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’re talking with a man who got his start restoring vintage chronographs, and is now the Creative Director of Ernst Benz – Leonid Khankin.
ABlogtoWatch (ABTW): Who are you and what is your relationship to the watch industry?
Leonid Khankin (LK): I am the Creative & Managing Director of Ernst Benz. I am also a second generation watchmaker who grew up doing restoration, specializing in chronographs and complications. It was always my aspiration to build watches which came true when I took the helm of Ernst Benz. Now I live my watch making and creative dream building watches with my friends and have the privilege to present them in some of the most amazing stores in the world.
ABTW: What was your first grail watch?
LK: I was always captivated by and very passionate about chronographs and calendar watches. My favorites were Patek, Jaeger, Rolex and especially Universal Geneve. The original Universal Geneve Tri-Compax Chronograph and later their 50th Anniversary edition are what truly inspired me. These are some of the most amazing watches ever made.
ABTW: Was there ever a time in your life when you could afford it?
LK: While working with Universal Geneve on restoration and sales, I began collecting Tri-compax and other vintage chronographs. Our family shop specializes in high grade service and sales representing many great brands, so I had opportunity to see and work first hand daily with the worlds greatest timepieces. This is what first taught me about watches and inspired me to one day be able to build watches.
ABTW: Given the brands and models you had exposure to in the shop, what did you like so much about the Tri-compax?
LK: This particular watch represented our two passions as watchmakers, chronographs and calendars. The detail and aesthetic were simple and executed perfectly, for me this was the ideal interpretation. Universal Geneve has a storied history with producing the first two-button chronograph in 1934, the Compax and the first triple-date moon chronograph in 1944, and for their 50th anniversary, the Tri-Compax.
ABTW: Since your shop was servicing what was your first grail, is it safe to assume you eventually got one?
LK: I acquired the stainless steel automatic Golden Complitech version when our shop was doing the service for Universal Geneve in the 90’s. This was a glorious time for the company as they celebrated their 100th anniversary in 1994 and produced many interesting models inspired by their history. It was when I first started going to Basel, I was 20 and can say everything I am doing today took root then. It was my favorite watch and I wore it daily until the day the first Ernst Benz ChronoLunar was in my hands. Since then my Grail watch is the next EB that we are building and have numerous watches that I am working towards.