It’s funny; I was in this same position last year. Having recently attended Watches and Wonders, one of the watches that most caught my eye during the week of releases was not actually at the show. Instead, it was over at Time To Watches. Behrens, one of my favorite brands, released a new watch in a new collection. I’ve made no secret of my appreciation for Behrens. I’ve waxed lyrical about my love for the brand’s modern stylings and excellent relative value for money. With the hyper-modern appearance of the 20G and futuristic leanings of the Perigee, I would forgive you for thinking the brand is perhaps a one-trick pony in this regard. However, when Behrens announced the new Kung Fu, it proved this was not the case. With a traditional yet contemporary design, Behrens shows it still values the old ways.

Before getting into the details of the new Kung Fu watch, it’s worth noting that this release marks the introduction of a new collection in the brand’s catalog. The Master line will now sit alongside the Original and Inventor collections. It represents the brand’s flagship offerings in watchmaking and will feature collaborations with independent watchmakers from around the globe. The Behrens Kung Fu is a collaboration with a self-taught Chinese watchmaker named Qian GuoBiao. Relatively unknown outside his native China, GuoBiao is renowned for repairing high-end grand complications. The Kung Fu represents a combination of GuoBiao’s watchmaking prowess with Behrens’s production capabilities and guidance in watch design. It’s a beautiful harmony, and looking at some of the images of GuoBiao’s self-branded watches, you can see the evolution into the Behrens Kung Fu.

Behrens Kung Fu

Choose your fighter

Let’s start with some basic information about the Kung Fu. At first glance, the case seems familiar. Reminiscent of some of the brand’s other watch cases, the Behrens Kung Fu differs in a couple of key ways. First, the previous 42mm diameter makes way for a more pleasing 39.5mm size. Second, the Kung Fu comes in either a titanium or platinum case. In hand, I preferred the titanium version for its lightweight properties. I’m not a fan of precious metals in watches for the weight they impart. I know RJ may dispute me saying such a thing, though, with his penchant for gold a well-known fact around these parts.

On paper, the watch measures 11.4mm thick. The wearing experience may differ, though. Much of the watch’s thickness comes from the substantial box-style sapphire crystal. This leaves the actual case sitting nicely slim on the wrist. It all adds up to the watch looking and feeling thinner than the measurement may otherwise suggest. The huge dome of the sapphire crystal also allows a sideways view into the dial side of the watch. Why? One of the core tenets of Behrens watch designs is utilizing depth meaningfully. This Kung Fu is no different, with one element of the new hand-wound in-house BM03 caliber making depth and horizontal movement part of its modus operandi.

Behrens Kung Fu

Everybody was Kung Fu fighting

I am, of course, referring to the dial-side power reserve indicator at 11 o’clock. Such a feature is not a plus for many collectors, but hear me out. This one is a bit special because it’s biaxial. The aesthetic is inspired by “plum blossom stakes” used in traditional Chinese martial arts practice. The unique aspect is the lifting and running arrow hand. As the mainspring is wound, the arrow rises while it progressively sweeps across the staggered-height stakes across the two axes. It’s hard to truly get a sense of the motion from still images, so I recommend having a quick look at this animated GIF. It’s rather an impressive concept. Is it necessary? No. Is it over-engineered? Yes. Is it beautiful? Also yes.

The sub-dial for the hours and minutes sits to the right of the power reserve indicator. It features a raised peripheral section with polished and applied numerals and markers. At 6 o’clock, you’ll notice a small red inscription. It is, in fact, Qian GuoBiao’s signature. As with the power reserve hand and stakes, the dial hands boast a flawless hand-polished mirror finish. Their shape is inspired by prismatic arrowheads from crossbow bolts from the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BCE). This is the same shape as the power reserve hand and the interesting device connected to the balance wheel below. These shapes were very noticeable in person but in a good way. Their emphasized 3D shape perfectly suits the Kung Fu’s focus on depth.

Behrens Kung Fu wrist shot

A sure shot

Moving southward on the dial, we find the balance wheel sitting prominently on the lower-left section, with another arrow-shaped hand protruding from it. The balance wheel is pretty self-explanatory, but what is this mysterious arrow for? Well, it is the regulating mechanism for the balance and escapement.

The arrow sits in a small grooved channel (again, inspired by the crossbow). By adjusting the wheel below, the watchmaker controls a unique spring-loaded mechanism under the dial that moves the arrow up and down to adjust the precision of the balance wheel. Obviously, this is not a task for the wearer, but it’s a beautiful way to display a necessary function. Beauty should be seen, not relegated to the rear.

The Behrens Kung Fu is proudly inspired by Chinese heritage

The Kung Fu’s dial layout was designed with more Qin Dynasty influences in mind. Chinese people of that era used coins with a unique design. These coins combined a round shape with a square hole in the center. The Kung Fu’s dial layout uses this idea and applies the concept to the four main functions (the hours/minutes display, the power reserve indicator, the balance wheel, and the regulation mechanism). In doing so, it was possible to align the different elements to mimic the square shape within the round case.

Flipping the watch over, Behrens still has some surprises on the rear. Two bridges hold the fourth wheel and escape wheel in place. Likewise, a large red synthetic ruby secures the rear side of the balance wheel. The ruby also features Qian GuoBiao’s signature laser engraved on it. However, a large plate with relief engraving takes up most of the real estate. The case back is nice and finished equally well, but the dial side is the star of the show here.

Behrens Kung Fu

A note on the smart strap choice

All too often, a stock watch strap is just an afterthought. However, we all know that the strap makes the watch. A poor-quality strap or even a poor color choice can quickly turn things sour. Behrens chose a complementary gray alligator leather strap for the Kung Fu. Made from American Mississippi alligator skin, this hand-stitched strap was the perfect choice for this watch. I’ll be honest: I’m not often a fan of matching a leather strap to the dial color, especially not with shades of gray as everything can become washed out very quickly. However, the grays allow the dial functions to take center stage. This is a bold move and one that has paid off. Alternatively, I could also see a dark blue alligator or ostrich-leg leather strap as a nice combo.

The Kung Fu is a big swing and hit to introduce the brand’s new Master Collection

Behrens will produce only 99 examples of the Kung Fu. After all, with the amount of manual finishing that goes into each piece, there will be a long waitlist to produce the watches. Nine pieces will have a platinum case and strap buckle. However, hold your horses if platinum is your bag because these nine pieces sold out in the first couple of days. The remaining 90 pieces will feature a titanium case and buckle. The long-gone platinum versions retailed for a not-insignificant US$28,500, making the Kung Fu Behrens’s most expensive watch to date. The brand’s collectors did not balk at this, though. The titanium versions retail for US$17,700, which is also a big figure but clearly not putting the brand’s clients and collectors off.

Sure, this is an expensive watch and a massive jump in price compared to previous offerings. It’s important to discuss this as it’s a lot of money, even for a luxury watch. I expect some comments to state that Chinese watchmaking is “inferior” and “not worth” these prices. I’ll never understand why some people take offense at Chinese craftsmanship. High-quality work is high-quality work, regardless of where it is completed. This is not a mass-produced, low-end watch. The hand finishing is meticulous and to an exceptional level. The in-house movements are designed and produced specifically for this watch, and only 99 pieces will ever be produced. When you look at comparables from Swiss counterparts, you will see how these prices are by no means unreasonable. Of course, real value is always left to the eye of the beholder!

What do you think of the new Behrens Kung Fu, and what do you make of the brand’s evolution over its last few releases? I’m keen to hear your thoughts in the comments. If you want to learn more about Behrens and the Kung Fu, visit the brand’s official website.