A few months ago, on Instagram, I came across a new watch brand out of the Dutch city of Delft, called Holthinrichs Watches.
Whilst there is extensive use of 3D printing in prototype designing, there are no brands that I can think of who actually use 3D printing to make their production cases. This, along with a beautiful and unique design aesthetic is what is putting Holthinrichs well and truly on the map.
Michiel Holthinrichs started his life in design, where he quickly focussed on the architectural qualities of household ‘ornaments’. He noticed that the detail applied on a larger scale could also be applied to the minutia of watch design.
Like most new watch designers, he started off playing and repairing with watches alongside developing his own design language. It is safe to say what he has achieved is certainly unique, and definitely inspired by his architectural background.
On their website, Michiel is quoted as saying “As a tribute to the architecture that inspires me so much, and to emphasize my motives and passion for both architecture watchmaking, my watches are named after the architectural ornament.” This perfectly sums up the design of the watches and gives a clear message of the inspiration on which the watches are based.
The Ornament 1
The current run of watches is based around the first case shape developed by the brand, The Ornament 1.
All of the Ornament 1′s are equipped with the hand-wound Swiss-made ETA/Peseux calibre 7001, one of the simplest Swiss movements in production. I feel like this movement has been chosen perfectly to power these watches. Despite being re-worked and re-decorated in house, the choice of a simple movement means that the eye is instantly drawn to the fantastic case design and not the movement architecture.
Michiel also notes that the use of a manual wind was an obvious choice as it reminds the wearer that this is a mechanical object. For the ‘Raw Ornament’ and bespoke models, the movement is completely stripped and decorated, as well as being customisable in terms of offering handmade bridges, click springs and a whole host of decorative options. The movement can be decorative with anglage, Côtes de Genève, frosting, and a host of other finishes.
Holthinrichs are also currently developing their own in-house movement, which will take these watches to a whole new level.
The case design, however, is the real draw of these wonderful watches. The case pulls off a fantastic mix of classical watch design with a very modern feel offered by the ability of the 3D printing. The case is full of different finishes, angles, and steps in the case which offer futuristic touches. The skeletonised dauphine hands are a particular favourite touch. They offer a minimalist touch which allows the dial to be the standout feature.
The case itself comes in at a very well proportioned 38mm size which is 3D printed in a host of materials. Currently offered are 316L stainless steel, solid 18k rose gold, yellow gold, white gold, and platinum for bespoke orders. Not bad variety if you ask me!
The use of acrylic crystal is also an interesting choice. Whilst a lot of people may be critical because acrylic has a reputation for scratching like an old CD, it was actually chosen with good reason as it allows the overall thickness to be 1.5mm thinner than it would be with sapphire. Saphire is used on the rear for the display case back, however. The other benefit of acrylic is it has the best refractive index, so I can only begin to imagine how good this watch photographs. These proportions give a superb overall case design suitable for a very large number of wrist sizes.
Prices are starting at £3,655 for the Ornament 1 in either Ruthenium steel or Satin Silver. Whilst this is, of course, Tudor, Omega, Breitling money, it is also a comparable amount of money that you would pay for a watch that I feel occupies exactly the same space as this piece, MING. Whilst I am not saying that this watch is based on or inspired by MING, there is something about Holthinrichs that gives me a MING feel.
I think it is the architectural case design, originality, and style that put these two in a part of the community that I am very much a fan of. My ramblings about these watches probably have not done them justice at all, so I think the best way for you all to enjoy them is to lose yourself in some images of the watches below.
As a closing statement, these watches are really good! Whilst a few publications have started to catch wind of what Michiel Holthinrichs is doing, they are still a relative unknown in the watch industry. As I have mentioned I have known about the brand for some months now, and I can only imagine it will only be a few more before they truly start to become a known player in the watch market.
If you would like to find out more from the horse’s mouth, the legend that is Wei Koh has done a Zoom interview with Michiel, which I highly recommend you watch!