Like others in his shoes before him, Greg Bieniek made himself the founder of a watch brand in order to express himself. Timepiece allure extends beyond a wristwatch’s ability to effectively tell the time. A watch tells the world something about who you are while reminding wearers about something they value in themselves. Crude watches tell the story of where Greg has been, where he is from, and what he values today. This entrepreneur lives on the Spanish island of Ibiza, where he moved some years ago in order to reinvent his professional life, and for romance, and he ended up running a boutique hotel to help others enjoy the island lifestyle. Now Greg Bieniek introduces Crude, and the watch brand’s signature product: the Gypsetter.
Crude’s Gypsetter watches are far more nuanced than they appear at first. As the name of the brand suggests, Crude watches are meant to look rough, incomplete, and carefully unrefined. Upon closer inspection, any timepiece enthusiast will no doubt notice entirely original design elements, sterling silver-cast case, high-grade Swiss Made automatic movement, bespoke woven straps, and meaningful personalization options. The Crude Gypsetter is not a timepiece intended for all watch fans, but it is a product that most watch fans can agree has high levels of both technical and quality merit.
The most distinctive feature of the Crude Gypsetter watch is the “raw” cast (liquid hot metal poured into a mold versus machine milled) case produced from a heavy slab of solid 925 sterling silver. Crude’s concept is to take the unique result of this ancient metal-working technique, and bronze as a watch case material is popular, in part, because of its tendency to form an organic “patina” from normal exposure to oxidation. In its own way, silver also patinas over time, offering a similar tendency to produce an interesting organic surface texture. Inside the watch is a Swiss Made Eterna automatic movement that powers the time and date complication on the dial, which is cast just like the case of the Gypsetter. The caliber 3945A movements further feature a bespoke Crude automatic rotor. The watches are professionally assembled by Crude’s workshop in Germany. Greg chose a unique backdrop in which to build the Crude Studio manufacture — an old quarry outside the Pforzheim, Germany, a traditional locus of jewelry-making and precision manufacturing.
Visually, the Gypsetter has no serious analogs on the market. The level of originality in all parts of the product is evident in a brand that thrives on being distinctive. Even for its debut product, Crude has achieved a nuanced sense of refinement and visual distinction uncommon for a brand this young. Crude has also invested in a number of unique case components — far more than most brands of similar novelty. The Crude Gypsetter watch is meant to represent an entirely curated journey into the founder’s world, and that includes even the unique in-house-made bars that hold the strap to the case, the Crude “C” logo screws which hold the case together, and the distinctive buckle system that holds the straps’ ends together.
A key personality trait of the Crude brand is an exploration of the extreme opposites that are luxury refinement and sparkle at one end and utilitarian simplicity and the beauty of natural surfaces at the other. To this end, the “crude” surfaces of unpolished sterling silver can be paired with a variety of precious stones that can be optionally set on the Gypsetter dial (which itself is cast as part of the case) as hour markers, around the outside periphery of the bezel, or revolving around the crown.
For a more intimate look into the world of Crude and its debut product, the Gypsetter, let’s hear directly from Crude founder Greg Bieniek:aBlogtoWatch: Talk a little bit about the lifestyle (is it also your lifestyle?) that Crude and the Gypsetter watch are meant to fit into. The places, the settings, the activities, the people…
Greg Bieniek: A lifestyle away from the mainstream is certainly not easier, but it’s definitely more exciting. It’s comparable to a trip. I can book a package tour, a ready-made package & be part of something that many others have experienced before me. That’s certainly not bad. It’s been tried and tested a thousand times and enjoyed by many. But am I that kind of guy, number 1001? Or am I someone who prefers to do his own thing. You don’t need to travel to the deepest, darkest jungle where nobody’s ever been. You just have to travel differently. This example can be applied to an extremely wide range of situations.
The lifestyle of gypsetters is also different… The gypsetter loves life and enjoys it to the fullest. Gypsetters are millionaires, designers, artists & bon vivants who live and work around the globe. With their individual style, they always stand out from the crowd. They always move between the interesting places and “hotspots,” be it Punta del Este in Uruguay, New York, Paris, or Ibiza — wherever it is interesting. A gypsetter combines the comfortable, carefree lifestyle of a gypsy with the sophistication of the jet set and is always looking for something individual: true luxury.
aBlogtoWatch: As the story goes, you built the Crude brand after searching the luxury wristwatch market for a timepiece that met your particular needs and interests. Can you help shed light on what you were looking for and why you decided that to get it you’d need to build it yourself?
Greg Bieniek: When I arrived in Ibiza, I somehow wanted to do everything differently, to reinvent myself. Since then, my need for individuality has only increased. During that time, I parted with both of my watches because I thought that I didn’t need a watch anymore. After a while, I realized that I liked being a hippie, but I also didn’t want to do without the beautiful things in life. That’s why I wanted a new watch, one that suited me.
It’s not that I didn’t like any watches, but on the one hand, I wasn’t able to find a brand that reflected who I’d become, and on the other hand, no one model appealed to me 100%. A new watch was out of the question, anyway. A vintage model was more likely. I just prefer something that’s used and worn in.
First, I had the idea of buying a watch and customizing it. I tried to make a strap by myself, but it didn’t meet my standards. Actually, the story is quite long, so I’ll try to speed it up… I met someone who was able to make a really cool strap for me. And with the help of another friend who makes jewelry, I designed a matching buckle, only to find out that there was no suitable watch for this particular style. All my life, I had wanted to build something of my own, and here was my opportunity.
There was no business plan, but there was a clear goal: a watch in a rough style, a cast case that was left raw, and all of that on a luxury-watch scale. It took more than four years with many setbacks until the first Crude was finally on the watchmaker’s table: my “number 1” that I can proudly wear on my arm every day as it tells its amazing story.
aBlogtoWatch: Use of “raw” sterling silver as a case material is certainly unique. It is also very satisfying. How did you come up with the idea to use silver, a metal rarely used in watchmaking for the Gypsetter. What types of technical challenges did you run into?
Greg Bieniek: Silver was used to make watches decades ago. With today’s standards and demands on materials, it is no longer interesting for many manufacturers. I opted for silver because I wanted to use a soft material for my design that quickly showed character, patina, and a rough, used look. A material that is alive just like the customer who ultimately wears it. Choosing silver to use for the Crude cases was not, and is not, the real challenge. Our cases are not milled from a block but rather cast in molds. Therefore, the real challenge lies in reworking our imperfect cast blanks so perfectly that we preserve the uniqueness of each cast and in the end work out a perfect, waterproof case. This is a very complex process that has never been done before. No cast is 100% identical to the other – both visually and in terms of its dimensions. We therefore have to rework each case individually. Certainly, this is not the most economically effective method, but it is unique. The feel of our casted case is also special. There are no sharp edges, and everything feels soft and homogeneous.
aBlogtoWatch: The style of the Crude Gypsetter is cleverly designed to appeal to some people, and certainly not others. But underneath the skin is a competent wristwatch. Explain how even if the aesthetics of the Crude concept isn’t for you, and enthusiasts can respect the Crude Gypsetter as an item of horology.
Greg Bieniek: Even if I am absolutely not a specialist, I attach great importance to preserving the art of watchmaking. I fully respect what other brands and watchmakers do. I didn’t want to build a purely designer watch, but a real mechanical luxury watch with a completely new concept. As an outsider, it was extremely difficult for me to gain a foothold in the industry, to find good contacts and partners who believed in my idea. I think what we’ve already presented with the first Crude series is impressive and we are extremely motivated to progress further in the future.
aBlogtoWatch: You live in Ibiza, which for many people represents the type of getaway or vacation spot that people love to take their new sport watches to. Being in the hospitality industry for years, what did you learn about how jet setters enjoy luxury timepieces?
Greg Bieniek: Watches are always a big topic at hotspots like Ibiza. Unfortunately, my experience is that few people talk about their fascination with, the design of, or the history of their watch. They talk more about current price developments, shortages, and other madness from the industry. I just think it’s a shame when someone can’t tell you anything about their watch other than what it costs. And by that, I don’t necessarily mean you need to know all the technical facts, but rather the emotional values. It is certainly smart to buy a watch at a good price and then sell it for a profit. But please don’t forget that watches, with which you associate memories, are so much more valuable.
aBlogtoWatch: Customization is a key element of your value proposition. Talk a bit about how customers can personalize their Crude watch and why such added services were important for you to include as part of the company.
Greg Bieniek: Actually, a designer doesn’t like it when someone tells them how to work. I don’t see it, though, as someone who tells you what to do, rather as someone who participates. Comparable to buying a car. There too you can incorporate your personal taste and configure your dream car from various options offered by the manufacturer. However, I would also like our customers to have direct contact with the “makers,” so that we can also respond to individual requests.
Once a Crude has been ordered, contact with our customers isn’t suddenly broken off. While the watch is being produced, there is a picture of the current status, either through a short Whatsapp or phone call. Ultimately, the customer can pick up his watch personally or we can even deliver it personally on request. This means that buying a Crude is more than a “click and buy” experience. Each Crude watch should have its own story by the time it gets delivered.
aBlogtoWatch: Crude is a new brand with a seriously distinct personality and huge attention to detail in the Gypsetter products. What are the top three to five things you want anyone to know about what you built and why they would find satisfaction in paying attention?
Greg Bieniek: At first, a Crude seems rather simple. However, we put a lot of love into the details. That’s why I can’t really reduce it to three things. Every watch is unique. Sometimes, it’s just a small mistake in the casting that makes a watch special. The most striking component is definitely the case, which, including the dial, is made as one piece. But we also manufacture the crown, buckle, and even the band axles in silver to keep the watch homogeneous. Custom-made staps & our own bottom screws with the Crude E icon, etc. I would say our cast housing, the many self-manufactured components, and the new crude look are the three most technically important things that make a crude.
Crude Gypsetter watches start at 9,600 Euros. Learn more via the Crude Studio website here.
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