Winnerl might be a newcomer but this independent brand bears a historical name, that of a 19th-century Austrian horologist, recently revived by an Austrian watchmaker, Bernhard Zwinz. After having worked for some of the greatest brands and with some of the most respected watchmakers, Zwinz now manufactures watches in his own workshop, inspired by the Winnerl legacy. We had the opportunity to visit him in the Vallée de Joux, to take a closer look at his superbly handcrafted watches.
Joseph Thaddeus Winnerl (1799-1886) was an eminent Austrian-born and later Paris-based watchmaker. He is known for his superior chronometers – with a broad array of applications, from the observation of celestial bodies to precise ship’s chronometers – and for his work on the creation of different split-second chronograph mechanisms.
This illustrious name was lying dormant until the name rights were protected by Bernhard Zwinz. Like Winnerl, Zwinz is an Austrian-born watchmaker who emigrated to practice his craft. After training as a watchmaker in Karlstein, he moved to Switzerland. There, he collaborated with Vacheron Constantin and Roger Dubuis before moving to Munich to work for Chronoswiss… to recover a bit of Germanness. But you cannot resist the sirens of French-speaking Switzerland too long. As suggested by Andreas Strehler, Zwinz became the first watchmaker to work for Philippe Dufour, crafting many of his Simplicity watches for three and a half years.
In 2004, after his time with Monsieur Dufour, he ended up creating his own company and workshop – L’Atelier de Joux – working behind the scene for some of the most prestigious names in the industry – Greubel-Forsey, La Joux-Perret, Girard-Perregaux, MB&F, Urban Jürgensen or H. Moser & Cie. to name a few. Conversations with watch fanatics prompted him to revive the Winnerl name in 2018.
His first creation for Winnerl has been inspired by the historical ship chronometer N°80. The movement of this elegant three-hand watch was designed with an unusual placement of the directly driven small seconds at 12 o’clock. This chronometer N°80 has an unusual balance wheel rim which is sloped 45 degrees, allowing for a very fine adjustment of its inertia. The architecture of the movement includes a 3/4 plate – or rather a 4/5 plate as it takes most of the movement’s diameter, save the balance wheel and its openworked cock. Running at 18,000 vibrations/hour, the movement has a 32-hour autonomy when fully wound – the power reserve for upcoming watches has been beefed up to a more comfortable 49 hours.
The entire watch is superbly handcrafted. Visible through the exhibition caseback, the sleek movement is immaculately finished with superbly polished bevels and jewel sinks, as well as fine monochrome grey hand-finished, untreated German silver surfaces.
Bernhard Zwinz’s parts are all handcrafted. Each watch requires no fewer than 400 hours of work. And not only for the movement but also for the dial. For his own watch, the dial is made using the grenage technique, manually rubbing a mixture of silver powder and other ingredients onto its blank surface. The inscriptions are not transferred onto the dial. The dial is engraved and all indications are filled with black enamel. The hands are cut, polished, bevelled and thermally-blued entirely by hand.
This beautiful three-hander is presented in an elegant 39.90mm x 10.30mm case that was conceived to be comfortable for everyday wear. In particular, it is water-resistant to 100 metres and features a screw-down crown and screw-down caseback. The beautiful chamfer on the lug facets is also a nice touch.
The prototype pictured in this article is the reference N°595 (Winnerl originally crafted some 550 pieces). The next three watches, the Founder’s Series, are in the making. These have been bought by a single collector. The N°596 comes in white gold with a blue-gold dial, the N°597 in red gold with a white enamel dial and the N°598 in platinum with a black enamel dial. Zwinz just recently announced a limited Series Tremblage comprising 6 pieces (N°601 to 606) with 18k white gold case and 18k pink gold dial crafted using the tremblage (hand-hammering with a small burin) technique. This creates randomly placed small indentations and micro-incisions in the dial’s surface. These will sell for CHF 65,000 (excl. taxes). For more information and orders, please visit winnerl.ch