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  • Brussels finest - Lionel Rigolet from Comme Chez Soi
  • History - The new face of Maison De Greef
  • Collection - Exclusive series in tribute to René Magritte
  • Tudor - Behind the scenes at Tudor
  • Patek Philippe - Maison De Greef & Patek Philippe: 36 years of collaboration
  • Lifestyle - The evolution of the logo of Maison De Greef

Lionel Rigolet from Comme Chez Soi

Rigolet © Triptyque

Without your watch, you feel…? 
That never happens! My watch is indispensible, I never forget it, I even sleep with it!

What model do you wear? 
I have several. During the week I wear an AppleWatch, which is very practical because I’m always connected. The rest of the time I alternate between a Paneraï, a Rolex, an Offshore Limited that my wife gave me as a present when I was named Chef of the Year by Gault&Millau in 2007, and a Jaeger-Lecoultre Master with different time zones. In theory I wear that during the holidays, but my son has pinched it and he won’t give it back.

Lionel Rigolet

I can't live without my watch, I even sleep with it.

— Lionel Rigolet

Your favourite time? 
I like the time during service, when I do my work, but also the time after, when I can relax. I also like mealtimes, which I always spend with my family, between 11.10 a.m. and 6.30 p.m., depending on what everybody is doing and on my work. And I like mornings, when I get up. I love going to work. Actually, I’ve never been happier than now.

Time for yourself?
I’m always on the move, it’s in my nature, but at the weekend, I allow myself one and a half hours to read, listen to music or have a drink with a friend. And I have a coach with whom I do cross training and exercise biking. During the week, I try to have a half an hour nap every day. I try, you know...

Comme Chez Soi**, 23 place Rouppe, 1000 Brussels, www.commechezsoi.be 

The new face of Maison De Greef

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The interior of Maison De Greef needed to meet the new expectations of their clients in the 21st century, and was redesigned in keeping with the modernist style of its simple black and white façade, designed by architect Jacques Dupuis in the 1950s. 

Since its opening in 1848, the premises of Maison De Greef have always been in Rue au Beurre, in the heart of l’Ilot sacré, an mythical area in Brussels. The shop first moved into no. 24 of the street near the Grand Place, where at the time most of the watchmakers in Brussels were to be found. At the beginning of the 20th century the family business had become so successful that they moved into larger premises: two adjacent buildings at nos. 26 and 28. These houses date back to the time of the rebuilding after the bombardement of Brussels in 1695. 

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The store in the fifties.
The store anno 2017.
The renovation of the shop in 1953 by architect Jacques Dupuis.

In 1953, avant-garde architect Jacques Dupuis was given the task of renovating the premises. He took the brave decision to combine the two houses behind a single façade in black and white cement. 

The house is now a listed building, a unique example of modernist architecture in the heart of old Brussels. Now, the interior of nos. 26 and 28 has been completely overhauled, and no. 24, where it all began, has been integrated into the whole. 

In order to achieve these transformations, the Wittmann brothers (now assisted by Brice, the son of Jacques) had to meet a double challenge: they had to enlarge the shop for the clients, but still respect the numerous listed elements in the 1950s interior, which had also been designed by Jacques Dupuis. 

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The spectacular Venetian chandelier with its beautiful bluish colour.
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By now, it has become obvious that they have not only achieved their goal, but that the new interior highlights some of the most striking aspects of the original decor: the large counter and the showcases in rosewood, the golden patina of the two safes, the oak wainscoting, leading the eye to the heightened ceiling, the spectacular Venetian chandelier with its beautiful bluish colour, the balustrade of the mezzanine… all elements regular clients had never even noticed before. 

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The renovated interior of the store with an eye for detail.

The desks of the sales team, that used to be visible but separated from the clients by the counter, have been replaced by multi-functional worktables, opening up the entire ground floor for visitors. This optimal use of space is further enhanced by new furniture, created by an Italian design company, a splendid showcase with asymmetric openings being the greatest eye catcher.

At the same time, Maison De Greef has completely restored the old house next to it, which is now linked to the shop. This houses a special Patek Philippe space, with a 16th century wooden staircase in the centre that has been restored to the highest standard. These stairs lead to the VIP room on the first floor with its spectacular contemporary library full of reference books about the last Geneva watchmakers that is still a family business. 

Exclusive series in tribute to René Magritte

The Reverso watch, known worldwide for its swivelling case, is an undisputed style icon which’s impact has for decades continued to be as strong as ever. For this occasion, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Maison De Greef are delighted to present the second series of the Reverso in tribute to René Magritte, featuring a lacquered engraving of the painting The Sky Bird (L’Oiseau de Ciel) on its case-back. The painting of Magritte appears like a hidden treasure on the ‘other’ side of the Reverso, when the case-back of the watch is swivelled around.

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For this second series, Jaeger-LeCoultre and De Greef are introducing a steel watch in a 33-piece edition, which refers to the origin of the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1833. The Reverso Classic Large (Q3828420), displaying the hours and minutes, is equipped with the in-house Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 822/2. The dial has a subtle change compared to the original model as the numerals are in blue. The blue color is in line with the colors of the painting on the other side of the case-back. On the case-back the painting The Sky Bird can be found. The work depicts the silhouette of a bird resembling a dove with its body filled with clouds.. The original canvas was painted in 1966.

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This edition of the tribute to René Magritte is the second series in a total of three series, in which the great work of this Belgian surrealistic painter will be honoured, each with its own unique characteristics. To create these series three essential elements were to be combined: craftsmanship, art and heritage. All three are admirably embodied in the tributes to Magritte, for which the Jaeger-LeCoultre specialists have again created an exquisite piece of art on the case-back of the Reverso watch. 

In 2016 the first series of these special editions was presented, which was adorned with Magritte’s The Treachery of Images on the case-back of the Reverso. These unique homages to René Magritte are realised in close collaboration with Charly Herscovici and the Magritte Foundation*. The second series of pieces can be admired exclusively at Maison De Greef, while the third series will be introduced in due time. 

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René Magritte (1898 - 1967)

Over ninety years ago, a young Belgian by the name of René Magritte painted his first surrealist paintings. Nothing hinted at the success he would experience around ten years later, which still continues today. Magritte has had such a great influence because of the power and effectiveness of his images. His compositions have become icons of popular culture, and they lead us to a mysterious world on the dividing line between dream and reality. Magritte in fact believed that a successful work of art is one that resists all explanation. The titles of his paintings, often chosen with his friends, give us no clue to understanding the piece and leave us even more confused.

The original painting shows a bird crossing the dark night. The iconography of the bird in the night first appears in Magritte’s work around 1940 after which he didn’t use it for years. One year before he died, he painted this canvas and decided to re-use the bird. We will not see any symbols of freedom or peace in the work of Magritte, as he has a big aversion of those kind of interpretations. However what we should see is something else, in the middle of the poetic and mystical world, of which only Magritte has the key. 

For Magritte, the recreation of the day and night in the same image, shows the power to surprise the spectator. To have both day and night in the same painting, puts the spectator in a difficult spot, as it disturbs the spectator in the usual way of thinking. This forces him/her to look at the world in a different way, inviting us in the world of poetry and the mysteries. That’s one of the key messages which Magritte puts in every painting, and especially in The Sky Bird.

Behind the scenes at Tudor

For several months now, Swiss watch brand Tudor has been present at Maison De Greef. This prestigious international brand offers unusual watches, inspired by extreme sports, yet with a distinctive city vibe. A unique twist is the woven wristband, the production of which Tudor has entrusted to a family business in France. This video shows the various production stages of the wristband.

Joseph Bonnie Watchstraps 1 | by Joseph Bonnie

Maison De Greef & Patek Philippe: 36 years of collaboration

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With the opening of a special area dedicated to Patek Philippe on the Maison De Greef premises, a new chapter begins in the unique relationship the two houses have had since 1981.

Few people in the 1980s would have thought that the mechanical watch would ever make a comeback. Many Swiss watchmakers had seen a considerable decline in sales, and only quartz watches were sold. But in this particularly difficult climate, one brand wanted to turn the tide. Patek Philippe went against the grain in the watchmaking industry of the time, and in 1977 it launched a new extra-flat automatic movement that is still a sensation 40 years later. By developing Calibre 240, the Stern family who owned the factory didn’t want to compete with the quartz watch in precision or price. They wanted to elevate the watchmaking industry to another level, based on criteria such as beauty, reliability, durability and intrinsic value.

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Calibre 240 by Patek Philippe.

Paul Wittmann was an engineer with a great passion for mechanics, but he was also an art collector, and he was entranced by this new philosophy that was very similar to his own idea. Therefore, he contacted the manufacturers in Geneva in 1981. According to Jacques Wittmann, they got on like a house on fire from the start.

Jacques

Patek Philippe and us share the same mentality. Our two families have followed the same path. We are humble, demanding, and stick to our values, of which integrity is one of the most important ones.

— Jacques Wittmann
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Henri Stern and Paul Wittmann.

And so, in 1981, Maison De Greef became the first distributor of Patek Philippe in Belgium. This collaboration took a decisive turn at the end of the decade, when the company celebrated its 150th birthday with the introduction of the now legendary Calibre 89: a pocket watch with 33 mechanical functions, the development and manufacture of which had taken nine years.

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Calibre 89 by Patek Philippe.
Jacques

The launch of this exceptional piece was really the return to the spotlight for beautiful mechanical watches, and for Maison De Greef, that was a big thing.

— Jacques Wittmann

When they took over from their father in the beginning of the 1990s, Arnaud and Jacques Wittmann took a leaf out of the book of Patek Philippe and rethought the positioning of Maison De Greef: from then on they would only concentrate on the most luxurious of goods. Brands that were a commercial success but were not really innovative were discontinued. Thanks to a growing interest from national and international clients, they could keep up with the technical evolution of Patek Philippe and sell ever more interesting pieces.