Chronoswiss Edition Zeitzeichen 2008 (In Association with Jochen Benzinger)

Gerd-Rüdiger Lang unveils his latest creation  “Edition Zeitzeichen” (“Signs of the Times Edition”) to celebrate 25th anniversary of Chronoswiss brand.

This creation pays homage to various traditional crafts which flourished for centuries in the surroundings of watchmaking.Because of the elaborate craftsmanship involved in its manufacturing, this line is being launched only in a very small, strictly limited series. The first wristwatches in “Edition Zeitzeichen” embody the high arts of skeletonizing, engraving and guilloche. They are embellished in collaboration with a renowned master of these skills: Jochen Benzinger from Pforzheim.

All members of his team are enviably adroit at skeletonizing and applying guilloche with the aid of hand-driven machines, which look as though they belong in a museum’s collection rather than machinery at a contemporary manufacturing site for mechanical watch movements. The oldest device dates from the late 19th century, and the youngest one has already reached an age at which most humans would begin a well-earned retirement.

When Chronoswiss’ owner Gerd-Rüdiger Lang was searching for a specialist to embellish his brand’s new line, he soon chose the collaborator with whom he would create his first “Zeitzeichen.” Like Lang himself, Jochen Benzinger lives in the present moment, eagerly and regularly draws inspiration from the past, and is a firm believer in handcraftsmanship. These qualities inspire both men to create genuine timekeeping artworks whose uniqueness assures that they will preserve their value – or even increase in worth – for many long years.

Gerd-Rüdiger Lang envisioned ennobling watch movements in accord with the noble traditions of the various artistic handicrafts. Jochen Benzinger was enthusiastic about Lang’s ideas, which he implemented with bravura. The differences are extraordinary between a raw movement and the ticking artwork that gradually takes shape through extremely time-consuming processes, which include the skilful redesigning of the bridges and steel parts.

The skeletonizing, engraving and guilloche embellishment on the four different designs in the first “Edition Zeitzeichen” are absolutely first-class eye-catchers. Like history’s immortal temptresses, they’re so alluring that it’s nearly impossible to avert one’s gaze, and they repeatedly delight their beholder’s eyes with new and fascinating details.

Edition II – CH 6721 Z R II (floral, partial dial)

The particular appeal of the wristwatches in this edition derives from the immeasurable richness of fine details in the styling. The other and equally important part of the design of the expressive “Zeitzeichen” creations is contributed by the perfectionist, detail-loving, master watchmaker Gerd-Rüdiger Lang. Ever since he first founded Chronoswiss, Lang has never left anything to chance.

Edition III – CH 6721 Z R III (dragon)

For example, when the tasks involve the lengths and shapes of hands, the designs of dials, proportions, or the creation of a case that’s instantly identifiable as a Chronoswiss product, this brand’s otherwise kindhearted owner shows a merciless streak. Nothing leaves the test station until it elicits Lang’s unconditional satisfaction. In this sense, the new edition is taking shape under the aegis of two horological enthusiasts who perfectly complement each other and whose collaboration assures optimal results.

Edition IV – CH 6721 Z R IV (guilloche dial with seconds aperture)

Each of the four different models has its own irresistible appeal, a beauty that can only be achieved through the combination of skilled handcraftsmanship and love for the métier, and when masterful artisans blithely ignore the passage of time and single-mindedly immerse themselves in their beloved tasks. These ticking artworks are all the more appealing thanks to their glass backs, which are characteristic features of Chronoswiss watches.

Edition I – CH 6721 Z R I (floral, fully skeletonized)

The front and back of each wristwatch are so gorgeously embellished that it’s difficult to say which perspective offers the more refined views. This leaves us with the delightful agony of choice: romantically sensual with playfully floral tendril décor and scrollwork (in two versions: fully skeletonized or with a partial dial), mystically masculine as a finely crafted dragon, or with manually executed guilloche on the dial and a seconds-display offering a view of the artfully exposed movement at the “6.”

Technical details
Model: Edition Zeitzeichen [“Signs of the Times Edition”]
Large wristwatch (hand-wound), skeletonized and engraved

ZEITZEICHEN – Edition I – CH 6721 Z R I (floral, fully skeletonized)
ZEITZEICHEN – Edition II – CH 6721 Z R II (floral, partial dial)
ZEITZEICHEN – Edition III – CH 6721 Z R III (dragon)
ZEITZEICHEN – Edition IV – CH 6721 Z R IV (guilloche dial with seconds aperture)

Hours , minutes, seconds

Massive 20-part case in red gold, ground and polished, . 44 mm, height 13.45 mm; flatsapphire crystal is antireflective on one surface and has beveled periphery; massive onion shaped crown made of the same material as the case; fully threaded, screw-in back with a pane of sapphire crystal that’s antireflective on one surface; screwed strap-lugs with patented Autobloc system; watertight to 3 atmospheres (30 meters).

Hand-wound ETA 6497-1 caliber in individualized modification (very small series),Ø 16½’’’ (36.6 mm), height 4.70 mm; 17 jewels; Incabloc shock absorber; ca. 40-hour power reserve; 2.5 Hz. 18,000 A/h (semi-oscillations); hand-processed Glycydur screw balance;Nivarox 1 flat balance-spring; high-gloss polished lever, escape-wheel and screws; elaborately and manually skeletonized and engraved base plate, gear-train bridges and balance-cock; high-gloss polished steel screws, some thermally blued; thermally blued ratchet, crown wheel and ratchet wheel; blue platinum plating on some other parts of the movement.

Dial / hands
Massive 925 sterling-silver dial with guilloche, engravings and skeletonizing performed by hand; thermally blued steel hands

Louisiana crocodile-skin strap with copper threads and folding clasp.
Band’s width: 22 mm at the case / 18 mm at the clasp
Clasp: Screwed folding clasp with patented Autobloc system

On the Background of the Various Artful Handicrafts
The skeletonizing of watch movements celebrated its renaissance in the 1930s, which was a crisis-fraught epoch for the watchmaking industry. For lack of other commissioned work, the artisans had plenty of time to think things over and indulge their creativity. In their quest for ways to make meaningful use of their time, some of them rediscovered a special field of horology which had flourished briefly in the 18th century but fallen into oblivion afterwards. The artisans always began their filigree work with ordinary calibers. The craftsmen first scratched the outline of the planned skeleton with a needle.

After drilling tiny holes, they used a saw to removed superfluous metal. The next steps in the work involved beveling the edges to a 45° angle and manually engraving the surfaces. The most obvious signs of good craftsmanship aren’t only the meticulously exact angle, but also the congruence of parts which lie one atop the other: to offer the least-obstructed view into the movement, opaque components should be situated exactly above one another wherever possible.

Engraving was already used by goldsmiths in Ancient Egypt and Classical Greece to adorn artifacts made from “the hardened light of the sun.” They scratched various patterns with sharp-tipped burin. Artworks of unexcelled virtuosity were created in Europe in the 15th and 16th century. Outstanding decorative work embellished metal ornamental objects, jewelry and timepieces, as well as armor and weapons. The modern era brought mechanically assisted and later computer-guided engraving methods. Laser beams too can be used for such purposes. But no machine can rival the results achieved by skilled and patient human hands.

Machines work with regularity and without tiring, but machine-made decorations lack the charm of hand craftsmanship – for example, the consummate artistry achieved by Jochen Benzinger through the use of traditional methods. In his atelier in Pforzheim, Benzinger wields a burin – and cultivates the selfsame techniques that were used by artisans of his father’s and grandfather’s generations. The mysterious guilloche process adorns metal surfaces with serpentine geometric figures. This craft developed from the “royal métier” of artful woodturning, which was practiced by many aristocrats from the 16th to the 18th century.

Ingenious watchmakers further evolved these methods and built highly complex, muscle-powered guilloche machines with which they processed dials and cases. The elaborate process, which very few craftsmen still practice today, articulates a subtle design vocabulary and facilitates an extremely wide diversity of decorations. With his hands, the guillocheur moves the workpiece around the gouge, which incises a pattern about 1/10th of a millimeter deep into the surface.

Tiny irregularities likewise attest to the use of traditional methods. Dials with an absolutely regular structure, on the other hand, are most likely manufactured with a stamping (automated) method. Jochen Benzinger uses a special, hand-powered guilloche machine to create new but classically styled guilloche decorations on cases, dials, movements and rotors.

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