Hansjörg Roshard’s voice lifts slightly when he speaks. “Here’s the membrane that expands with the rising temperature …” The Director of the Huber Fine Watches & Jewellery watchmaking atelier takes an Atmos clock from the shelf next to his workbench. The movement of this famous table clock operates via a membrane that absorbs the temperature in the room. This allows it to run unassisted; a temperature difference of one degree Celsius generates a power reserve of roughly 48 hours. If time is the measure of our existence, the Atmos is a little bit like eternity. It does not need to be moved or wound, it does not require any battery changes – nothing. It simply exists and runs. And this man-made machine does this for the most part without us, for what seems like an eternity, embedded in the nature of time – in the phases of the moon, day and night, summer and winter – as part of the bigger picture.
Our work is the precision engineering of seconds, minutes and hours – and much more.
Hansjörg Roshard’s sustained fascination is evident. “Our work is the precision engineering of seconds, minutes and hours – and much more.” Four men sit absorbed in their work at the new Huber Fine Watches & Jewellery watchmaking atelier. The huge space with white walls and light floors is very clean and tidy. “This is extremely important,” explains the watchmaker, because working with miniature parts requires meticulous order. And the light room makes it easier on the eyes. His two work colleagues look through their magnifying glasses with the utmost concentration. Eric Baues has broken down a Rolex from the 1970s into its individual parts; the watch hands lie on a small cushion. But there is slim chance of hearing a watch hand drop. Not only does everything have its own place here, but its own number too. “Calibre 2130, Rolex, fourth wheel” – packaged like tablets, the spare parts are stored in flat drawers; the watchmakers use tweezers to pick them up.
A feel for time
Huber Fine Watches & Jewellery has always remained true to itself. This house of brands has held on to its watchmaking craftsmanship, offering its customers servicing, repair, an extensive spare parts search service and much more – even during the difficult time of the 1970s, when the arrival of the quartz watch saw watchmaking fall into a crisis, the like of which had never been seen before.
There is no trace left of this crisis today. In fact, it seems as though, alongside the advancing virtualisation and digitalisation in our world, awareness of haptic features and the appreciation of good traditional craftsmanship is on the up. Today, the six watchmakers work in a new, spacious atelier above the watch store in the centre of Vaduz. Opposite sits the town hall and, just a few steps away, the well-known Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein and the White Cube with art from the Hilti Art Foundation and the new Huber house of brands, which opened last year. The watchmakers offer customers the opportunity to come and see the atelier too. “Anyone can come along and watch us work,” says Roshard. Twice a year, they even offer a short watchmaking course, where participants can develop a feel for these timepieces.
A trade in hand finds gold in every land
While the first watchmakers in the thirteenth century were locksmiths and blacksmiths, watchmaking was later regarded as an art or craft. These artists were pioneers of precision mechanics and invented things such as winding crowns or enamelled dials. In the seventeenth or eighteenth century, so before industrialisation, they were often farmers, earning a little extra income from the craft during the winter. A lot has changed since then.
The Huber Fine Watches & Jewellery watchmaking atelier services and repairs major brand watches. The vast customer base, part of it hailing from Asia, appreciates good craftsmanship, admires the seamless operation of mechanical watches and loves Rolex, Omega, Longines, Jaeger-LeCoultre and other major brands. Hansjörg Roshard takes great pleasure in that. “Major brands often have a long and rich history.” Rolex, for example, manufactures its movements completely in-house and, for the past three decades, has guaranteed its customers to provide them with all spare parts. “Even with regard to its design, Rolex has always remained true to itself,” he says. “You have to have this authenticity in your DNA; marketing can’t do that.”
The ravages of time catch up with even the best timepieces, but with them come the most beautiful stories. When watches are laid out on the workbenches for a service or repair, far from just lying disassembled in their individual parts, they often tell their own story. Hansjörg Roshard was recently looking for a spare part for a Cartier table clock from the 1920s. For weeks, he tried to find the best solution – for the watch, the customer’s budget and a bit for himself, so that he could take pride in what he achieved. Roshard was about to give up when he called a fellow watchmaker friend in Sweden. “It was a lucky coincidence,” beams Roshard, adding rhetorically: “How many weddings, christenings, Christmas parties or graduation ceremonies had this watch seen?” And now there is this great story of a spare part from Sweden.