There are certain things one simply doesn’t do with valuable watches. Some of those things include underwater diving with a minute repeater and taking apart and modifying a limited edition early A. Lange & Sohne Tourbillon. However, if you must do the latter, it might as well be done tastefully, and by a fellow German company – which is precisely the situation with the one-of-a-kind Blue Merit watch by Grieb & Benzinger.
Typically the boys at Grieb & Benzinger make their luxury project watches out of historical movements such as a 100 year old Patek Philippe minute repeater or split second chronograph. For the Blue Merit they have endeavored to use a much more modern movement taken out of an A. Lange & Sohne Tourbillon Pour le Merite. So yes, a limited edition Tourbillon Pour le Merite watch from the mid 1990s was essentially sacrificed for this Benzinger-esque transformation. Was it worth it?
A little history first. The modern A. Lange & Sohne brand as we know it returned to the world in 1994 after a several decade hiatus thanks to communism coming to the eastern part of Germany. The highest-end highlight of their debut collection was the limited edition Tourbillon Pour le Merite reference 701.005. Only 50 pieces were produced in platinum from about 1994 to 1998 and it had a price of about $110,000 when new. Lange is one of those few modern brands whose products can actually appreciate in value during the lifetime of the owner. So if you wanted to get a Tourbillon Pour le Merite today it would certainly cost you a lot more than $110,000.
Grieb & Benzinger got their hands on one or it was probably a client who gave them the Tourbillon Pour le Merite and ask them to have fun with it. The first thing they did was remove the Lange caliber L902.0 movement from the case and then proceeded to completely take it apart. While the original watch has a 38.5mm wide case in platinum, the Blue Merit uses a new case (also in platinum) that is 41mm wide – which is actually on the smaller side for Grieb & Benzinger timepieces.
The process from turning the original movement into this amazingly skeletonized and engraved creation took about a year, and involved a delicate metamorphosis that involved almost each individual part. There are essentially three main decorative processes that went into the Blue Merit movement. First is hand-skeletonization, which involved cutting bridges and gears apart into skeletonized parts. The second is hand-engraving, which involved decoration of the parts, and third is coloring.
A. Lange & Sohne uses an an alloy called German Silver for most of their movement parts rather than steel. Nevertheless, Grieb & Benzinger plates most of the movement parts in rhodium and rose gold. Other parts, such as some new bridges, were coated with blue platinum. The result is an amazing to behold and beautiful transformation into a classically decorated work of art built on one of the most prestigious movements of one of today’s most prestigious watchmakers. Both the front and rear of the movement are the very epitome of what Germany Grieb & Benzinger do best, with the mechanical foundation of the top German luxury watch company.
The features of the movement in the watch are worth noting. A. Lange & Sohne built on this movement to add more complication later, but from the start, the Tourbillon Pour le Merite was very impressive. It also arrived at a time when tourbillon complications were still very uncommon. The tourbillon was paired with a fusee & chain style transmission, and the dial had the time with subsidiary seconds dial as well as a power reserve indicator. In many ways, it was a design ahead of its time. Aside from the distinctive Lange-style tourbillon cage, little of the transformed movement suggests that it was a Lange to all but those with the most honed eyes. The Blue Merit watch even features new hands and subdial designs.
Like most platinum Grieb & Benzinger watches the Blue Merit in platinum is matched to a blue alligator strap and once again is a piece unique creation.
Price is $530,000 (for the Blue Merit). grieb-benzinger.com