Two weeks ago we talked with the California-based collector who goes under the Instagram handle @Watch_Time_It_Is and we talked about his rather rare, but extremely beautifully finished watch, the McGonigle Tuscar Bánú. Today we’re looking at another watch. Again one from a small independent watch brand. Again one from a brand of two brothers. And again one that showcases stupendously beautiful movement finishing. Let’s see what motivated @Watch_Time_It_Is to buy a Grönefeld Parallax!
Personally I’ve been very lucky to be so close to Bart and Tim Grönefeld, two fellow countrymen who live a 2-hour drive away. This allowed me to witness the development of their brand and see each and every timepiece from early drawings to a finished wristwatch that was ready for a new owner. Of course, that included the Parallax, which is the horological brothers’ third watch. Although Bart and Tim are present at Baselworld and are represented by a handful of dealers around the globe, one way or another, a Grönefeld is probably not the first option people will think of when they are looking for a tourbillon wristwatch.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME Watches – How did you come to choose a watch from Grönefeld aka the Horological brothers?
I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. No, not the ‘under the ladder when the bucket of paint falls’ wrong place, more like the ‘on a date at that exclusive restaurant and your ex (whom you still have lingering feelings for) is there with her new partner – and he’s proposing’ kind of wrong place, wrong time.
See I was at Baselworld for the first (and it seems last) time in 2019. I had visited all the booths and watchmakers I wanted, spent some time at the AHCI space, decided on a nice watch and passed on others, hung out with a few watchmakers, and was having a great time.
Then a friend of mine (who will remain nameless, but he knows who he is) mentioned that he had heard there was only one Grönefeld Parallax in gold remaining. Only one! I know there is never really only one (or “a few”, or “none”) but I could feel the strings of my heart being pulled as I heard those words.
To be honest, Grönefeld was not really on my list of considerations at the time. The watches, while stunning, were either out of my price range or too small (I prefer 40-44mm) so I had avoided looking too closely at the talents of the brothers. Out of sight, out of mind.
The space Tim and Bart had at the fair was well placed just inside the front entrance, but compared to the highly produced and well-finished booths around them, seemed understated. There were four folding tables evenly spaced out behind a low wall. Each table had two seats on each side and was reserved for one of four watchmakers who shared the space: amazing watchmakers including Kari Voutilainen, Stepan Sarpaneva, and the Grönefelds. Posters of their wares hung on the wall behind them giving a sense of impermanence. This was the definition of “don’t judge a book by its cover”.
This was my first introduction to Bart and Tim Grönefeld, and they are clearly brothers. Not so much in that they look like brothers, but in the comfortable and familiar way they knew each other’s mannerisms, behaviour, movements. It was more than finishing each other’s sentence; it was communicating in unspoken ways that showed the brotherly connection most brightly.
Like the brothers, I found the collection to be obviously from one family, yet from two distinctly different siblings.
On one side you have the Principia and Remontoire, full face hour and minute dials with sub-seconds and soul-stirring colours and finishing. They sing to you, and with all the options for finishing they have an unlimited repertoire of melodies.
Then there is the One Hertz and Parallax with multi-purpose faces and sub-dial hour and minute functions yet similar markers and blue hands. Both have prominent second hands with special skills – the One Hertz as a dead second and the Parallax syncing with the one-minute Tourbillon. These pieces speak to you with big mind-stirring words.
I later noticed that one brother wears a watch from the soul-stirring side and the other the mind-stirring side, but I’ll leave the answer of which is which for you to find out on your own.
And why this particular watch, the Parallax?
It is not often that I find a watch that matches the criteria of my collection (some would disagree) as I have relatively strict criteria but the Parallax checked the right boxes. I did not own a Tourbillon and it seemed the right piece to correct that oversight. The parallax is sophisticated, mature, and classically modern and, of course, wearing it would immediately make me all those things.
Once I placed my hands on the Parallax, explored its talents, gazed at the synced second hand and Tourbillion in motion, softly pressed (yes pressed) the crown to set the time, and took in the multi-tiered dial as if it was multi-linguistic, I was even more in love than I was with my ex sitting across the restaurant. I had found a new love.
Late in 2018, I had lost an auction for a Grönefeld One Hertz in a particularly disappointing fashion, so I suspect there was a residual effect of “loosing out” that came to the surface. The words “last one” chanted louder and louder in my head – was this really the last one?
It was indeed the last one available from the Brothers and it was as expensive as I feared, but who can put a price on priceless and the feeling of new love. Turns out Bart and Tim could, and a deal was struck.
Is there anything else from the Grönefeld that is on your wish list?
Of the two sides of the family, the “stir your soul” side with the Principia and Remontoire has never really called to me. This aligns to my head, not heart, driven personality I suppose as well as my desire for larger pieces, so they are not on my list. The One Hertz, now that is another story.
The Parallax and One Hertz have so much in common one could argue they duplicate more than complement. However, I feel the One Hertz takes the intellectual exploration down a tangent path. Despite an identical hour and minute dial, wind/set, and power indicator, the One Hertz speaks to the serious importance of keeping an eye of time as it slips by with its large jumping second hand dominating your focus; the Parallax is all about precision and accuracy with its tourbillion driving the way. You could say one activates the mind, the other calms it.
I suspect my dealer expected this from me as he arranged for a One Hertz to be sent to his shop. I acquired it within a few months of getting the Parallax. The One Hertz retains its serious face on a more traditional black strap with the Parallax on a more playful brown. Guess you could say “list complete”.
What is it in their work that you admire so much?
The dimensionality, the sharpness, the simple complexity, the new with deep history, the playful seriousness, and the globally reaching homegrown family nature of the watches and the watchmakers.
It was not until after I had purchased the watch that I was able to visit Bart and Tim at their atelier in the Netherlands. For an urban boy like myself, just the hour-plus train ride into the countryside transported me in more than expected ways.
I am not sure what I was expecting, but the magnitude of the watches seems so much bigger than the charming town I found. As the visit went on under the shadow of the clock tower their family kept on time for so many years, hearing of the struggles and joys to create the brand and carry forward the name, and when their father (wearing #1 One Hertz) drove us back to the hotel and home after a full night of talking (read as drinking) my admiration and understanding of the “brothers” aspect of Grönefeld Brothers flourished. I can barely spend time with some of my family much less work with them.
Somehow, in the One Hertz’s and Parallax’s measurement of time, with their unique second-hand complications, I see the importance of family, legacy, heritage, tradition, and time measured in generations.
What is your advice for anyone in the market for a Grönefeld?
- Explore all sides of the family – those pieces that stir the soul and those that stir the mind.
- Take the time to appreciate the history of the brand and the family as well as the timepieces.
- If you “don’t own a Patek, you just take care of it for the next generation” then a watch from the Grönefeld Brothers comes from three generations of Grönefelds to you and your future generations.
- Never attend Baselworld – that one may be the easiest advice to follow.
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