While 3D printing is no longer in its nascency, you wouldn’t know it looking at the wristwatch landscape. Very few brands are utilizing it as a core manufacturing approach, though there are several brands, large and small, that employ the technology for prototyping (from Visitor to A. Lange & Söhne), and Panerai even used a form of 3D printing on its Luminor Marina DMLS. From a production standpoint, though, most brands treat it as a design tool or a novelty, not a way to bring watches to the market. However, there are two brands that have embraced 3D printing with gusto. The watches from American brand Barrelhand include a large number of components that have been 3D printed, and that’s reflected in their industrial aesthetic, but Dutch brand Holthinrichs has elevated 3D-printed watches to an art. Holthinrichs watches manage to simultaneously embrace and reject the stereotypes of 3D printing, using the rough finishing resulting from the process in balance with traditional forms and decoration, proving that industrial technology need not be constrained by industrial design. The Holthinrichs RAW Ornament is a watch unlike any seen before.

When founder Michiel Holthinrichs started making watches, it wasn’t an overnight affair. Working as an architect at the time, it took him several years of prototyping and sorting out how to make a case that was entirely 3D-printed while still being attractive. His first prototype fell apart, but with constant tweaking, refining, and learning, he eventually mastered the process and created his first model, the Holthinrichs Ornament, an Art Deco design informed by his love of design from that era. The brand’s second model, the Raw Ornament, takes its inspiration from early modern architecture, particularly the béton brut concept which translates to “raw concrete” and emphasized the showcasing of a material’s natural texture and color (which I’m sure you already knew).

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The RAW Ornament case measures 38mm across and 47mm lug-to-lug. It’s also available in 36mm with a slightly shorter lug to lug, but I found the 38mm model to be a perfect fit. The case form is informed by the printing process: Each case is printed upright, from lug to lug, and the hollow lugs are designed to disperse heat during printing. The way it’s printed also means that the watch is exceptionally flat, devoid of any meaningful curvature. Fortunately, with a height of just 9.9mm including the domed sapphire crystal, there’s no need for mitigation; flat though it may be, it still wore quite easily on my 7-inch wrist. And because the lugs are hollow, the heft of the watch is greatly reduced; while made of steel, the watch feels as though it’s crafted from titanium. On top of that, the concave caseback allows the watch to more easily conform to the wrist. All Holthinrichs watches come with your choice of very comfortable ostrich strap, though I would have preferred quick-release pins so I didn’t have to (needlessly) worry about breaking the lugs with my springbar tool. (The suede strap seen here is not a current option, though I did enjoy it.)

Aesthetically, the design harkens back to the fancy-lug vintage watches that used to dominate wrists in the middle of the 20th century, and that are some of founder Michiel Holthinrichs’ favorite designs. While seemingly out of place next to modern watches, there are plenty of gold vintage watches next to which a Holthinrichs would look right at home. The finishing, though, brings it right back to modern times: the rough-looking case acts as a reminder that it was 3D printed. This watch is a balancing act, and the polished borders of the lugs add a dash of elegance and pull it back a bit from the more stereotyped 3D-printed look. Along the 9 o’clock edge of the case, tucked into the cavity, the Holthinrichs name is printed in relief; this is really a bit of showing off and I’m here for it. (For a fee, you can replace that text with a design of your choosing.) The sole issue I found with the watch was the crown: the polished edges combined with the small size make it very difficult to grip. That’s not a small matter with a manual wind watch and bringing it up to power was a chore.

The dial is a textural take on a classic dress dial, but with tweaks that give it an edge to match the case. The dial itself is 18k pink gold, with a bead-blasted finishing that gives a frosty shimmer. The traditional Breguet numerals are cut in by laser in dial and, while no coloring or embellishment is added, manage to remain perfectly legible by simply utilizing depth and shadows. The handset is also somewhat unique. Typically, we see leaf-style hands that are solid and high polished, being as they are almost always paired with dress watches. Here, though, Hotlhinrichs has hollowed them out and brushed them, playing once again with texture and form. Complementing the lugs, a polished ring surrounds the sunken small seconds at 6 o’clock, which is cut by lathe. While all the tones here are somewhat muted—the brushed steel, the frosty pink dial, the shadowy numerals—the dial remained legible in all conditions that provided adequate lighting.

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Just so you know your options, the RAW Ornament is available in three dials: Signature (a sector dial with minute hashes), the Breguet seen here, and Roman Sector. The Signature is available in three colors, two of which include lumed hands, while the Breguet offers eight different colors (including purple titanium!); the Roman Sector is only available in a blue dial. All the dials are created using natural materials to avoid varnishing. The Breguet dials are the only ones to come with the leaf hands.

The movement features just as much attention to detail as the rest of the watch. Based on a Peseux 7001, the Holthinrichs HW-R01 can be finished to your liking in white rhodium, black rhodium, 14k pale gold, or 18k pink gold. By default, the brand prefers to match it to the dial where possible, but it is always the buyer’s choice. Holthinrichs completely disassembles the movements and reworks all the bridges, adding the finishing of choice and creating depth with frosted finishing surrounded by brushed borders with hand-beveled edges. The screw heads are black polished and snailing has been added to the ratchet wheel. If the Peseux’s layout weren’t so recognizable, this movement could trick you into thinking it was in-house (though the brand is very clear that it is not in-house). With this movement, you don’t just get a show: it has an admirable 42-hour power reserve at 21,600 vph (3hz).

What’s incredible about the RAW Ornament is that it would be a stunning watch in any material, produced in any way. Holthinrichs didn’t let the novelty of the manufacturing process force it into a design that would alienate people for being too industrial or chunky or modern. Instead, the watch features elements pulled from the past and filtered through an architectural lens, with just a splash of contemporary cues as a nod to the 3D printing process.

There’s a catch, though: Holthinrichs is discontinuing its Ornament and RAW Ornament lines on May 1, 2023. If you’re reading this on the day it’s published, that’s in just over two weeks. Exciting things are ahead for the small brand: It’s working on an almost entirely in-house movement, creating capacity for the occasional limited edition, and reorganizing its product lines to allow for more serialized production alongside higher-end custom work. And yes, a 3D-printed bracelet is in the works. The Holthinrichs RAW Ornament is priced starting at €8,200 (about $8,950 USD at press time) and is available directly from the brand. For more information, please visit the brand’s website

Necessary Information:
>Brand: Holthinrichs
>Model: RAW Ornament 38mm
>Price$8,200+ USD
>Size: 38mm-wide, 9.9mm-thick, 47mm lug-to-lug distance, 20mm lugs
>When reviewer would personally wear it: To an intimate dinner with design-minded friends
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone interested in engineering, modern manufacturing techniques, or architecture—or all three!
>Best characteristic of watch: The 3D-printed case, of course
>Worst characteristic of watch: Crown is difficult to operate; watch may wear too flat on some wrists.

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