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My Dornblüth visit

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1 My Dornblüth visit on Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:08 am

Visit to D.Dornblüth & Sohn

Some time ago I had seen a new type of dial for my Dornblüth 99.1. Normally I want to keep my watches in the most original state possible, but when I saw the new dial in real life I was struck by the sparkling silver appearance. After thorough consideration I decided to have the dial replaced. Of course it was also my intention to keep the original dial, this way I could have the new one replaced by the original one whenever I wanted.

I had the idea to make a photo report of the dial change, so I made an appointment with Dirk Dornblüth to have the dial replaced. I think it is very admirable that he created the possibility for me to visit him, because he is extremely busy considering the delivery period when you order a new Dornblüth watch. Last summer I visited him at his workshop and I want to share my experience with you.

On the way to Kalbe in the former East Germany the weather was terrible with a lot of rain and thunder. As a result of that the ride was very exhausting and lasted too long.


Eventually almost 2 hours later than I hoped, I reached the picturesque village of Kalbe.


This village is a typical former small East German village with streets in a (sometimes) very terribly bad sate, old shops, houses and other buildings which are abandoned. After a little search I found the right address where I received a warm welcome by Anja, Dirk’s wife. Because Dirk had to finish some activities she gave me a little tour in the studio/workshop where another staff member was doing his job. The smell in the workshop is a mix of metal and oil, which if you ask me, is a pleasant smell.

The workshop


Whit this machine the in house made movement wheels get their teeth. As you can see it is simply a bar brass from which later on the wheels are being cut.




This is the engraving machine with which the movements, dial, etc. get their engravings. Here you can see the dial of the Regulator.






Watchmaker’s lathe


After the guided tour by Anja in the workshop I met Dirk who had finished his work. Above the workshop there is an atelier where the polishing, assembly and the finishing of the watches is done. It looks like a well organized mess in which Dirk can find everything infallible. Slightly astonished I was concerning the fact that there is no air conditioning whereas the outside temperature was 30 degrees Celsius and the atelier is directly under the roof. I think you can imagine what the temperature inside was.

This device is used to put the polished lines on the movement.




During the explanation I was told that a client can ask for personal alterations off his watch, taken into account that it is technical possible and financially feasible. There was a client who wanted the 15, 30, 45, 60 numerals and the letter Reg in red on his Regulator and the rest in black. According to the supplier of the dials this was not possible, that is why Dirk decided to make the dials himself. You can see the result here http://www.dornbluethblog.com/Watches/Regulator.html . Of course it is also possible to personalize your watch with an engraving on the movement.

Here is an example of old tool device which can modify the cogs of a cogwheel.


Here an overview of the atelier, where Dirk and the other watchmakers do their magical thing.




Then it was time to choose which new dial I wanted in my 99.1. I could choose from dials with blue numerals, black numerals, blue appliqués, black appliqués or an enamel dial. Generally I like enamel dials the most, but with my watch the one black appliqués was the best.

Some dials I could choose from






The hands of my watch were replaced as well because they didn’t have the right blue color anymore. I noticed that the watch movement is polished very nicely even on the inside (beneath the dial) as well, so not only the parts you see are polished.

Replacement of the dial and hands by Dirk.










After changing the dial we walked through the work shop again and Dirk gave me a detailed explanation of the devices/machinery. Striking to me was the mix of old traditional machines with new (computer)technologies. Dirk told me he also likes the smell of oil.

With this machine very precise measurements can be made to 1/1000 of a millimeter.






A photo of Dirk and myself


While enjoying our coffee there was some time to ask questions.

Dirk told me some things about the past when he and his father started. They have accomplished everything without external financiers and without major investments, giving them a possibility to stop when things would not turn out the way they had expected them to be. Now we know that this gamble turned out to be a great success. His father is now retired, but he cannot stop to visit the workshop twice a day.

Of course I had to ask how Dornblüth was coping with the current financial crisis. At the end of 2008 there were only a few orders but and the delivery time was decreasing from 6 to 3 months. Fortunately for Dirk the delivery time is now up to 6 months again.

On the question what we can expect in the next few months Dirk could not give me an answer. And if he could, he would probably not give it to me because his telephone would start ringing immediately.

Here are some pictures of the clock which has to come on the front of the atelier. It has a diameter of approximately 1.2 meter.




And then it was time to leave. It was a pleasure to have visited these two very friendly people with a passion for watch making. Having had a nice experience and a new beautiful dial on my 99.1 I left Dirk and Anja. It is almost unbelievable that in spite of their busy agenda they found time for me to visit them.

The super friendly Dirk and Anja


On the way back it was very difficult to keep my eyes on the road.


And this is my 99.1 now.

See that dial sparkle in the sun.


And some other photo’s.










And of course one picture of the movement, because it is so nice.

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2 Awesome post! on Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:06 am

Thanks for this wonderful post, Jürgen. I had a similarly great experience when I visited last January (except it was cold, not hot).

A few things I notice right away:

- You and I are about the same size. Not many of us dwarf Dirk. Laughing
- Is that precise cutting machine new, and what does he use it for?
- The story about the red Regulator dial engraving is actually backwards. Dirk did it for me, but it was after he had created the in-house capability that I asked for the customization.

Cheers!

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3 Re: My Dornblüth visit on Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:20 pm

Jürgen,thanks for sharing with us this great experience! I always think to visit Dirk, hope to do this soon...I moved this topic here, hope it is ok for you.,


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"Have One" group - New proud owner of a 99.1
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4 Re: My Dornblüth visit on Wed Jan 20, 2010 2:55 pm

Thanks, Jurgen, what a fantastic and fascinating post! It makes me all the keener to visit Kalbe myself.

I'm interested by what you say regarding the colour of your hands. Why did they not have the right blue colour any more? Had they faded or changed in colour since you got the watch? I haven't heard of this before.

The watch looks wonderful, by the way - may it give you many years of pleasure!

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5 Re: My Dornblüth visit on Wed Jan 20, 2010 5:02 pm

Mark wrote:Thanks, Jurgen, what a fantastic and fascinating post! It makes me all the keener to visit Kalbe myself.

I'm interested by what you say regarding the colour of your hands. Why did they not have the right blue colour any more? Had they faded or changed in colour since you got the watch? I haven't heard of this before.

The watch looks wonderful, by the way - may it give you many years of pleasure!

Hi Mark

The colour of the hands had turned a little brown during the years. This can happen because the blue color is a sort of corrosion you will get by heating bare metal. If you don't take the right time for heating the can also turn out to be a little brown.

Kind Regards
Jürgen

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6 Re: My Dornblüth visit on Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:10 pm

Jürgen,

Loved your photo essay, thanks for all the effort you put into your post.

I enjoyed seeing the dial-side of the movement decorated with beautiful perlage. Demonstrates that Dirk is as committed to finishing on the hidden parts of the movement as well as the visible.

I also like hearing your tale of your watch going back to its maker for an update. Makes ownership more of an ongoing story rather than a simple purchase.

I also see by your serial number that you have quite an early 99.1. How long have you had it, and what has been your long-term experience?

thanks, Tom

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7 Re: My Dornblüth visit on Thu Jan 21, 2010 7:02 pm

Jürgen wrote:
Mark wrote:Thanks, Jurgen, what a fantastic and fascinating post! It makes me all the keener to visit Kalbe myself.

I'm interested by what you say regarding the colour of your hands. Why did they not have the right blue colour any more? Had they faded or changed in colour since you got the watch? I haven't heard of this before.

The watch looks wonderful, by the way - may it give you many years of pleasure!

Hi Mark

The colour of the hands had turned a little brown during the years. This can happen because the blue color is a sort of corrosion you will get by heating bare metal. If you don't take the right time for heating the can also turn out to be a little brown.

Kind Regards
Jürgen

Thanks, Jurgen, that's very interesting. It might provide a good excuse for a trip to Kalbe in years to come!

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8 wow! Thanks for the post! on Sun Jan 24, 2010 4:31 am

Looks like you had a great time! Thank you for sharing your photos. Cheers!

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9 Re: My Dornblüth visit on Fri Jan 29, 2010 4:30 pm

Great and nice review of this amazing experience!!

Thanks for share.

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10 Thanks on Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:43 am

Fantastic Post...


Definitely makes a visit to Germany more enticing.

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11 Re: My Dornblüth visit on Wed Feb 03, 2010 4:18 pm

Wow, what a great post. Thank you for sharing your Dornblueth experience with us as it was very informative and enjoyable.
By the way you also made a great selection for the dial of your watch.

Thank you again,
vincesf

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