The master of Haute Horlogerie
The master of Haute Horlogerie
»Only the best young watchmakers dare knock on my door.«
How did it come about that you decided to do a four years’ apprenticeship as watchmaker after school?
As a farmer’s son, I was interested in mechanics and the sole place for apprentice available was watchmaker.
What was the first watch you ever bought for yourself?
I never bought a watch for myself. At 15 my grandfather gave me one, which I still have, and I got another one, a CERTINA, as award after having finished the examination of the watchmaker school.
What experiences particularly shaped you before you started your own business at the end of the 1970s?
I spent six years in the after sales services at Gübelin with contact to international customers. In 1969 I made the bottle clock which opened me the door to Patek Philippe in their “Atelier des grandes complications” and this introduced me into the world of collectors.
You have also made a name for yourself in the industry with extraordinary record braking watches among other things. Can you name an example of your work that you are particularly proud of?
The just mentioned Bottle Clock, but of course also the world smallest calendar watch and the world thinnest world time watch, both Guinness records. The universal world time module of only 0,9mm thickness including dial, still in use by the actual creations, the most animated horological automaton and of course, perpetual Hebraique and Perpetual Secular calendars in wristwatches.
Can you name some particularly difficult (or beautfiful) requests you have received from clients over the past decades?
I could start as independent because a collector asked me to re-create a gold case for a very complicated, 100 years old, pocket watch movement from Louis Audemars. He had lost its original case. I did it, and from 1980 until 84 near to 50 gold pocket watch cases, in different styles, were created and made in my workshop in collaboration with old casemakers, engravers and enamellers. Some are still collaborating with Andersen Genève today.
How long does it usually take to do a 100% bespoke watch?
One to two years.
Have customers’ requests for particularly individual watches changed in any way over time?
Yes, before collectors came with sketches, pictures and we discussed hours along with a very human contact. Today, 80% of the approach is done by Internet. By the way: the Internet was invented in Geneva.
Was it a customer of yours as well who asked you to come up with eros watches in the first place? (Or how did this line come into being?
Yes, an Italian collector came to me, in 1996, with old erotic automaton pocket watch and wanted such ones in a modern wrist watch. After studying 2 months, I said “Yes we can”. He came into business and ordered the first 10 watches. Now we delivered the number 178, so it is still a rare collectible item (178 pieces delivered in 25 years!).
Also, do not forget, it is the most animated automaton, up to 15 elements are moving, an everything is in a wrist watch dimensions – still today the only so complex Automaton’s on the market. This mechanism is also the base for “AUTOMATON Joker” in collaboration with Konstantin Chaikin, the “Russian Georges Daniels”.
Today, a different generation of watchmaker are working at ANDERSEN Geneva. What distinguishes a good watchmaker from a very good one who is suitable to work for your company? How can you tell?
Nothing has changed. Only the best young watchmakers dare knock on my door. The activity here is known, and they know that here their ideas and way to interpretation of their handicraft are accepted – and they can learn more.
How long does it take from the very first idea to a final watch. Can you answer that on the basis of the “Celestial Voyager”*? Which are the most challenging steps on that journey?
As I pointed out, it take up to two years. By “Celestial Voyager” the challenge was to find out how to integrate noble materials so as Aventurine and mother of pearl, never applicated in this way in a watch. Also, the platinum case needed new procedures of manufacturing to satisfy the customers desires. The crown system is also new.
What current projects are you working on?
Some very exciting projects are in the pipeline and to be released in 2022… but wait and see, may be a watch aficionado like Benjamin Chee will propose us a new challenge. Tomorrow is another day.