A few years ago Kees Engelbarts showed me photos of his latest creation that we covered here. I was baffled to see by what degree one could skeletonize a mechanical movement. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure whether I really liked it or was “just” very impressed by the incredible craftsmanship this takes. Last month I visited Kees Engelbarts in Geneva, his home town, and got to see his latest creations. Now I knew I do like what I saw, and today we’re going to show you his highly skeletonized tourbillon watch, which also happens to be his first watch in bronze.
Skeleton vs. Open-Worked
I’m guessing that you have seen a few skeleton watches before. However the moniker “skeleton watches” is often used for so-called open-worked watches, as well as for true skeleton watches. Before we go any further, let me briefly explain the difference. In short, open-worked watches feature an entire movement, or at least some movement parts, that are partially open. These movement parts are milled, usually by CNC machine, and might ultimately be finished by hand, might… A true skeleton watch starts its life with a normal non-open-worked movement that is skeletonized by the skillful hand of a master engraver.
Imagine this: bridges, cocks, levers and main plate, and these hold the entire gear train in place, and perfectly aligned, so that the gear train runs smooth with as little friction as possible. There also the keyless works and two mainspring barrels, and of course the escapement (a tourbillon escapement in this case.) Imagine all these thin, fragile metal parts, and then putting pressure on them with a gouge, in order to cut open the main plate, bridges and cocks. And after all that force and pressure, the entire ‘framework’ of skeletonized parts, must still have the necessary rigidity and strength to hold all gears, the mainspring barrels, the key-less works and the escapement in place, and working with as little friction as possible. That is what it takes to create a genuine skeleton watch.
There are dozens, hundreds, even thousands of open-worked watches. However there are only a handful of true skeleton watches on the market. Our section of ‘Skeleton Watches’ comprises mainly open-worked watches and there are simply only a handful of people who create hand skeletonized watches these days. Kees Engelbarts is one of the talented few around, and he’s taking things to a whole new level…
The movement… Technotime TT791
The starting point for Kees Engelbarts was a TechnoTime movement, and not a simple one, but their tourbillon movement, calibre TT791. This is a 5-days power reserve movement, with two mainspring barrels that store the required energy, and the balance spring (also named hair spring) is manufactured in-house – a technology that only a few manufactures have mastered! Technotime, not a watch brand, but solely a movement manufacture, entered the International Competition of Chronometry in 2011 with this movement encased in a generic case, and with a simple dial. It won third place in the tourbillon category, right after Greubel Forsey and Chopard. So, not the worst movement putting it mildly.
Of course this can only be a pièce unique, because well, this art is inimitable. Kees Engelbarts made his name with his hand-made watches and especially those with large hand-engraved dragons on the dial caught a lot of attention of watch collectors around the world. This latest creation comes in a 42mm bronze case and the very nature of this material matches so good with the free-style, or ‘organic’, skeletonizing of Kees. As I said in the first paragraph, when Kees showed me photos of an earlier piece with similar free-style / organic skeletonizing I wasn’t sure whether I liked it, or was simply astonished by his spectacular craftsmanship. Now I know… it’s both!
With a watch like this you will keep staring at it, you will see new angles, shapes, and of course the classic beauty of a rotating one-minute tourbillon that will keep you intrigued. Guaranteed! The level of craftsmanship has been taken to new heights, and Kees Engelbarts is introducing the world of watches to a new form of skeletonizing art that no-one has done, or dared, and I even think that no-one else than Kees Engelbarts actually can do.