Christian Klings 'Open Version' 1 of 1...
If one has a particular interest in the Independent watchmakers, it does not take long before Christian Klings comes to notice. Whilst he may have ‘flown under the radar’ for some years, he has been a member of AHCI since 2009 and his magnificent tourbillon No 7, particularly, gained a lot of attention when first exhibited.
Further investigation at that time quickly established that Christian (Chris) was that rare beast whose imagination extended beyond the mundane. He routinely realised novel or complicated watchmaking solutions, such as his ‘mosquito’ and desmodromic shock-resistant mechanisms for chronometre movements or his watch with a PR of 1,008 hours (in which the movement is wrapped around a giant mainspring barrel!).
It was not a simple matter, however, to capture his attention. A first attempt four or five years ago met with little success (although to be fair that may have been a product of his busy-ness at that time or some other communication issue). All of that changed on 26 January 2012 (Australia Day, as it happens) when an idle moment afforded a second chance at communicating with Chris, a communication to which he responded quickly and positively.
Yes, he was prepared to take a commission. Yes, he was prepared to design a movement from scratch. Yes, he was open to suggestion on elements of the design. Thus began the exciting experiment of trying to communicate ideas and concepts across half a world for those ideas to be captured and reflected by an artist, in metal.
Basically, those preferences break down like this:
• Simple watch (generally time-only);
• Independent watchmaker;
• ‘Artisanal’ finish, showing the hand of man;
• Exhibition case of a discreet, modern proportion;
• White metal;
• Purposeful, industrial movement;
• High degree of finish;
• Personal touches;
• Watchmaker’s signature elements.
These preferences were communicated to Chris, often (it has to be admitted, sheepishly) by sending through photographic examples of those features as they appear in other watches. Chris obliged by accommodating every preference although, tellingly, the final product is eerily like many of his other pieces. That speaks volumes about the appeal, conscious or subconscious, of the ‘Klings atelier style’.
In the final spec the case is white gold; Chris offered 37mm or 42mm, but when asked to fit the movement and up-rated balance wheel into a 40mm case he found a way to do so. The artisanal finish is evident in the hand engraved numerals and indices. Chris’ signature elements are those lovely lugs and…well...his signature. The rest should all speak for itself.
This was Chris’ first design for the watch, trying to minimise the bulk of the bridges and do away with plates:
Before he had even received a response, though, like a mindreader he sent through this second design which was just about spot on – from this point it was only a matter of tweaking here and there:
Chris was marvelously communicative as the process unfolded and seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the project. On a regular basis he would send through pictures of the various parts that he had manufactured and on one occasion even sent through a picture of the bench at which the watch was being made.
(Chris changed studios half way through the process to avail himself of a more 'relaxing' environment).
When viewing the photos, it is worth remembering that Chris works with the old, traditional, tools and none of those fancy CNC machines and the like. Apparently he makes ‘nearly all’ of the parts himself.
Here is a close up of a bridge complete with chaton. Note the screws retaining the chaton “à la Lange” (as some have suggested):
In this movement shot it is possible to see the secondary anchor for the intermediate bridge.
Note that the jewels in the chatons all nearly line up. As may be seen from one of the early designs, it looked like they would be perfectly aligned. One of the particular specifications, however, was a large balance wheel (now a very healthy 16mm) and up-rating the size of the balance wheel from 13mm whilst keeping the diameter of the case to 40mm meant sacrificing the symmetry of the movement somewhat. It also presented a headache for Chris in that he had to strengthen the axles for the geartrains and then re-regulate the watch for the larger balance wheel, but he handled it with aplomb.
Here’s an early shot of the dial. Initially the inner dial was to be guillochéed, but Chris sent through this photo as a suggestion:
What is the pattern/material with which the inner dial is decorated? That, dear friends, is patterned silk! Chris believes that it will not fade, will not ‘bubble’ and will not pick up any lubricant stains. Maybe he’s right, maybe not, but the sheer quirkiness of the suggestion made it a winner – it can always be replaced down the track if needs be, but until then it brings a smile to the face every time.
As you can see, the ‘Breguet’ hands, the hand-engraved Roman numerals (dark blue) and dial layout are quite similar to other Klings watches. That is deliberate. There are subtle differences (the size of the sub-dial; the indices on the outer track), but this is the Klings DNA which was so appealing in the first place. It’s on the flip-side where the watch departs from anything else: as noted in a previous post, “it’s all about the bridges”.
The back-plate was to be finished originally in soft Geneva stripes, but Chris ultimately frosted the back-plate in order not to detract from the simple aesthetic – a good call. It’s a style which has become known as English frosting or English finishing, but by all accounts it was popular in other countries long before the English made it their own. Perhaps somebody with a greater well of knowledge would care to comment?
The final result?
Thank you, Christian Klings, for interpreting, translating, realising and thrilling. Thank you all for tolerating this indulgence.