Benzinger By Zanella: Mechanical Art With Heart
Christian Bissener is a retailer in Luxemburg specializing in independent brands and exclusive vintage timepieces. “What can I say,” he shrugs. “Watches are my greatest passion. It’s not a ‘how can I make as much money as possible’ thing for me; my boutique is my life.”
This is naturally an attitude that we appreciate very much here at Quill & Pad.
When Bissener contacted me to let me know he’d created a special timepiece in honor of the three-year anniversary of his by-appointment-only boutique, which he has simply christened “Watch Collector,” I was all ears because Bissener works as an official agent for some of our independent and AHCI friends, including the McGonigle brothers, Beat Haldimann, Svend Andersen, and Marc Jenni.
He also works with Jochen Benzinger, whose name you might recognize from the German boutique brand Grieb & Benzinger. And it is with Benzinger that Bissener has collaborated on this interesting timepiece.
“Additionally, this project is a charity project for me; for every watch sold I donate €500 to the een Häerz vir kriibskrank Kanner (“a heart for children with cancer”) foundation, which helps families with children that suffer from cancer.”
While you hear very often that watches are “mechanical art,” in this case the overused description makes sense: here mechanical art (Benzinger’s unique, artful work on the movement) meets conventional art (the dial embellished with an oil-on-canvas painting by Léon Zanella).
Let’s begin by looking at the movement. Benzinger’s specialty is taking a mechanical movement – he prefers to work with the ubiquitous Unitas caliber because of its expansive bridges and generous size – and cutting, sawing, filing, shaping, engraving, and galvanizing it so that that it is hardly recognizable as the movement it was once.
And then he adds all sorts of imaginative guilloche.
What remains in the original movement’s place is so unique, beautiful, and obviously hand-crafted that it is awe inspiring.
The future owner of this watch can have the movement finished as he or she likes in different preferred styles using Benzinger’s hand-engraved, hand-guilloché, hand-skeletonized handiwork. Bissener even makes a gallery available on his website to give clients ideas from which to choose.
Adding to the exclusivity factor and one-of-a-kind character of this watch, the dial comprises an original oil-on-canvas painting by Zanella, an artist famous in France for his colorful painting of Provence themes.
This, too, can be expressly chosen by the future owner from motifs in a gallery of various paintings. Since every dial is a one-off piece, once one has been chosen, it is no longer available for anyone else.
So as not to disturb the painting, the hour markers are printed right onto the underside of the sapphire crystal. The owner has the choice of Breguet or feuille hands, with or without small seconds.
I don’t need to tell you that the combination of the hand-embellished movement by Jochen Benzinger and the original painting by Léon Zanella makes every watch unique and exclusive. And money is donated to a good cause, which is a great bonus in my view.
You can check out the whole thing at www.watchcollector.lu/benzinger-by-zanella.
Case: 42 mm, stainless steel
Dial: an original and exclusive Léon Zanella painting (comes with certificate) chosen by the customer functions as the dial; choice of two hand styles; hour markers printed right onto the underside of the sapphire crystal
Movement: hand-wound Unitas caliber completely engraved, skeletonized and guilloche by Jochen Benzinger; this too can be personalized with customer wishes
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds (optional)