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Personal workbook diaries from 1993 to 1997

Marc Jenni established during his 4-year apprenticeship with his mentor - Paul Gerber - a unique and illustrated workbook diary in 4 volumes. He likes to share highlights of his learning period with personal notes, original pictures and great other stories...!

1997 - Period 4.8 - "Tiffany & Co. New York"

October 10, 2012

This is the last period of my personal workbook diaries from 1993 to 1997! I’m looking back to a great adventure which was essential to my personal development. I will always be grateful to Paul Gerber who spent so many hours to train me the art of fine watchmaking. And at top of it, the teacher has become a friend!

However, time has come for growth and new challenges in other fields of activities! November 1997, I’m taking off for a distant land…

Leaving behind my family, Paul Gerber and my friends; ready to live another part of my dream – working as a watchmaker overseas and getting familiar with other cultures and languages.

I spent 6 fantastic months at the headquarter of the American Jeweller Tiffany & Co. in Manhattan, New York. Surrounded by decades of knowhow, the Watch & Clock repair departement represented a real melting pot of talented and skilled watch and clockmakers from all around the world.

I was formed on their great timepieces, internal procedures and corporate covernance. Ready to take over the lead of the technical part for Tiffany’s watch department in Switzerland for which I served during more than 10 years!

Thanks to everyone who accompanied me!

1997 - Period 4.7 - "LAP"

October 3, 2012

LAP stands for «Lehrabschlussprüfung» and is nothing more than the final exam to obtain the federal certificate of competence.

 

You need to prepare yourself for this one and unique week when experts test your skills, your knowledge and independent work. One week which determines whether or not you may call yourself a watchmaker or not.

Luckily I passed all my tests and was able to use the new title «Profession: Watchmaker» for the years to come.​

4 years seem to be unbelievably long when you are 16 years old! Now I’m looking back to those 4 years and realize how quick the time went over.

Besides learning the basics of watchmaking, it represents an important period in my life, a transition period when teenagers turn into adults. And besides acquiring the necessary knowledge, it was a time of making new friendships, to learn how to help out each other and to simply enjoy great moments…

Next week’s chapter : Period 4.8 – «Tiffany & Co. New York»

1997 - Period 4.6 - "Fortis - Caliber 14"

September 18, 2012

Working on the world’s first chronograph with an integrated alarm function for Fortis was my last project with Paul.

But what a challenge!

 

Paul Gerber managed to integrate an alarm function into the existing Valjoux 7750 including a second wheel train and power barrel as well as an alarm hand and an «ON/OFF» indication.

Some extra height needed to be add to the oscillating mass in order to accomodate the new movement function. Fortis new watch was released and presented for the first time during Baselworld 1997 and is still in production 15 years later!

At Baselworld 1997 couple of prototpyes and mechanical creations were displayed :

  • Paul Gerber at the booth of AHCI with his retrograde second indication

  • Victor Mayer presenting the miscellaneous Fabergé eggs

  • Fortis with the new alarm watch movement

 

Next week’s chapter : Period 4.7 – «LAP»

1997 - Period 4.5 - "Perpetual Calendar by MJ"

August 31, 2012

A perpetual calendar entirely designed and manufactured by… myself! That was one of the greater challenges I confronted myself during the apprenticeship. And yet, it was entirely my fault, I wanted to do something special, something which stands for my 4 years apprenticeship with Paul Gerber… my own personal masterpiece.

I started with laying down the architecture for the calendar during my 2nd year of apprenticeship and worked on this special project almost entirely during my sparetime, after my regular work, during evenings, saturdays and days-off…

 

But prior to start with the manufacturing of the parts and components I needed to repair the old chronograph movement I received from Oscar Schwank. He used to by my dad’s former master and is a well respected watchmaker and vintage timepiece collector as well.

I won’t write a detailed description of each manufacturing step to keep this topic open for a future special workbook diary!

 

Next week’s chapter : Period 4.6 – «Fortis – Caliber 14»

1996 - Period 4.4 - "Retrograde Seconds"

August 23, 2012

Remember the time! We write the end of the year 1996 and retrograde indications were just about getting popular and generally used in watch movements. I was working on the very first retrograde second indication available on the market in those days – the Caliber 15!

 

Paul Gerber’s philosophy «you don’t need to invent the wheel twice» or «you simply bend your head to the side and see what is coming out» accompanied my throughout the years and showed me that indeed everything yet needed to be invented

The base movement Peseux 7001 was surrounded by a movement ring bearing the mechanism for the retrograde indication. 3 main components were needed to build such a mechanism; a snail disc, a rack (a pivoting toothed sector) and a pinion with a hairspring.

 

Forged with such work I finally found my own guiding principle:
«Simplicity is the challenge!» or «In der Einfachheit liegt die Herausforderung!»

Making complicated mechanisms even more complicate seems to be feasible, but challenging the mechanism to become complicated yet in simplifying the construction is the real challenge!

Next week’s chapter : Period 4.5 – «Perpetual Calendar by MJ»

1996 - Period 4.3 - "Schuluhr Unitas"

July 12, 2012

It was a great shock when my watchmaking fellows and I were confronted with the fact that the previously distributed IWC pocket watch movement was replaced with a simple Unitas movement…

Each watchmaker apprentice received a pocket watch kit allowing him to execute miscellaneous work and to deepen the knowledge. At the end of each apprenticeship it represents an individual masterpiece.

Well, the use of a Unitas caliber instead of the IWC pocket watch movement was not a challenging argument and we still regret for not being supplied with a IWC movement! My personal masterpiece was anyway being crafted aside the official Unitas torture!

Anyway, back to watchmaking! In order to work on customizing the Unitas caliber 6497 movement, I prepared couple of balance-cocks for me and my fellow apprentice to work on. The cock could be transformed, differently shaped or finished entirely based upon each’s individual vision and motivation.

During our 4-years of apprenticeship the following different work were demanded by the watchmaking school in Solothurn:

  • Manufacturing an anchor bridge in steel

  • Turning a new balance-staff

  • Shaping a Breguet hairspring

  • Replacing the standard balance-cock

 

Next chapter : Period 4.4 – «Retrograde Seconds»

1996 - Period 4.2 - "Jules Jurgensen"

July 4, 2012

After Urban Jürgensen died in 1830, his younger son Jules went to Switzerland and started his own company under the name “Jules Jürgensen Copenhagen” in 1836.

 

Zurich based auctioneer «Ineichen» featured a movement with minute repeater, chronograph «rattrapante» around 1874 signed by Jules Jürgensen Copenhagen no. 14064 in their catalogue from Saturday, November 16, 1996.

The balance-staff was broken and needed to be replaced. I particularly like the cone shape of the balance seating and the two pivot parts. All visible surfaces needed to be polished by hand!

Such details are the pride of our watchmaking culture. One could make a simple balance staff without any visual enhancements, but the difference is exactly in pushing the limits and incorporating individualism to a known function or design.

Next week’s chapter : Period 4.3 – «Schuluhr Unitas»

1993 - Period 1.1 - "Welcome in the garage!"

November 24, 2011

Watches have always taken a large part in the world of luxury. They shine and dazzle in wonderful showcases – they create emotion, admiration and incarnate perfection!

I started my very first experience as an apprentice in a GARAGE! No glamour – no bling-bling…
But look closer – it’s not just any garage – it’s Paul Gerber’s garage!

«Good morning Marc» he welcomed me in the morning of August 16, 1993. «Come in and get yourself ready.» I entered the cavern of Ali Baba at the age of 16 and knew that I will leave this place 4 years later as an adult and hopefully as a trained watchmaker… (it was up to me on how things will turn out!)

Paul Gerber’s workshop in Zurich (Uhren Magazin 03/1996)

I was one of the lucky ones and able to start an apprenticeship with master watchmaker Paul Gerber who formed 7 apprentice during his career. I was the 4th one and ready to take on the challenge and to succeed.

Besides being trained in Paul’s workshop, I also followed in parallel the watchmaking school in Solothurn for my theory lessons. The «Zeit Zentrum» – formerly known as «Uhrmacherschule Solothurn» – is the only watchmaking school for Swiss-German fellows in Switzerland (whether they come from Bern, Zurich, St-Gallen or from St-Moritz).

Marc Jenni working behind his bench (Uhren Magazin 03/1996)

The cavern is Paul’s nest and play corner at the same time. I had a huge panel of machines and tools to excercise (e.g. Schaublin 102, 70, 65, Aciera F1, Hauser M1, pantograph, 3-axe CNC milling machine, etc.)

To mention all the machines and tools would take way too long! Too exhaustive is the list of old and new machines which were available at the workshop. For every specific task a specific tool is needed… Fact is, a well equiped workshop is a must for any genuine watchmaker – and yet – the skills to properly use the machines still needed to get acquired…

Marc Jenni working on a Schaublin 102 (Armbanduhren 02/1997)

Next week’s chapter : Period 1.2 «Acquiring the basic skills…»