As demand for Michiel’s watches surges, he is already having trouble keeping up with all the orders. But he likes it
like that. Amusingly, when I spoke to him last he told me he was “buried in fulfilling the orders for this year, but
super happy and loving my work.” But such is the nature of handcraftsmanship and I feel that the wait for the
Holthinrichs watch is part of the experience. I particularly love that he militates against other critically
acclaimed brands that are essentially clever designs with totally outsourced manufacturing.
Finally, what I love best about Michiel is his honesty. Considering the buzz around him as one of the hottest
independent horological commodities, he could probably charge twice to three times as much for his watches. But he
doesn’t. He explains, “Sure, I’ve received offers for more to even skip the line for my watches but that’s just not
the type of person I am or the type of brand I want to have. We are very down-to-earth people in Delft. I want my
customers to feel that they receive a real value in the watch that I’ve created for them. I think that especially
today there is a real search for authenticity and I hope my watches represent that.”
Holthinrichs × Revolution and The Rake
Considering the not-insubstantial demand for his watches then, I was surprised and touched that he reached out to
propose a collaboration on a small series of handmade watches after I wrote an article on him previously. Little did
I know too, that The Rake had been essential in building his initial interest in watches. Michiel confides, “I
learned about ultimate classic style through The Rake, and becoming interested in clothing and style, this
inevitably led me to watches.”
Read Wei Koh’s initial
interview with Michiel, here.
The idea that Michiel had was intriguing. He explained, “I am a fan of both your magazines — Revolution which is one
of the best and coolest watch magazines and websites around, and also The Rake which is really a unique voice for
classic elegance. Why don’t we create a different design for each of these, one for Revolution and one for The
Rake?” Without hesitation I immediately agreed and so we assembled a black ops team consisting of Ross Povey, my UK
editor-in-chief, and Sumit Nag, my head of online, and began to discuss the concepts.
We decided immediately to identify one signature shared design trait that could be carried across both the Revolution
and Rake model watches. As I had been buried in my massive story about Patek Philippe’s
vintage chronographs, specifically the reference 130 and the reference 1463, I had been poring over images
of these watches. Time and again I had remarked to Ross and Sumit about the near-hallucinatory beauty of the rare
Breguet-numeral-dial versions of these watches. And so almost immediately Ross proposed, “Why don’t we use Breguet
numerals?” I was sold.
“I love it,” was Michiel’s reply. And like that he was off on his design process. Holthinrichs features two very
different case finishes for his Ornament model case. The traditional finish is smooth-polished and sublimely
elegant. But he also offers what he calls the RAW Ornament, which features a case surface that looks like it was
roughhewn out of granite with a chisel and a hammer while drinking whiskey straight out the bottle. It looks like an
even more brutal version of the sandcast magnesium parts found in old Formula 1 cars and super bikes. And these two
finishes gave Michiel the idea for distinguishing the two watches. He explained, “For Revolution which brought a
‘cool’ attitude to watch journalism, I want to make a watch that is inspired by Brutal Elegance. We will use the RAW
Ornament case as the foundation for this. But for The Rake which is about style, I want to make a watch that
epitomises Refined Elegance. The type of watch a boulevardier or flaneur would wear.” We loved the idea.
Brutal Elegance Ornament Limited Edition
The watches that Michiel designed are as follows. For Revolution he created the B.E.O or Brutal Elegance Ornament. This features a 38mm steel case in his signature raw finish which looks like a sandblasted treatment but is actually the way the metal emerges from the 3D-printing process.
The benefit to this is significant because although sandblasting creates a robust-looking finish, it is actually
extremely delicate and scratches very easily. Conversely, the raw finish from Michiel’s 3D printing is relatively
resistant to scratching. It is also uniquely identifiable as he is the only individual in watchmaking that uses this
technique for his cases. As such, his “raw” look acts as a visual identifier for his brand.
The beauty of the raw finish is sublimely contrasted by the high polishing applied to areas such as the lugs and the
crown. This is a hugely labour-intensive process. Michiel laughs, “I have to finish each of these cases with a small
file and sandpaper to achieve the level of refinement I feel is necessary.” To keep the brutal theme going, Michiel
selected a dial with a similar brutal sandblasted-type finish. But this is contrasted by stunning high-polished
applied Breguet numerals. Says Michiel, “If you look closely you will see these numerals have sharp straight edges
to keep a maximum of dramatic contrast with the dial. This idea of dynamic tension between roughness and refinement
is something I learned from architecture and perhaps most from Le Corbusier.”