Since learning of the small manufacture, I have profiled several of Grieb & Benzinger’s fine timepieces — in a word, they are exemplary (with a price tag to match). One of their latest, the Blue Danube, is exciting in many respects. Most conspicuously, a finely decorated 43mm platinum case which houses a manual-wind movement — a minute repeater with split-seconds chronograph — made by Patek Philippe for Tiffany & Co. around 1890 (not the Patek logo and the Tiffany logo on the movement, below). Then there is the extensive hand-skeletonization, guilloché and rhodium-plating throughout the watch. And also, a sterling silver dial decorated with original Breguet frosted finish (see this in the video, and “Did You Know” below). Across the board, an amazing watch — full photo set and video, below. Price will approach half a million USD. Also be sure to check out Grieb & Benzinger’s excellent and informative website.
Grieb & Benzinger Blue Danube
43mm platinum case, manual wind movement made by Patek Philippe for Tiffany & Co. circa 1890, fitted on a navy blue alligator skin strap with platinum buckle
The base plate was first hand-skeletonized and hand-guilloché before being coated with the blue platinum developed by GRIEB & BENZINGER. The three-quarter plate was also hand-skeletonized and guilloché, coated with rhodium and rose gold. Every single bridge was skeletonized, guilloché and rhodium-plated, the hand-engraved balance cock was rhodium- and rose gold-plated. The visible spring barrel was guilloché. Even the wheels were guilloché, and the heads of all steel screws were polished by hand and classically tempered a cornflower blue over an open flame.
The 26-jewel movement is based on an historical minute repeater with split-seconds chronograph and manually wound. It was made by Patek Philippe for Tiffany New York about 1890. With a diameter of only 36.5 mm, this tremendous assembly of complications is rare in such a small movement.
The compensation screw balance with blued Breguet spring beats at 18,000 semi-oscillations per hour. Keeping in mind that this movement is already about 120 years old, it is doubtlessly a sensation and tribute to historic watchmaking. The detailed restoration of the more than 400 components of this extraordinary, complicated movement required intense attention:
anti-reflective, domed sapphire crystal and flat sapphire crystal on case back; pusher and crown are made of solid platinum and decorated with guilloché
Abraham Louis Breguet, one of the greatest watchmakers of all times, once again is the source of inspiration for the Frosted Finish on Grieb & Benzinger dials. Like in the late 18th and early 19th century, the dial surface is worked on using a combination of oxidation by means of an open flame as well as a special acid mixture. The result is a silvery-white surface which reminds of frost. Thus the name, Breguet Frosting.
The ‘frost’ served as a surface sealing, protecting the dial from oxidation (tarnishing of the silver). The fascinating silver-white colour is a feast for the connoisseur’s eye which so far could never be reached, even by means of the most modern galvanic methods…
Today, the original Breguet Frost Finish is exclusively applied by Grieb & Benzinger.