Review: Habring2 Doppel-Felix
On the sensible side of $10,000, there’s little to suggest the chronograph is a particularly special complication. Sure, if you’re spending Patek Philippe bucks you’ll get a high-end, highly finished, manually wound chronograph movement, but for most of us the idea of owning one is so far-fetched it takes Inception levels of dreaming to even imagine. What if I told you, then, that the Habring2 Doppel-Felix not only does all those things but might even be that bit more special—and it costs less than $10,000.
A big thanks to the owner of this watch who very kindly loaned it to us for review. If you have a collection of interesting and unusual watches that really stand out, please get in touch at email@example.com.
First things first: to save you the efforts I went to to find out if this brand is called Habring, Habring two, Habring squared—it’s Habring2. An odd name for sure, but one that makes sense with a little bit of background. You know the old saying about marrying your best friend? Well, former IWC and A. Lange & Söhne watchmaker Richard Habring took that to the extreme when he married Maria in 2004, because he didn’t just tie the knot with his best friend—but with his business partner as well. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but here we are almost two decades later, so they must’ve done something right.
Not only did they get married—as if arranging a wedding isn’t stressful enough—they also started a business together in the same year, making watches. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was like they wanted the marriage to fail. But it didn’t. With Richard’s watchmaking skills and Maria’s business acumen, Habring2 not only didn’t fail, it flourished, reaping award after award for its value approach to high-end watchmaking. And so, the name is explained: two Habrings bonded together in every aspect of life. Learning to skydive sounds less stressful.
Being Austrian, Habring2 makes its watches in Austria, and being a watchmaker, Richard likes to challenge himself with complications. Dead seconds, calendars, repeaters—you name it—Richard will have a crack it at, all under the watchful eye of Maria to make sure the budget stays in the black. It poses a very unique challenge, one that has been pushed harder the older the brand gets—not least by the incredibly limited nature of Habring2’s production. An insistence on in-house control—we’ll get to what that means specifically a little later on—means the couple can only produce 200 watches per year, with many models receiving no more than twelve editions before being consigned to the archives.
There’s playing life on hard mode and then there’s this. Never mind the Habrings having their cake and eating it too: the want the farms, the factories, the delivery trucks and every last other thing involved in making the cake as well.
One complication that’s particularly close to Richard’s heart is the doppelchronograph. Also known as the rattrapante, split seconds or double chronograph, it is as complicated as its many names suggest. Starting with a chronograph—an already surprisingly complex movement—a doppelchronograph adds a secondary chronograph mechanism that layers the chronograph seconds with a doppelganger—hence the name—that can be independently paused.
But … why? The functionality of this complication is actually incredibly useful. The chronograph on your iPhone has a “lap” feature that allows the chronograph to keep on running whilst recording moments along that period. Think of a runner running multiple laps around a track; stop the chronograph at the end of the first lap and you can’t record the whole race. You could eyeball it I suppose, but the doppelchronograph has a better idea. Hit the button on the left and that twinned chronograph second hand pauses, allowing the master to continue. Read the time, make a note, hit the button again and it catches up.
The reason this particular complication is special to Richard is because he invented it. Well, not the doppelchronograph in its entirety, but this execution of it. Under the watchful eye of legend Günter Blümlein, Richard devised a simpler, more robust and service-friendly iteration of the notoriously pernickety complication. In 2012, the IWC-owned patent expired, and Richard was able to build his complication once again under his own name.
The End Of ETA
Günter Blümlein once said, “It takes a million to make a new movement” and he wasn’t wrong. For a basic, time-only, scratch-built movement, a watchmaker would need to invest a million smackeroonies before it had even sold a single watch. Now, Richard and Maria were undoubtedly optimistic and clearly enjoy challenges that would send other people to the looney bin, but even for them the idea of making a completely in-house movement was too much.
And so they opted to use base ETA movements and build the new complications on top, if anything to make the watches relatively affordable for their growing fanbase. The modifications were designed in-house by Richard, with parts produced between Habring2 and local suppliers, finished and assembled back at home base.
That, you would say, is fair enough. Not according to ETA, however, which promptly decided to cease supply of its movements not just to Habring2, but, well, everyone. That’s why we see manufacturers like Sellita popping up more and more often, and for Habring2, that was the obvious choice to make the switch.
But did they? Of course not! This is the couple that eats rocks for breakfast and fights bears for dinner! Instead of taking the opportunity to gather their marbles back together, they emptied the entire bag and threw them as hard as they could at a wandering pack of starving wolves, because, well, why not. And so they put the house and everything in it on red and immediately started work on a series of movements of their own.
The ETA blueprint was still used as a base for the design—also out of patent—but was modified to not only improve quality and performance, but also buildability and serviceability outside of an industrial environment. The parts were to be made in house, with the exception of near-impossible items like the balance spring. Those were sourced from those same local suppliers.
And so, with all those pieces falling into place like atomic bombs raining from the sky, Richard and Maria walked hand-in-hand into their next project, one that combined everything they had learnt into a single watch: the Doppel-Felix.
The Habring2 Doppel-Felix
Who is this Felix? Felix is the first watch with a movement made in-house by Habring2, and so the moniker stuck for any other watches featuring a calibre made in the brand’s four walls. The Doppel-Felix, therefore, combines the double chronograph mechanism designed by Richard with Habring2’s own in-house base chronograph to create the calibre A11R, which will give you 48 hours of operation fitted inside a 42mm steel case that’s water-resistant to fifty metres. There’s also a version of the watch with the calibre A11RD which gets a pointer date as well.
Before we explore the A11R further, check out the dial. It is stunning. The level of finish on offer is beyond the sub-$10,000 price point, offering hands polished to absolute perfection and a sunburst to the dial that catches the light like a cat’s eye.
You’ll also notice the base chronograph only gets one pusher. Oh yeah, that’s right, because just doing the same movement as last time but with in-house production wasn’t enough, so Richard decided to make the chronograph a monopusher as well. I’m starting to learn this is typical Richard. Never happy, always wants more …
And the calibre A11R really is more. The finish is pared back but well executed, crisp and bright rather than lavishly ornate. There’s striping, graining, polishing, bluing—but as pleasant as the finish is, it’s not really what we’re here for. What we’re here for is a movement hand made by someone who has genuine, modern-day watchmaking credentials.
You’ll see the doppelchronograph mechanism at the top. There’s no rotor covering it, thankfully, so you can see its operation in full glory. It’s driven by a cam—part of the reliability improvements made by Richard—which forces apart the two levers gripping the doppelchronograph seconds wheel in the middle. Those two ruby pins that set the distance between the levers can be finely adjust by the two screws beneath them.
When the levers grip, the doppelchronograph second hand stops. When they release, that hands needs to catch up again. You’ll notice a small spring on the central wheel, connected to a lever; that spring applies a pressure to that lever that forces it against a central, heart-shaped cam that aligns with the main chronograph seconds. Free of the grip of those two levers and the pressure from the spring snaps the hand back in line again. Delightfully simple.
There are few watchmakers that independently make watches. There are even fewer that make complicated watches. And there are almost none that do it for prices mere mortals can reach. It’s a crazy proposition, and it took two crazy people to achieve it. Thank goodness they did.