It’s no secret that a worrying percentage of Swiss watches have their genesis in China. If that was a secret from you, sorry about that, but consider your eyes opened. It’s a sad fact of watchmaking reality, but one that’s as inevitable as death and taxes at this point. God knows we’re used to it with ‘made in Britain.’ Just get Garrick’s Dave Brailsford to wax lyrical about that.
There are a few watchmakers for whom that’s not enough. Just take Greubel Forsey’s latest Hand Made 1, with an obsessive 95% of pieces made in-house, by hand. But that means a 600k+ price tag, so it’s not exactly for everyone. Karsten Frässdorf however offers much the same collecting experience, just without bankruptcy on the horizon.
In fact, as far as percentages go, KF goes even higher, with 100% of their watches designed, produced and assembled in La Chaux de Fonds. Granted that’s not all under one roof, but given the reputation the area has in the world of watchmaking, you can bet the quality is second-to-none.
More importantly, having everything in one area allows an unprecedented level of freedom in development, one that master watchmaker Karsten Frässdorf has used to his advantage.
Frässdorf has been watchmaking for 40 years, ever since the ticking of a Junghans alarm clock drilled its way into his mind. He’s a watchmaker in the truest sense, able to create, develop and adjust any timepiece you’d care to talk about. Seriously, try him; you’ll be able to meet the guy at a Watchmaker’s Club event or two. Impressive doesn’t quite cut it.
The result is a brand that has the freedom and capability to offer something unique to their clientele. By unique, I mean 100% designed with customers, who can choose both design and movement. Forget Undone, Bamford Watch Department or Titan Black – this is a true bespoke watchmaking experience.
Still, every watchmaker needs a signature and for Karsten Frässdorf that’s the Spirograph, that latest of which is the Sport edition. It’s rare to find a ‘sports’ watch equipped with a tourbillon; it seems pretty counterintuitive, honestly. Yet here we are.
The centrepiece of the watch is that aforementioned tourbillon, complete with an exhaust designed by KF. Of course. Part of the watch’s daily survivability is thanks to its 18,000hz frequency; another is due to the elastic suspension, which helps the movement survive shocks of up to 5,000G. Sure it’s odd having a flying movement in the case, but if it’s as hardwearing as KF suggest then it’s one hell of an innovation.
The biggest step forwards however – at least compared to many other Swiss watch brands – is the marine chronometer-inspired balance. I won’t go into details as there’s not enough page space on the internet, but as I said before, Karsten himself will be more than happy to talk you through it at one event or another.
All of that is wrapped in a seriously cool package with a honeycomb dial, nicely-proportioned 45mm case and the chance to change all of it up if you do decide to take the plunge and order one. If, that is, the 10 available haven’t already disappeared into collector’s vaults.
Pinning down Karsten Frässdorf is no easy task. Their 100% Chaux-de-Fonds production may be the easiest way, but it’s only a means to an end. It’s the how, not the what of the brand. As for the why? Well that should be obvious to anyone that tries on a Karsten Frässdorf watch. The results speak for themselves.