwork, winding mechanism and adjustment mechanism. When asked about the development of the A11B movement, Habring² said “We are making use of our small business structure and will in future focus on adding even more manual value to our watches.”
The Habring² team is currently perfecting the manual assembly of anchors, the counting of hairsprings and the manual production of movement wheels. Counting and curving enough ready-to-use hairsprings to last a month takes around a full working day.
My only other feedback on the Habring² Felix is that it falls in between being an elegant and simply functional. It will not cause a scene as a result of it’s delicate subtlety but it will be respected by those in the know. I guess what I’m trying to say is Felix will make you very happy knowing it’s story and the love that went into making it, but it won’t get the attention of other dress watches in this category if that matters to you.
Hand on heart. It took me a good week or so to get around to photographing this watch. I just didn’t want to take it off the wrist. I personally think it’s a wonderful feeling wearing a piece that very few will ever recognize (although following Felix winning the “Petite Aiguille” prize at GPGH 2015 that may change). It works as well with a crisp white shirt and jacket on as it does with a t-shirt. I thoroughly enjoyed wearing Felix as well as telling its story to anyone who would listen. The Habring² Felix is available at a price of € 4,450. Find out more here.
Habring² Felix’ technical details
Manufacture movement Habring² A11B:
- Diameter 30 mm; height 4.2 mm
- Hour and minute hands; small second at 9 o’clock
- 28.800 alternates per hour (4Hz)
- Hand-wound with 48 hours’ power reserve
- Tangential screw fine adjustment
- Anti-magnetic escapement with a Carl Haas hairspring in chronometer quality
- KIF shock protection pursuant to DIN and NIHS
- 18 rubies
- Elaborately refined by hand with polished edges, decorative engravings, perlage, etc.
- 50 service-relevant single components (99 parts in total)
- Stainless steel, three-part, 38.5 mm diameter
- Waterproof to the depth equivalent of 30 metres
- Spherical sapphire crystal
- Double-sealed crown, sapphire crystal caseback
- Consecutive engraved serial number between the lugs at 6 o’clock
- Silver-white granulated metal dial with black print
- Polished, black-oxidised steel hands in thread form