It’s not everyday that you see a watch from a distance that stops you in your tracks… though still too far to see the brand or the details of the design, you can tell it’s something special. That was the case at Red Bar just this last week, when I saw a glimmer of copper light reflecting off a dial amidst a table covered is exceptional time pieces. When I stopped to pick it up, I found that the watch wasn’t just a pretty face (so to speak), but a genuine horological jewel, and a personal first encounter with a brand… The watch was a Habring2 Time-Reserve 2009, with a to-die-for copper/rose gold dial.
Habring2 is a brand I’d been aware of for sometime, though had yet to see in person. Based out of Austria, the husband and wife team’s approach to watch making is quite distinct. It’s a small brand, making under 100 watches per year, each model limited to 12/year all made to order, with an eye toward accessible pricing and technological innovation. In the last 10 years, they’ve built a reputation around creating interesting watches with in-house complications and unique functionality. A perfect example of this is their Chronograph COS, which features a patented system made in-house, that allows the chronograph (7750 base) to be functioned entirely from the crown, with no pushers; the only brand to do this. Or their Chrono ZM, which is a mono-pusher with central chronograph minute counter (a personal favorite). But, they are perhaps most well known for their Doppel Chronographs, which use an in-house rattrapante (split seconds) system that Richard Habring had originally designed for IWC when he was employed there as head movement designer.
Recently, Habring2 has made a buzz amongst the blogs, as a few months ago they announced their first true “in-house” movement, the A11, available in a delightfully understated watch named Felix (check out this beautifully photographed article at twentyonejewel). Coming in at around $5,000, it’s exceptionally well-priced for a bespoke manufacture watch (these are hand made by a small team, like haute pieces), even more so considering it’s the only from Austria. While use of the term “in-house” has gotten a bit confusing, in this instance, Habring2 has been very clear about how they go about things. Their previous movements have been based on modules from various ebauches, most notably that of the ETA 7750 and Valgranges. They then make all the additional components, bridges, etc… in-house, creating heavily modified calibers. The A11 is all new and proprietary, and will serve as the new base for their watches moving forward.
But… back to the watch on hand, the custom Time-Reserve 2009. As it turned out, the watch belonged to our friends at analog/shift, who let me borrow it for few days… and I have to say, it’s been a delight to wear. Who ever originally ordered this watch had great taste, as I imagine they specified the dial coloration and the additional power reserve complication. The Time-Reserve is part of their “Time-Only” series, Habring2’s modular approach to movement design allowing them to add the reserve complication on order. The end result is tastefully opulent with a subtle hint of sport from the contrast sub-seconds.
The color of the dial is truly engrossing. It’s either very red rose gold or straight copper, with a mix if finishes and various markers both printed and applied. The central area is brushed vertically, from 6 to 12, creating a more matte surface, on which 12, 3 and 6 numerals in an almost calligraphic font are applied in a contrasting polished steel. Just below 12 is a “Habring2” logo in script, while above 6 is a remarkably simple power reserve. No index, simply a black stick hand between two words in black script “Ab/Auf” which translate (I believe) to down/up, meaning empty/full.
Around the center area is a ring that is radially brushed, creating a more reflective surface that stands out. On this surface is an index of applied steel batons, one per hour, as well as a printed black railroad index of minute markers, and small triangles. These add an easy reference for reading at a glance, as well as nice amount of texture. The watch does have a subtle sportiness to it granted by the overall size and some details. The black index, in particular, has a more aggressive feel that works surprisingly well.
The last detail is the massive sub-seconds dial at 9, which cuts through both surface, making a statement. The surface of the sub-dial is an almost pearlescent pale silver with circular graining, giving it a crisp, white-metallic sheen. On the dial is an index of black markers adding further density. I simply love the contrast it provides, not just in color, but in feel. Finishing off the dial are polished steel hour and minute hands with a classic sword shape. They match the applied markers well and standout against the warm surface below. The minute has a slight bend at the tip, coming down towards the dial, which is a nice touch.
The case of the Time Only 2009 is on the large side, but wears well, coming in at 42 x 52 x 12.6mm to the top of the domed sapphire. As such, it wear more like a sport watch or pilot, though its looks (at least in this color way) are on the dressier side. The case design is pretty straightforward, with slender, contouring lugs protruding from a cylindrical center. The bezel has a stepped design with two large radius edges, creating a soft look. This is about as decorative as things get on the case, with everything else feeling fairly subdued. The large crown at 3 measures 7.5 x 4mm, making it easy to grasp when winding the watch.
Flipping the watch over, you have a very simple screw-down case-back with a large display window, showing off their A09M movement. Immediately upon seeing the movement, you’ll know this is something different; it doesn’t quite look quite like anything else. On their site, they refer to it as a “exclusive manufactory movement based on the ETA-“Valgranges” train gear” with bridges made in-house. I assume assembly and decoration are in-house as well. So, as I said before this isn’t an “in-house” movement in the truest sense, as they are starting with an ETA gear train, so much as an extensively modified movement with manufacture parts… so much so that it is unrecognizable from the original. For one thing, the Valgranges A07.211 is actually an automatic chronograph, so you can tell they are really just building off of the basic bones of the movement.
What you end up with is a unique 17-jewel manually wound movement with hacking seconds, 48hr power reserve and a frequency of 28,800 bph. The large caliber has clean and attractive decoration in the form of a top plate with circular cote de Geneve and a large plate beneath with perlage. There is an automatic version as well, the A09, with an in-house developed bi-directionally winding rotor, which would take the place of the top plate. The balance cock has also been skeletonized to give a better view of the balance beneath.
On the wrist, the watch glows. The dial hits notes I didn’t know I was looking for with its warm color and texture. The larger case makes it feel more robust than expected, giving it a solid everyday, business casual feel. The fact that it’s packing a very unique movement makes the whole experience more interesting, and when off the wrist, at your desk, provides some eye candy to enjoy and horology to appreciate.
One thing I’ve yet to touch on is the price of this watch… Well, for one thing, that’s a bit hard to track down and a number that I imagine floats given the exclusive and custom nature of Habring2’s watches. From what I can tell though, it was likely in the $3k range new. This based on some numbers I’ve seen around, the fact that their new in-house is around $5k and their doppel chronographs are around $7k. For something bespoke, with this much custom work on the movement itself, the price seems very fair. This is a brand that is working in the fashion of high-luxury boutique brands, but with prices comparable to completely commercial retail-based brands.
I learned a few things from this watch. First, I might have to add something with a tasteful rose gold/copper dial to my collection, as I found it entrancing. But more importantly, Habring2 is a brand I’m going to have to pay a lot closer attention too. Their new watch, the Felix, at $5,000 grand is really exceptional when you consider most brands that make as few watches per year as Habring2 would charge a few times that. But before I save up for that, I’d likely pick up one of their chronographs as they are some of the most interesting on the market.
Once again, thanks to analog/shift for lending us the piece. Be sure to check them out for a wide array of jaw dropping vintage and second-hand pieces.