Holland’s premier fine watchmaker Grönefeld has announced the 1941 Principia, a watch powered by its debut automatic movement.
Followers of the Dutch independent will recognise 1941 as a sign the new watch sits alongside the brand’s GPHG-award-winning, hand-wound 1941 Remontoire and shares a case with it. The new suffix is prompted by Sir Isaac Newton’s three-tome Latin text Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, commonly referred to as Principia. Newton’s principles are the foundation of classical mechanics – hence Grönefeld’s lofty choice of name.
Grönefeld was founded by the WOSTEP-trained brothers Bart and Tim Grönefeld in 2005 and has made a name for itself with its high-end, low-volume watches delivered from its base in Oldenzaal, Holland. This unlikely source has produced some landmark pieces, among them the 1896 One Hertz with its jumping seconds hand, and the Parallax Tourbillon, another GPHG winner.
The Principia’s automatic movement is a new milestone for the brand and indication of its growing confidence. The Grönefeld brothers have called it G-06 and say it took them four years to develop, and that it’s regulated to within COSC rates (but not certified). It’s visible through a sapphire case back and has both an industrial and romantic look about it – its stainless steel bridges are micro-blasted and shaped like the bell gables of traditional Dutch houses.
There are plenty of quality signifiers, not just in the beautifully hand-bevelled finishes, but also in the technology. The micro-blasted 22-carat rose gold rotor sits on a ceramic ball bearing, meaning it requires zero lubrication and should wear very little over time. One uncommon detail the brothers have shared is that the uni-directional rotating winding rotor has to spin 633 times to provide 24 hours of autonomy. When fully wound, it will run for 56 hours.
No surprise is that the new calibre is a time-only mechanism, providing the watch with hour and minutes hands and a small seconds at 6 o’clock. What is a surprise is that Grönefeld, a small brand by most measures (it makes around 75 watches a year), has chosen to invite consumers to personalise the watch using a configuration tool on its website.
The choice is between three case materials, five dial colours and six leather straps, to create one of 75 possible combinations. So that’s red or white gold, or stainless steel for the case; cream lacquer with Roman numerals, matt turquoise, light blue, rhodium-plated or gold-plated salmon for the solid sterling silver dials; and straps made from alligator, buffalo or python.
The watch is an addition to Grönefeld’s 1941 line, named after the year the brothers’ father Sjef was born. Its 39.5mm case is broadly conservative, more than suitable for day or evening wear, but with a few artful flourishes. The factoid that the dial and case are made up of 54 parts singles it out as the work of detail obsessives.
Although the line becomes Grönefeld’s lowest priced, buyers will still need the not insignificant sum of €29,950 for the steel, rising to €38,750 for the white gold. For that investment you also get a domed glass, double-axis watch winder made by Bernard Favre.
That glossy finish seems a little superfluous, but still, this is an impressive debut automatic from an off-centre brand that continues to grow in stature.