Situated in a very small workshop in Adelaide’s vibrant Central Business District is my watchmaker, Ben Birkett. He is also an accomplished designer, and is the main collaborator on all my own personal watch projects. Within the same building are many other craftsmen including bespoke jewelers and an individual that specializes in highly-elaborate engravings.
One of the engraver’s recent and most notable projects was to personalize an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon (valued at approximately $240,000) for a very wealthy client. Certainly, this meticulously handcrafted artisan technique has become very popular in the world of horology, and various examples have been produced by a wide range of manufacturers. Here are three examples that are will definitely take your breath away.
Engraving and watchmaking are two crafts that have an intertwined and overlapping history. (Image: Frank Dubarry)
Kees Englebarts Platinum Tsuba Watch
The Platinum Tsuba uses a platinum case and a bronze dial as the canvas for its breathtaking hand-done engravings. (Image: Kees Englebarts)
Kees Engelbarts is a specialist engraver who cleverly transitioned into watchmaking. I am a huge admirer of his amazing work, and even included his Platinum Tsuba Watch in my forthcoming book about independent watchmakers
The winding crown and bridges of the movement have been engraved with a bark-texture that compliments the dial side of the watch. (Image: Kees Englebarts)
This impressive timepiece has an extravagant 49mm x 16mm case, handcrafted from solid platinum. Features like the meticulous Mokume Gane dial (with a sublime 3D illustration of a sparrow on a branch) really separate this watch from the crown. This exquisite characteristic is made from bronze and is absolutely spectacular. Beneath the luxurious façade is a Swiss made hand-winding mechanical movement comprised of 17 jewels and oscillating at a frequency of 18,000 vibrations per hour.
Frank Dubarry Crazy Wheel CW0406
While engraving is a traditional craft, the Crazy Wheel CW0406 is a thoroughly modern watch. (Image: Frank Dubarry)
Most people will associate the name Frank Dubarry with the innovative watch brand TechnoMarine. However, this successful entrepreneur has recently established another luxury label under his own name. In my opinion, the most exciting model they’ve created is the ‘Crazy Wheel’ and in particular, the distinctive engraved Maori Tattoo (CW0406) version.
Using Grade 5 titanium for its case, the Crazy Wheel CW0406 draws inspiration from Maori tattoos. (Image: Frank Dubarry)
This timepiece is well proportioned, and has an architectural Grade 5 titanium case that measures 50mm x 43mm. What makes this watch really distinctive is the multi-layered dial with exposed Swiss mechanical (patented) 360° rotating module, decorated with perlage and Cotes de Geneve. Other features include hands inspired by the aeronautics industry, and a stylish integrated strap.
Patek Philippe 6002 Sky Moon Tourbillon
Although Patek Philippe is a well-known brand, they also produce highly exclusive, art-focused timepieces with peerless enamel work and engravings. (Image: Patek Philippe)
No one could possibly dispute that Patek Philippe is one of the most prestigious brands in the watch industry. At auction houses all around the world, collectors are willing to bid millions of dollars for rare and historical timepieces. Despite an extensive portfolio of beautiful timepieces, one of their most delightful watches is the exquisite 6002 Sky Tourbillon.
An 18k white gold case serves as the canvas for some of the most detailed engravings that you will find on any timepiece. (Image: Patek Philippe)
This exceptional timepiece has a well proportioned and heavily engraved, 18-karat white gold case that measures 44mm x 17.5mm. What makes this watch so enticing is the black enamel with champlevé with cloisonné motifs, gold applied Roman numerals, and moonphase indication. Powering the watch is a highly complicated 55-jewel mechanical hand winding tourbillon movement, which is comprised of 705 individual components.