Breitling Boutique Watchmaking Workshop In Amsterdam
Three months ago Breitling opened its first boutique in The Netherlands. And about time, too! Many other brand boutiques in Breitling’s league were already present in our attractive capital. The way a brand boutique differs from a regular multi-brand shop is how a brand is experienced. Breitling, in this case, makes things utterly clear. Its Amsterdam boutique exudes mancave style, with a pool table and a Norton motorcycle displayed in front of exposed brickwork, decorated with multiple pictures representing the Breitling way of life.
So “experience” is the keyword here. That means that a visitor should actively be part of what’s happening. In his review on the boutique, Robert-Jan was looking for a smoking BBQ and found out that — although very fitting to the atmosphere — unfortunately, you shouldn’t BBQ inside a building. It’s more or less the same with Breitling’s key #squadonamission areas: aviation, exploration, cinema, and sport. Seldom is a boutique suitably arrayed to host those activities. One area in which this boutique excels, however, is watchmaking itself.
But except for its connection with the above-mentioned tough-looking squadrons, Breitling is very much connected to watchmaking, of course. Although it is a field easily overlooked nowadays, it is still something for which many collectors admire Breitling watches. There’s not much airspace needed for watchmaking, nor huge waves or cinematic sets. In the Amsterdam Breitling boutique, we found out that a welcoming basement is perfect for experiencing watchmaking. The presence of an adequately filled bar plus the aforementioned cool artifacts was definitely of help.
The Amsterdam Boutique
Understandably we — Jorg and I — were happy to accept the invitation for a Breitling masterclass and took off to the Amsterdam Boutique. The advantage of the cost of parking skyrocketing to almost €8 an hour in Amsterdam is that parking space is easy to find. In this case, almost in front of the boutique’s entrance at P.C. Hooftstraat 130. Overwhelmed by the Amsterdam boutique’s rugged interior, one could almost forget about the vast collection of watches it offers. Sipping welcome-champagne, we took the opportunity to try on some models before starting the watchmaking class.
The watchmaking part
Out of respect for social distancing measures, only four people could join the workshop. That meant a lot of personal attention from our teacher, Terrence van Geffen.
Looking at well-equipped workbench-tables, we couldn’t wait any longer to start our class. Today’s learning object, unfortunately, wasn’t the Breitling B01 caliber as shown on the screen. It was a Unitas 6497. I said, unfortunately, but I guess that had its reasons. Even this fairly straightforward former pocketwatch movement proved to be quite difficult to master for most of us.
While dismantling was a relatively quick and easy job, it was the assembly that caused many of us trouble. Small parts love to run away from you. But more importantly, it proved very problematic to keep the tiny pivots straight while replacing the train bridge. The full exercise took us over two hours, and none of us was able to have the movement running again without help from Terrence. Some of us even ruined three movements before finishing the job properly.
It wasn’t the first time I attended a workshop like this, but it still proved difficult. In the end — due to a non-functional anchor — my movement didn’t run as it should. Luckily, Terrence accepted that were it not for the damaged anchor, my movement would have run just fine. As such, he granted me my Breitling certificate (thankfully). Again, I gained much respect for watchmakers in general — what a painstaking job!
Often, we hear people complaining about the costs of servicing their watch. But I’m sure you’d think differently once you’ve tried it yourself. There’s so much to it, and it takes so much time to do it right. By the way, did you know that Breitling has a dedicated webpage to indicate actual service prices? Entering the serial or model number of your watch on this page will inform you of the current price for a service intervention.
Enjoy a few more pictures of our masterclass in the gallery below. For the rest, you’ll find me on Instagram @gerardnijenbrinks.