As refined as a vintage-inspired timekeeper can possibly get, the new Chronoswiss Zeitzeichen is a perfect example of what can be done to a good old Unitas pocket watch caliber if you have a bit imagination and a pair of skilled hands that know what they are doing. Featuring beautiful floral motif, the wristwatch offers a kind of visual lightness that you don’t really expect from such a massive (its steel case measures whole 44 millimeters in diameter) device.
The German watch maker Chronoswiss together with a renowned engine turning specialist Jochen Benzinger who specializes in restoring and redecorating vintage movements (if you have ever heard about Grieb & Benzinger brand that makes beautiful, ultra-expensive one-offs for wealthy customers living in oil-exporting countries, he is that Benzinger, yes), have recently presented their new joint project — the fabulous Chronoswiss Zeitzeichen series of skeletonized watches.
The Chronoswiss Zeitzeichen (Signs of the Times) collection of mechanical wrist watches was initially revealed last year with each watch being a skillful exercise in skeletonizing, hand-engraving and guilloche work done using historic “rose machines.”
Now, the beautiful collection has been extended with three new models –namely, Chronoswiss Zeitzeichen V (floral theme, fully skeletonized), Zeitzeichen VI (also floral, but showing a partially intact dial), and Zeitzeichen VII (also fully skeletonized and featuring an impressive Oriental-style dragon made of solid silver)–, each available at an extremely limited lot of only 33 pieces.
Of course, there could be more of them, but each timepiece requires an extensive use of skilled labor with a lot of man hours spent on decorating each visible part of the hand-wound mechanism that keeps them alive. I am not sure how Chronoswiss organizes the manufacturing process, but usually each mechanism requires multiple assembly and disassembly in order to ensure that its structural integrity is not compromised and every skeletonized part works as good as a solid one. Yes, this is not a car where rigidity is crucial to its safety and handling, but it is still a very fine mechanism and there are a lot of things that can affect its isochronism.
The watches, by the way of speaking, are powered by the Swiss-made ETA Unitas 6498-1 pocket watch caliber, also ticking inside less extravagant (but still very nice to own) Doxa Chateau des Monts 120th Anniversary and the state of the art Gustafsson & Sjögren Ice GoS 007 Damascus steel watch.
Initially designed by the Swiss manufacture Unitas to power pocket watches, the ETA Unitas 6498-1 is only 4.5 millimeters thick, but is almost 37 millimeters in diameter, which finally determined the size of the watch: the new Zeitzeichen series is offered in stainless steel cases whole 44 mm in diameter and almost 11 millimeters in height.
Of course, as you can see even on the front-shot photos, these particular movements have also undergone a process of skeletonizing, engine turning and this sort of things.
Although among the infinitude of different Swiss and German and Italian fine watches I definitely prefer sporty chronographs combining precious metals with natural caoutchouc or a scratch-resistant composite Cermet, or even forged carbon fiber material, I am also a sucker for the classic watches with hand-driven decoration called engine turning.
I can hardly imagine myself wearing one of these beauties, but I would definitely love to have one in my modest collection of wrist watches.
Build Quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 3/5
Nighttime Legibility: 1/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Chronoswiss Zeitzeichen watch’s specification
Price range: TBA
Movement: Caliber ETA 6498-1, hand-wound, hand-engraved Glycydur screw balance, small seconds, Swiss Made
Frequency: 18,000 vph
Decoration: Extensively skeletonzied by hand
Power reserve: 40 hours
Case material: Stainless steel
Case size: 44.00 mm
Case height: 10.80 mm
Dial: Solid sterling silver
Water resistance: 30 meters