Welcome back to an original aBlogtoWatch feature, “My First Grail Watch.” In this series, we ask prominent people in the watch industry about the first timepiece that they lusted after. Today, we are speaking with Bart Grönefeld, the elder of the two brothers at the helm of their eponymous company, Grönefeld Watches. It’s interesting to learn that, while he is responsible for some amazing high-end pieces these days, he started off just like many of us, with a simple LCD watch.
aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): Who are you, and what is your relationship to the watch industry?
Bart Grönefeld: I’m Bart Grönefeld. 45 years young and the older brother of Tim Grönefeld. I don’t feel very connected with the watch industry. I feel more connected to the watch artisans that make a few watches a year. Some of them are brands, but most of them make only a few watches per year. Most of them are very good friends.
ABTW: When did your fascination with watches start?
Bart Grönefeld: At a very young age, I was fascinated with anything mechanical – for example, toys like Meccano and Fischer Technik. Later on, I became interested in anything with an engine. To that end, our dad helped us with tuning the engine of our moped. Since my father had a jewelry shop, and I wanted to take over his shop as a profession, the domain of a jeweler was a must. So, because of my interest in anything with wheels, pinions, and levers, my choice to become a watchmaker came quite easily. It was during my study at Wostep in Switzerland that my teacher, Antoine Simonin, showed me high end watches, and I fell truly in love with high-end watchmaking.
ABTW: Given that there was a jewelry shop in the family, I am guessing you saw all manner of watches on the counters. What was your first grail watch?
Bart Grönefeld: As a (very young) kid I had an LCD watch. Later, at the age of 16, I owned a Seiko Quartz Chronograph, which I still have. During my first real job as a watchmaker (at Asprey in London), I spent my first money on an Ebel Chronograph with the El Primero Zenith movement.
ABTW: Quite a logical progression in grail watches, one most of us would be familiar with in broad strokes. Focusing on that last watch, the Ebel, what drew you it?
Bart Grönefeld: My parents sold Ebel watches, and the quality of their watches seemed to be very good; most of the watches they sold were quartz watches. When my experience in watches and watchmaking grew, I particularly wanted this chronograph because I knew I wanted to have a mechanical movement.
ABTW: Again, a sentiment I’m sure our readers can relate to. You mentioned you still have that early Seiko Chronograph – do you still have the Ebel in your collection?
Bart Grönefeld: To finance the start of our own business, I ended up selling my first grail watch, the Ebel Chronograph. My latest grail watch, the Grönefeld Parallax Tourbillon, is also for sale. After all, we are in this business. When it get’s sold, I will make myself the same watch.
ABTW: I would say that you are in a unique position, being able to create your own grail watch – one that many others would consider their grail as well. Since you have your Grönefeld Parallax Tourbillon, what’s the next grail for you?
Bart Grönefeld: Today, my grail watches are made by me and my brother, and I have one – the Grönefeld Parallax Tourbillon. The next grail watch will be the next Grönefeld timepiece. For more on that, well, let’s talk in a couple of years!