In the past few years, a Dutchman by the name of Michiel Holthinrichs has been painstakingly carving out his horological patch using an unusual technique; 3D printing. Not new, nor unique to the watchmaking world, it is a rare trait though. And fully embracing his architectural background, Michiel Holthinrichs has shaped his brand, Holthinrichs Watches, with a case and watch design unlike any other. Celebrating five years of watchmaking under his own atelier, Michiel has created the latest iteration of his original Ornament watch and labels it as Horlogerie Brut. This is the all-new, rather special Holthinrichs Raw Bronze, a limited edition that somewhat transcends the function of a watch.
Five years in the making
Since launching his brand, we have been keeping a close eye on Michiel and his work. What started out as a single man pursuing a dream of combining his love for watches with his love for architecture, over time grew into a company that now employees several craftsmen and -women, has relocated to a larger atelier, and is starting to get recognized for the unique approach to watchmaking.
The concept of 3D printing in watchmaking isn’t new, however, it’s not something very common either. We’ve seen watches with 3D printed components here and there, but non to the extent of Holthinrichs Watches. Considering Michiel’s education, and passion for architecture, 3D printing is not just used as a gimmick. He is constantly following technological advancements and adapting to it to achieve the best possible cases and other components for his watches.
In all fairness, it would be an insult really, to call it a gimmick. It’s much more than that, as Michiel uses it to display his architectural watchmaking vision. It allows for rarely seen creativity and flowing designs not possible through the traditional case making methods. The sculpted lugs on the Ornament 1 for instance, and every watch coming from the atelier since flow in and out of the case. They open up, curve outward and downwards, and return to the caseband in a manner you will not find elsewhere. It also allows for custom scripts in the caseband, for a more personal touch if preferred.
Since the initial launch of his Ornament 1, Michiel has developed not only his designs but also greatly improved his watchmaking skills. The current models come with a great deal of hand-applied finishing techniques, including black polishing, anglage, perlage, snailing, brushing and more. And it’s not just limited to the case or movement, but to virtually all components of the watch.
Those five years of carving out a path in the independent watchmaking industry, have culminated in the latest creation by Michiel and his team; the Holthinrichs Raw Bronze. As with many things, the idea behind this concept stems from architecture. More specifically, it is heavily inspired by something called Béton Brut, or Raw Concrete.
Béton Brut was pioneered by French architects Auguste Perret and Le Corbusier, with the latter coining the phrase during the construction of Unité d’Habitation in Marseille, France (1952). It became very popular in architecture as it exposes the true nature of the material, instead of hiding it. So instead of a neatly finished surface, you leave it as raw as can be, complete with all the marks and scuffs and other imperfections it picks up during construction.
So consider Béton Brut not referring to the material itself, but more to the expression of an architect or artist. Leaving the raw concrete used in a building or sculpture exposed and unfinished can greatly enhance its design as we’ve come to experience. This raw philosophy is something Michiel has begun showcasing in the Raw Ornament, introduced a couple of years ago.
Initially, each printed case would be fully polished before fitting the movement, dial and hands and making it into a watch. The Raw Ornament instead embraces its raw nature, with a finely polished lip running the outer edge of each lug, contrasting with the matte, grainy texture of the rest of the case. When it comes to the Raw Bronze, however, the concept of Horlogerie Brut is pushed to new heights.
Copper and Bronze
The case for the Holthinrichs Raw Bronze is made with, well, bronze. There’s no surprise there as you can imagine. It’s not the first non-steel material Michiel has introduced, as Ornament 1 with gold and platinum printed cases preceded it. However, bronze perhaps fits best within the concept of Horlogerie Brut, as the material will evolve and grow a unique patina over time.
The bronze case is left untreated after it is finished by the craftsmen and -women of Holthinrichs Watches. Just like the Raw Ornament, it features a sharp, polished edge around the lugs, but the rest is left in a rougher state. The contrast between the two surfaces is striking, to say the least. The crown features a similar look, which is also a 3D printed component by the way. Size-wise, the Raw Bronze is quite a compact watch. It’s 38mm in diameter with a height of 7.4mm of the case, extending to 9.9mm at the top of the domed plexiglass crystal.
The dial is made of solid copper, which has been given a green patina and sunburst-like grooves radiating outward from the small seconds subdial. This subdial has a concentric pattern and a white printed scale. The Breguet-style numerals are not applied, but rather etched out of the raw material. The top surfaces of the numerals are sanded back after the patination has been applied, to reveal the warm tone of the copper again. Time is indicated with in-house made hands, also in copper. This is particularly tricky to master, as the soft copper is easily damaged during fabrication. It ties in perfectly with the rest of the watch though, as it emphasizes the antique look even further.
Copper is also used in the movement, which is the HW-S01A. It is based on a Peseux 7001 hand-wound movement but extensively upgraded by Holthinrichs Watches. It has been the preferred choice for all watches by Holthinrichs, but the current level of finishing is miles ahead compared to what we saw at the beginning. The skeletonized bridges are made in-house, as is the click and the click-spring. And rest assured, despite the fact the movement will patinate over time as well, this has no impact on its accuracy.
The finishing of the movement includes hand-applied anglage, with no less than 27 inward angles. Furthermore, we see black polished screws and other components, as well as perlage, vertical brushing and snailing. In terms of performance, the movement measures a compact 23.3mm in diameter and 2.5mm in height. It runs at a 3Hz frequency, or 21,600vph, and provides a 42-hour power reserve.
The Holthinrichs Raw Bronze is more than a simple watch to be worn on the wrist, as it should be considered a form of horological art that is can be worn on the wrist. It might not connect with everyone, as it is without a doubt a watch that will split opinions. Perhaps it’s best to think of it as an art piece first, and a functional device second as in this case it’s not exactly “form follows function”. But there will come a point in time the Raw Bronze is judged for what it can do, rather than what it is. And when that moment comes, it’s nice to know it keeps track of time accurately enough to be used on a daily basis. The hand-wound movement, however simple the original architecture might be, does its intended job perfectly fine. Plus, it looks mighty impressive in the skeletonized, copper-clad form Holthinrichs has created. Dressed in that unique bronze case, it is almost an antiquity, a window into a bygone era.
If you do decide to wear this watch, it comes on a green nubuck leather strap with 3D laser-printed bronze pin buckle. The strap is 20mm wide between the lugs and tapers down to 18mm in width at the buckle. The Holthinrichs Raw Bronze has a price of EUR 12,700 excluding taxes. Due to limited production capacity, only 10 pieces will be made available in 2022. The watch photographed for this article is the final prototype, and all 10 watches will be made to order.
For more information, please visit Holthinrichswatches.com