The Entirely Hand-Engraved Kees Engelbarts Organic Skeleton Ref. 1867 (Hands-On)

Kees Engelbarts’ most recent creation is a compendium of his abilities combining his relationship with a millenary Japanese metalworking procedure, his dominance of etching, and his fundamentally imaginative way to deal with skeletonisation. Engelbarts’ Organic Skeleton Ref. 1867 is a novel handmade masterpiece excited with surfaces, engraved surfaces, fractional perspectives on the development and psychedelic tones. A key idea driving Engelbarts’ vision is the word ‘organic’. Designed to bring out a characteristic, enlivened and free-streaming creation, this organic methodology is an extreme differentiation to more regular watchmaking where evenness and refined cleaned surfaces are foremost. Closer in soul to a little figure, the Organic Skeleton watch is unadulterated feeling and will, therefore, inspire altogether different responses from people. 

Performance Artist

Kees Engelbarts is one of those privileged insights that once you find you nearly need to mind your own business! An expert etcher who turned his hand to watchmaking in the last part of the 1990s, Engelbarts could best be described as an exhibition craftsman in the watch cosmos.  Capable of causing small scale situations of amazing excellence and participating in challenging accomplishments of skeletonisation, Engelbarts is a craftsman through and through.  His most recent creation – Organic Skeleton Ref. 1867 – recovers his interest with the legendary figure of the mythical beast and his dominance of the antiquated Japanese Mokume Gane etching strategy. As indicated by Engelbarts, his 11-year-old child Pierrot asked him: “Father, you don’t make mythical serpent observes any longer. Why?” Not having the option to come up with any persuading reason, Engelbarts withdrew into this studio and went through four months making the Organic Skeleton watch.

Trained as an etcher in Schoonhoven (known as the ‘Silver Town’) in Holland, Kees got comfortable Geneva during the 1990s. Turning his hand to the Lilliputian components of watch dials, Engelbarts pulled in a lot of commissions from top of the line Swiss brands. In 1997 he decided to make his own watches and, similar to any self-regarding painter or stone worker, his pieces are agreed upon. With a hyper-restricted creation of simply six to eight watches per year, Engelbarts’ handmade show-stoppers are however an interesting as they may be fascinating.

To date, his watches are portrayed by two expansive topics: decorated with legendary animals like unicorns and mythical beasts or skeletonised to the extreme.  One of our #1 independent watchmakers at MONOCHROME – and not on the grounds that Frank is Dutch!  –  we have covered Engelbarts broadly throughout the long term. To figure out his abundant way to deal with skeletonisation, investigate his Skeletonised Tourbillon complete with contorted, wound extensions (like something out of a Dali painting) and the trippy psychedelic shading plan, or this profoundly skeletonised watch with its accompanying video . The psychedelic shades of the Skeletonised Tourbillon show up again on the dial and caseback of his most recent watch embellished with a squirming winged serpent on the dial made with the procedure of Mokume Gane.

The Japanese Connection

Fascinated by Japanese craftsmanship and millenary decorative procedures, Engelbarts has developed an exceptional relationship with the refined specialty of Mokume Gane and has the differentiation of being the first to apply this imaginative method to the modest material of a watch dial (31mm on account of this model).

A Japanese blended metal covered method developed during the 1600s in Japan, Mokume Gane is ascribed to Denbai Shoami (1651-1728) an expert skilled worker who had some expertise in sword fittings in the prefecture of Akita. Inexactly interpreted as ‘wood grain metal’ the unmistakable layered examples of Mokume Gane changes the presence of cold metal into warm common wood grain and was utilized to decorate tsuba, the handguard of a Japanese sword. Tsuba handguards not just adjusted the sword and shielded the hand of the fighter from the savage blade, but the stunning creativity would become a superficial point of interest of the proprietor. Well known themes during the Edo Period, which have enlivened Engelbarts, include  monsters and this delightful portrayal of a bird balanced on a branch .

The craft of Mokume Gane comprises in layering distinctive non-ferrous metals (frequently up to 25 layers, somewhat like millefeuille pale), which are then warmed in a stove to the combination temperature of the metal that liquefies first. As Engelbarts disclosed to me, “once you get your strong homogenous square with all the layers, the pleasant starts and you can do a wide range of things to it – twist it, bend it, imprint it and, similar to wood, uncover the grain of the metal.” Using a little U-formed surgical tool, Engelbarts revives the stacked layers of silver and white gold etching the crooked state of the monster and the rough cavern entrance he is rising up out of. The degree of etching is unmatched and each and every detail of the mythical beast, from his covering scales to sharp-pawed foot. Indeed, even the gold-plated hands, that seem as though wound golden branches are the aftereffect of Mokume Gane.

The Alchemist of Psychedelic Colors and Textures

Colour assumes an imperative part in this creation and for this stage in the inventive cycle, Engelbarts wears his chemist’s cap. Liver of sulfur, a potassium-based compound that scents like spoiled eggs, is prestigious for its capacity to make patinas on metals and is the thing that Engelbarts uses to make his sweet psychedelic shading range. Liver of sulfur comes in a strong state composed of little yellow shakes that are weakened in water and afterward applied to the various metals. Timing is of the substance to acquire the desired tone in the use of liver of sulfur, similar to the focus or weakening of the liquid.

To find out about how it functions, Engelbarts concocted a decent similarity. “Have you at any point seen the tones on the tempered steel exhaust line of an old BMW motorbike? The tones nearer to the motor (wellspring of warmth) are blue and purple and fade to brown and yellow towards the end (cooler piece) of the exhaust.” This doesn’t imply that the tones are cajoled out with heat on the dial, the force of shading depends on the convergence of the arrangement, beginning with light yellow as far as possible up the range to brown, blue, violet and ultimately black.  Once Engelbarts has the tones he’s after, the oxidation interaction is killed with cleanser and water. The dial is likewise somewhat skeletonised uncovering short lived looks at the development around the loops of the mythical serpent’s body.

As an etcher, Engelbarts doesn’t “do things the watchmaker’s way” and needed the instance of his watch to repeat the dial. The 39mm case is made from strong silver and was oxidized until it turned a dull dark. The ‘barnacles’ you can see on certain pieces of the bezel and carries are made with a laser welding machine and gold wire. In Engelbarts’ own words: “With your laser welder you heat a little surface region to temperatures of 1000 degrees or more and afterward put a spotlight on a meager gold wire. The warmth softens the gold on top of the silver,” making the wonderful organic surface that makes it look like the watch has consumed a portion of its time on earth at the lower part of the ocean.

New old stock movements

Like all his different watches, the development Engelbarts has decided for this model is a NOS (new old stock) type, for this situation, a vintage Peseux 330, the predecessor of the Peseux/ETA 7001. A straightforward however respectable manual-twisting development with a recurrence of 18,000vph and a 43-hour power hold, the type has capitulated to Engelbarts’ artistry and is richly decorated.

The metal scaffolds and mainplate are given a similar consideration as the dial and are engraved, silver-plated and afterward oxidized with liver of sulfur to make the sweet landscape, complete with surging Japanese-roused mists. Indeed, even the sinks are oxidized various tones going from yellow to purple. The difference of the artistic liberty on the extensions and the mechanical order of the parts he has decided to uncover is successful. Also, similar to any self-regarding craftsman, Kees Engelbarts’ has marked his work on the silver caseback.


A extraordinary piece, the Organic Skeleton Ref. 1867 comes on an ‘organic’ gator cowhide lash with a sharkskin lining, which Engelbarts guarantees me is “impervious to sweat-soaked wrists”. Rather than a collapsing catch, which makes it harder to appreciate the development, the lash comes with a silver pin clasp. Four months really taking shape, the watch retails for around CHF 67,000. To connect with Kees Engelbarts, you can discover his contact details and telephone number on his website page .

Photographs graciousness of the gifted Guy Lucas de Peslouan.