It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of German watch manufacturers, all the way from Glashütte to Pforzheim, Schramberg, Gütenbach, Frankfurt and Berlin, the city and home of FineWatchesBerlin. Founded in 2017, the company is run by father and daughter, Wilfried and Mia-Phyllis Liefer, producing watches that are an homage to Berlin, it’s diversity and rich history, both bright and troubled. FWB has named their first watch “Teufelsberg”, which is the name of a 120 meters high, manmade hill in the Grunewald area. The hill was built upon what were to become a university for military technology, one of many visions Hitler had for the renewed Berlin and Germania. The construction was never completed and during the war the facility was destroyed. When the war ended, rubble from the devastated city was brought to the site and dumped, making it the highest point in West Berlin. In 1972, the dumping stopped and to make the hill more attractive, trees were planted, and, in the winter, the population of West-Berlin could enjoy a new ski jump and slopes.
From the 50’s until the end of the cold war in ’89, America took advantage of Teufelsberg position, building antennas used for espionage and intercepting communications from the Eastern Bloc. Today, the remains of the complex, with its is a popular site for tourists, giving them a glimpse of a dramatic history and the best view of Berlin. To end the history part of this review, I’m going to add a little fun fact, the strange happenings from 2007, when my hero, David Lynch, wanted to turn Teufelsberg into a university for the Maharishi World Peace Foundation, where 1000 students were to study transcendental meditation. It didn’t go as planned and even if I deeply respect Mr. Lynch, I’m glad he wasn’t to fulfill his plans.
I don’t think the Lynch part was in Wilfried and Mia-Phyllis’ mind when they came up with the design for the Teufelsberg. When I look at the watch, I can sense that it must have been a fun project, creating a Bauhaus inspired watch with a partly asymmetrical layout, sweet blue details and a somehow funky, italic logo and signature placed at twelve and nine. The version I chose to write about is the Teufelsberg White #2, in my opinion the finest of the three models available. In a little while, two new models will be launched, adding bright colors to the series.
Every time I do a review of a watch I’ve never seen, I try to stay away from other reviews and opinions as I want to know as little as possible about it, keeping my mind clear and open to raw impressions. When I first saw the Teufelsberg, I had to use some time to digest the design and feel of the watch. After spending a day together, things started to fall into place and suddenly I knew where I’d seen some of the details before. The dotted lume reminds me a lot of the type found on Junghans Max Bill and the crown is quite like the one found on the NOMOS Metro date power reserve. Due to the colors and the mark on the crown, I can’t stop thinking this is how a watch would look if the guys from The Who were watchmakers and wanted to produce something Bauhaus’ish.
Taking closer look at the watch, it measures 40,5mm across, 49mm from lug to lug, about 11,5mm from top to bottom and the lug width is set to 20mm, making this very comfortable on the wrist. The dial, with its asymmetry, italic logo and signature, forced me to take a stand if I liked it or not. Being overly addicted to symmetry and balance, it took a little while to accept the layout, but the crisp, enamel-like, sandwich dial, red second hand, polished blue hands and indexes bring it all together. Even if the small seconds are placed 4:36 and the italic letters in the logo aren’t at the same angle, I do find it all very pleasant on the eyes.
Inside the watch FWB has chosen to go for a modified Miyota 8218 with blued screws and an engraved rotor. This is a 21-jewel movement, beating 21600 timer per hour and with a power reserve of approximately 42 hours. Originally, it keeps accuracy within -20 to +40 seconds per day, which is on the lower parts of the scale, but while adding the cosmetic upgrades, the movement has been adjusted to keep time within a five second deviation per day. The watch can be hand wound but lacks a hacking seconds feature.
The case is a fully polished, 316L stainless steel with slim lugs and both crystals, the large in front and the smaller one at the exhibition caseback are made of sapphire. On the case, at nine o’clock, you’ll find a quite large, external engraving, showing the company name. Since the name also is presented on the dial and the fact that I’m not a big fan of such details, I think a clean case would suit the watch better. The crown, with its blue and white target mark, is placed at three o’clock and is thinner than your average crown, but just as with the NOMOS Metro’s, the grip is superb, letting you wind and set time with ease. The Teufelsberg comes with two, very nice leather straps, a brown and a black, both with blue stitches, matching the blue details on the watch perfectly. Fitted with quick release spring bars, changing straps can be done in a blink of an eye.
Each watch comes in a very nice, handcrafted bamboo box with magnetic closure. Apart from the watch, the box contains the extra leather strap and a warranty card. I like the presentation very much, but I’d appreciate a microfiber cloth to wipe down the fully polished case occasionally. The Teufelsberg’s lume shines bright from the dots and hands, more than enough to be able to read the time in the dark without lighten up the whole room.
So, to wrap this review up, there’s a lot to like about the Teufelsberg, from the playful, Bauhaus inspired looks, the lovely blue details used on the dial, case and movement, the soft leather straps, the fact that the watch highlights an important place in Germany, holding a part of history that never must be forgotten. Another nice aspect of FineWatchesBerlin is that for every watch sold, they donate €50 directly to Hands With Hands, helping them build orphanages and schools in Nepal.
But, in my humble opinion, behind all the parts I like, there are a couple of things that concern me a bit. Being a watch that celebrates Berlin, inspired by brands like NOMOS and Junghans, I would love to see this “patriotism” all the way throughout the watch, not going for a Miyota movement and Chinese production. I’m not questioning the quality of the production or that the movement is a proven workhorse, it’s just that when you celebrate your hometown and make watches that are an homage to it, I would love to see “local” parts and producers. The other thing is the inevitable topic about value, the bang for the bucks. By asking €698, I fear that a chunk of the audience will be excluded. Those who don’t have a connection to Berlin or Germany might end looking at this watch as a Miyota-watch costing almost €700, which also is in a landscape where you’ll begin to find some serious competition.
All in all, the Teufelsberg is a very nice watch with some proper looks. Naming their watches after important locations, people and events is a nice way to honoring your hometown, bringing important historical events back into the light. I’m looking forward seeing what the duo behind FineWatchesBerlin will come up with next and I would love to see a “local” stunner.