AHCI — union of free creators
Over twenty years the Academy of Independent Watchmakers (AHCI) has been uniting watchmakers who want to establish a new, individual approach to their work, being independent of large companies, which have divided the market. This position becomes more and more popular. Recently, everyone doesn’t want to have just a wrist watch, but a rarity, single piece, reflecting the taste and personality of the owner.
Science of being independent
Any creative person at the early career needs support. It is not only about the possible financial injections. Sometimes it is important simply to believe in creator. And if the fruits of his labor are appreciated by the acknowledged masters, there is not a better impulse for further development.
The same is true for watchmakers. Qualified professionals are highly valued by large manufacturers. However, given their support, a beginner watchmaker takes certain responsibilities, becoming a part of the manufactory. Sometimes he loses the lion's share of his personality because of this.
This approach isn’t good for anybody. Many artists dream of creating a wristwatch by their own project, which in future will be associated with the name of its creator. That's why many talented watchmakers collaborate with various large manufactories, and then go to a single voyage to create their own mechanisms and design writing. By the way, not only young and unknown masters do so. One of the most striking examples of such approach to creativity is the famous watchmaker Vincent Calabrese.
Cooperating with Corum, the craftsman has created the original wrist watch “Golden Bridge”. This is one of the classic variants of watches, which differs by the original form of case. This design is usually called barrel-shaped. Thanks to this construction, Corum Golden Bridge opens a movement, reminding of a small bridge made of precious metal. Calabrese remained so pleased with his creation that he wanted to retain his rights to this unique chronograph model and further use of his unusual caliber by all means.
Trying to self-promote their products on the watch market filled with products from famous manufactories, the master faced several problems. Even the great authority of Calabrese didn’t deliver him from difficulties. What can we say about the independent craftsmen who cannot boast of such solid reputation?
Then Calabrese thought about creating an organization that would help watchmakers fight for their places in the market, divided by large corporations. This idea was shared with no less venerable colleague - Svend Andersen, who was also his good friend. In 1985, they together created the Academy of independent watchmakers (AHCI).
Calabrese and Andersen presented their offspring in the musee d’Horlogerie , located in Le Locle, Switzerland. At about the same time master Joseph K. Snetivy, now unfortunately deceased, appreciated the idea and joined them. The next joint presentation of the works by independent craftsmen was held in Basel in 1987. Andersen and Calabrese dated it for the famous horlogerie exhibition Baselworld. At that time three well-known masters - Franck Muller, George Daniels and Bernhard Lederer - joined the AHCI.
The Academy organizers’ aim is declared to be reviving the traditional watchmaking and making the handmade production of watches as viable as the industrial one. The talented and well-known independent masters, included in the AHCI, give validity and significance to the organization. Their goal is looking for workshops or individual watchmakers that have the potential to develop and offer unique works. Then AHCI gets involved in their lives, helping to gain recognition. The Academy members might be interested in any mechanical watches: pocket, wrist watches, table and interior clocks, pendulum and musical clocks.
The membership in the AHCI means not only public recognition for the masters. First of all, it gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their watches at a number of joint exhibitions with the works of renowned watchmakers. A better advertising is difficult to come up with. In addition, the masters, who came into the AHCI, acquire a number of economic benefits. First of all, it is about mutual co-operation of masters and manufactories that has given many unusual and wonderful wrist watches to the world.
How can a watchmaker become an academic?
There are number of rules for a watchmaker, who wants to join the AHCI. The terms of admission to the academy were developed in the early years of its existence, and since they have been strictly observed. Before applying, the applicant should ensure he meets the following requirements:
to be independent of the major watch manufactures;
to have good skills of watchmaking, ideally – supported by proper education;
to be quite able to design his own unique movement;
to enlist the support of two members of the AHCI, who could provide assistance, as well as evaluate the work of the applicant at first, directing and supporting his activities.
The candidates must wait a while for recognition. The applications are being considered during at least two years. The candidate is accepted by the general assembly of the AHCI. The applicant may enter the academy only if all of its full members unanimously voted for him.
It’s interesting that one doesn’t have to provide special education to enter the AHCI. Many talented watchmakers, including those in e academy, do not have any. For example, one of the first members of the AHCI - George Daniels – refers to them. This organization includes talented physicists and engineers. Although an education certificate isn’t required here, certain skills are simply necessary. The members of the AHCI strictly control each applicant’s skills, as these people in future will have to assemble the most complicated watch movements by hand.
In addition, the candidates should have some knowledge of marketing, which would help him promote his watches at the market.
AHCI is an international organization, whose members are the masters from 12 countries. Today it is composed of 36 watchmakers, seven more claim to a place in it. AHCI has its own charter, by which the supreme governing body is the assembly of all members. Traditionally it is held twice a year – in fall and in spring. The spring meeting concurs with the exhibition Baselworld. In autumn one of the members of the Academy organizes it.
During the existence of the AHCI, many independent masters managed to create their own watch brands, which became very successful. They include “Franck Muller”, “FP Journe”, “BLU-source du temps”. But even if they do not create their own manufactories, they become famous and respected anyway, thanks to the support of colleagues and the weighty authority of the Academy. The biggest companies are fighting for the opportunity to work with earlier unknown watchmakers. In their turn, the independent masters from AHCI are so popular that they can afford to accept only the most interesting projects for them.
Who is considered to be the master?
The headquarters of the AHCI is located in Wichtrach commune, situated in the Swiss canton of Bern. However, the watchmakers, its members, live and work in different countries, gathering in full only during exhibitions or the traditional annual meeting taking place in fall.
Although the Academy is run by the general assembly of members, it still has a few watchmakers who have the most impressive authority. In this regard, first of all we should mention the creators of the AHCI - Vincent Calabrese and Svend Andersen. Apart from them, the most important members of the Academy are Jean Kazes, Peter Schmid, and its current Chairmen - Marco Lang and Philippe Wurtz. Previously that list also included the famous watchmaker George Daniels from Britain, unfortunately, deceased in early November of 2011.
Each craftsman, included in the AHCI, has his own specialization, his own achievements, which allowed him to join the eminent members of the academy. That is what made 36 independent watchmakers glorious:
Vincent Calabrese is an outstanding watchmaker with a unique, multi-faceted talent. Calabrese creates movements for his watches himself. In 1977 at the International Exhibition of Inventors held in Geneva, Calabrese was awarded a gold medal. That became a career rise for the master. Calabrese earned a reputation of one of the most alternative inventors. He has created such movements, as “Golden Bridge” for Corum (1985), model “Commedia” (1990), which next year he has improved to the famous variation “Mona Lisa”, creating a movement with "jumping" hour for the first time in the history. The collection “Les Spatiales” became a visiting card of Calabrese. Each timepiece of this series is unique. Calabrese personally designs drafts of the models. All watches from “Les Spatiales” are assembled only by hand that can take from one to two years. The movements and cases are made of either 18K gold or 950 platinum (by the way, Calabrese is the only craftsman who works with this material). In 2004, together with his daughter he created the brand “Nouvelle Horlogerie Calabrese” to create market models of watches along with the author ones. The products manufactured at that factory, were based on the simplest timepieces from the collection “Les Ludiques”. However, the master does not strive for tailoring mass production: the number of produced watches does not exceed one thousand a year. Calabrese is a philosopher and provocateur. His works combine simplicity with singularity.
Svend Andersen is a Danish watchmaker, who entered in the Guinness Book of Records for creating the finest wristwatch in the world with the function of world time in 1994. Its thickness is only 4.2 mm. According to Andersen, he is drawn towards classic materials for making watches and round cases. However, he gained success for the first time in 1969, when he introduced his unique invention – “Bottle clock." After that, the company “Patek Philippe” offered Andersen a place in their “Atelier de complications”, which he held until 1979. After becoming an independent master, he founded his own manufacture - Andersen Geneve. Perhaps, the most famous watches of this brand are pieces from series “Eros” with frivolous jacquemarts. They also got into the Guinness book. The experts recognized “Eros” series as the most complicated watches, decorated with movable figures. In addition to these high achievements, Andersen has others, no less important. For example, the watch with perpetual calendar “Perpetual 2000”, equipped with disappearing indicators of days of week and month, the women model “Perpetuel Imperatrice” - the smallest perpetual calendar in the world (only 32 mm in diameter), the model “Jour & Nuit” with two scales, which allow to determine the time of the day. Andersen also designed the case of “Montre a Tact”. Its essence lies in the fact that the figures, indicating the time, appear in a small aperture, which is located between the fixing staples. The remaining space can be decorated with engraving or a miniature. Andersen himself says that he likes “Montre a Tact”, just because it is always more personalized.
George Daniels was a self-taught watchmaker from England. He was one of eleven children in the family of a simple carpenter. While serving in the army, Daniels began to restore watches. Demobilized, he repaired watches in one of the workshops in London. Then, Daniels was offered a position of leading restorer in Breguet that forced him to move to Paris. There indeed he received his first order to create his own movement. Daniels began assembling his watches by hand in the 60s. In 1976 he invented a co-axial escapement, which is still used in the watches of Omega brand. During his long life Daniels has created 34 models of original watches and gained fame as one of the best restorers. The master died at the age of 85.
Jean Kazes – the creator of the biggest wall clock in the world under the title "Heart". This unique creation of the master from Swiss city of Carouge serves as a decoration of the hotel “Cornavin”, located in Geneva. For the creation of that clock Cazes entered the Guinness Book of Records. This monumental creation is fixed on the ninth floor of the hotel, and its gigantic pendulum, making up 30.02 m in length, reaches the first floor. This clock is mechanical. Cazes provided it with striking function. The movement itself is driven by two weights of 40 kg each, and two smaller ones, which weigh 20 kg. Cazes lives and works in Carouge, Switzerland, but his country is Bulgaria. But now, perhaps, only his Slavic name, Ivan, which during living in Switzerlance transformed into Jean, tells about his origin.
Marco Lang descended from a renowned family of watchmakers. His father - Rolf Lang - moved with his family from Thuringia to Dresden, when Marco was only four. He studied metal processing in Glashütte during three years. Becoming a specialist in "Fine Mechanics", Lang worked as an apprentice at the watch expert Ihno Fleßner for seven years in Germany. He was specialized in accurate pendulum clocks at the time were, requiring delicate and painstaking work. Then Lang returned to Dresden, where he opened his own business, creating and restoring clocks. In 2001, he teamed up with one of the disciples of his father - master Mirko Heyne. Together they founded the company «Lang & Heyne». However, in summer of 2002, because of some creative differences between watchmakers, Heine decided to leave the firm. However, the company still existed. Moreover, it has earned the reputation of traditions keeper in precise watch movements. Today the manufacture is located in the villa in the green line of Dresden. Since Lang always sought to improve the quality of his watches, but not to increase the scale of production, now a small number of people are working in his studio. Every year they produce a small series, which might include only three - four dozen copies. All watches are exclusive, proved by the personal signature of Lang, decorating them. He was accepted to the AHCI in 2005, and he had to hold the status of a candidate for three years. But now the name of Mark Lang is very authoritative among watchmakers.
Philippe Wurtz specializes in the manufacture of accurate pendulum clocks. Wurtz is a native Frenchman. Since childhood, the future watchmaker has been fascinated by the mechanics. Wurtz graduated in Strasbourg, where he studied physics and mathematics. Then he made a fateful decision by starting to study horology in Frankfurt. Antique and musical models provoked especial interest in Wurtz. Later he became interested in the creation of pendulum clocks. In 1989, he presented his first finished project. As it turned out, the pendulum clocks possessed not only exceptional accuracy and special charm. In addition, they are very difficult to produce. By 2003, Wurtz has improved his skills, so that he could create not only highly accurate pendulum clocks, but also apply original design solutions to their creations. The model “Gramat” can serve as an example. The works of this master are always a part of the collection of the Musee International d’Horlogerie (MIH), located in Swiss town of La Chaux-de-Fonds. The watches, made by Philippe Wurtz, have a number of features. Their movements do not require lubrication, the weights are made of tungsten, and the gear mechanism, which is responsible for their movement, is gilded. The glass case opens all the details of the movement. All watches by Wurtz are equipped with Poincon de Geneve nickel plates.
Søren Andersen became famous as a restorer of valuable antique astronomical clocks. Andersen has more than 25 years of experience in this field. In 1974 he graduated horology. After that, five years more Andersen studied at the School of Restoration at the Arts Academy, situated in Copenhagen. Today he has his own restoration shop. The workshop is located in the picturesque town Virket, located on the island of Falster. It is specialized in restoration of rare clocks and wrist watches, made by hand, design and even reconstruction of the most complicated movements. Andersen’s experience is trusted not by only connoisseurs of vintage items, but also by watch museums. His workshop indeed is entrusted with the restoration and maintenance of the most valuable exhibits. Since the early 80s of last century the service record of Andersen listed the creation of heraldic clock “Roskilde County Hall”, the design and manufacture of bells for Nisteda Town Hall, the copying of the Romer planetarium and its reconstruction for the Tycho Brahe Museum in Copenhagen, the restoration of Jens Olsen's astronomical clock for the City Hall of Copenhagen . The astronomical clocks, in which the master is considered to be an ace, prevail among his famous works. However, in 1992, Andersen has designed and created a miniature desk clock from silver and ebony for the Queen Margaret and Prince Henrik.
Aaron Becsei is the third generation of watchmakers in his family. Becsei was born in Budapest. His father was a master, that’s why since childhood he has been surrounded by clocks. After graduating from high school in 1998, Becks continued his education at Budapesti Szolgaltato és Kezmuvesipari Szakkepzo. There he studied for two years, receiving a basic education of watchmaker. To gain practical experience, Becks began working in his father's workshop. In 2001, he decided to extend his knowledge in engineering and entered the School of Technical Sciences in Budapest. In 2005, Becsei wrote a thesis on the clock “Tourbillon”, discussed in the House of Sciences in Budapest. The first watch was created by the master in 2003. That was the model “Pendule Zappler”, made by Becsei by hand on his own project. He made his first clock “Tourbillon” in a year and a half of hard work. It was a table clock. Among the complications in that unique clock there were calendar, indicators of moon phases and wind direction, thermometer, and the world time function. In 2005, Becsei took part in the exhibition Baselworld with his creation. The eminent watchmakers immediately drew attention to the promising young craftsman. As a result, Becsei became a candidate for membership in the AHCI. In April of 2007 at Baselworld, he presented his clock “Tourbillon №1” and the new creation, characterized by its miniature size – the watch “Zappler” - on the stand of the Academy. In 2008, the watchmaker completed the work on the first timepiece, issued under his own brand, called Bexei. That was the wristwatch “Primus”, equipped with highly complicated three-axis tourbillon. In 2009, Becsei launched the new variation “Tourbillon № 2” and became a member of the AHCI.
Felix Baumgartner is a watchmaker in the fourth generation, the creator of amazing watches, often called "tomorrow watches" for their original design. He was born in the Swiss city of Schaffhausen in 1975. Baumgartner learned watchmaking at the prestigious school “Solothurn”, where he entered at the age of 16. He became a member of the Academy in 1999 after two years of work in the atelier of Svend Andersen, where Baumgartner was engaged in the creation of details for jacquemarts. He always remained an independent master, although from time to time he agreed to fulfill orders from such well-known manufactories, as Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe. Then, in collaboration with his elder brother Thomas and designer Martin Frei, he founded his own independent brand, named Urwerk. That gave Baumgartner an opportunity to reflect on a new way of time indication, instead of working on classic complications, in which coming up with something fundamentally new is practically impossible. The result of the joint work with Frei struck even the master himself. Over the last 150 years the principle of movements hasn’t been revolutionarily changed. But Baumgartner has designed a unique movement based on the so-called satellite time indication for Urwerk watches. Only limited series of watches or even unique pieces are created under the brand “Urwerk”. All that, combined with an unusual space design, perfect precision and a unique rotating time indication, has made the creations by Baumgartner extremely popular and desirable to collectors of rare and unusual models. In addition, during two years the craftsman collaborated with the company “Harry Winston”. The result of this collaborative work is the wrist watch “Opus V”. This model has been no less successful than the products from Urwerk. Baumgartner often received offers of positions in the big watch companies, which he always refused. Confessedly the master appreciates the freedom too much, and he does not want any control.
Robert Bray is a British watchmaker. His career started in the company “Sinclair Harding”, founded in 1967 in Cheltenham. Bray was Mike Harding’s apprentice, one of the manufactory’s owners. In 1995, when Harding retired, he handed over the management of the company to Bray. Sinclair Harding specializes in manufacturing of interior clocks - floor and table. The company became glorious thanks to a copy of the clock, the prototype of which was created by British engineer and scientist John Harrison in 1765. He managed to create a movement that allowed marine chronometers to determine, among other things, the ship longitude. It can be figured out by comparing the Greenwich Mean Time to local time readings. After three hours of studying that unique movement, Robert Bray created its specific copy – the watch “Sinclair Harding H1”. Its size is approximately three-quarters of the original. The main difficulty Bray faced in the course of that work was that the staff of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, where the Harrison chronometer was kept, forbade taking its pictures. As a result, the master had to create its copy relying solely on his memories. The skills of Bray were assessed by the members of the AHCI. In 2005, he became a full Academician.
Philippe Dufour is a watchmaker from Valle de Joux. Dufour began to study horology at the age of 15. In 1976 he began collaborating with the manufactory “Jaeger-le-Coultre” under Gabriel Lokaletti. After Dufour worked in various companies located in the Caribbean, he was destined to go back to Switzerland. Since 1974 he has managed to work for such well-known manufactories, as Gerald Genta and Audemars Piguet. Being a member of the latter, Dufour has created five models of watches. Their success inspired the master for an attempt to manufacture products under his own brand. Already in 1989, together with his daughter and another assistant he began to work. Today three creations by Dufour are the most famous. Grande Sonnerie - a watch with a skeletonized movement in a round case from 18K gold. Duality - an exclusive model, in which Dufour has used innovative technologies. This watch has a double escapement, which is essentially a kind of alternative to the tourbillon. Simplicity - a very elegant mechanical watch in a round case with Roman numerals and second hand set at a separate miniature dial at “6” hours. All three models are exclusive. Dufour himself aspires to it. He spends a lot of time to create each piece of his watches to bring them to perfection. That is why the creations of Dufour are taken as works of horlogerie and objects of collectors’ desire.
Paul Gerber – a member of the AHCI from 1989. He was born in Switzerland in 1950. In his native Bern Gerber studied horology. In 1976, the master moved to Zurich, where he founded his own independent factory. The wrist watches from Paul Gerber are famous for their complicated movements. During the brand’s existence Gerber personally created the first model with a retrograde second hand. Also there are complicated watches with flying tourbillons, dual rotor systems, which, in particular, are used in the Perrelet watches, and 3D indicator of lunar phases under his belt. The latter has a very unusual structure: a window, in which the sphere, representing the moon, is seen, is located at the left top of the dial. One half of it is made of stone of dark blue color, the second one is encrusted with diamonds. The sphere rotates, and its position can determine the current phase of the Moon. Gerber confirms that this system does not require adjustment for another 128 years. Gerber has recently presented another innovation to the public - the sporty Model 42 Pilot with three rotors. Besides, the master created his own variation of Daniels’ coaxial escapement, which even received a patent. Gerber entered the Guinness Book of Records by creating the most complicated watch in the world. The craftsman worked for 11 years to create it. Its movement consists of 1116 parts. Today it is in Switzerland, at its owner - Lord Aran. Gerber has won an incredible number of prizes and awards. For example, he owns the prize “Chronosaward 2007” for innovative technological advances. Another achievement of Gerber is listed in the Guinness Book of Records - the smallest wooden clock in the world. The master began to gravitate towards miniature movements in 1977. That wooden clock, the movement of which does not exceed 2.2 mm in size, became a top of his creative work indeed. Gerber could combine the functions of chronograph and alarm in one clock, realizing this idea with the help of manufactory “Fortis”. That company began producing them in 1997 under the name of “F2001”. Another achievement by Gerber - original movements that were created by him specifically for certain models of the famous Faberge eggs. One of the latest novelties from the master - a model with three rotors and power reserve of a hundred hours. The watches of Gerber are a successful synthesis of traditional craftsmanship and modern technologies.
Miki Eleta is a watchmaker from Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was born in 1950, and since 1973 he’s been living in Switzerland. Eleta has been engaged in manufacture of interior watches since 1996. This craftsman produces unique watches in single pieces. They are based on the museum exhibits, as well as the works by such venerable watchmakers, as Paul Gerber and Ludwig Oechslin. Since 2006, Eleta has been presenting new models of his own manufacture at each exhibition in Basel. He has already earned an impressive reputation, but confessedly he is still afraid of failure each time. The more pleasant the surprise, evoked by another successful work.
Konstantin Chaykin is a watchmaker from St. Petersburg. He is the youngest "academician." Despite his strkikng success around the world, he still lives and works in Russia. His career began with watch trade. When the watches were broken, Chaikin had to deal with repairs, and sometimes even to make the necessary details by himself. Thereby, he had to study watch mechanics. So Chaikin realized that the watch industry didn’t practically exist in Russia, and he decided to occupy the vacant niche. Th master has been involved in manufacturing watches since 2003. He studied all the tricks of watchmaking by himself, using professional literature, or even pictures from western magazines devoted to horology. But he was not interested in trying to replicate others' complicated movements. The master admits that he has never felt a lack of ideas. Chaykin supplies the movements with complications that he invents by himself. Among them there are Muslim and Jewish calendars, Moon phase indication in any calendar option, Easter and other Orthodox holiday dates indication, calendar and other watch functions adjustment device, mechanical watch’s calendar switch device, and many others. Chaykin makes wrist watches and table clocks. His manufactory produces three main collections: "Calendars and religions", "Lunokhod" and "Sapphire Mystery." Many people willingly buy Muslim or Jewish watches as a gift to various religious holidays. Besides its own projects, the workshop of Chaykin fulfills the designs of different contractors, performed by large Russian and foreign watch companies. The customers often come with their own ideas, which sometimes prove to be very interesting. Chaykin is trying to experiment not only with the movements, but also with the materials, used for the manufacture of watches. For example, the model "Lunokhod", released in an amount of only eight pieces, is made of Indian steel called wootz. This is a special steel, from which a few centuries ago Punjabi gunsmiths made blades. The watch case, resembling the outlines of lunar rover in profile, was made in collaboration with designer Vikentiy Gryaznov and expert on damask steel Sergey Lunev. The number of parts in some models can reach one thousand, and all of them are made by hand. In Russia, Chaykin doesn’t have any followers in the field of making watches with various complications.
Beat Haldimann – a master from Swiss city of Bern. Haldimann was carried away by watchmaking in his youth. He got a job of watchmaker’s apprentice in the local workshop. There Haldiman repaired new and restored antique clocks, simultaneously studying their movements. Then he studied watchmaking in college. Educated, Haldimann decided to start his own business. In 1991, he founded his own atelier, named “Haldimann Watch”. Now it is situated in a historic building, constructed in 1907. Haldimann’s workshop specializes in restoration of antique watches. In 2000, Haldimann received a patent for his first invention - the watch movement H101. It's like two watches in one case, combined together, which are regulated by resonance. In 2002, Haldimann created a unique watch with tourbillon, located in the center of dial. In 2005, the master continued improving his movement, creating the watch H2, improving the balance of central tourbillon.
Vianney Halter – a member of the AHCI from 2000. He graduated from the school of watchmaking, which is located in Paris. Educated, Halter began to restore antique watches. He was doing that for ten years, then he moved to Switzerland. There he collaborated a while with such famous manufactories, as Audemars Piguet, Breguet, Jaquet-Droz, Frank Muller, Mauboussin. In 1994, Halter opened his own atelier. He named it “Janvier SA” in honor of one of the most talented watchmakers in the history - Antide Janvier, who lived and worked in the end of XVII – beginning of XVIII centuries. Halter presented his first collection under his own brand in 1998. The members of the AHCI liked the series “Antiqua” so much that they suggested the master showed the those watches on their stand at the exhibition Baselworld-98. The collectors were filled with admiration for it. Due to that success, Halter became a member of the AHCI. In that new role, the master collaborated with the manufactories “Goldpfeil” and “Harry Winston”. The fruit of the last tandem was the creation of watch “Opus III”. It had a unique movement, which shows time indications in special apertures. After the Basel exhibition Halter received many prepaid orders for that watch. However, unlike the prototype, the next Opus III refused to move. Halter spent a year to repair the movement. However, Opus III was so charming that the customers waited patiently for the completion of work, refusing to take back the money.
François-Paul Journe – a member of the Academy from 1988, one of the most respected and renowned watchmakers. Journe invents new mechanisms by himself, thinks out designs for his watches and collect them only by hand. Each timepiece has a special marking: “F.-P. Journe-Invenit et Fecit”, which means “F.-P. Journe - Invented and Created”. This craftsman’s approach to creation of watches is very unusual. First, Journe comes up with a case draft, draws a dial in tiniest details, and then designs a movement. This reflects the skills of the professional. Journe doesn’t ponder over whether he can make movements for his watches, because he knows that he’ll do it by all means. The master’s talent is very versatile. He gets down to creation of “Opus I” for Harry Winston, as well as of “The Chronometre Souverain”, based on vintage marine chronometers of the XIX century. Besides, Journe acquired the restorer’s skills during eight years of work in his uncle’s atelier, who was a famous Parisian restorer. The wrist watches by Journe are always very harmonious. The master believes that every detail of his work should draw attention to the watch, not to itself.
Antoine Preziuso has been remaining independent for the last 25 years. Preziuso began his career from restoration of antique watches. Experienced, he began collaborating with the company “Breguet”. However, that collaboration did not last long. Soon Preziuso started making his watches. Already the first watches, issued by him, were provided with minute repeater, perpetual calendar, and a unique system of winding, for which he received a patent. Preziuso always liked to create watches with lots of complications. Moreover, each new model of his own production is provided with unique functions and patented movement details. In 1996, his achievements are finally recognized by the AHCI. Thanks to that, Preziuso became the first watchmaker, who could conclude a lucrative contract on distribution of his watches in Japan. Six years after the entry into the academy, the master received an order from the company “Harry Winston”, as a result, he created a unique model “Opus II”. Preziuso equipped is with perpetual calendar and tourbillon. In 2005, marking the 25th anniversary of his activities, the craftsman created the model “3 Volution Tourbillon”. The movement of this unique watch is equipped with three tourbillons at once. That is why the connoisseurs immediately named “3 Volution Tourbillon” a revolutionary watch.
Nicolas Delaloye is a watchmaker from Geneva. Delaloy studied watchmaking in the Geneva watch school. To gain experience, he began working in the manufactory “Patek Philippe”, fixing up in the department of complications. Then Delaloye moved to the restoration department of the same company. There he was engaged in restoration of unique antique watches, adopting experience of such renowned craftsmen, as Roger Dubois and Francois-Paul Journe. Since 2002 Delaloye has been trying to create watches by orders from the leading manufactories of Switzerland. Simultaneously he began designing his own caliber. In 2003, when the master was only 33 years old, he decided to open his own workshop. The design of the concept took Delaloye three years, the manufacture and assembly took one more year. That work resulted in the base movement of manual winding, presented in 2006. On its base Delaloye assembled five test models of his own watches by hand. The Master was satisfied with the result and began producing classic models with a simple, restrained design. That watch found its first buyer after the presentation at the exhibition in Basel. Besides, this work of Delaloya gained recognition, allowing him to become a member of the AHCI. Today, he also issues women's watches, adhering to the classic design. We can say that it is the traditional approach that made Delaloya successful.
Frank Jutzi is a supporter of unusual design solutions. He was born in Bern in 1963. After graduating from school, in the 1981 Jutzi became an apprentice of a watchmaker, who worked in Bern. Already at the first year of watchmaking training he wanted to create his own movement. The skeletonized watches with complications were especially attractive to Jutzi. As a watchmaker’s apprentice he spent four years, and then he decided to establish his own manufacture. In 1985 Jutzi opened a workshop, which specialized in repair of antique clocks. Working with antique movements, the master was gaining experience and ideas for creating his own movements. Already in 1998, he presented a table clock with two-month power reserve at the AHCI stand. In 2000, Jutzi became a full member of the Academy. In the same year he created a new model of wristwatch with tourbillon. In 2001, Jutzi presented new models - with regulator and indicator of lunar phases. Then the master focused on making interior clocks during a few years. However, a few years ago Jutzi became interested in creation of miniature movements. As a result, in 2009 he returned to creation of wrist watches.
Kiu Tai Yu embodies aesthetics of the Far East in his watches. His works are characterized with sensual smooth shapes, golden cases, enamel decorations. The shapes of Kiu Tai Yu watches resemble a pagoda. The craftsman uses various shades of gold for making their rectangular cases: yellow, pink, white. The model “Tourbillon Flying” is the first one, created by the master. Its movement is unique, it is not repeated in other watches. Another unusual model from Kiu Tai Yu – “Mystery Flying Tourbillon № 12”. The Master decorated it with traditional Chinese elements, combining harmoniously with a modern design. The next achievement of Kiu Tai Yu was the model “Tourbillon № 13”. That watch was an embodiment of all technological achievements of the master. The most important of them is the flying tourbillon, which is considered to be the forte of the watchmaker. One of the latest creations of Kiu Tai Yu – the watch “Tourbillon № 14”, which he named "Joy of the Millenium." It is completely made of platinum. Its appearance reminds of ancient astronomical clock, like those which were used in China a thousand years ago. Kiu Tai Yu collects all his watches by hand, so each piece can be considered to be unique.
Bernhard Lederer is a watchmaker from Germany. He was born in a small town called Kornwestheim, near Stuttgart, in 1958. When Lederer was 18, he began working at the Museum of historical clocks, which was located in Wuppertal. Simultaneously he studied watchmaking in Dusseldorf for three years. After graduating Lederer could open his own workshop “Uhrenmanufaktur Lederer”. It was specialized in restoration of antique watches. In 1985, Lederer entered into the AHCI. At that time he managed to graduate from Pforzheim school of horlogerie and get master's degree. In 1987, Lederer created his first table clock “Perpetual”. He set up production, but his workshop produced maximum ten pieces per a year. Lederer thought about creation of his own movement for wrist watches in 1993 for the first time. That was the time when he decided to sell the workshop “Uhrenmanufaktur Lederer”. However, Lederer could realize his plans only in 2002. This nine-year period of time is jokingly called a "period of reflection" by the master himself. In 1997 a clock-monument, dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Brazil, was constructed under his leadership. Naturally, the draft was made by the master himself. Lederer admits that the time is a very emotional substance for him. Therefore, creating his own clock, he had two main objectives: to show how exciting the time could be and how great we had an opportunity to enjoy it. To create such unique works of horlogerie, Lederer founded the company “Blu - source du temps SA”. It is located in Switzerland, in Kolomber. In April of 2003, at the exhibition in Basel the first collection of watches by Lederer, released under his new brand “Blu”, was presented.
Christian Klings is a German watchmaker from Dresden. He is considered to be a master of the top-qualification. Klings creates wrist watches with various complications and uses traditional instruments. This is a rare technology that requires extraordinary skills of a watchmaker and extreme accuracy. Klings often makes the back case transparent for a future owner could see the details of the movement. In some models one can observe their work through special apertures on the dial. Klings has been carried away by watch movements since childhood. At the age of 16 he began working as a watchmaker’s apprentice. Even then the future master showed his talent in that area. Experienced, Klings opened his own studio. During that period he was engaged in restoration of antique watches. Since 1996 Klings has begun working on his own mechanism. He certainly wanted to equip his watches with a range of complications. Since Klings relied on the experience of the masters of the XVII and XVIII centuries, whose works were restored by him during a few years, he inherited a specific creative spirit from them. The researches and experiments take Klings a lot of time, but he creates new mechanicals constructions just in this way. Some projects and innovative inventions of this master are now considered to be ones of the most difficult complications. Some experts are inclined to regard the clocks of Klings as scientific achievements. The craftsman refused mass production. He likes to create unique watches. One can say that Klings works exclusively for the collectors, able to appreciate them highly. Sometimes, however, he issues series of watches. In 2009, he created as many as two series: with tourbillon and without it. However, each series includes only five copies, so there isn’t still a mass production.
Christiaan van der Klaauw specializes in creation of astronomical clocks. He began creating them as early as in 1974. Today Christiaan van der Klaauw owns his own studio “Christiaan van der Klaauw”. The astronomical clocks brought fame to that master. In 1992 he even received gold medal in the nomination "The most innovative project" at the Basel Exhibition. After that the master got concentrated on the manufacture of high quality watches, equipped with a number of complications. His watch “Mondial CK1-2” is equipped with two additional indicators. One of them has an arrow with sun, which indicates the noon time at any of the 24 time zones. The second indicator determines the night time at different parts of the world. In addition, with the help of “Mondial CK1-2” one can know the current phase of the Moon. Another masterpiece of horlogerie from Christiaan van der Klaauw - Christiaan van der Klaauw Astrolabium 2000. It could be used for navigation of vessels, become a real guide for the astrologer. But today there is no need in it, therefore, “Christiaan van der Klaauw Astrolabium 2000” is taken sooner as an exclusive, adornment of the most luxurious collection of rare watch models connoisseur. Christiaan van der Klaauw took the Hipparchus astrolabe, Greek astronomer, as a base for it. By means of this watch you can track the movements of the Moon and the Sun, and use it as a tool for measuring angles, very useful for the orientation by the stars.
Franck Muller is a talented watchmaker, who managed to develop his own small enterprise to a real watch empire in a short period of time. Muller’s manufactory is located in the Swiss town of Genthod, near the picturesque Lake Leman. The future master of watchmaking became enthusiastic about watches in early childhood, when he disassembled various mechanical devices with interest to learn how they worked. When Muller turned 17, he began to study at the Geneva School of Watchmakers, which was considered to be a prestigious institution. Four years later, Muller graduated with distinction. Besides, he managed to create his first movement during education. That was his master thesis, in which he upgraded the standard model of Rolex watch. Muller started his career with working in the studio of Svend Andersen, where he acquired great experience. Just at that time the master created the first models of his own named chronographs. Then he made a watch, equipped with tourbillon (in 1983), which in 1986 he slightly refined and got a piece with jumping hour. At that time they were sensational novelties, so complex that no one even thought about the possibility of their industrial production. That was quite difficult to Muller to work with Andersen and collect his own watches at the same time, so he risked and decided to start his own business. Together with specialist of precious stones Vartan Sirmakes, in 1991, he opened a company “Technowatch”. However, already in 1995 in fall, the craftsman created his own company “Franck Muller”. Muller became successful thanks to following three main principles at work. First, he always preferred to create watches on the base of proven and reliable automatic movements ETA 2892-A2. The caliber 7750 of the same brand was used for the chronographs. To improve the reliability of the winding mechanism, the standard rotors are replaced by platinum ones. Second, Muller became famous thanks to various modifications and modules of complications, created by the master for his watches. Thus, based on reliable, but simple movements, he was able to create complex models. Thirdly, Muller began making barrel-shaped cases again, which had already been forgotten by that time. The Master called that form “Cintree Curvex”, which in French means "curved".
Kari Voutilainen is a watchmaker from Finland. He decided to become a watchmaker at the age of 13. Voutilainen studied in the Finnish watch school “Tapiola”, which is known throughout the world. He appeared in Switzerland in 1989 for the first time. Then Voutilainen had his postgraduate studies at the International School of Watchmaking, restoring various complex and rare watches. Talented young craftsman was noticed, and a few years he restored rare and original watches from around the world. In addition, within three years Voutilainen worked as a teacher, passing on his skills to young artists. He added several new and very useful courses he invented to the curriculum. Along with teaching Voutilainen worked on creating a unique watch movement during 15 years. In 2002, he opened his own firm in a small village, located in the Val de Travers. Voutilainen constantly strives for perfection, creating new models of watches. His vast experience allows him to create incredibly complex movements. Voutilainen takes antique model as a basis, since the classical approach to the creation of new watches is closer to him. His chronometers are assembled by hand by small lots. They are highly valued by the collectors, and not because they are made of precious metals, but because they are an example of live horlogerie classics.
Rainer Nienaber is a master, known worldwide for his magnificent watches-regulators. He began to study horology in the company, which specialized in precise technologies, after serving in the army. There Nienaber became a master-toolmaker. He created regulators by hand, which soon became known even outside Germany. However, for a long time the master did not dare to manufacture watches of his own design. In 1982, Nienaber founded his own brand. The wrist watches, which he planned to make at that manufactory, must have been, first of all, easily readable. Even the smallest details in all models of Nienaber are very comfortable. The dials of his watches have the simplest design, the date aperture is large, so it does not require an additional lens on the glass. The wrist watches by Rainer Nienaber are distinguished by beauty of design and technical excellence. In addition, the watchmaker uses retrograde hands in some models. Nienaber admits that many watches were inspired by the control panel counters of vintage cars. The sophistication of his works is showed in restrained finishing and strict, despite the overall strangeness, design. That’s what the collectors value in the watches of Nienaber.
Andreas Strehler – a master, who compares horlogerie with music. In his view, all the possibilities of watchmakers haven’t been exhausted yet, and the secret of creating new movements lies in the competent combination of existing elements. After graduation he worked in the studio “Renaud et Papiher”, adopting experience from the famous watchmakers: Robert Greubel, Stephen Forsey, Gulio Papi. Today, it is enough for him to glance at the movement to understand how it works. Since 1995, Strehler has become a free watchmaker. He started developing movements for watches of Harry Winston, Chronoswiss and H.Moser & Cie. In 1998, Shtreler presented a perpetual calendar, released under his own brand. The complexity of this movement is the combination of pocket format and calendar function, which was used mostly for table clocks. Shtreler showed his skills by combining those two elements, requiring coordination and synchronization of mechanical memory, in one watch. The following watch “Two” by Shtreler has a modest design, but it switches indications, as an electronic one, being mechanical. The master makes his famous watch movements not only for watches, but often for machines and devices that produce parts. In addition, he participates in design of special software, required in the production process. Shtreler makes all of his movements only by hand, so his workshop produces only a limited series of watches and unique pieces. He tries not to go the traditional route of watchmakers, but to design new, simplified processes, thanks to which the horlogerie could make a step forward. Shtreler is not satisfied with good results, he always needs the best.
Aniceto Jiménez Pita entered the AHCI in 2004. This Spanish self-taught craftsman has created the first watch in far 1958, when he was only eleven years old. Since 1963 Pita was engaged in repairing different kinds of watches. Eight years later he opened his own studio in Barcelona where he produced watches under the brand “Pita Barcelona”. Pita makes his watches by himself, starting with initial concept and ending with the assembly itself. A unique invention of this master - Pita Carousel (2005). This watch does not have the crown. Over time, the whole movement is simply turned around the central axis. One can set the time and wind the movement by using a special patented system that allows you to adjust indications, even under the water in some models. Pita Molinos – a skeletonized watch from Pita. It does not have hour markings and hands. Their functions are performed by special floating wheels. Pita dedicated his activities to the search of new technical decisions. He seeks to bring all sorts of functional innovations to movements and simplify their use. Many of his inventions are patented as unique.
Matthias Naeschke combines the talent of a watchmaker with technical design skills. In addition, Naeschke is also a church musician. He was born in 1943. His career began with working in the best jewelry stores in England and Switzerland. Along with that activity Naeschke conducted his own technical research, designing and creating movements for some industrial companies. It was a time when the manual production of clocks were actually suspended and replaced by a mechanized one. In 1984, Naeschke created a small studio in his house, where he planned to create a movement for a unique mechanical clock with organ. In fact, he was one of those artists who were capable to keep horlogerie heritage and revive watchmaking at that time. Today the table clock with organ is unique. Only Matthias Naeschke and his team of craftsmen are able to assemble it. His studio also releases other interior clocks. Naeschke prefers to follow the classical principles and traditions of watchmaking. He believes that only a craftsman can achieve ideal quality of clocks. The master says that although machines for mass production make perfect finishing of details, they won’t make them sophisticated. Naeschke has become a member of the AHCI since 1986, and he was one of the first admitted watchmakers. He wants to prove that along with industrial production of time meters, it is necessary to preserve and develop the craft, hand making of art watches. The unique pieces from Naeschke are distinguished with creative design and skillful execution, which are indisputable signs of craftsmanship.
Sebastian Naeschke is a representative of the second generation of watchmakers in his family. This is not the only passion he inherited from his father. Like his father, Sebastian Naeschke is an inveterate musician. After secondary school he studied at the prestigious engineering school “Feintechnikschule” in Villingen-Schwenningen. Having finished it, Naeschke moved to Switzerland. For several years he has gained experience in watchmaking. Some time later he moved to Schaffhausen. There he became famous as a great specialist in creation of split-chronographs. Then Naeschke worked as a manager in a Swiss workshop of Helmut Sinn, polishing up his skills. The fruits of his work included the design of some models from the brands “Chronosport”, “Jubilar”, and “Guinand”. In 1999, Naeschke returned to Germany and began working in his father's shop. He succeeded in the development of family business so much that in 2006 he became a member of the AHCI. In the workshop, founded 25 years ago by his father, Sebastian Naeschke is looking for innovative technical solutions to create new and unique movements today. In addition, he is responsible for monitoring of the consumer market for the watchmakers could introduce the details and improvements, which will bring joy to future owners of their watches.
Thomas Prescher became famous as a creator of unique watches with unusual design. Prescher was born in Germany. At the age of 19 he entered the military service. The future watchmaker was a sailor of the Navy of Germany during six years. In 1991, Prescher took discharge, rising to the rank of officer. Then he could make a long-standing passion for watchmaking as his profession. Prescher is self-taught. More than a year he bought up all sorts of old broken clocks and, using various technical literature and specialized articles, tried to repair them, simultaneously exploring the movements’ cobwebs. His goal was to obtain a position of apprentice in the company “IWC”, which held a competition only once a year. Having that place from the first try, Prescher graduated brilliantly from a four-year course in just three years. Then the master worked 1.5 years in the service center of the famous company “Audemars Piguet”. Having that experience, Prescher got fixed up in the manufactory “Gübelin” in Lucerne. There he became specialized in restoration of complex and antique watches. Even then Prescher began to produce his models by order. In four years, spent in Gübelin, the master became more interested in complex watches. When Prescher opened his own workshop in Twan in 2002, the collectors had already known him because of that addiction. In his studio the craftsman was engaged in repair of antique watches, such as the works of Abraham-Louis Breguet, Girard-Perregaux and other well-known manufacturers and brands. The first collection of Thomas Prescher, just like others, does not include classical simple watches with three hands. His series entitled “Tempusvivendi” is made in the style of bras en l'air and provided with retrograde time indication. In 2003, he was admitted in the AHCI. At the first exhibition Baselworld with his participation, the Academy’s stand was completed with a unique watch from stone, equipped with biaxial tourbillon and another piece of complicated retrogrades from series “Tempusvivendi”. Its success motivated Prescher for creation of series “Tourbillon Trilogy”, the models of which have his own movement, complicated with one-, two-, and triaxial tourbillons. The latter became a novelty for the whole watch world, as previously no one saw a triaxial tourbillon. Today the workshop “Thomas Prescher Haute Horlogerie” can offer not only finished products, but also models, made in accordance with specific needs of a certain customer, based on a refined basic model. Prescher plans to create other exciting watches with an intricate design.
Peter Speake-Marin is an English watchmaker, who initially planned to make jewelry. What made him change his mind – no one knows, but after graduation he entered a technical college in London. In 1985, Speake-Marin continued his education at the prestigious Swiss watchmaking school “Wostep”. Having finished it, the watchmaker returned to England, where he worked in several companies, and then headed the department, specializing in watches, in the company “Somio Antiques”. On that position Speake-Marin was able to restore watches of the greatest masters and brands: Patek Philippe, Frodsham, Breguet, and many others. Studying those movements in a workshop on the Piccadilly street, he realized that he needed to improve his skills. To this end, in 1996 Speake-Marin returned to Switzerland and began working in the company “Audemars Piguet” (Renaud & Papi) on development of complications in watch movements. Simultaneously, he tried to create movements by his own designs. In 2000, Speake-Marin opened his own studio in the village of Rolle, located between Lausanne and Geneva. The first model, created by master’s own design, is called “The Piccadilly”. Speake-Marin says that the years spent in the studio on the Piccadilly, were the most important in his career, because that's where he got the lion's share of his experience and polished up his skills. Studying the works of the great watchmakers, he could learn the methods, used by his predecessors in that field over the centuries. The best of them were used by Speake-Marin in design of his own projects. In 2004, he became a member of the AHCI. Obviously, the academics liked the strict and laconic design of his watches, so rare in our days. Speake-Marin is attentive to different parts: strap fasteners, form of hands, form of crown. That's why his watches are easy to distinguish from other manufacturers’ models. Speake-Marin creates skeletonized models, equips his movements with different types of calendars, tourbillons, minute repeater and other complications. In addition, the master is often invited to co-operation by well-known manufactures. For example, in 2006 he created a superb tourbillon for Harry Winston, in 2008 “Horological Machine No.1” by Speake-Marin for MB & F appeared, and in 2009 he made the watch “Chapter One Maîtres du Temps” and its modification “Chapter Two”. The main qualities, for which Speake-Marin is valued, are use of new inventions and preserving the traditions of horlogerie.
Volker Vyskocil is a master, who produces all watch details exclusively by hand. He dreamed of becoming a watchmaker since he was 16, but his plans didn’t come true immediately. After finishing the school, Vyskocil, contrary to his wishes, got education of mechanical engineer and toolmaker. However, he didn’t refuse his dream: even during studying his first drawings of his own movements appeared. We can say that Vyskocil is a self-taught watchmaker. At least, he does not have a special education. Only one model of watch “VA” is manufactured in the workshop of Vyskocil now. This is the caliber number of the manual winding movement V-30/49-01-A. When it comes to work, Vyskocil doesn’t accept compromises. He does not make only movement’s details by hand, which are traditionally made in this way, but also case, dial, hands, strap buckles, and even those cases, in which the ready-made watches are sent to the customers. The design of Vyskocil’s watches is quite restrained, but it proves that there are no standard components. One of the most unusual elements is a multifunctional power reserve indication hand. Adjusting the crown at one of three positions, it is possible to adjust the watch, at that fixing the hands, which do not need to be corrected. This helps to keep the hands ordered when you set another time zone or transfer to summer time. Due to that the accuracy of time meter increases. In addition, one of the main advantages of Vyskocil’s watches is durability. That is why the final stage of production is always the movement test. He developed a special test system consisting of six stages. It is designed to verify the movement accuracy at different temperatures, case positions, the mainspring tension measurement, etc. The customer gets his watch with the results of these tests. You have to enter the waiting list to be able to buy one of the masterpieces of Vyskocil. All watches are made by orders. He can’t assemble over a dozen of copies in a year.
Peter Wibmer specializes in complex watch movements. This master has been improving his skills for nearly three decades, creating more and more complicated watches. The favorites of Wibmer are skeletonized movements, since, in his opinion, the work of the movement must be visible. This craftsman doesn’t only create new, unusual watches, but he is also considered to be an expert in restoration of antique items. Wibmer thinks that antique watches of past centuries are role models. He is against excessive decorations, and he will sooner refuse to install stones or decorate the case, unless it is necessary. Wibmer likes to get down to complex projects, since they help him to gain unique experience. He is ready to fulfill the most extravagant desires of customers, even if it is, for example, the installation of a mechanical hand-made clock in a two-story elevator, which is located in a trade center of Salzburg. Wibmer believes that watchmaking is no longer taken as a craft, and it is bad. Due to the abundance of models launched in mass production, the manufacture of table and wall clocks by individual orders has almost fallen to decay. Wibmer is trying to revive this ancient craft. In his workshop he has a library of special literature with more than 300 books about clocks. In addition, Wibmer has all necessary equipment to repair even the most complex antique watches.
Peter Schmid is a watchmaker from Sweden. He specializes in complicated models. Schmid manufactures interior clocks with lots of decorative items.
The membership of the AHCI is constantly widening. However, before becoming an academician, you need to have the status of the candidate for some time. The number of candidates is also changes periodically. Each candidate is already a valuable and respected watchmaker, who already has his achievements. Today, the number of candidates for membership in the AHCI includes the following craftsmen:
John and Stephen McGonigle are Irish watchmakers. The brothers were carried away by watches from youth. Their father was a watchmaker. He was engaged mainly in repair of movements. But his real passion was floor clocks, which always were in great variety in McGonigle’s house. No wonder the brothers decided to follow in their father’s footsteps. They graduated from the Irish Institute of watchmaking in Dublin. To improve practical skills McGonigles moved to Switzerland. John created watches for the company “Wostep”, later collaborated with “Audemars Piguet”, later - with “Christophe Claret”. Then he returned to the homeland. His brother, Stephen began his career with restoration of old antique clocks in one of the workshops in London. Experienced, he worked together with his brother in the company “Christophe Claret” for the first time. Then Stephen cooperated with famous manufactories “Franck Muller” and “Breguet”, later – “British Masters”. After that he founded his own workshop in Neuchatel. The next step in joint work of McGonigles was a watch of original design. At that John stayed in Switzerland, and Stephen was in Ireland. The result of their collaboration was a platinum watch with tourbillon. Its movement is hand-wound, and the power reserve makes up 110 hours. McGonigles chose Celtic style for the decoration of their watch. The engraving on the back case and finishing of the crown remind about it. The case has an unusual oval shape. The dial turned out three-layer. The upper layer is made of sapphire glass, it has two apertures, which show the drum’s gear wheel and the famous tourbillon of McGonigles itself. It is specific for an updated carriage. McGonigles improved the tourbillon by making it more efficient and aesthetic. The brothers make no more than ten pieces of watches in a year, and their sister named Francis, who is known in Ireland as an artist, helps them in design.
Eva Leube is a watchmaker from Berlin. When she was sixteen, she became interested in hand-made vintage watch movements. In 1995, when Leube turned 23, she got master's degree, graduating from the high school of watchmaking after Hildesheim. Like most watchmakers, famous today, she began her career with restoration and repair of watches. For six years, Leube cooperated with Rolex. She managed to work in the service centers in Lucerne (Switzerland), Cape Town (South Africa), Sydney. There she was engaged in repairing of Rolex watches, and she is still considered to be a big specialist in it. In order to improve her skills, Leube took special courses, organized by the manufactory “Ulysse Nardin”. These courses prepare masters, designing various complications. After finishing them, in 2004, she became an assistant of Thomas Prescher. In his workshop, located in the Swiss studio in Twan, Leube worked until 2007. With her assistance Prescher created such wonderful novelties, as dual mechanism of retrograde calendar and famous model “Triple-Axis Tourbillon”. After that Leib married and, to the master’s great sorrow, went to Australia. She settled in Manly - a town not far from Sydney, where she opened her own workshop. At first, the main occupation of Leube was the manufacture of exclusive watches by order. However, along with that activity, she also worked on her own movement. So an unusual hand-made watch “Ari”, named after the young son of Leube, appeared. This model has a very unusual design. Leube was able to position all nodes of the construction on a narrow, curved metal plate, so that the movement repeats its shape, as if embracing the wrist. The master managed to make the movement with a large balance, the idea of which was borrowed from a pocket watch of her grandfather, look elegant and feminine. All parts, except for the strap and sapphire glass for the watch case, made in Switzerland by order, are created by Leube herself. In addition, she creates special tools necessary for the work on her own projects.
Saskia Мaaike Bouvier is another representative of the fair sex, honored with the title of candidate of the AHCI after Basel Exhibition of 2010. She studied at the famous Geneva “Ecole d'Horlogerie”. Having finished it in 1997, Bouvier immediately got a job at the famous creator of poetic complications Jean-Marc Wiederrecht. The next few years she gained experience in his studio under the name of Agenor, and in 2004 she received a patent for the time control module, created by her own project. Next year, in collaboration with Pierre Kunz brand Bouvier issued the wrist watch “Cupidon”, which she designed by herself. In 2007, she patented the world time module and applied it in the model “Les Heures du Monde”, created for “Villemont”. Bouvier presented her own watch collection in 2009 first. She gave a common name to those watches – “l'heure d'ete & d'hiver”, which in French meant "summer and winter time". These mechanical watches are provided with automatic caliber SmB 901 with original complication. Her watch has two interrelated scales on the dial, one of which shows the winter time, and the other one – the summer time. Those watches became a base for another model with two dials - "Yin and Yang". However, the members of the AHCI noticed Bouvier in 2010. Then at Basel exhibition she first presented her watches on the stand of the Academy. In 2011 Bouvier created a collection of complex mechanical watches for women, which she called “8 Moons”. Its main distinguishing feature is automatic caliber SmB 905, complicated with original lunar calendar. The Lunar phase indicator is placed full-circle of the dial, so that on any day of the week you can determine its exact state. These watches are unique because they allow the owner to see not only the current phase of the Moon, but its condition in coming days. The indicator apertures have inscriptions, by which it is easy to determine what Moon phase will be in a couple of days, and tomorrow, not just today. Nowadays the studio of Bouvier is not far from Geneva, in Shanxi.
Marc Jenni is a watchmaker from Zurich. According to him, he had not dreamed of such career, but he walked in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. Jenni spent four years working in the studio of Paul Gerber in Zurich as an apprentice. Having acquired the necessary experience, the watchmaker started cooperating with the US company “Tiffany & Co”. For ten years, with the assistance of Jenni such watches, as “Tiffany Oracle” and “Mark T-57 Tri-Retrograde Chronograph” were created. However, he wanted to realize his own ideas. To that end, he established the brand “Nobletime” in collaboration with Vicente Mafe. His first collection was presented at Baselworld in 2010. The masters of the AHCI provided the talented young watchmaker with a place on the Academy’s stand. However, before Jenni had to spend two years to embody his ideas in finished watches. The collection is named “Prologue” that makes clear: this is only the beginning of his activities. The main feature of this watch line is a black ring, located on the right side of the case, which performs the function of crown. It is used to both wind the movement and adjust the date and time counters. You can switch these modes by pressing the button “Wind, Date, Time”, located on the bezel at “4” hours. Jenni explains that “Prologue” is as an initial part of the story. The watches of this series combine clean lines and simple unfussy design with technical perfection of the movement. Inspired by the success of his first creation, Jenni decided on the next project - a wrist watch “JJJ”. Its name is an abbreviation, meaning the full name of one of the master’s ancestors - Johann Jakob Jenni. The watchmaker adopted his unusual idea of indicating days of week: each of them has a specific character, symbolizing one of the planets and appearing in a separate aperture on the dial of JJJ. Johann Jakob Jenni was also a watchmaker. He manufactured time meters back in 1780 in his workshop, which situated in the Swiss town of Glarus. The movement winding and indications adjustment in this model are implemented in the same manner as in “Prologue”. Jenni presented his new creation at the Basel Exhibition of 2011. It should be noted that this candidate exhibits again at the stand of the AHCI.
Xu Jiabao is a craftsman from China, who was personally invited to participate in the exhibition Baselworld by the current AHCI chairman, Philippe Wurtz. The style of this watchmaker is quite different from what they do in Switzerland. Hsu Jiabao was born in a farmer's family. Since youth the cars were his passion. The master remembers that he always liked watches too, but his family was so poor that they could not afford even a wall clock, not to mention the wrist ones. Little Xu Jiabao usually painted watches right on his wrist or a piece of paper. His elder brother took part in the hostilities on the side of Korea, defending against US aggression. When he was discharged and returned home, he brought a trophy with him - a small clock. It had a wooden case and luminous dial. Xu Jiabao was in such rapture over it that he had made a special protective box for it, and almost worshiped it as a deity. And just a little bit grown up, he realized that clock had been taken by his brother out of control panel of an American aircraft when clearing the battlefield. That clock was finally decisive of the fate of future master, who was eager to understand how that movement worked. He first repaired a clock, being a farmer. Then, to determine the beginning and end of field work one used the watch "Purple Mountain", assembled at the watch factory in Nanjing. It helped to determine when to whistle, so that all farmers could finish working and go home. Once it got broken. Xu Jiabao offered his assistance in repair, with neither experience in this matter, nor any special tools. Nevertheless, he disassembled the clock and found the cause of failure - the movement required lubrication. The master did not have industrial lubricants, and he found a decision by mixing kerosene with oil for hair, borrowed from a neighbor. Since that time Xu Jiabao was determined to link his life with clocks. He began to learn the craft without telling someone. To that end, Xu Jiabao went to watch boutiques and considered and studied the movements of the watches exhibited in the windows for a long time. Sometimes the guards, anxious about such behavior of an unusual visitor, turned him out of the store. But the real apprenticeship of Xu Jiabao began when he got to the master Peiu at the factory in Changzhou. Already in the 70s of past century the master assembled nine pieces of his own watches by hand. By 1983, Xu Jiabao was asked to chair the state-owned enterprise, specializing in manufacturing of watches, but the master refused. That was a bold step, which made him the only businessman among public officials. The master opened a store called "Bao Ling Zhun" and founded his own atelier. The main principles of Xu Jiabao - honesty and reliability. The interior clock “Flying Ball Instrument”, created in 2002, brought him the fame. The master calls it an embodiment of his long-term experience, free from the influence of other, even great watchmakers. The plate is provided with the Ferris wheel with hands and a tower, connected by a bridge, which has sixteen balls of steel. Every hour a ball rolls on the bridge and gets into the cell of the Ferris wheel. When six cells are full, the wheel turns under the weight of the balls, which come down and wait at the gate of the tower. Every six hours, when the hour and minute hands come together, the music starts playing, and the balls are thrown back onto the bridge again. Thus, once run engine is working without stopping.
Masahiro Kikuno is a self-taught craftsman from Japan. Before manufacturing watches, he served in the Army. Then, demobilized in 2005, he enrolled at a vocational school to improve his skills of a watchmaker. Having finished it, Kikuno began working on his own projects, simultaneously teaching watchmaking in the same school. For the first time his work drew the attention of Philippe Dufour. Kikuno creates watches in a traditional Japanese style. Today there are three variations, designed by this master. His works are different from the models, created by the European watchmakers, by using the traditional system of timekeeping that was applied in Japan until the XIX century. It's called “Wadokei”. Under this system, days are divided into day and night, which in their turn consist of six time periods, called "Koku". In order to show seasonal variations in time of sunrise and sunset, Kikuno has created a unique complication, moving the indexes around the circumference and thus correcting the value of time intervals. He spent three months on that. However, the master has a version with 24-hour dial and Roman markings, designed for sale in Europe. One of the main technical achievements of Kikuno is the watch, based on hand-wound caliber ETA 6497 with tourbillon and perpetual calendar. Dufour, however, was struck, first of all, by the watch with traditional design. To provide the 28-year-old watchmaker with an opportunity to exhibit his works at the AHCI stand, the academician found a way to circumvent the rules a bit. The point is that a candidate must gain support of two members of the academy. But in case of Kikuno, Dufour’s patronage was enough. As a result, he became the first candidate for the AHCI from Japan. Kikuno admits, he dreams mostly of his watches were available in any part of the world.
Course of uniqueness
In March of 2011 in Switzerland, the tenth anniversary contest “Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève” was held. The jury had a difficult task to choose the best watchmakers of truly worthy candidates. Once again, François-Paul Journe became one of laureates. This wizard has been receiving awards almost every year since 2002, not counting 2007 and 2009, when he was a member of the jury. Journe has already two wins at the Geneva Competition in the category "Best Men's Watch," three prizes "Golden Hand". At that time, Journe was honored for an improved model “Chronomètre à Résonance”, which is still considered to be the most accurate mechanical watch.
The competition resulted in a special prize for the AHCI too. This organization is not just a chance for young watchmakers to gain support and approval. Its creation was a return step to the growing influence of large manufactories, which had divided the watch market between them and, thus, didn’t give a chance to independent enthusiasts to exist. Today, the members of the AHCI believe their main goal is accumulation and preservation of traditional practices and knowledge about horlogerie, which haven’t been lost in this age of technological progress due to these masters indeed.
In 1985, when the Academy was founded, the demand for hand-made watches was low. But now there is an interesting trend: many masters prefer to make "lux" watches that mean manual assembling, unusual technical solutions and materials, rather than to join the ranks of the powerful corporations, leaving no space for creativity. Today the approach of the members of the AHCI is appreciated by many dealers. The point is that it is easier for a store to sell the products of luxury brands than the big manufactories, preferring not less reputable dealers, which meet lots of requirements. A little-known studio will not ask for serious conditions to promote its brand, it produces cheaper watches, which, however, might be as good as the products of more famous brands. In addition, such watches will be exclusive, as they are always produced in limited editions.
These are independent masters, who present their work at the AHCI stands in various prestigious exhibitions. Some of them have achieved such success that now they can be called independent only by a stretch. For example, Frank Muller, who began his path to the top of career from position of an apprentice at Svend Andersen, heads an impressive watch empire now. The same happened with famous watchmakers Lederer, Baumgartner, Preziuso, Journe and Speake-Marin, who have overgrown the status of artisans and have got their own very influential companies. They are also willingly invited to cooperation by famous large manufactories. Other members of the Academy don’t mind such situation at all.
However, the backbone of the academy is still constituted by the famous masters, preferring to work only for themselves. They are Vianna Halter, Philippe Dufour, Thomas Prescher, Andreas Shtreler, Beat Haldimann, Kari Voutilainen, Volker Vyskocil.
The membership in the AHCI gives the masters, first of all, the necessary support, the opportunity to demonstrate their watches at prestigious exhibitions, creates credibility. In addition, the academics receive a number of economic benefits, not so obvious at first glance. Often their designs, created for their own projects, turn to be so successful that later they are applied by other manufacturers. For example, this refers to the coaxial escapement, invented by George Daniels in 1970, which is successfully used by the famous company “Omega” even today. The same can be said about the movement “Golden Bridge” by Vincent Calabrese, applied in the models of Corum.
But not only the watch companies dream of cooperation with the masters of the AHCI. For example, in 2001, the company “Egana-Goldpfeil”, specializing in the manufacture of various leather goods, decided to release its own watch collection. Seven academics were invited to cooperation with a complete creative freedom. The resulting seven pieces of exclusive watches were presented at the Basel Exhibition under the brand “Goldpfeil” the same year, and the following year they were sold at auction. Paul Gerber became the author of the movements that were used to create some of the Faberge eggs.
Today the AHCI enjoys enormous authority, and the watches, made by the academicians, are of great value for the collectors.