A Master Watchmaker
2013-09-26 | Text: Interview with Valentin Erofeev | Photo ©: | 11371

 

Our education system tends to direct us towards quite a narrow specialization. And while experts debate whether it is reasonable today, we decided to speak with a man who expresses himself through his work experience as a designer, engineer and mechanic. Furthermore, he is used to designing the tools necessary for his craft. His chosen occupation is watchmaking, even though the secrets and know-how of this field are almost completely forgotten in contemporary Russia. Surprisingly, our interviewee, Valentin Erofeev, is only 25 years old.

 

– Valentin, you engage in manufacturing of precise and complex mechanisms although you do not have any training experience in engineering. How did it happen that you became a watchmaker?

 

While at high school, I thought I would dedicate my life to precise sciences. But at the last moment I made a spontaneous decision to become a lawyer, to follow in my family’s footsteps. I graduated from a renowned university my father had once graduated from. Then I was an intern at Lukoil, and I worked there for several years. After Lukoil, I spent two years at the Bar Association as the chairman’s assistant until deciding to change my occupation. Moreover, this decision to leave was made just a day before filing documents for my lawyer’s exams.

While being at the Bar Association, I realized two very simple things. The first one was that the law is a complex thing. If someone needs a lawyer, it means that he or she has serious problems. I did not like this from the very beginning. The second simple conclusion was that legal practice tends to comprise a lot of boring work and often with no results at all. I don’t want to offend anybody, but I do not consider some scraps of paper to be a worthy result although some of my friends see it as their chosen mental activity, and I really respect this opinion.

 

– What was your family’s response to your decision to renounce a legal career?

 

By that time I was married, and we had a baby daughter. My wife supported me but all the others – her parents and mine – were totally against it. That makes sense: having family and good wages is one thing, while leaving it all and effectively becoming an unemployed man is really another. So it was a decision that required some strong will of mine, before I decided to leave it all and start earning money at any cost.

Everyone was afraid and said: “What are you doing? Stop!” My father was scared as well, but at some point he supported me and said, – “Give it a go”.

At first it was very hard. Actually, it is still difficult, but I'm doing my life's work. I do not work for someone or some company. I hope the watches I make will outlast many generations. So advantages outweigh any arguments as to possible “difficulties”.

 

– How did it happen that you like making gadgets with your own hands?

 

It has been so since my childhood. At the very beginning, I was looking to my father assembling wooden airplane models; it was his hobby. Then we started doing it together.

Actually, I remade almost everything that I got my hands on, probably due to my internal convictions. Rarely did I see something suiting my tastes, usually those things that were not useful or practical; it is now hard to remember what I thought in each case. But it was always nice to have something made by my own hands.

 

– Was your first watch restored in your early years as well?

 

No, although I was about 9 years old, my father brought me an automatic watch from Switzerland. Can you imagine it? Me, a little boy, got a Swiss watch – all upper class guys used to ask me to give them a look at it. Of course, I was proud of it, but I lost this watch later when moving home, and I still regret it.

As to why I became a watchmaker, – surprisingly, but this happened mostly due to my legal profession The considerations of social prestige at some moment compelled me to purchase a high-profile watch, and when I bought it, of course, I decided to peer inside...

Actually, I can say that all my hobbies are dynamically developed: something grabs my attention; I begin to study it, and eventually I become a kind of professional in this field. But sooner or later the studying is finished. For example, wooden model manufacturing does not have much to do with science. I realized that a plane that we were making with my father would just not fly while it only had an engine made from an ordinary sewing spool. I was a little boy, but somehow I knew it.

But when I got into the watch’s body, it seemed endless to me. I remember very well how I opened that watch and saw under the lid its special world ticking and living, being isolated from the outside world. It is especially fascinating when you look at the watch with a microscope and see how a non-graded action works or how an impulse is sent from a connector to a balance ellipse. At that moment, I realized that this subject would hold my attention for a long time.

 

– What happened to that watch?

 

In fact, it was merely a simple wristwatch. But I decided that I needed something different and special. So I bought a “Molnia”(“ Lightning”) pocket watch, and remade it into a wristwatch. I did as good a job as I could – I just didn’t have special tools as well as the knowledge required. I drew up some blueprints, and worked with hand tools, i.e. drills and files.

It was in my first year of legal practice. At that time, I used to go on some business trips and finished some watch parts literally on the train. It was a completely amateurish thing and, of course, did not bring me any money. I did not even think then that hobby would become my craft. Yes, it is what I proudly call my craft. It's very complicated, very precise, it may require some calibrated equipment, but it’s still a craft.

 

– What was your first step after quitting your previous job?

 

I spent a month with my family at a sea resort in Turkey. When I returned, I began to make my first watches. By that time, I had already bought some simple tools. First, a small English watch making lathe, then a big turning tool. So by the time I quit the law, I had certain basics prepared.

Finally I made my first watch to order. At the same time I managed to start making watches for sale. This was a way out. I can say that in two months of my freelance work I received the same wage level as I used to have at the company, and 6 months later, I earned much more. Now it is not regular, sometimes my wages are 6 times higher; sometimes I earn no money at all.

 

– What do you think about the results of your work? What is your final goal?

 

I imagine it as having my own workshop, perhaps a small two-storied building, with a staff of 20-25 people. They would be personally trained by me. It is a plan in my head, and I think I'm gradually approaching this goal.

I have many worthy examples. First of all, there is the Swiss Academy of Independent Watchmakers, which is comprised of 30 academics. Even one Russian, Konstantin Chaykin is a member of this body. His path is probably similar to mine. He has already achieved something; I've just started my work.

So, these independent watchmakers keep their workshops, which are usually small (with exceptions). Their staff numbers range from 5 to 25 workers. Each workshop manufactures about 20 watches per year. But the companies differ in their business methods: some produce unique watches, others make a small series with modifications, others do the same, but in very small batches.

 

– Do you want your daughter to continue your business?

 

Yes, of course. There are many companies run for several generations. And the family business – that's what I would like to leave behind.

 

 

– Are there women in the watchmaking business?

 

Even more than men at watch factories. Foragers and greasers are all women. For these professions there is even a special term assigned, i.e. “small hands”.

Another thing is that I see my daughter in another role. There are good examples of women designing and crafting very interesting watches. Probably the best known is that of Eve Lloyb, working in Australia. My daughter is, by the way, also named Eva, which is a funny coincidence.

Even now, being 2 years and 3 months old, my child sometimes points at a drawing and says, “A watch”. No one can recognize it at this age.

 

– If you find out that your daughter has no desire to work in the field of watchmaking, what then?

 

Well... then she would not. I would be sorry, but what can I do? But it is, perhaps, a certain incentive to have more children; at least one may follow in my footsteps.

Actually, I think the most important thing in a child's upbringing is not to force your way on it, while at the same time, showing him or her all opportunities, so that a child may see what he or she can do in this life. Pushing in any direction seems a mistake to me. It is important that the decision is made completely independently, without any fear of parent’s reproach.

 

– Was it your own experience?

 

Yes. There was no pressure from my parents. I made all my decisions independently.

 

– Have you already understood what do you need to do to reach your goal, your final vision?

 

Just to work. Everything else I already have.

 

– What about studying?

 

If we talk about some engineering education, it will not provide me with anything new and useful. Of course, I do not know much about serial production, but I do not need it. I really do need to learn with any Swiss watchmaker-academic. I would be happy to go for one year’s training to Thomas Prescher, or maybe even to Englishman Roger Smith. This is my dream, which, I am afraid, will never come true. It requires money, and even more – time, which I don't have.

In this regard, I can tell you about one rather curious incident. Last year I was in Basel, at the meeting with Swiss academics, and I took one of my watches I created, with the permission of the client. One of the academics liked it very much – he stood for a long time looking at it, and then asked me how I created the finished surface of the clock hand. I told him that it was nice he paid attention to this because I spent about one and half months finishing that watch. He listened carefully to the description of my manufacturing method, and then said, “Hmm, try to add oil and use Perspex instead of glass...”

When I returned to Moscow, the first thing I did, leaving my luggage unpacked, was rush to the workshop, take some Perspex and oil and try as he advised. Everything worked, that academic was right. The essence of the story is that sometimes you need to recreate the wheel.

 

– What do you mean by saying "Just to work"?

 

I mean to work with the tools, – to directly manufacture the parts. Take, for example, a small clock hand. All procedures (stamping, polishing, etc.) take 5-10 minutes at the plant where they are mass produced; I spent 1-2 days on them. This is because I make a clock hand in completely different way, with completely different materials. I apply heat; print some finishing surfaces by hand. I love the texture and volume; every clock hand is multi-layered and consists of at least three parts. The differences between stamped and hand-made hands are clearly visible; – it's probably like comparing a cheap Zhiguli’s plastic saloon car to a Rolls-Royce’s interior fitted out with natural thick wood.

On average, I spend 12-14 hours a day working, with one or two breaks for 30 or 60 minutes. I usually wake up in the afternoon. For an hour I have breakfast. I work usually from 3.00 p.m. to 06-07.00 a.m. the next morning. Otherwise I would lack time to work.

 

– How do you replenish your energy?

 

It’s hard to say. It’s motivation, self-motivation. It’s just good for me, I really enjoy it. Of course I get tired, but mentally it’s easy – much easier than sitting in an office for 7 hours and talking on the phone.

 

– Well, besides the manufacturing process there are many other things you have to think about – drawing, design, perhaps some research and innovative development.

 

In fact, all the work you mention is not time-consuming. Design is generally based on inspiration. You either find inspiration or not. If not, think about it next time.

Drawing is a fast process too. If you have an idea, then it will take a few hours. AutoCAD saves time; errors on a digital drawing can be seen at once. It’s much more difficult to see them on the paper.

 

– Do you make three-dimensional drawings?

 

No, I do not need three-dimensional blueprints, – the whole picture is in my mind. But it is another thing if the task is executed by programmed numerical control; – in this case three-dimensional drawings are required, of course. I do not have it; it occurred to me rather recently that I need one programmed numerical control device. There is no machine on the market that would fit my needs, so it will be customized.

 

– For you personally?

 

Yes, it will be. I either rework or craft my tools from scratch, like many other things. The last big machine I recently finished was assembled on the basis of the Swiss optical coordinate machine. When I bought it from the bankrupt First Moscow Watch Factory, it was in terrible condition. I personally reworked it, stripped it down, and restored all worn components. I made small details myself – I can make any small item precisely, but not big ones. Therefore I had to order the ready-made spindle.

In Russia there are big problems with such things; – there is no good, precise manufacturing at all. And when I tried to explain what I needed and what accuracy I expected, I was just not understood. So I had to go to the plant and control the whole process of the spindle making there.

It was successful, and now I always work with this machine.

 

 

– As I understand it, in order to design such tools and make complicated and unique watches, you need to be proficient in many fields. Where did such knowledge come from?

 

Your eyes are the best teacher. It’s said that it is better to see once than hear a hundred times or to read it in a book. You get more information this way. For example, I go and look at old Swiss machines to see how they are compiled. I know that scouring is done at the plant for 500 hours by specially trained people. And I've started to learn how and why they do it.

Suppose that the surface is milled. But it is not completely accurate: first, cast iron floats a bit after machining as internal stress is partially relieved at cutting, and second, any milling cutter has some roughness to it. An oil film is poorly applied on this unfinished surface and, as a rule, sliding surfaces are scraped. What to do in this case? We have to take a standard plate; as a rule, it is granite (sometimes replaced with iron). The blue paint is rubbed in, bent to the scraping surface, rolled and then the contact spots are checked. As a rule, there are not so many of them. Then take a scraper and start scraping the surface in the contact area, so just a small amount of material is removed. The process is repeated for many times: apply paint, detect contact spots, use a scraper until the entire surface is blue, – it would mean that it has become precise.

The rest is the same: I have to know how to scrape, how to design machines, how to work with AutoCAD, how to understand the specs of metal heat treatment, quenching and cutting. Recently I’ve even learnt to make corundum sliding bearings. I have to do it myself, otherwise I’ll never find it out.

As for the knowledge of the watch mechanism, I obtain a lot of it from conventional sources, i.e. books and the Internet. The Internet is a good teacher. It provides a lot of information, sometimes questionable, so you need to understand what is going on and maybe even some kind of intuition to distinguish accurate information from the false information. But the main source of knowledge is, of course, mechanisms. Smart engineers and other widely experienced people are behind those mechanisms. When I learn how to make a certain mechanism, I look at every element and try to understand why it is made that way, and not the other. There are many different solutions to every problem. You have to understand why someone has chosen this way, and try to understand whether it was the right decision, or if it can be improved upon.

I regularly buy vintage machines at auctions for myself. I disassemble them, study them and look for errors. Sometimes I find them, and this is a great success. To find an error, some imperfection, and understand how to eliminate it, is, for me, more important than just having a look at the watch. I think this is a great self-training model.

In this regard, I’m never been afraid to be ambitious. I believe that our personal ambitions are a very good engine for progress. The belief in yourself, in your skills and knowledge is very fruitful.

 

– I would like to talk about the watches that you make. How much time do you spend on making a watch?

 

It depends: from one and half months to infinity.

 

– Do you make them only by order?

 

Now, yes, with the exception of the personal project of my own.

 

– What is this project?

 

It concerns creating my own watch mechanism. This is a way to enter the Academy, as you have to show proof of your proficiency. I've been working on it for over 8 months. I planned to finish this project for an exhibition in Switzerland to be held in April, but probably I will not, as I have no time at all. To look after my family, I have to take outside orders, and this makes my progress slower, – this is the only problem.

 

– Is this mechanism supposed to be different from those of its counterparts?

 

The origins of my own design will be used there. Of course, it is made on the basis of existing mechanisms, but nobody has made anything like this yet. There is an idea in it. Whether it will be successful or not, only a working mechanism will show this.

 

– Your watch has a very unusual dial. Tell us about it.

 

What you see is a one hand dial plate. Generally, I try to do everything with minimal waste. In other words, at some point, it occurred to me that time indication can be simplified. Ideas happen to come in the course of actions. When I was sitting and drawing sketches, somehow a box with a number divided by seven appeared to me. As a result, the dial plate with untypical sectors and one hand was implemented in this design.

 

– Have you patented this watch as intellectual property?

 

It’s not a rule among independent watchmakers. I don’t care if someone wants to make the same watch. It is another thing if a company is involved. But, for example, Swiss companies have their distinct traditions. They always develop in parallel with individual watchmakers, and there has been no case reported that they have stolen independent watchmaker’s ideas. If necessary, they negotiate and buy respective designs.

But in general, I really like the non-competitive spirit in this trade.

 

– What is the reason for it?

 

The reason is self-confidence and lack of fear of competition. I can tell anyone all my secrets. And it is mutually applicable as a rule. Sometimes I hear about a centuries-old secret technique or research and development activities that took years. It makes me smile because I do not see any need to copyright my own work. If someone makes what I have already done, for me it would be nothing more than a good reason to do something better next time. And this is a very good incentive to move forward.

But I should clarify some matters: my watch dial is not an invention; it is rather a design decision. And I know a very good story about copyright protection in watchmaking. Its main protagonist was George Daniels, my idol who, unfortunately, died a year ago. He is the genius of watchmaking and micromechanics in general. I think that he is the second greatest watchmaker after Abraham-Louis Breguet, or maybe even the first.

Daniels invented the coaxial watch escape movement. The biggest problem lies in the anchor descent currently needing lubrication. But lubrication thickens, and in a while the watch accuracy is reduced. In the coaxial escapement there is minimum friction. It does not need to be lubricated, and its mechanics is more accurate.

Daniels sold this escapement design to the “Omega” company and happily kept working as he worked before, just probably having a bit more money and spare time.

But the sale process was very difficult, lasting probably for five years. Every year, Daniels came and brought new watch. When he first showed this escapement, he explained about the mechanism for ages. They replied: “It's great, but the escapement size is too big”. He came back a year later – with the thinner watch and the smaller escapement. This time the company replied: “Cool, but the escapement is too complicated and we will not be able to manufacture it commercially. This is very expensive”. He returned to his workshop and spent a year on designing, six months more on a preparing prototype, and then went to them for a third time with a simplified descent. It lasted for a long time. I think that he certainly patented it after these visits.

 

– Is “Omega” the only company which uses this escapement?

 

Yes. It seems to me they bought this patent out. But on the other hand, Daniels has always publicly stated that any watchmaker, who was able to make this escapement, would be allowed to make and use it in the watches without any legal consequences. His student and successor, Roger Smith, now uses Daniel’s escapement without any problems of this sort.

 

– Generally speaking, in what direction does innovation steer nowadays in the watchmaking business? Is accuracy improving?

 

No, it is not in this direction. For example, one of the first Daniel’s wristwatches was taken to India. An owner wore the watch in the daytime, and at night he put it on the shelf. There are significant fluctuations in temperature and humidity in India, and it is a severe test for mechanical watches, especially if the mechanism is not protected from humidity or temperature. But a month later, on its owner’s return to London, the watch deviated by 1 second from the reference time. For comparison, the super certificated chronometer of the serial watches will guarantee the accuracy of circa 5 seconds per day. A day, not a month! And people think this is normal. They are happy that they wear such an accurate watch, and they do not need anything else.

Therefore watchmaking doesn’t move in the accuracy direction but in the direction of “wowing” the customer. The winner is the one who is the most awe-inspiring, usually if it is about the design.

 

– But then what is the point of talking about unique escapements? What is the meaning of your personal project that you have mentioned?

 

It is another thing. A personally designed escapement might be interesting for an exclusive customer, and it increases one’s prestige in the professional world of watchmakers.

My escapement, I hope, will induce a precision of at least of two seconds per day. But this innovation is not directly accuracy-related and instead improved accuracy will be a pleasant extra.

The point is that after lubrication, an insufficient amount of energy from the main driving spring is received. Energy accumulated through the wheel transfer nearly reaches the escapement. The modern Swiss escapement has a so-called escapement error. It is a mathematically forced error: there is a moment when the balance of the oscillating system pushes the main yoke spring back slightly, spending more energy. But it shall be as independent as possible: the oscillating system needs to be separated from the driving spring. This will ensure the required accuracy. But if it expends energy to push the spring, it is only a conditional independence. I am trying to fix this somehow.

 

– Did you have unsuccessful projects?

 

Entirely unsuccessful projects – no, I haven’t. But there were some failures in the course of respective project's execution. Sometimes the deadline’s shifted. Once I made a mistake during the assembly process. Once the client made a mistake of his own. Also there was a watch that would not work properly – fortunately, that customer was my friend, and I had made the watch for him almost free of charge. Such things tend to happen. I make excuses to such customers, but always correct everything within the shortest time possible.

However, experience and knowledge can be accrued from any failure, and this is the most important thing.

 

– Who are your customers? Are they collectors?

 

It depends. When I had made the watches for sale, to my surprise, they were bought even by people who are not knowledgeable about watches. And now my customers are collectors, or people looking for gifts for collectors. They usually find me by themselves.

 

– So, are you well known among the specialists?

 

Just over a year passed since I quit the law, but I have now become known by almost everyone involved in the Russian watchmaking business. This is surprising when everybody knows that there is a young guy who has recently started doing something.

 

– Are there foreigners among your clients?

 

No, all of them are from Russia. I do not even want to approach the foreign market so early, I’m not sure that I will cope with it.

 

– Are you afraid of failing to be accepted?

 

No, I think I will be accepted, maybe even better than here. But I will not cope due to the lack of time.

 

– As I see it, the collectible watch’s market is a very luxury niche?

 

Yes, it is really crazy. For example, about a month ago I attended a reception at the Swiss Embassy where I held a seminar with another person for a limited number of guests, including the Ambassador of Switzerland. So, the watches that won the Geneva contest in different nominations were brought to the embassy. We had a chance to hold the watches, examine and discuss them – there were about 13 most interesting samples here. Their prices would fluctuate from $500,000 to $1,500,000.

Some watches, of course, were decorated with gold and diamonds, but others were made just of conventional steel. Their main value components were their unique mechanisms, an incredible complexity of their designs, and the fact that 20 people had been working on some of those unique things for one and half years.

But those watches were made by companies, in a very limited edition. The price is definitely lower for the watches manufactured by independent watchmakers. Their prices may vary from $30,000 to $200, 000. This is the price range their watches are available at. I would not say that they make crazy money. The companies, of course, do, but independent watchmakers do not. However, they are wealthy and happy people living in their own world.

 

– Is Europe the main market for these watches?

 

No, nowadays it is Asia, probably because the Asians have an aesthetic perception from ancient times. These watches are valued much more in Asia than in Europe.

 

– Why then has the local watchmaking business not developed in Asia, as opposed to Europe?

 

They had a completely different way of life. They basically grew rice and created wars. Their craftwork was quite primitive and was not supported by any education system. But even that poor craft work was inclined toward art, and only art. Not towards engineering.

 

– Is watchmaking an engineering-based activity?

 

Yes, indeed. For example, the term “part polishing” generates different pictures in the heads of jewelers and watchmakers. I often encounter misunderstanding here and fight against it. In watchmaking, a polished flat part should have a mirrored reflection without any distortion, to be really flat. Such detail is specifically polished on the metal – neither on felt, nor on cotton as usual. I mean polishing should be really accurate. Thus metal wear from polishing is to be considered in order to avoid producing an item of smaller dimensions. Even the finishing trimming in watchmaking is based on precise engineering principles.

But in general, watchmaking is a combination of three components: beauty as an art, natural science (engineering), and manual experience. Maybe it is not an experience, but talent.

 

– The watchmaking industry suffered when cell phones appeared. But I suppose that the latter opened new opportunities for manual watches...

 

Yes, indeed. People who used their watches just to tell the time were the first to transfer from mechanics to electronics. When phones and other gadgets appeared, these people did not need wristwatches anymore. It’s clear. I think it’s even better, because the market was then just flooded with low-quality wristwatches. As a result, people used to consider a watch to be a cheap, low quality thing, with certain functions. Cell phones expelled this sector from the market, and, on the contrary, separated a segment of expensive mechanical watches that would be treated as masterpieces.

 

– Do you have partners?

 

In 6 months after becoming a watchmaker, I was contacted by a certain person. Now I help him to manage his manufacturing process. I can call him a partner. It is a small-scale production of high class half-jewelry watches. The mechanism is being developed and I am also helping as best as I can. There are a lot of things to do. They have been doing a prototype for over a year. Something they do by themselves, sometimes they resort to my help. They are great.

We have bought a lot of equipment, literally shelves packed with tools: accessories, cutting tools, watchmaking devices, and small stuff... When I come there, I enjoy rummaging in these boxes and looking at a certain tool to understand how and why it is made, and what to do with it. Any primitive piece of hardware, when you held it in your hands asking these questions, may provide some important information.

 

– Have you started teaching students?

 

Yes, I teach one nice man, he also helps me in my work. He is now about 35 year old, but I don’t care about the fact that he is older than me. I just show and tell him what to do. Before that, he dabbled in different things.

Moreover, there are people who are planning to open a watchmaking school in Moscow very soon. I’ll be overseeing all the programs and teaching the first courses. I’m very interested in this endeavor. It's like some kind of mission that I will undertake.

I am a modest man. I'm 25 years old; I do not have any formal education in watchmaking, or even engineering education. And I'll be a teacher there. It seems weird for someone. But I understand that my knowledge and capabilities are enough. I understand that there are few people with these skills in Russia, though it may sound arrogant. It is only Konstantin Chaykin and perhaps the masters who used to work with him.

 

– Have your parents changed their attitude towards your new craft?

 

Absolutely. Now they realize that, firstly, this is a certain high-profile, really serious and complicated work and I have the right approach towards it. Secondly, they see that I am able to work independently and fully support my family and service my equipment. By the way, I treat my tools as my second family.

And I actually work at home. My workshop is just a room in my apartment. Some people, perhaps, think this is a wrong approach, but I think it's great.

In my future plans are that in a year and a half, I will move to the Kaliningrad region where I have basement already, and soon, I hope, will have my house. I'll start to build a small workshop right on the site there. It would be a 2-story building – the first floor for assembling, the second one for component manufacture. This is required for a clean production process. I plan to employ 5-6 people at my workshop.

 

– So, it is Kaliningrad. Is there something behind that decision?

 

My family possesses a plot of land there. But if it were somewhere else, maybe it would not suit me. Kaliningrad is good for me for many reasons, including a possibility for free entry to Europe and its proximity to European customers.

 

– Do you want to go abroad?

 

Not yet.

 

– Because you do not actually have competition in Russia?

 

Because I am okay in this place and at this time. I would be happy to leave Moscow, not for reasons of business or earnings, but just by my convictions. Here we have to survive in this terrible environment, which is especially harsh for a child; here it's a dog-eat-dog society. There are many factors involved. Moscow lives completely out of my tempo. But I wouldn’t say that I want to leave my country; wonderful people live in Russia.

 

– What would you like to do in times of retirement?

 

I would do the same things, but only for myself.

 

 – I visited your website. I like it very much, both the design and content. Did you do it by yourself or order it with someone?

 

I did my Web page by myself and wrote texts there as well. But, unfortunately, I did not have the time to support it. The content is old. I have not updated it for about nine months.

 

– Do you have some kind of a motto guiding you in difficult situations?

 

There is a very good observation, even two, I realized while working in the watchmaking, although they are applicable for everything. The first principle is that of doing everything to your best. The same item can be made poorly or well, and it takes roughly the same time. It's like coffee in the morning: you can make a cup of instant coffee, wait for the boiling water, pour it and be happy, but you can manually grind the beans in the mill and make it – this process takes three or four minutes more, but you get a delicious and healthy coffee. So it is the same with watch details. You can just carve it from a nail, and it will work. And you can take high-quality steel, carve, heat and polish it. Yes, the time will be spent – maybe half an hour, maybe an hour more, – but a hardened polished piece will serve almost forever. A nail will break in 2 months. A man has one life – why spend it on something of poor quality if it is possible to do much better?

The second principle is as follows: any job, even a failed one, provides you with a great advantage, because it gives you a great experience.

 

– Do you want to look to the future and see what you will be doing in 10-50 years, or how your business will be in 200 years?

 

No. This is like a good movie. Why do you need to know its end? It would be so boring. It’s better to look from the beginning and wait for the end.

 

– Has your personality changed in the time since you became a watchmaker? Tell me about your feelings.

 

Everything has changed. I started feeling like a person independent from the mass society around me. I respect people who start their own business. Now there are a lot of young people like this. Some choose something difficult to do, others search for easier ways. I would say, without fake modesty, that the watchmaking business is the most difficult thing I could have ever imagined.

Now my attitude towards people who motivate themselves has changed as well. As for the two principles I mentioned before, – for me it's not just words, it's really the existential principles that I understood full-well during my own business’s experience. It's a totally different feeling when you realize that you work for yourself, for your family. There are some of my friends who manage to work in a company this way. For them, their career is the most important issue. I could not live like this, I’m different. But now I see that people, if they have a goal, are motivated to build their own personality. I have recently read a funny phrase that if a man finds his life's work; he will never work a single day more. This is, in principle, true.

 

– So, don’t you work at all?

 

Not at all. I run my business, the work of my life. I think I was born a watchmaker. Everything that was before – my education, my previous job – was just a path towards my understanding of my true goals. 

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