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12/07/2023
 4 minutes

The Love We Share: The Man Behind the Watch

By Tim Breining
TLWS-Tim-Breining-2-1

I’ve been working with watches for nearly 10 years now, including the time I spent at Chrono24 as a student intern. Now my studies and Chrono24’s hometown of Karlsruhe are a few years behind me, but my passion for watches remains unchanged, and I’ve maintained a close link to Chrono24 as a freelance magazine author.

In 2021, the Chrono24 Magazine team gave me the opportunity to tell the story of how I became a watch enthusiast. Now I’ve been asked to tell another very personal story: This time it’s not about me, though, but rather about a watch with which I share a special bond. And, of course, the story behind the connection.

It didn’t take me long after seeing the prompt to know exactly which watch I would be writing about. Anyone who has read my articles knows that I tend to focus on the technical details of watchmaking more than the emotional or historical sides of things. This time, I’m doing something a little bit different. The watch I’m writing about today is the clear highlight of my life as a watch lover to date, and its story is tightly-knit with a series of interpersonal encounters. After all, what’s the point of having a beautiful watch if you can’t share your passion for it or appreciate the achievement that lies within its case!

The Watch

The watch I’ve chosen to write about is called the Grande Seconde from the brand Nienaber. It is the brainchild of watchmaker Rainer Nienaber, who has since gone into retirement alongside his brand.

Tim präsentiert seine "Große Sekunde" der Marke Nienaber, die sich, wie ihr Gründer, im Ruhestand befindet.
The Nienaber Grande Seconde is now enjoying retirement along with its creator.

The Grande Seconde is a three-hand watch with – you guessed it – a strikingly large, decentralized seconds. This overlaps the main dial, which features the minute and hour hands. The watch measures 39 mm across and is powered by a manual Unitas 6325 old stock movement with a modified motion train. Mr. Nienaber built 20 copies of this model, one of which I am happy to call my own. Its appearance, modified vintage movement, and limited run make this an exceptional watch in its own right, but the truly stand-out experience for me was collecting it in person from Mr. Nienaber’s workshop. Here’s the story:

Let’s start back at the beginning in 2016. My parents wanted to gift me a mechanical watch to mark my graduation, since my interest in watches and watch technology had been steadily growing since 2014. But which watch to choose?

One of my earliest “official acts” as a newly minted watch fan was visiting the annual Munichtime watch fair (now operating as Watchtime Düsseldorf). In addition to a number of better-known brands, I got the chance to meet Mr. Nienaber, the proprietor of the one-man shop trading under the same name. He was at his stand, happily presenting his timepieces.

39 mm Durchmesser und angetrieben durch das Handaufzugswerk Unitas 6325.
39 mm across and powered by the manual Unitas 6325

I was eager to see the brand’s unique creations, and they left an impression. So, in 2016, I made my way to Bünde, Germany, to pick up my very own Grande Seconde.

The Man

My enthusiasm only grew over a cup of coffee, during which I learned about Mr. Nienaber’s professional watchmaking journey. After working as an apprentice toolmaker, he trained as a watchmaker, ran his own business, and was later accepted into the exclusive ranks of the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI). He initially specialized in precision pendulum clocks, before moving to wristwatches, and regulators in particular.

The coffee was followed by a tour of his workshop, where I was very impressed to see how much happened on-site. I’m not just talking perlage and Geneva stripes, I mean the milling and turning of components like cases, dials, indices, and even whole complication modules. The Grande Seconde, one of his more affordable models, includes a specially modified motion train as well as individual components and embellishments completed by Mr. Nienaber himself.

Selten besteht die Möglichkeit sich direkt mit dem Menschen hinter der Uhr auszutauschen.
It’s rare to meet the maker of your watch.

While speaking to the watchmaker, I learned more about some of the challenges and hurdles that can arise when designing a watch, from the initial concept through to final assembly. The fact that a single person – in the spirit of a one-man shop – managed all of this as well as the accounting, shipping, marketing, and everything else is seriously impressive.

A Tip for Aspiring Watch Fans

Looking back, I appreciate how that day opened my eyes to the diversity of independent microbrands and the inspiring and deeply talented individuals behind them.

I still regularly think back to my visit to Bünde, and I wear my Grande Seconde more than most of the watches that have found their way to me over the years. While it’s somewhat sad that the brand no longer exists, it does make the watch all the more special to me, and is one of the reasons why I’ll never part ways with it.

If I could give a piece of advice to any aspiring watch enthusiast, it would be this: Take a closer look at the watches and personalities behind them. Go to the events, the trade shows, and visit watchmakers. I’m not talking about the big name fairs or exclusive events reserved for influencers. I mean go to the minor shows and events and connect with the owners of smaller, often underestimated brands. Nothing will build your interest in watches more than exchanging ideas directly with fellow enthusiasts and industry members and discovering more about the passionate people behind the watches.


About the Author

Tim Breining

My interest in watches first emerged in 2014 while I was studying engineering in Karlsruhe, Germany. My initial curiosity quickly evolved into a full-blown passion. Since …

Read more

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