A true discovery: My visit to Beat Haldimann
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.
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.
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
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
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)
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
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
) . 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