We arrived in Zurich Wednesday evening after a beautiful day spent in Basel, a bonus to have lovely weather! We were picked up at the station by Ruth Gerber, and whisked off to their home. The Gerber atelier is the basement of their family home in the suburbs of Zurich. Examples in photographic form of Paul's amazing work are on all the walls.
This was to be an exciting evening; when one gets to visit one of the greatest unsung heroes in the Independent Watchmaking world, the humble and brilliant Paul Gerber, in his place of creativity, great things open up. I have been working with Paul 2 years now and have come to realise that his depth of horological knowledge is far and wide. What I didn't realize was how much he has been beavering away behind the scenes as an Independent Watchmaker for the big brands, as the go to guy. Many of the big names you are familiar with, have at one point or other utilized his impressive skill set. Paul is too modest and the industry, too protective of it's illusions, to talk about this and from my perspective, a bit of a shame. Oh well, this is the path he has chosen. I figure it is my job to bring his genius out for the world to appreciate.
Paul together with his dear wife, Ruth who manages many aspects of their business, have created a bit of a rabbit warren under their family home, it is here with CNC machines, lathes and a variety of other familiar watchmaker tools, that the magic occurs. Transforming metal in micro mechanical art. Paul's love is small clocks and watches, most have heard about his tiny clocks he has made, but not many have seen them...well here is one next to a blown up image.
It is only about an inch & half wide and maybe just over two high, it features a moonphase indicator, an equation of time with the month around the outside of the dial. Oh and a hammer & bell to chime the hours.
Paul greeted us enthusiastically and proceeded to give us the "Power point" presentation of his work over the years as an Independent Watchmaker. It was a series of 5 or 6 two foot by two foot square boards hung on chains, that slide in front of each other to reveal the pictures. He gave us a running commentary of the projects to date.
Paul's rather clever switching system for his Jumping seconds/sweeping seconds mechanism.
We then went into the room that housed his bench and the other three benches that his apprentice watchmakers work at. This room also contains Paul & Ruth's computers desks. One can feel the brilliance that occurs in this room.
Several small clocks are on the walls and his bench. This is what Paul loves to create, small clocks and in fact this was the direction he first took as a watchmaker. He has also developed an eight day caliber that he uses in his Pendulet desk clocks, which in time he added his stunning 1 minute tourbillon escapement to.
Close up of Tourbillon cage and guilloche dial
This particular execution is housed in Jade, other precious stones are available for the stands, for example Lapis or Onyx.
Paul showed us the tool used to engrave the case numbers on the MIH Ti cases. This amazing series of watches designed in conjunction with Ludwig Oechslin and Christian Gafner, is now numbering around 980 pieces made to date. Paul has been assembling them since day one and the production continues on. About 120 leave his workshop each year. Initially these watches were not to have a serial number, but Paul told me that in order to control the production and warranty etc. they had to. So Paul being Paul, numbered the cases on the inside back cover. Now days the last two hundred or so receive a production serial number between the lugs on the outside of the case. My watch that arrived in late 2007 is one with the inside serial numbers. I am now curious to know what mine is!
Another highly amusing moment occurred when I glanced across his bench to see an older bedside Oris clock. It had a circular hole cut out of its dial at 10 o'clock and in it upon closer inspection was a Tourbillon escapement! Not highly finished I might add, but ticking away inside. I asked Paul what this "project" was. He smiled and told me it was just for fun, then proceeded to pull out a drawer full of these older wind up clocks by Oris, that he buys for around CHF10 when he comes across them in shops and flea markets.
A fun video of possibly why Paul is a watchmaker and what amuses him!
We then looked at some of his contemporary watches and got the chance to see his case that he makes for the caliber 41 in house watch. Comprised of three parts, the lugs are also separate and are dove tailed into the center section of the case. This makes refinishing or refurbishing the case an easy job, it also means different metals could in theory be used for the case, such as a combination of steel & 18K RG. Genius design and as always with Paul, very practical. Paul introduced his Ref 41 a couple of years ago now, a 42mm cased completely inhouse selfwinding watch, that features his synchronised triple rotor winding and a fun option released last year in Basel, the ability to switch by pushing a button at 2 o'clock, from sweeping central seconds to Jumping seconds. He also makes the Ref 33, which is a more traditional looking watch, again an inhouse caliber, sporting his own Gerber escapement and shaped in the tonneau style. A couple of different versions are available.
A couple of Cal 33 in progress...
Paul's finely finished inhouse caliber sporting his escapement.
The new Version of the Ref 33 3D Moonphase, which Paul adds in a circular date down at 4 o'clock. Cased in platinum.
The 18K RG moonphase small seconds.
Back of the RG piece.
A steel version on left and the 18K RG version on right.
The backs showing off the synchronized Triple 18K gold rotors.
Here you can see the lugs screwed into the dovetails of the center case ring. Helps in refurbishing of the case correctly.
Paul & I sharing an amusing moment!
After enjoying the watches, were given a glass of local red vino and some hot bites to eat before we headed back into Basel courtesy of Paul. All in all another fascinating visit to a workshop of a truly great living watchmaker. I appreciated Paul & Ruth sharing their time with us and as always know these opportunities to visit an atelier are not to be missed. I have a fuller understanding of what Paul does and has done in the industry now and appreciate even more why he does what he does. I also got to see the real Paul in his home away from the Baselworld fair, he showed me his model airplanes that he loves to build in balsa wood and then fly in circles attached to two wires that control the flaps for altitude. He was like an excited kid showing me the little single cylinder gas engines that propel these planes around.
In closing, I'd like to say a huge thank you to Paul & Ruth for opening up their home to us and keep up the great work!