Grönefeld is one of those watch manufacturers where if you mentioned the name to a non-watch enthusiast, they would respond with “who?”… Granted, even many people who are interested in watches may not have heard of them before, but that doesn’t mean what Grönefeld does is any less interesting. Grönefeld is a serious watch manufacture that is one of the few not based in Switzerland, Germany, or Japan. Instead, it exists in the Netherlands, headed by Bart and Tim Grönefeld, the grandsons of the company’s founder, Johan. The company has stayed in the family since its founding in 1912, and as a result, the special care and attention to detail of a family-run business remains to this day.
There are plenty of really interesting watches this company makes, especially if you start to look at some of their bespoke offerings, but for today’s focus is the 1941 Principia, specifically the version with the salmon dial. The 39.5mm watch is offered in three metal options: stainless steel, red gold, and white gold. The dial is made from a plated piece of sterling silver. The hands of the watch achieve their blue colour as a result of steel coming into contact with a flame, resulting in “blued steel”. This is a process that requires a lot of patience and has a high rate of part rejection, due to so much of the result being dependent on the steel being heated for the exact right amount of time. If it’s premature, the steel won’t ever reach the right blue, too long and the hands will turn out burnt. Additionally, the distribution of colouring on the hands is important, so only hands that have a uniform colour will be accepted. The blue of the hands is echoed in the accents of the rest of the dial, while the hour markers echo the rest of the case in applied, angled batons. The bottom of the dial reads “THE NETHERLANDS”, something you definitely don’t see every day on watches, but is a welcome change. The case is water resistant to 100m and the watch is offered on many different straps… although the nod to the Netherlands that the blue and orange strap provides is pretty neat.
So many companies that produce watches with salmon dials tend to only elect to use salmon dials for watches that generally look like they’re from an older age the second they’re released (see Patek Philippe, A. Lange & Söhne, even Montblanc, etc.) The salmon dial on this Princia 1941 sort of goes in the opposite direction. While there are still a few elements that help to retain its ability to be worn as a dress watch, there is much more of a modern, and even slightly sporty, feel to this watch. The case thickness of 10.5mm keeps the watch a little thicker than a comparable Patek Calatrava or Vacheron Patrimony, but as this watch isn’t going for as iconic of a dress watch look, that’s probably a good thing. Despite this, there’s no denying that it can easily hold its own against many of the more iconic dress watches out there. The case polishing, dial finish, and movement design prove that. Alternatively, looking at the combination of some of the case design, the indentations on the crown, and even the font of the logo, this is also a decidedly modern take on a salmon-dial watch. While the idea to combine a salmon-dial dress watch with something more modern might seem like a strange idea in theory, this watch was extremely well executed and the result has allowed Grönefeld to carve out a unique piece of the watch market, separate from so much of the competition.
Turning to the mechanics of the watch, the hand-bevelled stainless steel bridges were designed to resemble the “bell gable” facade of many older Dutch houses. What’s pretty different about this movement is the fact that the bridges are hand-polished stainless steel, which definitely isn’t quite as soft and easy of a material to work with as the materials that other watchmakers use, further showing Grönefeld’s spirit as an independent to do things the way they want, not whatever might be the easiest for them. The rotor is made out of 22k solid red gold and finished by hand. When attached to the rest of the movement, the rotor is set on a ceramic ball bearing which helps to prevent wear and reduces the need for lubrication. When fully wound, the watch will continue to work for 56 hours. While the production isn’t limited with this watch, each one made receives a gold plate affixed to the movement with a unique production number.
The Grönefeld 1941 Principia is priced at 29,950 EUR in stainless steel, 37,300 EUR in red gold, and 38,750 EUR in white gold.