Winnerl is a small independent watchmaking brand you do not often hear about but whose watches really deserve a closer look. Particularly if you are craving watches that focus on the essentials and stand out for their craftsmanship and impressive level of finishing. We had the privilege of taking a closer look at the Winnerl Founder’s and Tremblage series. And you’ll discover that the broad discretion of these watches is fully balanced by the incredible attention to detail only a seasoned watchmaking lover will be able to spot.
Winnerl evokes an illustrious name, that of a 19th-century Austrian chronometer and watchmaker, Joseph Thaddäus Winnerl. During his apprenticeship, Winnerl served for Georg Schmidt Fidel, Kessels, Urban Jürgensen and Breguet in various cities before founding his own business in Paris in 1832. There, he made a name for himself with his remarkable chronometers, chronographs and split-second chronographs. These were used in particular for scientific purposes (timing of astronomical observations) and to guide ships over the seas.
A few years ago, Bernhard Zwinz, an independent Austrian watchmaker established in the Vallée de Joux, secured the rights to the Winnerl name and embarked on a personal journey to realise modern-day wristwatches worthy of his legacy. A remarkable craftsman, Zwinz was the first watchmaker to work for Philippe Dufour, crafting several of his Simplicity watches. In 2004, he created his own company and workshop – L’Atelier de Joux – working behind the scene for some of the most prestigious names in the industry – Greubel-Forsey, La Joux-Perret, Girard-Perregaux, MB&F, Urban Jürgensen or H. Moser & Cie., to name a few.
With Bernhard Zwinz, watchmaking is a one-man show. The independent watchmaker works by himself in the most traditional way, with a set of ancient machines and tools, utilising techniques that most contemporary watchmakers have abandoned. His first Winnerl watch is, at first glance, understated. But beneath its apparent simplicity lies exceptional craftsmanship in every respect.
The starting point for the model was the historical Winnerl ship chronometer Number 80 (which is visible at the top of the article). The movement of this elegant 39.9mm watch stands out by its directly driven small seconds at 12 o’clock. Its hand-wound movement features a balance wheel rim that is sloped 45 degrees, allowing for a very fine adjustment of its inertia. Its architecture includes a 3/4 plate – or rather a 4/5 plate, as it takes up most of the movement’s diameter, save the balance wheel and its openworked cock. Its balance ticks at a slow 2.5Hz frequency, and the power reserve, which was originally 35 hours for the Founder’s series watches, is now rated at 45 hours for the Tremblage series.
The entire watch is remarkably hand-crafted. Although quite simple at first glance, the movement is spectacular in its finishing and details. Its untreated German silver plate features beautiful Geneva stripes (just take a closer look at the stripes… it’s just another level), superb anglages, polished jewels sinks, large jewels (Zwinz shapes some of these by hand) and more. It is a perfect example of “less is more” that will speak to a very seasoned audience. Bernhard Zwinz doesn’t believe in overly-demonstrative watchmaking.
When we last visited Bernhard Zwinz two years ago, he had completed his prototype watch (number 595) while the three Founder’s series were in the making. We had the privilege to take a look at these three watches (numbered 596, 597 and 598) commissioned by a collector, as well as the first piece of the new Tremblage series (numbered 601 to 606).
The Winnerl Founder’s Series
The Winnerl number 596 comes in white gold with a beautiful blue gold grené dial whose distinctive colour is obtained via pressure and thermal treatment. Its dial is made of one part, and the numerals, railway track and logo are not applied but obtained by engraving the dial plate in positive relief. The thin, elegant hands are made by hand by Zwinz from steel.
The Winnerl Founder’s Series number 597 comes in pink gold with a white enamel dial – there again, the inscriptions on the dial are not printed but are engraved on the dial’s silver plate. The recessed area is then filled with black enamel. The hands are in blued steel.
Winnerl’s number 598 is made of platinum, combined with a black enamel dial. Unlike #596 and #597, the case combines polished and brushed surfaces. Another particularity, the movement features a different decoration, with a matte finish (grenage) and the engraving of a Winnerl patent.
The Winnerl Tremblage Series
A set of six watches, the Tremblage Series come in white gold cases with pink gold dials. Tremblage consists of hand-hammering with a small burin on the surface of the dial to create random microscopic indentations and micro-incisions. The hands are thermally blued. Bernhard Zwinz offered the six future owners the possibility to choose the finishing of the movement, either with Geneva stripes or the Winnerl patent engraving. All six watches have been sold out with a retail price that was announced at CHF 71,400 (excl. taxes) when launched.
For more information, please visit www.winnerl.ch.