Grail Watch 9: Moritz Grossmann x Kari Voutilainen Benu 37 ‘Silver Bullet’
Our latest collaboration with Moritz Grossmann is a limited edition of six pieces with a beautiful sterling silver guilloché à main Kari Voutilainen dial.
Grail Watch 9 is now sold out. Join the wait list here.
Here are the broad strokes on our latest collaboration with Moritz Grossmann. It’s a 37mm in diameter Benu timepiece, just like our previous watch with the wonderful Glashütte based brand, featuring the ravishing, hand-finished three-fifths plate caliber 102.1 with hand-engraved escape wheel and balance cocks, and flame-purpled screws. It features a sterling silver guilloché à main Kari Voutilainen dial, made using a vintage engine-turning machine.
This is paired with an 18K white gold case and a kudu leather strap in gorgeous anemone. As an extra step, we’ve also matched the watch with one of the most stunning straps I’ve ever set eyes on — a matte Himalayan alligator strap made by the very cool Delugs company here in Singapore. The resulting timepiece that I’ve nicknamed “Silver Bullet” is just epic.
Now here comes the hard part — we were only able to make six examples of the watch.
Six watches is not a lot, particularly when the watch is a stunning work in monochromatic nuance. So, instead of getting straight into the details of the Benu 37 ‘Silver Bullet’, I want to take this opportunity to explain why I love Moritz Grossmann so much.
Each time I hold a Moritz Grossmann watch in my hand, I am struck by the pure straightforward beauty of the movement — the perfect expression of the brand’s eponymous spiritual father who championed the creation of “simple but mechanically perfect watches.”
I am always charmed by the brand’s quirky yet mechanically efficient innovations such as the Hamatic automatic winding mechanisms. I am consistently romanced by the movements’ innately Saxon hallmarks, from the flame-treated purple screws to the gold chatons, to the Glashütte stripes on the German silver two-third plate, the sumptuously engraved balance and escape bridges and the choice of white sapphires over traditional rubies. My sense of aesthetics is always piqued by the charm of its “tremblage” dials, an ancient hand engraving technique to decorate the German silver dial using different tools.
But perhaps most of all, I find myself moved by the story of immense perseverance and unrelenting resilience that is expressed by the extraordinary woman behind the brand. To me, Moritz Grossmann’s CEO Christine Hutter is one of the most innovative, disruptive and courageous visionaries in modern horology, who has ably resurrected — one could argue created — a brand that is poised to absolutely skyrocket in awareness and appreciation.
Born in Eichstätt, Germany, Hutter trained as a watchmaker, then found her way into sales, marketing and distribution, which would all help her become the wellrounded leader she is today. In 1996, she made her way to the town of Glashütte, which is located in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR).
The transformation there, in what was once a somnambulant tiny village about 40 minutes’ drive from Dresden, was incredible. On December 7, 1990, following the reunification of Germany, the genius watch entrepreneur Günter Blümlein and Walter Lange accomplished the seemingly impossible. They resurrected the once perished A. Lange & Söhne.
Suddenly, Glashütte was awash in energy. Mechanical watches were manufactured in Glashütte until the 1980s, even during GDR times, when the Saxon watch manufactories were nationalized. Thus, the culture of mechanical watchmaking was kept alive and well in this region.
In 1994, Lange presented its first watches and the statement was clear: Glashütte intended to contend with the greatest entrenched heavyweights of Swiss watchmaking.
Hutter, like any young German watchmaker, was deeply moved by the events she saw unfolding. By 1996, she had decamped to Glashütte, her mind brimming with positive ambition. She said, “To be in Glashütte at this time was amazing. We had the feeling that anything was possible. And we took immense pride in bringing our vision of German high watchmaking to the rest of the world. The prevailing feeling was, we had to do our best, to tell the world who we are, and to express the real value of Saxon horology, which we knew to be so beautiful.”
The Genesis of Moritz Grossmann
During her time in Glashütte, Hutter often came across the name Moritz Grossmann. When she went to museums, she searched historical archives and spoke to older watchmakers, and soon she began to understand one clear message: Grossmann was one of the most influential watchmakers in Glashütte’s history.
Why? Because in 1878, he founded the German School of Watchmaking in Glashütte. Its building is still standing today, but it has been converted to the German Watch Museum.
In the 19th century, Grossmann helped to define the core values of German watchmaking as well as formalize the signature aesthetic and functional codes of Saxon horology — the flame bluing of screws, the use of chatons to hold rubies in place, the two-third plate, the micrometer screw, the engraving of balance cocks. All of these values and codes coalesced during his time.
Hutter’s passion and interest thus stoked, she decided to become the world’s greatest living expert on Grossmann. Then, she came across something rather remarkable. The name Moritz Grossmann had become dormant. Without a moment’s hesitation, she decided to purchase it, with a vision to create a brand inspired by all his immense contributions to German watchmaking, expressed through fun, modern and mechanically perfect timepieces.
She laughs when she thinks back on the early days, “I suppose it was similar to many young entrepreneurs with limited capital. We started with a PO Box. I worked from my kitchen table. Then we rented a store. Then an office. And finally, we hired our first watchmaker to help me create our first movement and set up our atelier.”
Beyond this, what Hutter really had to do was envision a brand. She started with the names of Egyptian deities. But when it came to naming her first watch, the decision was clear.
She explains, “I started with Benu (Bennu) because this is the Egyptian deity linked with the Sun, creation, and most importantly, rebirth — a bird that rises from the ashes like a Phoenix. As I was embarking on the rebirth of the most famous name in German watchmaking, I thought it was perfect. But there was at the same time a lot of pressure, because the watch had to be good.”
The Benu model was first launched in 2010, and collectors with a discerning eye were immediately struck by the beauty of the movements, the stunning snailing on the ratchet wheels, the majesty of the decoration on the plate and bridge, and the stunning detail of the hand engraved escape wheel cock.
Hutter founded Grossmann Uhren GmbH on November 11, 2008, and by 2010, she was embarking on another incredibly daring and brilliant journey, and that was to create one of the most complete in-house manufactures in modern watchmaking.
Says Hutter, “That year was an incredible one, because we presented the Benu in a 100-piece limited edition which quickly sold out. But we also laid the first stone in the creation of our manufacture.”
Set on a hill overlooking the town of Glashütte with a view of Lange below it, the creation of the Moritz Grossmann headquarters and manufacture took immense courage. “From the beginning, I wanted to create the infrastructure that would allow us to build movements to a capacity that would make us a significant presence in modern watchmaking, and at a quality that would be the best in the world.”
“TODAY, MANY OF GROSSMANN’S WATCHES ARE SOLD OUT AND THE FACTORY IS AT FULL CAPACITY WITH AN ANNUAL PRODUCTION OF LESS THAN 400 WATCHES.”
Hutter admits with a chuckle, “Now it is really a bit of struggle to meet demand. We are effectively sold out for two years. But we are trying to do our best. One thing we will definitely not do is compromise on our quality. This is everything to us.”
Moritz Grossman and the Power of Functional Innovation
It is important to point out now that while Grossmann is reaching a truly impressive level of popularity (though it is my opinion that we are still in the very early stages of the brand’s ascent), both the brand and Hutter have gone through a great deal of challenges and upheavals since it was founded 15 years ago on November 11, 2008.
Over the last decade and a half, under Hutter’s leadership, Grossmann has expressed a powerful sense of functional innovation. Amongst her accomplishments is the previously mentioned phenomenal automatic winding watch named the Hamatic, which uses a pendulum or hammer-type winding mass.
This type of mass dates back to Abraham-Louis Breguet who implemented this type of system in 1780 and dubbed it the “Perpétuelle.” What is wonderful about this system is that it allows you an unencumbered view of how the motion of the mass is transferred into winding energy by the movement’s two click levers.
Says Jack Forster, editorial director for WatchBox and former Revolution and Hodinkee editor-in-chief, “The question here is not whether this is more or less efficient than a rotor. What it shows is that Moritz Grossmann is deeply rooted in the history of mechanical watchmaking and is able to take a different pathway to automatic winding that is uniquely charming.”
Grossmann and Hutter also created a stop seconds tourbillon that provides one of the most esoterically innovative solutions to arresting the balance wheel that I’ve ever heard of. She explains, “In most stop seconds tourbillons, a lever comes and stops the balance. But the pillars of the tourbillon can block the lever. Our solution was to create a miniature brush. When it contacts a pillar, it splits apart and still contacts the balance to stop it. This brush is made from human hair and can be customized with hair from your loved one or yourself.”
Our First Collaboration
I started to become truly intrigued by Grossmann in 2018, when Hutter launched the Benu 37, a 37mm in diameter watch that I found to be truly marvelous. The size was perfect. The heat-treated purple hands were intriguing. And, in particular, the movement — the three-fifthsplate, hand-decorated German silver masterpiece named the MG 102.1 — was magnificent. Our first collaboration together was based on the Benu 37 but with a dial inspired by a stunning pocket watch from the brand’s past.
In 2018, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the brand, Christine Hutter had curated an amazing collection of vintage Moritz Grossmann watches that she paired with timepieces from its modern day collection to be auctioned off by Christie’s. Amongst the auction lots was a very interesting and unique 37mm by 9.2mm slim Atum Hommage wristwatch that was paired with a pocket watch with movement number 6126 made by Moritz Grossmann in 1872.
To me, this wristwatch featured one of the most stunning dials ever. The elegance of the ultra slim Roman numerals surrounded by the delicately printed chemin-de-fer minute indicator, and contrasted by the four diamond-shaped markers at the cardinal points, was wonderful. It was the most perfect example of Zen reductionist tranquility we’d seen in recent years. But this hand fired enamel dial watch was only created in this one unique execution. Or so I thought, until I had the opportunity to speak to Christine Hutter on her visit to Singapore in 2019.
Remarking on the majesty of this watch, she asked if we might consider collaborating on a version of the timepiece together. Of course, we were humbled and delighted to acquiesce. She pointed out that the Benu Heritage 37mm case, which was launched in April 2018, was exactly the same shape and dimension and could offer us the perfect platform to start.
We soon returned to her very original idea when she founded Moritz Grossmann, which was to forge a link between Saxon watchmaking’s past and future. From the past, we selected a grand feu enamel dial similar to the pièce unique auctioned by Christie’s. But instead of white, we decided on an ivory-colored dial with black Roman indexes, contrasted by a soft seductive deep purple chemin de fer, which perfectly complemented the signature flamed purple color on her lovely spade-shaped hands.
To perfectly express the idea of ultimate horological tranquility, we decided to omit the seconds hand. This would, after all, be the watch of a flaneur or a boulevardier, an individual for whom time is a luxury, and it would simply not do to allow the banal encroachment of a small seconds indicator. Thus was born, in 2020, the Moritz Grossmann Benu 37 Steel with Grand Feu Enamel Dial for Revolution and The Rake.
The Creation of Grail Watch 9 “Silver Bullet”
Our latest collaboration, Grail Watch 9: Moritz Grossmann × Kari Voutilainen Benu 37 “Silver Bullet,” came about during my trip to Grossmann’s manufacture in Glashütte. There, inside a wonderfully sunlit room, I noticed a few pièce unique watches made for clients featuring dials created by Kari Voutilainen and his dial factory, Comblémine.
I’ve always loved guilloché à main or, as the English call it, engine-turned dials. It is my opinion that the most ravishing in the world are made by Kari at his factory where he has one of the greatest collections of vintage rose engine machines. When asked what our next Benu 37 could look like, I proposed something that was as clean and Zen reductionist as the previous collaboration, but using two totally different materials.
For the dial, I loved the idea of sterling silver, which has been stabilized so it will not oxidize. For the case, both Hutter and I immediately thought of a white gold case. For the nickname of the watch, I decided on “Silver Bullet.”
Why? Yes, the dial is crafted from a massive piece of sterling silver. And well, of course, in folklore, a silver bullet was the only thing that was capable of slaying a werewolf. But I like the second meaning of the term, based on the Oxford Dictionary definition, which is “a simple and seemingly magical solution to a highly complicated problem.” This has always reminded me of Moritz Grossmann’s mission statement to make “simple but mechanically perfect watches,” something that Christine Hutter continues to make her life’s work today.
Grail Watch 9: Mortiz Grossmann x Kari Voutilainen Benu 37 ‘Silver Bullet’
Movement: Manual winding Kaliber 102.1; 48-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes and small seconds
Case: 37mm; 18K white gold DIAL Guilloché à main sterling silver
Strap: Himalayan alligator leather by Delugs and Kudu leather in anemone; 18K white gold pin buckle
Price: EUR 42,000
Availability: Limited and numbered edition of six pieces
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FEATURED FROM THE SHOP
|Movement||Manual winding calibre 102.1; regulated in five positions|
|Functions||Hours and minutes|
|Case||37mm; Stainless steel|
|Dial||Grand-feu ivory enamel dial, black Roman numerals|
|Strap||Hand-stitched leather with solid prong buckle in stainless steel|