In the early 1980s, it is the turn of Maria’s and Marcel’s son Paul to take on the family business. A trained engineer, passionate about mechanical things, he has a keen interest in high-end watches, and in particular the latest advanced technology of Patek Philippe. This Swiss watch manufacturer’s philosophy is governed by the criteria of beauty, reliability and durability. A dialogue ensues and Maison De Greef very soon obtains exclusive rights to the brand in Belgium for several decades.
Archaeological treasure below Maison De Greef
During the construction of a sewage pipe in the summer of 1986, some pieces of early pottery were brought to light by workers digging in the underground cellar at No. 24 rue au Beurre. Excavations subsequently conducted by the Brussels Royal Society of Archaeology under the direction of Professor Pierre-Paul Bonenfant and his assistant Michel Fourny continued until the start of the following year.
For three months, Paul Wittmann was parted from his premises to allow the disposal of the excavated materials to be taken in hand. The sacks of earth were removed through the door of the jeweller’s shop. Samples taken from the debris were supplied to geologists, zoologists, botanists, entomologists and ceramics specialists for multi-disciplinary analyses. It could be deduced from these analyses that a skinner and a potter occupied the site in the 15th century. Historical and heraldic research rounded off the work. A relatively well-preserved tile was found from a large terracotta stove, whose sponsor could be identified by his emblem and his motto: “À jamais” (“Forever”). The man was Philippe de Clèves-Ravenstein (1456-1528), one of the chief advisers to Emperor Maximilian of Hapsburg.
In 1988, the Salle Ogivale of Brussels City Hall hosted an exhibition entitled “Rue au Beurre. Presence in the 15th century of a skinner and indications of a ceramicist around 1500”, dedicated to the excavations under Maison De Greef.