99.99% of watches today are produced using modern manufacturing techniques. This means, CAD software, part rendering, CNC machines, EDM laser cutting, rapid prototyping, parts in the thousands, spare parts from other manufacturers, etc. George Daniels produced less than 100 handmade watches in his entire lifetime. That’s fewer than most watch manufacturers are producing in a week. Handmade means: the design and every part from the screws to the mainplate, bridges, wheels, pinions, escapement, balance, shock-absorbers, case, dial, hands, etc. are all produced with nothing but one watchmaker with a fully-outfitted lathe, maths and a pencil and paper. I will produce everything except the mainspring (which will have a Geneva cross rivoted to the end), the hairspring (which will have a hand-produced Breguet overcoil) and the jewels.
The days of truly handmade watches are behind us and the term "handmade" is used much too loosely since it is not regulated. This is why I want to produce truly handmade watches; to preserve the traditional manufacturing methods, not just the traditional look and function of a mechanical watch. P. Elliot watches will be made with nothing but a watchmaker and his lathe. I will be sharing every step of the process via my Instagram (@p.elliotwatches) and via email to those who are interested in being updated. Each process and part will also be documented in a sketchbook that will be offered with the watch once completed so the owner my first watch has a unique hand-drawn documentation of each part from the watchmaker himself. I hope to make handmade watches for the rest of my life and offer my completed watches to those who truly understand and appreciate the work that goes into making my entirely handmade watches.
I have been learning each step of the process while working for generous and experienced watchmakers. I have dedicated the last three years to attending full-time watchmaking school (The Nicolas G. Hayek School of Watchmaking) before selling my car and moving to Germany to learn traditional watchmaking methods from Dirk Dornblüth of D. Dornblüth und Sohn. I have not produced a watch to share during my Kickstarter campaign because producing a handmade watch requires tools and potentially many months to a year (and sometimes longer) to produce one single watch. Now you can see why no one else is currently pursuing this production method.. It limits the potential amount of watches one can produce and takes great sacrifice to learn and perfect each step of the process.
Modern manufacturing methods allow brands to produce in the hundreds if not, thousands and tens of thousands of watches a year. I greatly respect all who are making mechanical watches since it takes passion regardless of the method and makes mechanical watches accessible to many people however, I plan to produce one watch per year using purely traditional, handmade watchmaking tools and methods.
The minimum amount I am asking for will be enough for me to purchase a basic but fully outfitted lathe of low quality so of course this means: the more I receive, the higher quality lathe I can purchase. The lathe is the major cost and all other small traditional process specific tools will be slowly acquired as I need them during the process.
Many have been willing to let me use their tools but I have not had the exposure to the tools I need for long enough to start or complete projects. Raising the money to buy a lathe will allow me to begin producing my first entirely handmade watch part-by-part. I hope the process involved in making handmade watches brings as much intrigue as the final product itself.
Below are my past experiences, learning and perfecting the traditional production of handmade watch parts in which are all pieces of the large puzzle of making a complete handmade watch. I hope that my passion, knowledge and skill is easily noticeable and convinces you to support a passionate and young watchmaker in order to help me achieve my dreams! You can see much more on my Instagram in regards to all of my past experiences pursuing traditional watchmaking.
What I've Learned
Turning, Milling and Drilling
The lathe! Turning is the cornerstone of watchmaking. I was taught the basics in school and I progressed my turning abilities throughout the past three years in order to produce all necessary components using a lathe. A fully-outfitted lathe includes all attachments to turn, mill and drill by hand. With these three capabilities, one can produce every piece of a handmade watch inside and out.
Wheel making was something I was exposed to for the first time as I was working for Dirk Dornblüth during my apprenticeship. It is a crucial piece of the puzzle when producing handmade watches. The tolerance level for wheel making in a wrist watch is extremely tight. The lathe with milling attachment is exactly what I needed to produce wheels and pinions for my handmade watches and a rounding-up tool to define the teeth of the wheels.
Bridges and Mainplate
The bridges and mainplate are a very unique piece of a handmade watch. They can easily identify the maker by their unique shape and decoration. The tolerance levels of the bridges and mainplate are also extremely tight since they are the backbone of the watch holding all of the functional pieces between the two. The lathe and milling attachment will be used to produce my bridges and mainplate. Below are bridge and a mainplate I produced by hand in my spare time during my apprenticeship.
Balance and Hairspring
The balance is the heart of a mechanical watch. The balance staff is extremely small with pivots on each end typically at a diameter of 0.10mm. The balance staff is difficult to produce by hand and is extremely important to the function and timing of the watch. The balance wheel is attached to the balance staff and is also extremely difficult to produce by hand and paired with the hairspring, determines the accuracy of the watch. The lathe will be used to produce the balance wheel, balance staff, balance screws, etc. Below is a hairspring with Breguet Overcoil I recently produced by hand and handmade balance staffs I produced during my apprenticeship.
Decoration is an important part of a handmade watch. Also, it is something that is also automated in modern watchmaking. I have practiced many decoration processes that I will be using to complete the parts I produce by hand. All decoration will be completed by using the lathe and milling attachment. Here are some ratchet wheels I decorated using a technique called "snailing" during my apprenticeship as well as
Hardening and Tempering
Hardening and tempering steel parts is an important process that assures an adequate hardness of the component. It involves heating a steel part paired with carbon powder to 800-900 degrees celsius and quickly cooling it by quenching it in oil to make the part "glass hard." The part must then be tempered by slowly heating it to 300-400 degrees celsius or until "blue hard" on a ceramic hot plate. This is a process that must be completed for each and every steel part of a watch movement. Pictured below is a kiln used to harden newly hand-produced parts.
Electro plating is used to plate a base-metal with a thin non-corrosive outer layer so the part does not tarnish over time. All brass components must be plated using various metal platings. I was able to learn a great deal about electro plating during my apprenticeship.
As well as being traditionally produced, my watch is traditionally designed. Swiss lever escapement, escapement cap jewels, hand-chamfered and polished edges, Breguet Overcoil hairspring, maltese cross barrel, parachute shock-absorbers, hand-chamfered and polished wheel teeth, Geneva stripes, black polished screw heads and steel components, guilloche dial, with a few personal touches. The case will have hand-filed tear-drop lugs and the dial will be hand-guilloched using a lathe. All the while I will be using traditional materials like German Silver. The watch must achieve ultimate beauty as well as, decoration and accuracy since traditional watchmaking is a form of art. George Daniels once mentioned that a handmade watch starts on paper and the final product is often times vastly different from the original design because the process is so long that the design is fine-tuned for better function and design along the way. Once a lathe is acquired, I will be drawing every single part in the sketchbook and all of their measurements before proceeding to produce the first part to ensure the process has been thought through thoroughly before beginning.
What I Plan to Purchase with your Pledge
As I plan to make an entirely handmade watch with nothing but a fully outfitted lathe, I will need just that! Depending on the amount of support I raise I will be considering a few options ranging from lower quality and rigidity to a higher quality and more rigid lathe. Regardless of the lathe I purchase, I will be able to achieve the results I am striving for however, the quality of a lathe can make the many processes of producing each component more or less difficult. My minimum goal is €5,000 which will get me a fully outfitted Vector lathe. The Vector is a Chinese produced lathe but the quality is controlled by independent European wholesalers to assure a certain quality. The second option is a fully-outfitted Leinen. This is a German lathe with a universal bed that has two feet and is much more rigid than the Vector but comes at a cost of around €10,000. The other necessary tools and materials are the lathe accessories, raw materials for producing the parts. My minimum goal would be enough for me to begin my watchmaking venture while still needing some tools and materials in order to finish the watch in its entirety but will be acquired along the way if I am unable to purchase everything up-front. Pictured below is the Vector lathe and the Leinen lathe.
In school, the first thing we produced when working with metal was a gaming die. All 6-sides are filed flat, the edges are hand-beveled to 45-degrees and the numbers are drilled and plugged with brass (pictured below). I will be offering 10 pairs of handmade dice to the first 10 backers to pledge €100 (or $120 USD) or more!
What To Expect
I feel adequately prepared to begin producing a handmade watch with my own tools but first, I need a lathe to begin this watchmaking venture! Will you help me?! With your pledge I will be buying a precision watchmaker's lathe. I hope that you will support me on my journey to producing truly handmade watches! I am confident that I will succeed and producing my first entirely handmade watch and continue to stick to the traditional methods for as long as I am making watches. Thank you!
Risks and challenges
Producing a 99% handmade watch is a huge challenge that cannot be successfully completed without years of acquiring the knowledge and skill necessary. In order to acquire the knowledge and skill, a great deal of passion and dedication is necessary in which I believe I have achieved by dropping everything and chasing my dream. I find myself in Germany with a wealth of passion, knowledge and skill but not enough financial wealth to purchase the necessary tool and raw materials.
I have completed many projects related to traditional watchmaking which can be seen on my Instagram (@p.elliotwatches) but I have not produced an entire watch yet. I hope to acquire the necessary equipment and begin producing my first entirely handmade watch as soon as poossible!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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