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Kieser Design Tragwerk.T (Unique Piece) Review

by Jan 14, 2024Kieser Design, Limited Edition

Are you aware of any modularly configurable, handmade mechanical watches that were inspired by an insect?  Kieser Designs fit into that very unique space perfectly.

Kieser Designs is a small family business that was founded in 2019, by a young independent watchmaker named Matthias Kieser, from Frankfurt, Germany.

Inspired by nature and in this instance, specifically the dragonfly, Matthias pairs high quality materials with progressive design.  He creates individual timepieces for his customers, using their input on a modular configuration of their choice.  The watches are manufactured in Kieser’s own workshop, using a combination of state of the art manufacturing processes and traditional craftsmanship.

Limited quantities are made; all of which are hand made with exceptional attention to detail and each one is made on a pre-order basis for each individual client order.

Matthias Kieser set out to bring a breath of fresh air to the market for mechanical wristwatches; he explains the inspiration behind the tragwerk.T:

My goal was to create something truly unique that inspires people. Completely new to the world of watches, something colourful, capable of handling anything. A mechanical timepiece to enjoy in your everyday life.  The result was a patented titanium bionic watch: the tragwerk.T.

I first learned about the concept of bionics in my university lectures. It essentially means applying functional principles found in nature to technical problems. After a lot of research, I decided to try to emulate the exoskeleton of a dragonfly. A solid outer shell protecting the soft and vulnerable organs, in my case the movement of the watch.

I think nature is a beautiful source of inspiration. Nature is a genius. It provides smart, holistic solutions for complex engineering challenges. And the astonishing thing is: It does so in the most aesthetic way possible!

I faced several technical challenges though – I wanted the watch to be aesthetically pleasing and functional at the same time and I didn’t want to make any compromises.

Kieser Design Tragwerk.T Unique Piece

Kieser Design Tragwerk.T Unique Piece

Face & case

The 42mm brushed natural grade 5 titanium case is built up using a modular system of parts, which when all combined together, allows for the rigid exoskeleton to house (and protect) the inner case and ultimately, the movement within.  The rest of the watch is also very modular, which means individual elements and components can all have a different coloured anodised finishes.

Specifically to this Tragwerk.T, the internal case is in anodised black titanium.  The colour surrounds the dial and can also be seen through the case sides.  Nestled within and protected by the external frame, scratches or abrasion on the coated parts are highly unlikely.

Under the completely flat sapphire crystal, the base of the dial is bright purple and seems to change its appearance and colour tones almost constantly, thanks to the 287 milled honeycombs.  In order to create this effect, the tight honeycomb pattern is first painstakingly milled (by hand) into a disc of titanium.  The disc is then anodised.

A purple index ring with 60 white printed minute markings circles the dial.  It has been applied to the dial level and sits with an angle inwards towards the dial, hugging the outer edges of applied hour indexes tightly.  The indices for even hours are slightly bigger than odd; the surfaces of the hand made indices have been individually shaped and polished by hand, and have a line of luminous material applied down their centres.

There is a date window at 3 o’clock which is framed with a polished border, where beneath it, a black date wheel has white numerals on it.

Two plaques have also been applied to the dial – the “Kieser Design” logo is centred on the top half and “tragwerk.T” sits centred on the bottom; both are printed in white.

Lastly, “Made in Germany” can be seen split on either side of the 6 o’clock index.

From the sides, the exoskeleton is obvious.  One side has the entire inner case on display, whilst the crown side has titanium crown protectors in place, between the outer frame structure.  The screw down crown is black and features a deep ridge for ease of turning.  Making this piece specifically unique, it has the About Timepieces Icon engraved on the end.
The external case housing is in a 2 part skeletonised frame and not only acts as the inner case housing, but also as lugs for connecting the strap.  The frame curves quite dramatically down the way at the lug ends, which should give people with a smaller wrist the ability to wear without the lugs flying too far over their wrist.
From the back side of the watch, it appears more industrial, with everything very minimalistic and a great deal of detail to look at.
The rear part of the exoskeleton case fixes together with 8 tiny purple hex screws.  Moving inwards, the black anodised inner frame circles another flat sapphire crystal.  Beneath it, the movement housing has “Nr. 041” printed in black (which is obviously the number of the Kieser Design watch) and the entire movement is black ruthenium plated with various finishes to the bridges and movement; snailing, perlage, brushing are all apparent.

Spinning on top of it, is a purple honeycomb shaped rotor, which was also created, developed and made in house.  The outer edge is made from 18k gold, which acts as a heavier weight to counter the missing mass from what would be there in a standard rotor.  The centre of the mass has also been optimised.  “KIESER DESIGN” is also engraved and filled with black on the outer edge of the rotor.

It does not state it anywhere on the case or watch, however, the case has been tested to 100m water resistance.
Kieser Design Tragwerk.T Unique Piece Case Back

Kieser Design Tragwerk.T Unique Piece Case Back

Movement

A Swiss movement has been used.  The automatic Sellita Calibre SW200-1 provides power, which has been heavily modified and finished, both aesthetically and with the addition of their own skeletonised rotor with gold weight.

Beating at 28,2800vph and with 26 jewels, the movement will provide around 38 hours power reserve when fully wound.
Functions include hours, minutes, central seconds and quick setting date.
Kieser Design Tragwerk.T Unique Piece Side & Crown

Kieser Design Tragwerk.T Unique Piece Side & Crown

Strap

Each strap is hand made individually and is again, another colour option to choose from during the initial design configuration process.  It has a Cordura layer on the outside – in this instance, purple was chosen to match the dial, with thick black (hand) stitching to match the inner case.  The inner lining is in soft black leather, where you will see the brand name stamped into the underside of both straps.

A grade 5 titanium pin buckle in the same style as the case design, is used to fasten the strap.  Also an in house product, the buckle has a very unique design – again quite industrial looking, with a skeletonised area to either side of the pin fastener.
Kieser Design Tragwerk.T Unique Piece Strap & Buckle

Kieser Design Tragwerk.T Unique Piece Strap & Buckle

Other stuff

Founder and watchmaker, Matthias Kieser, is a business engineer who loves nature. Nature brings holistic solutions for complex engineering challenges in a naturally aesthetically pleasing fashion.  Insects is where he found the inspiration for the tragwerk.T; using perfect interplay of shapes, colours and technical functionality as an aesthetic and technical starting point.

Matthias first learned about the concept of bionics in University.  It essentially means applying functional principles found in nature to technical problems.  After a lot of research, he decided to try to emulate the exoskeleton of a dragonfly – a solid outer shell protecting the soft and vulnerable organs, in this case, the movement of the watch. The result was a case made up of an outer skeletonized case in brushed grade 5 titanium, surrounding an inner case of anodized, colourful titanium.

It’s not only the exoskeleton that was derived from the dragonfly; the range of beautiful colours in which dragonflies appear was also an inspiration.  Their bodies can shimmer green, orange, blue, yellow and many more and he wanted the tragwerk.T to offer the same gift of beautiful colours.

In addition to the the aforementioned dragonfly’s features, the dial is also inspired by the dragonfly’s compound eyes.  Fascinated by how beautifully the light is reflected in the faceted eye of the dragonfly, Mathias decided that he should mil over 250 honeycombs into the dial to achieve a similar effect. Each hexagon is individually milled into titanium dial blanks.  A maximum amount of light reflection is achieved by using exceedingly sharp tools, which make the dial replicate the appearance of the vibrant and shiny eyes of the dragonfly.

The rotor is also designed to mimic the wings of a dragonfly. Creating this rotor took a lot of thought and many different attempts; Matthias wanted to keep the torque of a regular rotor, but make sure the rotor was still lightweight.  By adding an 18k weight, he was able to create the dragonfly inspired rotor – it is 20% lighter than the original one and has a unique appearance.

Matthias Kieser strives for aesthetic as well as technical perfection with his exclusive watches. Lightweight and functional in any daily environment, each individual component of the complex housing is milled and turned by Matthias (by hand) from a solid piece of titanium; from the raw metal, to the finished watch.

Titanium has a unique, unmistakable surface with a distinct anthracite tone of colour which can be anodized easily, making the whole colour customization concept possible. Strong and light, titanium was the ideal material for the tragwerk.T and it was a conscious decision that Matthias would take on the challenge of making all parts out of it.

tragwerk.T literally means “structural framework” – a technical term from architecture for load bearing parts of a structure and therefor refers directly to the robust case of the watch.  the “T” on the end refers to titanium.

In addition to the technical meaning, it is also a play on words that alludes to the fact that you wear a watch movement on your arm (German “Trag” means wearing and “Werk” means movement).  Matthias reasoning behind this is that the tragwerk.T is designed for everyday wear: super comfortable, extremely robust and durable, and never becoming boring.

Matthias Kieser plans to become a 100% manufacture – he already has a very high degree of vertical integration and manufacture most of the parts for their watches in-house.

 

Kieser Design Tragwerk.T Unique Piece On the Wrist

Kieser Design Tragwerk.T Unique Piece On the Wrist

Our verdict

I didn’t realise it was so long ago, but I first started speaking with Matthias back in October 2021 and we agreed to do a watch at that point.  I played around with various colour combinations and ended up with the purple and black combination you see here today.

Between our busy schedules, it took a while to actually get going, but when I first received the box, I was quite pleasantly surprised – not only was the packaging (and therefor opening experience) better than many I have seen at a much higher price point, but the watch itself was a lot more impressive than I had initially imagined.

When I removed it from its safe storage area within the presentation box, what initially struck me was the weight – the case is only 47 grams and to be honest, it was so light that I actually felt almost as if I was holding a toy!!

The purple dial is so vibrant; the more you look at it, the more you see; the way the light reflects off the hundreds of milled hexagons does actually replicate the eyes of a dragonfly quite successfully.  The case is very unique too, with its skeletonised outer frame and the contrasting inner frame in black makes it look as if it is a watch within a watch; almost as if you could push the back and the inner case would pop out to replace with another.

My biggest surprise was probably on the movement side – as well as there being a gold weight, I didn’t realise that so many modifications and finishing techniques would be apparent on the movement.  The purple screws to match the dial are also a really different look.

Don’t forget the About Timepieces icon on the crown; the ability to get that type of personalisation is really why I love dealing with independents.

On the wrist, comfort levels are high; it is also so light that I would easily forget I had a watch on.  At 11.2mm thick, it is not overly thick, however, I do think the angular shape of the case could mean the odd wrestle to get it under cuffs.

I always try to put out negatives to be as non-biased as possible, however, I do believe the watch is as accomplished as it set out to be and probably as it could be.  My only personal thought is that when I ordered it, I didn’t realise the purple dial colour would be as popular a choice, as I’ve seen a few other purple dial tragwerk.Ts on social media – I would have probably gone with something a little more outrageous if I had a crystal ball.  I will also likely change my strap material (and colour), as I never usually stick with the original strap for very long – keep an eye out on InstaGram, as I might post it when I change it.

The experience of making a watch with Matthias has been great.  The fact that it is possible to configure the colours of almost every aspect to your own personal choice is a fairly unique concept; he is also so meticulous about every aspect of how the watch is manufactured, which is extraordinary.

At a starting price of around 7,900 EUR, I believe you really get what you pay for and there are not many watches that you could purchase that provide a mix of that level of personalisation with quality, for the price.  Your piece could well be a unique one too, if you pick a colour combination that nobody else comes up with, but the fact they only make a maximum of around 50 pieces per year, you will be in a fairly exclusive club regardless!

I’ve heard on the grapevine that there are multiple ideas for new watches brewing at Kieser Design and there is also a new watch model in the final stages of testing – I’m very interested to see what comes next!

https://en.kieserdesign.de/

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