A true discovery: My visit to Beat Haldimann

May 02, 2017,02:24 AM

My first encounter with Beat Haldimann was at the AHCI booth at Basel sometime in 2001 or 2002. I was subjugated by his H1 Flying Central Tourbillon with its mesmerizing dance on the centre of the dial. 

A very discreet watchmaker, Haldimann set up his workshops in 1991 in Thun (German part of Switzerland not far from the Capital city Bern) creating both wristwatches and one off pendulums.

His workshops are located in a superb turn of the century villa of which the ground and first floor are reserved for his workshops and the higher floors are his living quarters.

We arrive at Villa Nussbühl, which is surrounded by an aura serenity and calm. At the entrance hands a large and imposing Haldimann clock!

The gardens invite to calm meditation

The entrance is welcoming with prints of Haldimann's watches on the walls

Haldimann has a very interesting approach to watchmaking. Even though he has a very traditional philosophy he doesn’t want his watches to look vintage in anyway. Without being overtly modernist and disruptive, the designs remain classic and relevant in the 21st century with no real tribute to the past (other than the hands which are inspired by those found in a pocketwatch from Haldimann Frères from 1790)

Even though Beat makes the vast majority of components (other than a few components such as jewels or crystals) in his workshops there is no trace of CNC machines but rather tools dating from a pre-digitalized period that Beat has painstakingly tracked down. These tools are used to cut plates, bridges, gears and pinions to name a few. Haldimann also makes his own dials, cases and hands!

He even cuts the wood that he will use for polishing angles!

He also keeps a storage with components not only of his current watches but components enabling him to service and restore watches bearing the Haldimann name going as far back as...1642!!

It is also on the ground floor that Haldimann brings the grené finish to his dials and backplates. The surprising sheen and grené effect of the dial is obtained by using a silver base on which the indexes and logo are first engraved and filled with lacquer. The frosted finish is then obtained by hand applying a silver powder on the dial, a daunting and painstaking task requiring skill, expertise and talent.  

On the first floor and 20 years before Google and the Silicon Valley startups Haldimann had set up a relaxing play area with a piano and pool table for him and his team smile

Guests can even drink Haldimann beverages!

One of the rare areas where electronic devices can be found is in his (amazing) library where Haldimann uses his Mac to conceive his movements. He also keeps here all the plans and sketches for his watches. His collection of watch books is also quite impressive and a proof (if need be) of not only his interest in all things horological but also his horological culture.

As we head into the workshops we pass by a device used to check the properties of the components created as well as different tools which were made by Haldimann.

Haldimann has a team of two watchmakers, the most recent one joined him...20 years ago! Together the three of them make between 20-30 watches and pendulums per year. One of the watchmakers was working on the H1 Flying Central Tourbillon that features a whopping 16.8mm diameter tourbillon that hovers above the dial!

Even though Haldimann's movements are hidden behind a single backplate the finish is traditional and beautifully made.

The sixty something components of the tourbillon cage weigh less than four Swiss stamps!!

Thankfully my visit took place right after Baselworld and therefore Beat had some watches on hand to show me. One big surprise was when he told me that all his watches come with a lifetime service!! Yup you read it right, once you buy a watch from Haldimann you will get free servicing for life (it is however unclear if it is his life or your life smile ) . Joke aside I find this to be a brave move and shows the confidence Haldimann has in his watches.

H1 Flying Central Tourbillon

The H2 is a flying tourbillon with double escapement and remontoire d’égalité based on physical principle of resonance where each balance will even out the discrepancies of the other providing for greater accuracy.

H12 in platinum

Haldimann decided to undertake the challenge of putting the balance on the center of the movement whilst keeping central hours and minutes hands!

The new H12 in steel with lovely blue dial

The H11 (without subseconds) in red gold with blue dial and silver dial

The numerals on the dial are hand engraved and lacquered, the client has the choice between different colors

I have to admit that a visit to Haldimann was an eye opener, a magnificent opportunity to visit a superb watchmaker who has been under the radar in the past years and a man whose philosophy and vision are apparent not only in his watches but also his workshops and even life. His humility and discretion mirror his watches which at first glance may look simple but feature a cavalcade of subtle details making them amazing works of crafstmanship.

Tschüss Beat and hope to see you again very soon

More posts: Ballon BleuFlying TourbillonHaldimann

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One word - superb!

 By: Ares501 - Mr Green : May 2nd, 2017-02:54
Thank you so much for this treat. An amazing article all around. Cordially D

I was fortunate to meet Beat

 By: sham1 : May 2nd, 2017-04:33
at Basel in March but he did not speak much English unfortunately. Your brilliant and informative article has given me lots of information of this exclusive brand. I am always impressed when I read about watchmakers of this genre which many may not know t... 

Hi watches are 39mm but I believe he has a 41mm case available as well

 By: alex : May 2nd, 2017-04:48
thanks for the kind words and glad you enjoyed the article

Many thanks Alex!

 By: sham1 : May 2nd, 2017-05:35
39mm is fine Even on the centre tourbillon?!

here it is on the wrist

 By: alex : May 2nd, 2017-06:07

Amazing well focused photo!

 By: sham1 : May 2nd, 2017-08:09
The watch actually looks great but I have a strange feeling that it is larger than 39mm. Do the lugs wrap around your wrist or do the stick out (Breguet style)?

Thank you for this wonderful sharing

 By: patrickmaniac : May 2nd, 2017-04:54
Really enjoyed it. Awesome! Cheers PAt

Thank you

 By: Gelato Monster : May 2nd, 2017-05:11
Thank you for taking us to experience Beat Haldimann

Can I just say, sir (or madam) -

 By: Esharp : May 2nd, 2017-20:31
Yours must be the most awesome username on this site! Best E.

Wonderful Report on one of my Favorite Watch Makers....

 By: SALMANQ8 : May 2nd, 2017-07:32
Thank You So Much for sharing it all with us. S


 By: KamalRostov : May 2nd, 2017-07:38
Those are indeed stunning pieces!!!

Wonderful article and beautifully illustrated with the stunning photos.

 By: kev09 : May 2nd, 2017-08:29
I do love to see behind the scenes and learn a little of how these superb watches come together. I did have to smile however at one of the pictures in the workshops with all the tools hanging neatly on walls. They look more suited to the dismantling of a ... 

Great article , gives me a new look on the brand .

 By: Watchonthewrists : May 2nd, 2017-08:32
That Tourbillon in the center is one stunning piece of art . Thanks again for all that info .

thank you! [nt]

 By: alex : May 3rd, 2017-05:06


 By: Esharp : May 2nd, 2017-20:32
Thanks Alex - really wonderful to get this glimpse into how I wish more watchmaking was done! There is a sense of honesty in what Haldimann is doing which I really appreciate. Best E.

Thank you so much

 By: brandon1 : May 2nd, 2017-20:41
For this in-depth tour. The most interesting part to me is his collection of binders of patents. Wow! Thank you again, Brandon

Thank you Alex for the wonderful account of your visit to the workshop of Beat Haldimann

 By: ztirual : May 2nd, 2017-22:02
I have yet to see any of his pieces. The discretion of Haldimann's work is for me also a big part of the attraction pull. His timepieces seem like treasure to discover and behold. I love all the approach and philosophy of his work. Now I need to see some ... 

And one more thanks for the report!

 By: HGL : May 3rd, 2017-12:55
Always have liked the center tourbillon very much! Nice to get some more background. And I had no idea there were watches made under the name of Haldimann since such a long time already! Best, HGL

Amazing report of an amazing watchmaker

 By: alphabeta81 : May 3rd, 2017-19:42
Thank you for the report. Felt like I was there! Bravo

That's what I call an exhaustive visit report Alex !

 By: Mike H : May 4th, 2017-06:15
Many thanks for this very educational work, highly appreciated Best, Mike

Thank you for yet another marvellous report from your workshop visit

 By: kykw : May 4th, 2017-19:27
If I wasn't sufficiently jealous of your visit to De Bethune before, I'm certainly now. It seems that the artisanal values of the Haldimann pieces are very high, and your report does confirm as such. A lifetime service is also a great idea. Not because it... 

Thanks for the kind words Ken. I think Haldimann's custom works can go

 By: alex : May 5th, 2017-00:31
from just changing the color of the indexes, to different dial colors, metals, case size and even fully bespoke.

Hopefully some options to think about down the road...

 By: kykw : May 7th, 2017-00:33
Thanks very much for your info, Alex. A customized Haldimann would be pretty special. Ken