I know, the title of this contribution does not sound very exciting, doesn’t it? But let me tell you, as you read further, my meeting with Beat Haldimann, brain and father of Haldimann Horology in Thun, was way more exciting than I could have anticipated.
First, Haldimann is a long standing dynasty of watchmakers, only Beat Haldimann’s father and grandfather turned out not to be watchmakers. Meanwhile, beat knew from a young age that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors. Not only that, he had his very own mind, his very own ideas what he liked to do and how to go about it.
The home of his watches is Villa Nussbühl, an old villa with a beautiful garden and view. Even nicer views on the white mountains covered in snow could be enjoyed when you return back to main street in Thun. A very peaceful yet inspiring environment to say the least.
Entering the villa takes you back in history. Wood covered walls, a lot of wooden cupboards to store movement and watchparts. Haldimann is able to restore any old Haldimann watch or clock. And that is what his ancestors were, clockmakers. Deskclocks, wallclocks and pocketwatches, often with complications such as minute repeaters. And Beat Haldimann just found a rare Haldimann pocketwatch which stems from 1840 and carries a complicated minute repeating mechanism. The dial is a beautiful enamel dial and the watch looks in wonderful condition as pictures below will prove.
Haldimann’s family tradition goes back centuries, all the way to 1642.
For centuries, the family were watchmakers.
For all of us who have seen plenty of watchmovements in our lifes, the balance is usually positioned somewhere offcenter. Not with Haldimann. His signature is the central balance. And as he keeps the view open on the balance and movement, it is a true pleasure watching the balance on your watch.
The movement is completely developed and designed by Beat Haldimann. He does not use modern machines to make it, but everything is made by hand using old watchmaking tools and machines that are operated by hand.
Beat Haldimann proudly presented to me his just acquired pocketwatch from 1840 signed “Haldimann” on the dial. A stunning minute repeater. Quite amazing to find this piece as Haldimann pocketwatches turn up very seldom at auction.
Beat Haldimann told me that I was the first person to see this pocketwatch.
The most amazing thing of this pocketwatch was a fact that Beat Haldimann did not immediately realize. The watch was not only signed on the dial, but also on the movement. In a very old fashioned way you could see the letters of Haldimann circled in the center wheel. It looks like this pocketwatch already had the central balance just like his wristwatches have today.
So not only does Haldimann have over 350 years of history and tradition, but Beat wants to foster tradition in his approach of how he is making his watches. He is using century old machines that are operated by hand and help him in his handmade processes of making his timepieces. If he needs to create certain tools, Beat still has machines that help him create necessary tools. I am giving you a bit of a view on some of the machines he is using.
The machines are old and serve to make the tools required to make watches, watchparts, cases, bridges and wheels etc. The wood above is treated so it can be used to polish movement parts.
While I visited Beat Haldimann, two watchmakers were doing fine work on tiny movement parts. Slow and long and tedious polishing, brushing etc. of tiny parts.
Not only are these pieces tiny, but they weigh close to nothing. The Tourbillon cage weighs less than the stamps. It is very impressive to see the work done. It gives you more than respect for what goes into these timepieces.
Back to the watches Haldimann makes. The latest piece was introduced last Baselworld, the H11 which is offered in two case sizes of 39 and 42mm, in different materials from the first steel watch he is ever offering to gold. Again with the signature central balance.
The H11 comes either with 2 hands or three hands including an offcentered small seconds near 5 o’clock. In my book, I prefer the clean dial of the hours and minute indication only timepiece. It is clean, timeless, classic and elegant. In rosegold with silver white dial this is a stunning timepiece. The above piece carries a large 42mm case, my personal preference would be 39mm, but even 42mm does not seem to be too large for my wrist, what would you think?
When I started my photoshooting at Villa Nussbühl, I noticed that the window sill was made of wood and that the natural light from the garden side was just perfect to shoot beautiful pictures. The photos are unaltered and that is how I like them.
As Beat Haldimann is only producing a few dozen watches at the most annually, he had to organize a few pieces for my photoshoot. I highly appreciate to have the chance to shoot these amazing watches which I had never before seen in the flesh. Putting them on the wrist gives you a shiver, a feeling of wearing something extremely special made with hands and a sense of passion and love which you do not encounter when you buy a watch from the famous big makers. This is special. Different. It is timelessness in perfection made with pure passion. And when you talk with Beat Haldimann, you can feel his passion. He is a very entertaining personality, not your typical dry watchmaker. I think that makes his watches even more attractive. Obviously, no matter what I write here, I cannot replace or substitute the experience of meeting him in person. That is a unique experience, just as his watches are.
And his movements are unique as well. The frosted (grainage) finish is amazing, a pleasure to behold with your eyes. While many people think that the typical Geneva stripes are more difficult to make, Beat Haldimann explained to me that making the grainage is taking much more work and time. To my eyes, the movement is a feat to look at. And only the wearer knows this. A watch with a perfect understatement factor. The opposite of a showoff. That is for sure.
Let me show you pictures of the 39mm cased variant, in this case I had the opportunity to shoot pictures of the blue dial rosegold cased timepiece as well as the one I favorited which is the blue dial steel cased two hand piece. Later I will show you a three hand piece. And with another contribution, I will talk about a piece by Haldimann which shows his exceptional watchmaking talent. But not in this contribution, as this is already growing quite large here.
The blue dial rosegold watch has the smaller case of 39mm, but can be had in the large case as well at 42mm. It really is a matter of personal preference to like either size. The blue dial is amazing though. But wait until you see this in the steel case…
Beat Haldimann approaches the design of his case in a very different way than you usually see. His case is concaved on the left and right sides. The case is quite thin and therefore the watch sits really great on the wrist.
The lugs are soldered. The dial is grainage treated, basically, the silver dial plate is treated with a silver powder which is then applied by hand to create the frosted effect. Before this treatment, the silver dial plate has the indices and the logo of Haldimann engraved. Then the indices are lacquered as well as the logo. That is my understanding how Haldimann accomplishes the frosted effect, and in french this is called “grainage”.
The photo below shows you how deep the indices and seconds dots as well as the logo are engraved.
The hands are completely handmade in a painstaking process. First they are stamped out, then they are handworked to create the shapre as you see below. A tedious and long handmade process. To say that this is impressive may well be an understatement.
The crown reminds me a bit of a pocketwatch. As Beat Haldimann made pocketwatches and large clocks for the first part of his life until 2002, this may not come as a surprice.
The video below is showing the rosegold H11 with the sound of a Haldimann wallclock in the background. The sound is very full and amazing, sounds virtually like an old piano.
Beat probably took the inspiration for his crown from a pocketwatch. Winding the watch is buttery smooth. A great feeling.
My stay with Beat Haldimann took virtually more than half the day and I left in the afternoon after about nearly 6 hours. I used the time to talk about watchmaking, the watchindustry, the life of a small watchmaker, and how beat Haldimann created his fanbase. Around the world, from the US to Europe to Asia, and across all of Europe, there are silent collectors who appreciate the fine watchmaking delivered by Beat Haldimann. He works with a selected few sellers and jewelers who seem to be very smart in how they approach their clients. Even Beat Haldimann says he is impressed.
Blue was the trend color of Baselworld 2017, it is also my favorite dial color. If I had the choice of one of Beat Haldimanns watches, I would go for the blue dial steel timepiece. Which will be shown further below.
Now lets take a look at the steel cased H11.
The color of the indices can be chosen by a client, but I do not recall which colors they were. In the picture, you see the color is silver. The white dial above has black indices.
The wristshot of the 39mm steel watch should give you an impression of how it feels, but I can tell you, the weight was perfect, it sits absolutely comfortable on the wrist. Not too heavy, not too light, just right.
The steel H11 with 2 hands is the first time Beat Haldimann is offering a more affordable wristwatch. While Beat is giving the same level of perfection and handmade care to this watch as he does to any of his other more expensive pieces, this watch now carries a pricetag of let me say carefully “only” 30000 CHF. Excluding VAT. This could bring Haldimann watches to an even larger fanbase, although Beat Haldimann does not really have the productions capacities to make many more watches.
The blue shades from dark to a much lighter blue, depending on sun and light conditions. An amazing dial, with an amazing depth due to the engraved indices. The silver hands complement the beauty of the dial.
And here is just a sideview on the crown, which should explain why I think Haldimann was inspired by a pocketwatch. I am sure you have seen pocketwatches with similar crown like that?
Unless you are a very busy person who has appointments where every second counts, I believe that 2 hands are more enough. Wearing a watch not showing the seconds is an experience that feels very relaxing. I wound the watch and wore it while photoshooting the other pieces.
Last but not least, I wanted to show at least one of the 3 handers. Just so you cann see the overall design of the dial.
Wristshot as most of you will like it.
Stay tuned for more from Haldimann soon, and I will be visiting two watchmanufacturers this month and next month, one in Germany and the other in Switzerland. Both visits will take two full days.
Let me close this writeup with a short video I took of the Haldimann H11.
And below you have all the pictures I shot while visiting. Including some impressions of Thun and the lake and the surrounding mountains which were still covered in snow.