This week I was pleasantly surprised by a visit from one of The Netherlands’ most headstrong watchmakers, Fred Dingemans. Entirely by hand, Fred produces mechanical watches under his brand name d.m.h. Short for Dingemans Mechanische Horloges, or Dingemans Mechanical Watches in English.
Fred Dingemans d.m.h. unique pieces
It was in March 2009 that I wrote an article about d.m.h. in Dutch on the (now sleeping) horlogenieuws.nl blog. At that time, highly inspired by my findings, I ordered my own d.m.h. watch as well. I received it in September that year, so my watch bears the serial number 09-09.
From part to full time watch maker
Fred started to make his watches as a part time watch maker. He then produced approximately 12 watches a year. The four digit 00-00 serial number of the watch indicated first the month and then the last two digits of the year. Nowadays Fred Dingemans full-time produces around 24 watches each year, and the first two digits are a sequential number in the year they watch was produced. Nice to know and seen at the picture below; Fred’s personal watch bears the serial number 08-09. He produced his own watch the month before he made mine 🙂
Tenor-Dorly and in-house rebuild machinery
Most d.m.h. watches are equipped with a nice seventies Tenor-Dorly caliber. For instance a TD-1393 ticks in my watch. Except for the glasses, straps and a few tiny bits and pieces, Fred produces the entire case, crown construction and dial himself by hand. In an old barn he uses a historical, self revised and enhanced, lathe as well as an old milling machine to produce the parts.
Many other of Fred Dingemans tools are designed and constructed by himself as well. He trusted me to tell that his most important tools are probably wooden tooth picks. Fred transforms a toothpick into many different tools. Even some of his screwdrivers and tweezers find their origin in them.
Very unusual and original constructions
As the casing is made from a solid block of 316L stainless steel, the dial is made from brass plate. Printing and painting of each dial, one by one, is done by Fred entirely by hand in several steps. It thus can be intensively modified according to the wishes of the new watch owner. The dial is then fixed to the movement by screws in stead of which is normal, by centring pins. A different construction which gives a d.m.h. watch dial a unique look at the same time.
Another quite unusual construction can be seen at the crown. A d.m.h. watch is equipped with an ingenious flange system which prevents the crown from being operated accidentally. The flange is secured by a spring pin which first has to be pushed-in before the flange can be turned. Only once the flange has been turned the crown can be operated in order to wind the automatic movement or to set the hands. A construction never seen on a watch before, invented, constructed and made by hand by Fred himself.
Fine mechanics vs fine watch making
Many of the constructional solutions of a d.m.h. watch descend from fine mechanics more than from watch making techniques. Fred loves to think different. And what I like so much is that his solutions become different as well that way. You won’t find Fred as a member of any watch guild. He understands the value of these guilds for others, however is afraid that solutions for problems all will be solved in the same way. Killing originality and a personal approach to watch making.
At least two-and-a-half years delivery time and keeping customers happy
The Dingemans Mechanische Horloges website for instance is another thing which one could argue about. Fred tries to keep it updated however doesn’t always find the time. Mind you, the whole d.m.h. operation is a one man show. He explains: “Of course I try to update the website, as often if I find the time. However with a filled order book until 2020(!) there are other things with higher priority. Customers have to receive their watches, I need to finish them.”
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit his website of course. Many pictures of differently designed watches can be found at www.dingemansmechanischehorloges.nl. Through the website, or by any other means of contact, a d.m.h. watch can be ordered as well. Currently they start at around € 2.400,= (excl. VAT). However be informed that it’ll take almost three years to get your watch ready..