Visiting the Gerber Atelier in Zurich provides a glimpse into what watchmaking must have been like 200 years ago in Switzerland: a workshop within the family home, all the design and innovations built and tested in-house and the majority of parts being made in-house with a few specialist components (such as case and hairspring) being produced by specialist manufactures. Even the dials are made and engraved or guilloched in-house before being sent to a dial printer.
I was made to feel like part of the family when I visited Paul and Ruth's Atelier last October. The horological gods were smiling down on the trip because I had beautiful sunshine and clear skies when it had been raining heavily the week before. And it was fantastic to have a glimpse into the life of a small independent watchmaker. My German is non-existent but we were able to converse for hours with some help from Google Translate and a lot of pointing and laughter.
Paul's cars (he has always owned Fiat's and his Fiat 600 from 1962 is immortalized on the seconds hand of a Model 42) are parked in front of the house because his garage is full of CNC machines – in fact he was excited when the house heating was converted from oil to natural gas because the space where the oil was stored became available for more equipment!
Witech 604 CNC vertical milling machine. The dials, amongst other components, are produced here ...
Paul has three watchmakers working with him: two apprentices and one experienced watchmaker who have been with Paul for four years. In fact several watchmakers have now been trained by Paul and will be able to provide service for his watches for years to come. [In fact some of these watchmakers now work for Urwerk whose manufacture is based in Zurich and Felix Baumgartner spoke very highly of their skill.]
The welcome mat ...
thanks for the report. Definitely makes you appreciate the time and effort that goes into making a "hand made" piece, and I would class this as hand made in house compared to others. In comparison to the big names that "pump out" pieces with no soul, and I'm one of those that bought many of these, I will think twice next time.
Thanks to PG for letting us see it all.
I was wearing the F.P.Journe Dead Second Tourbillon when I visited his Atelier (don't worry, I had the Gerber P10 Model 42 on my other wrist) and Paul spent time showing his apprentices how it worked. I wish I could have understood German to know what they were discussing, but the passion for watchmaking and teaching was obvious.
I'm certain Paul would be pleased to hear your appreciation of his watchmaking.