The german "cabinotier".......

 By: SuitbertW : March 2nd, 2007-15:28

Hi all,
I'm sure almost all of you've heard of the cabinotiers of old Geneva, those watchmakers working in the small workshops, often located in the garrets of Geneva's town houses.
It was the place with the best availlable daylight, the most time of a day, a natural place for this tiny workpieces, incredibly demanding for the human eye.
When visiting german watchmaker  Christian Klings recently I felt reminded of this old  term, not only because his tiny workshop, also on the top floor under the roof exactly meets this descriptions; also his style of watchmaking comes very, very close. Few has been written about Christian Klings and different from the few "stars"  among the AHCI his name isn't that well known even among those, more focused on the world of independents.

But, I can tell you,IMO he's an absolute  insider tip for all those interested in real traditional watchmaking.  Perhaps I'd better say "horology" here, as the degree and depth of what Christian does is really impressive - and looking at his methods, equippement and machinery will soon reveal he's doing this the most traditional way you'd imagine.
Some fancy CNC machinery here or there with  highly praised precision - no, sorry, not here.Most  basic machinery such like any watchmaker hundred years ago had as well and lot's of real handwork.  It's handmade in the best sense - and in this case it's in  no way a stretch of the term.

When I first met Christian in the 2005 Basel fair, I hadn't heard a lot as well, but at least I remembered some mysterious escapement, called "desmodromic escapement" (this term probably will ring a bell with the motor bike friends among us, think Ducati).   I was really blown away by what I saw - unbelievable to me at that time how a single guy could invest such an amount of painstaking work and energy  in such developements. And quickly learning that this was a small part of his work only!
I'll post some more comprehensive information on Christian and his desmodromic escapement later, but for now:
it's a single impulse, lubrication free pivoted detent escapement - but no  spring for the chronometer  lever and working reliably under wrist watch conditions (i.e.reasonably shock proof) with 28.800 bph!

His cases are very tastefull and classic, as is the overall aesthetic of his watches - not surprising knowing about his admiration of   the great watchmakers like A.L.Breguet and Dr. George Daniels.
Christian's work has an incredible depth - besides almost all vital parts of the movement, he makes his own cases, the guillochage of the dials, engraving the dials....... he's even modifying the crystals with changing/polishing the bevels to enhance the  details of the dial!

His No.5 tourbillon is a real treat  for any horological tech nut - it's a 7.5 seconds tourbillon with a fixed escape wheel (it's fixed to the mainplate). Some will be reminded Albert H.Potters famous tourbillon of similar design. But this one is even more special as the balance is impulsed through the hairspring only !! Also more details on this one later. Normally I'm not that fond of higher beat rate movements - but this one is just spectacular to observe.

As you may have guessed already, all of Christians finished watches are unique pieces - and unique here really means unique smile
But, before I get lost, here are some pictures of his most recent creation - tourbillon No. 7 - a flying tourbillon with swiss lever escapement,  with flying  third wheel, moon phase and power reserve indication.

Christian is AHCI candidate, but he'll not be  in Basel this yeear :-(
Hope you enjoyed the pictures and as promised, I'll post more on Christians work later!
Best regards

Beautiful watches!

 By: Allen : March 2nd, 2007-15:59
I particularly like the No. 7 Tourbillon.  Do you have a more frontal shot of it?
Thanks for showing us the environment that these beauties were born in as well.

Hi, Allen,....

 By: SuitbertW : March 2nd, 2007-16:14're two more, but no frontal dial shot - I'll upload one later.

Due to the flying third wheel design, there's an amazing transparency for the tourbillon area.

As you may see both, the flying tourbillon and the third wheel are supported by ball bearings.  For this one Christianused a beautifull bimetallic, cut balance with steel hairspring.


Thanks Suitbert!

 By: Allen : March 3rd, 2007-08:32
what an amazing tourbillon cage!

Here's a more frontal dial shot..

 By: SuitbertW : March 4th, 2007-15:58
Hi Allen,
but, they're not that good and I've to go through the pic files again, if there's some better, more doing justice to the work.

As you say - the tourbillon cage is particulary  beautifull !

Best regards


 By: Allen : March 4th, 2007-22:05
Your second picture is as good as it gets.      I love the way the moonphase and the power reserve balance each other out.   Thanks again!

Just out of curiousity, Suitbert, is this the only . . .

 By: Dr No : March 3rd, 2007-10:33
. . . tourbillon that rotates on ball bearings, or are there others?  Cordially, Art

I'm not sure who was pioneering ...

 By: SuitbertW : March 4th, 2007-05:17
Hi  Art,
I've to admit I'm not sure who was the pioneer in that regard, but something like the (1992?)  IWC Destriero comes to mind with the flying tourbillon also supported in a ball bearing - from an engineering standpoint it's a somehow logical choice. Speaking of IWC it's also no surprise to see Richard Habrings own toubillons also often equipped with ball bearings. 

There may be many others (honestly I'm not sure how many in fact...) perhaps someone else knows what's with Blancpains (Clabrese) torubillon for example, I'd not be surprised if that would be the case as well - I''d never the chance to closely inspect one. 

As you may see from the pictures of Christian's No. 7 also the thrid wheel (that's the one driving the tourbillon) is "flying" and supported by a ball bearing. 
IIRC, with No.  7 it's a ruby ball bearing for the tourbillon cage.



No greater 'elf' factor...

 By: Nirvair : March 7th, 2007-15:37
than this! His creations are wonderful. I read that Farmers in the winter would make movements at home and deliver them to the larger houses in town who would case them. Thanks Suitbert.

I'm a great admirer of his work, thanks for the update!

 By: ei8htohms : March 2nd, 2007-17:46
Hi Suitbert,

My understanding is that Mr. Klings was living and working in California about the time I got interested in watchmaking, but unfortunately he had already moved before I had ever heard of him, otherwise I would've loved to have visited his workshop of course.

I heard a funny story about Mr. Klings from a watchmaker in SF.  I can't vouch for the veracity of the story or even that I'm remembering it correctly, but reportedly he was asked to repair/restore a Patek Philippe automatic that had either a badly worn or missing ball bearing.  Rather than trying to source a replacement (or perhaps after attempting to do so unsuccessfully), Mr. Klings simply made one by hand!  For all you watchmakers, machinists, model-makers or otherwise craftsy people out there, you can probably imagine the difficulty of manufacturing something that small and regular (symmetrical in every regard) that requires such extreme precision, but for those of you who have no context: it would be a HUGE challenge, let me assure you.

Another story was about Mr. Klings being commissioned to add a moonphase to an AP ultrathin automatic (2120).  He did so including making the dial for it from scratch, reportedly without adding any height to the case.  Wow, I say.

Of course when I saw the pictures of his semi-flying tourbillon in International Wristwatch a little while later, it was clear to me this was no ordinary watchmaker performing the occasional extraordinary feat.  He's someone to watch for sure.

Suitbert, thanks for the further/updated info and, Mr. Klings, please accept my apologies if I'm misremembering or otherwise misrepresenting either of these stories.


yes..I read about Klings california past, in a magazine some years ago.

 By: bernard cheong : March 2nd, 2007-22:17
I think we had some discussion about him way back in 2004.

indeed, his name was first dropped in this forum in 2001 or so

 By: ei8htohms : March 3rd, 2007-04:01
And then Curtis posted the IWW (as it was then known) article in 2002:

Thank you, now That was a treat !!!............nt

 By: SteveG : March 2nd, 2007-18:47

My pleasure,Steve! -nt-

 By: SuitbertW : March 4th, 2007-16:15

Marvellous pics !

 By: Doc : March 2nd, 2007-22:40
Thanks Suitbert,

for these fantastic pics, of a real classic looking movement !

The finish seems incredible!

BTW, in this country, the best tasting
ice cream is,..... Klings :-)



LoL - Doc, I've to tell Christian about that swedish ice cream.....

 By: SuitbertW : March 4th, 2007-16:17
And thanks a lot for your kind words!


Klings !

 By: Doc : March 5th, 2007-22:39
This is their real killer.

An ice cream cake, with vanilla ice cream, chocolate, butter toasted nougat, marzipan and a touch of arrack !

Always on the table when someone in the family is having birthday :-)

A family owned, local, quite small company.




Thank you Sir, great pictures, great report, fascinating watches!(nt)

 By: timerider : March 3rd, 2007-00:03

Also love the tourbillion #7

 By: Mario : March 3rd, 2007-00:32
Thanks for a great story Suitbert can't wait for the follow up.

What a great example of real watchmaking!

 By: Ornatus-Mundi : March 3rd, 2007-03:13
It clearly shows his talent and savoir faire, and also makes the manual process and execution visible. For me, this is much more desirable than a 100% perfectly finished end-product, which may look a bit sterile.

I shall not forget to say that his technical solutions are far off the main paths and represent the fruits of out-of-the-box, individual thinking. As far as i understand, Mr Klings is also a down to earth personality.

Great work, a real treat! I just wonder how these watches sound...

Thanks Suitbert for bringing this to us!


Magnus, you're right on all accounts...

 By: SuitbertW : March 6th, 2007-15:04
....and as you speak about finish - you'd have to see the last two watches and his considerable improvements in overall finish.  As I said - he's probably his own strongest  critic .

Best regards

We eagerly await more news on this most talented watchmaker. nt

 By: mikedunn : March 3rd, 2007-06:25

Thanks, Mike, I'll do my best to keep you updated :-) -nt-

 By: SuitbertW : March 6th, 2007-15:05

Oh my god. . .

 By: Jack Forster : March 3rd, 2007-07:23
. . .Suitbert.  Tourbillon no. 5.  Ohhh, my goodness smile

Love to hear more about that one. . . pleeeeeeeease???


I'm with you for number 5 Jack

 By: Dje : March 3rd, 2007-13:41
Thanks a lot Suitbert.

Amazing work, fascinating to teh extrreme.

I'd love to knpw more about his "no-tourbiilon" watches!!



Gotta hear more about it. Haven't been so excited since. . .

 By: Jack Forster : March 3rd, 2007-16:50
. . .I first became familiar with Kari Voutilainen's work.  This is HOT stuff smile


Hi Jack, Jerome....

 By: SuitbertW : March 4th, 2007-16:49

.... No. 5 is a most fascinating piece, your pick isn't surprising to me smile

It's a long story and perhaps much better to go into Christian Klings desmodromic escapement first as it's part of this very special piece as well.

And, I should also point out that No. 5 somehow will remain Christians "unfinished opus".
As you already may have seen on the pictures  - it doesn't look really finished and it isn't - Christian invested an incredible amount of time and energy into this piece but at the end it was a "glorious fail" (like it's historic predecessor)- but an very intriguing one!

The basic principle behind was created by Himmelheber, I'll scan some of the drawings I can find for better understanding later on.

Here's a larger view of the tourbillon so that you'll have some puzzling late sunday fun smile

As said - it's a 7.5 seconds tourbillon and as you may see driven by the fourth wheel (thus turning cw) - but more later smile


OK, thanks Suitbert, what the heck. . .

 By: Jack Forster : March 5th, 2007-07:45
    . . . are those really two pallet forks. . . ?!?


The small ratchet wheel close to the tourbillon center...

 By: SuitbertW : March 5th, 2007-16:03

Hi Jack,
that's a constant force mechanism!
During his countless hours trying to get it working, i.e. to achieve a little better rate stability, he realized that  this escapement was very sensitive to this  problem and he decided to add a constant force. You may imagine what that means once the base  design is  already done ;-)

The original idea (it's an old dream to somehow achieve a less harsh impulsing, I'm lacking the correct english term,  perhaps it could be called "impact free" impulse?) goes back  to Benoit and Himmelheber - bot designed torubillon escapements where the impulse is supplied through the hairspring (i.e. not directly to the balance).
As nice as it works in terms of smoothness of impulse, it's extremely problematic and complex to work precisely.
The exact timing for unlocking/impulse is most crucial and that's one of the weak parts of those designs.
BTW, Rieflers version with balance wheel (the pictures of Paul Gerbers table clock smile ) is similar and I'd say  belongs to the same group.

Christian Klings combined this basic design with his desmodromic escapement - but as said even investing far more time and energy as expected - it never worked reliably. But looking at the running escapement is incredibly mesmerizing and  one easily forgets about such sterile things as "rate" smile
If' I'd have had to guess if it could work  before I actually saw it in the flesh - I wouldn't have believed it could.


OK, so let me get this straight. . .

 By: Jack Forster : March 5th, 2007-17:02

. . .constant force escapement (!) impulsed through the hairspring, not directly to an impulse jewel on the balance?  That's just wild.  That it was done in a 7.5 second tourbillon just adds to the tastiness, even if it IS tempermental.  I'd just love to hear more about this particular watch, and about the desmodromic escapement, when and if you have time; and I'm just staggered that anyone would try for a constant force escapement at all these days- I was under the impression that constant force escapements had been more or less abandoned by the mid 19th century.

I wonder if some other constant force mechanism would have given the necessary uniform delivery of power- a remontoire or fusee?  I expect there must be something in the design of the escapement itself that made him try for such an exotic design and would love to hear more about it.

Thanks very much- the most interesting post by far I've seen in months smile .



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