The man who operates under the alias @chronoapothecarist must have the weirdest combination of interests ever. This 40-year-old pharmacist from San Diego, California, who strives for innovations and developments in the pharmaceutical field, is equally interested in the intricate workings of a fine watch movement. Hence his love for the Grӧnefeld One Hertz Techniek Titanium, made by the horological brothers from Oldenzaal in The Netherlands.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – Grönefeld is not one of the big brand names. How did you come to know them?
@chronoapothecarist – My first memory of the Grӧnefeld brand was around the time when they released their One Hertz and reading about the brothers on various prominent watch forums/blogs, such as Monochrome. At this time, I had always been intrigued by independent watchmakers for their design and craftsmanship and dreamed about owning an independently made watch in the future. It is amazing, though, how over time, on one’s collecting journey, preferences and tastes evolve, especially after gaining more exposure and learning about talented independents like Grӧnefeld. Large brands truly are the gateway drug in terms of providing exposure to this wonderful watch collecting world, and I do feel that independents help to push the envelope and keep collectors continually interested. With the Horological Brothers, what struck me was where they were creating haute horological pieces. My sense and familiarity at the time led me to believe that the best watches were synonymous with Switzerland. Obviously, many of the best watches are made in Switzerland. However, there are so many fantastic watchmakers throughout the world who produce amazing timepieces that rival those that are Swiss made. And now, when I look at my collection, a few of my pieces are not made in Switzerland.
What is it in particular that you admire in Grönefeld?
The creative willingness of Grӧnefeld to do things a little differently and surprise watch enthusiasts. I see this in the watches they make. I am a fan of their approach to taking known watchmaking elements and doing things differently. The One Hertz, for instance. At its launch, there were very few seconde morte timepieces. A discreet complication that few watchmakers pursue, the Horological Brothers displayed their inventiveness and design prowess by executing the jumping seconds using dual independent barrels and gear trains. The use of a secondary gear train to power the deadbeat seconds is such a unique approach to addressing friction. Additionally, I love that they create their watches in The Netherlands and have essentially created their own “Dutch style” with their bridge work.
Now you have their One Hertz Techniek Titanium. Why this one?
Despite being aware of Grӧnefeld watches for nearly a decade, wanting a Grӧnefeld piece did not occur until the release of the 1941 Remontoire. Having a chance to see my friend’s 1941 Remontoire made it a no brainer for me to make the trip to the dealer to see the One Hertz Techniek. Specifically, desiring the One Hertz started last year for me, and I did not have a preference for the Techniek over the other variants.
Many may feel similarly when it comes to being able to hold a timepiece in real life. Seeing and trying on a watch was usually part of my decision making, as it truly leads you to buy what you love. I find that pictures can only show so much; they cannot fully express the amazement and feeling of seeing the perfect watch for your wrist. Trying to understand how light dances on the dial, forget about it, the camera simply cannot capture these experiences.
Unfortunately, seeing a watch in real life is becoming a rare feat in today’s watch collecting environment. I was, however, very fortunate to be able to visit a dealer who happened to have a few rare independent-made watches that were on my radar and the One Hertz was one of them. Being able to see them along with the One Hertz made it easy for me to choose. The One Hertz checked all the boxes for me and had an amazing dial that just left me in awe.
When I walked into the viewing room, what caught my eye on the dealer’s watch tray was the overall dial of the Techniek. There are different variants of the One Hertz, and I think that this variant really pairs well with the Calibre G-02 of the One Hertz. This one has a presence to it. Despite the industrial monochromatic look of the open dial, the way light catches the dial to produce a dazzling light show is created by the various finishing techniques. There was almost a glow to the watch. The dial itself is art, and unlike other openwork dials, this one is easy to read. The sapphire chapter ring of the seconds hand is designed to be front and center and is truly the focal point. The seconds hand seem to float and dance as it makes its way around the chapter ring. You cannot help but be mesmerized by the precise dance ticking of the seconds hand as it lines up with its second marker. I love how this Techniek variant really gives you a scientific, technical feel. The overall layout of the dial reminds me of the compasses and protractors used in geometry, almost of an astrolabe. There is definitely a three-dimensionality to this dial, even more pronounced than other dial designs. This dial truly lives up to its Techniek name.
Are both sides that beautiful?
Yes. When you flip the watch over you are greeted by the beautiful bell gable bridges. The nine Dutch-style bridges are striking and were the first feature to catch my eye when viewing the caseback. On the perimeter, these bridges create an almost floral-like pattern revealing the dual barrels, balance, escapement, and wonderful architecture of the movement. The architecture of the movement is superb and simply mesmerizing. The overall finishing of the movement is what one can expect to see in haute horology with its wide anglage and matte frosted bridges. There is a beautiful gleam that reflects from the bridges.
This watch has a titanium case, what do you think of that?
Yeah, the beautiful dial and movement are packaged into a titanium case which makes this a lightweight and comfortable wear despite its large presence. The elegant case has lugs that appear to draw from the design cue of the GTM-06 Minute Repeater (the first Grӧnefeld piece). The lugs are not as pronounced as they are in the GTM-06 but have a more elegant shape. When light hits the high polish of the titanium along with the polished finishing of the dial, it creates a glowing lustre.
I was able to bring along my high magnifying loupe to thoroughly enjoy the various finishing techniques used by the Grӧnefeld team. One of my favourite aspects under the loupe is to be able to see, deep in the deadbeat seconds chapter ring, the seemingly floating, double-sided pallet fork rocking back and forth, synchronizing the deadbeat seconds. For me, the whole watch stood out from the rest, and I knew I could not leave without it.
When was this exactly?
I purchased this piece earlier this year in April and was fortunate to be able to do so since these One Hertz rarely appear on the market, and especially in the current market, any Grӧnefeld piece in general rarely makes an appearance. I was able to purchase this piece from the highly recommended Rostovsky Watches. Steven and his team were a pleasure to work with and provided amazing service.
Was there a special occasion to celebrate when you bought it?
I definitely wanted a Grӧnefeld timepiece in my collection and would love to own a Remontoire or Principia. I feel that the timing was serendipitous for me, this specific watch becoming available, and for me to see it, try it on, and compare to other pieces I was eyeing worked out in my favour. Typically, though, I do try to line up a watch with a life milestone. You know, I did not have a specific reason to buy; seeing the One Hertz Techniek and having the chance to grab such a special piece was enough of a reason.
Definitely, for me, this is the One Hertz to own; the dial complements and pairs so well with the Calibre G-02, giving you an industrial feel that is elegantly executed. I love that the dial emphasizes the seconds, and in a quiet area, you can audibly hear the ticking of the seconds hand. For me being in healthcare and as a person of science, there is something poetic about the precision of the jumping seconds.
Do you wear the One Hertz Techniek often?
Yes, the honeymoon is strong. I wear it at least a couple of times a week since owning it. This watch is also a strap monster. The grey dial pairs very well with almost any type of strap, making it even easier to constantly wear it, since I can easily change the strap to create a different look and feel.
What are the reactions you get from others?
I think the main reaction at first is ‘wow’, then followed by trying to understand the dial since the main emphasis is the seconds hand. Most people are accustomed to the hours and minutes being the focal point of a watch and are drawn to that chapter ring first, not realizing that the hours and minutes are secondary.
Do you have any idea of the current market value?
I am unsure of the market pricing now. However, I will comment that prices, in general, are mind-blowingly crazy. It will be hard to sell this special piece. Especially in my mind, I believe that the One Hertz is underrated and an important historical piece for the Grӧnefeld brand. Collectors will definitely appreciate this piece more in time.
How would you describe your watch collection so far?
I am surprised how my tastes have changed. When I first started my watch journey in the mid-2000s, I preferred larger pieces and well-known brands. As I have learned more, I have an affinity for the 36mm to 40mm range and have a stronger preference for independents. I am happy with where it is today. Most of my collection is focused on time-only pieces and covers a variety of brands that are established independents as well as microbrands. I am looking forward to seeing how my collection will evolve and grow in the future. I absolutely cannot wait to get together in person to learn more from fellow collectors.
Are these contacts important to you?
Absolutely, I currently have a core group of watch friends that I speak with daily on WhatsApp. I am also in contact with other collectors through enthusiast groups: SD Chrono, Chronogroup and RedBar. Throughout the pandemic, the virtual meetings and discussions allowed me to stay in touch with this hobby while balancing my career and family. These relationships to me are also an important aspect of the watch hobby. Being able to chat with individuals who share the same enthusiasm as me is how lifelong friendships are built. With local governments easing COVID protocols, I am excited to see members of the watch family in person.
The Instagram Watch community has been a positive experience, too. I purposely did not join Instagram, mainly due to the rabbit hole I knew I would get myself into. I joined IG last year due to COVID, and I love being able to see phenomenal content from collectors, content creators, and brands from around the world. In many cases, sometimes IG is the only way to see non-press release photos of watches. I also find it awesome to be able to have short conversations about watches through direct messaging.
Do you have any tips for fellow collectors who would like to own the One Hertz Techniek?
I read on social media that there are only 50 One Hertz pieces made in total. The best thing is to keep an open eye, and I do not think it hurts to let fellow collectors know what you are interested in. Like networking, you never know who may be able to connect you to someone who has what you are looking for. Above all, remember to buy the seller. I am lucky that this piece was offered by a highly recommended and reputable dealer.
Anyway, my general motto for collecting is ‘buy what you love,’ don’t buy into the hype or the speculative value. If you love it and it’s hyped, that’s different. For me researching the watch and reading collector reviews, such as this collectors’ series, helped me. Check out your local watch enthusiast groups. Everyone I have met has been warm and welcoming, and it is a great place to see a variety of watches. I also think having an open mind in terms of brands will go a long way. There are so many wonderful watchmakers out there, each bringing something different in their own way.
Do you have a wish list, other watches you’d like to possess?
(laughs) Is there ever an end? Absolutely, there are other pieces I have my eyes on. I would definitely like to add a chronograph to my collection. Anything Romain Gauthier, I would be happy with any one of Romain’s pieces. These brands have caught my eye, and I would also love to add any of these to my collection: De Bethune, MB&F, LeComte, Akrivia, Petermann Bedat, Lang & Heyne, Ludovic Ballouard, Laine, Sarapaneva, A. Lange & Sohne, Armin Strom, Czapek, Voutilainen, or Urwerk (no particular order). I do not have a set date of when, so for now, I will enjoy my current pieces first!
Photos of the watch by @samsveblenianobsession