From Start to Finish: Building My Custom d.m.h Watch

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A short while back, one of our readers, Marc Sirinsky, reached out to us about writing an article chronicling his experience with a small brand that likely very few people know about–Dingemans Mechanische Horloges, or d.m.h for short. His interest in writing about the company was a personal one; it had been four years–that’s right, four years–since Marc had first reached out to commission a watch, and when he emailed us he was finally just a few weeks out from receiving his long-awaited timepiece. Knowing only bits and pieces about the company myself, I was rather excited to learn more about the process behind the small Dutch outfit, and as far as I could tell there were very few other readily available accounts as detailed as the one below. So enjoy Marc’s story–From Start to Finish: Building My Custom d.m.h Watch.


Several years back, I discovered a Dutch company called Dingemans Mechanische Horloges (d.m.h. for short).  This one-man operation is run by Mr. Fred Dingemans, who builds timepieces out of a converted shed in his backyard.   The thing is–when I say “building,” I mean it in the truest sense of the word.  The cases?  He mills them himself from raw steel.  The crowns?  He devised a novel dual crown system and creates them from scratch.  The dials? Stamped out of brass by hand, bead blasted and then painted in-house. Even the equipment he uses has a story; it originally belonged to his father and Fred restored it all himself to suit his own watchmaking needs.  But perhaps the best part of d.m.h. is that everything is done custom to the client’s specifications.

Fred began making watches part time with an annual output of 12 timepieces, but soon realized that following his passion full-time would allow him ramp up to 24 watches per year (still an extremely limited run by any measure). He also brought in master watchmaker Frans de Groot to help with the disassembly, cleaning and regulation of his NOS automatic Tenor Dorly movements.  Needless to say, I was absolutely enamored and had to have one.

The final package includes a simple, but quality box with the company logo, a copy of the final invoice and a manual personally typed by Fred Dingemans.

By the time I got in touch with Fred, word had gotten out and I was told the wait time had ballooned to over four years. Anyone who knows me understands that patience is not one of my virtues.  Thankfully the design process wouldn’t start until it was my turn in line, so there was time for my tastes to evolve before committing to any specifics. I put down my deposit of 200 Euros and waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.

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Well, in January, my turn finally came. I had a lot of decisions to make.  From the beginning, I knew I wanted one of his three-handers rather than the jump hour for which he had become most known. I was drawn to its simplicity and Fred also indicated that he was excited to work on a time-only piece since he hadn’t made one in quite some time.

The first decision was a bit unanticipated. In addition to stainless steel, Fred had begun offering a bronze case option as well.  I was briefly tempted as the patina it would gain would add even more customization to an already bespoke timepiece.  But in the end I felt stainless steel was more versatile and matched up better with my design.

A batch of freshly milled d.m.h. cases in bronze and steel.

Once the case was milled, Fred moved on to the crown.  This was not a major decision because d.m.h has a proprietary crown and locking mechanism that is used on all of the brand’s watches.  But even here, you have options; he generally places the crown at two, but for you left-handers out there the design does allow a crown placement at ten if requested.

Fred threading part of the dual crown mechanism.
The signature d.m.h crown.

Next up, there’s the dial.  Out of all the decisions I had to make, this one was definitely the toughest.  I knew I wanted Arabic numerals rather than hash marks (the latter is actually achieved through stamping out the dial markers rather printing).  The issue I was having was the dial color.  I had it down to two options:  orange with a blue logo, or green with an orange logo. To further complicate things, Fred told me that he wasn’t sure he could print his logo in a color other than black or white due to the limitations of his printing equipment.  In other words, this would be a first for him.  The logo itself is fairly prominent on the dial, and it was key that it be incorporated into the design properly.  After much agonizing, I decided to go with a British racing green dial and an orange logo.  If there were technical issues, we settled on a white logo with an orange “12” as a back up.

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Here we encountered our first minor manufacturing bump. Fred noticed a smudge on the dial after painting.  But not to worry–he creates two dials for every watch in the event that an error occurs at some point during the process.  Obviously, this stage has the most that can go wrong. The stamping, bead blasting, painting, printing–all have to be just right.  And Fred’s second dial was perfect, orange logo and all!  Notice the hole at five. This actually goes all the way through the movement.  This is so Fred can easily pop out the exhibition case back for adjustments and minor repairs. His watches are all “top-loaded,” so this is truly a form follows function solution, which really makes sense with Fred’s design ethos.

The dial for my watch after being freshly painted.

Next, it was time to choose the hands.   d.m.h. has a variety of options to pick from, and Fred will provide his client with as many photos as desired.  Fred cases the dial and then places the hands on top of the watch crystal so he can easily show multiple combinations.  In the end, I went with the hand set I had in mind all along–silver sword hands with an orange-tipped second hand to match the logo.

Last up is the strap.  There are a three choices here: a handmade brown or black Horween Dublin leather strap with white contrast stitching, or a rubber strap.  I actually considered the rubber option because I thought it would work well with the racing-style look I had chosen, but I ultimately opted for the Horween Dublin in black.  It cost a bit extra but would last much longer and better reflects the time and care that was put into creating the watch.

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After a wire transfer of the remaining balance, the time had come to ship the watch my way.  But as is often the case with truly handmade things, we hit another snag.  Upon a final inspection, Fred noticed a small spot of damage to the case.  Unfortunately, the only solution was to fully disassemble the watch and put the case on the lathe to correct the problem.   This would also involve another round of timing the movement once it was re-cased.  But at that point, what was an extra few days?  I’m thankful that Fred performs such a close inspection on his watches at that late a stage.  It’s just another advantage in having one person create your entire timepiece.

A few days later, the watch arrived via Fed-Ex in a plain brown, cardboard box.  Inside was a “manual” typed out by Fred, which provides instructions on how to operate the crown system and how to change the strap using a tool he includes with the watch.  Then under some packing peanuts, a non-descript, small black box made of heavy card-stock revealed itself.  Inside, attached to a foam pillow was my watch  looking up at me.

A view of the new-old stock vintage Tenor Dorly movement in action.

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Once on the wrist, the first thing I noticed is how substantial the watch is, and I don’t mean in terms of size, but in its construction.  It feels and looks like a piece of handmade machinery.  The stepped case is very nicely finished with subtle brushing on the sides, and the small exposed screws on the top give the piece a sporty and industrial look.  The exhibition case back reveals a movement that is finished to the level you’d expect on this type of piece.  There are plenty of details to behold but it isn’t meant to take your breath away.  The dial, however, is another story.  The fact that it was made by hand is evident right away as you start to get lost in the details and minor imperfections that make the watch truly unique.  The strap is the thickest Horween strap I’ve ever put on and it should take on a lovely patina as it’s broken in.

The watch itself sits very comfortably on the wrist partially due to the high quality Horween Dublin leather strap.
Take note of the lugs and stepped case.

Working with d.m.h. is an experience like no other, especially at this price point.  I have an art and design background, and that knowledge certainly helped in shaping my vision for my timepiece very early on. But I know that not everyone will have a clear design formulated by the time the waiting period is over.  Even in my situation, there were a couple of instances where I briefly second-guessed myself.   Fred is really excellent at providing opinions when asked, and I found his expertise to be a very helpful resource during the process.

For 2,500-3,000 Euros (the price varies based on the client’s choice of model, case and strap), you get to interact with a watchmaker while he’s making your watch, resulting in a timepiece that is truly your own.  At this price point, it’s an unmatched experience. That is if you’re willing to wait for it.

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