It is so common to find new micro brands popping up on Kickstarter these days. From mainstream time-only quartz watches to original timepieces that offers great value proposition and unique features. Strangely enough, we now have a man asking for our assistance in crowdfunding, not a new flashy watch, but a lathe.
Peter Elliot Glomb, an independent watchmaker based in Germany, is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for a fully-outfitted lathe. A lathe is a watchmakers’ tool for turning, milling and drilling. With these three capabilities, it can be used to produce every piece of a handmade watch inside and out.
We are privileged to have the opportunity to speak with him to find out more about his passion in watchmaking and his journey ahead as an independent watchmaker.
Hi Peter, could you tell us more about yourself and why did you move to Germany to pursue traditional watchmaking?
I grew up in Florida and now reside in Germany due to the opportunity I was given by Dirk Dornblüth of D. Dornblüth & Sohn. I reached out to him as a graduate of the watchmaking school with an interest in apprenticing. At this point I knew I wanted to pursue traditional watchmaking and make an entirely handmade watch, but there were many things I needed to learn before I could begin.
Naturally, most people would think of Switzerland as the place for watchmaking, and much of that is true. There are many talented watchmakers in Switzerland but as an American, it is very difficult to receive a working visa.
I am one of the first, if not the first American watchmaker, to apprentice in Europe for an independent watchmaker. I know several watchmakers who have found service-related jobs but producing handmade components directly from school is a tough aspiration. I completely understand the reasons why no one else has pursued such an apprenticeship. Not to mention, there are only a handful of manufacturers you can work for. They will have you making handmade wheels, pinions, breguet overcoils, etc. So it was a challenge to say the least!
I completed a 6-month stint with Dirk and found an excellent restoration job in Cologne at Atelier Suché and currently raising support to setup a workshop in my apartment in Cologne to begin producing an entirely handmade watch.
What’s your experience in watchmaking and the 2 years formal education in Watchmaking?
I attended the Nicolas G. Hayek School of Watchmaking for 2 years in which we focused on micro-mechanics (hand-producing components) and learning the basic of turning and milling by completing various projects. After that, we moved on to the functions and understanding of the movement itself.
Our exams include: Hand-turning a winding stem on a hand-turn crank bench lathe, hand-turning a balance staff with 0.10mm pivots on either end and burnishing the pivots with a Jacot tool, then moving on to adjustment of a gear train and escapement. And finally, hand producing a balance complete which encompasses riveting the balance wheel to the staff, truing, static poising, attaching the collet to the hairspring, bending the terminal curve on a flat hairspring and dynamic poising the newly produced balance complete to +/- 10 seconds per day. Our final exam was to service maladjusted movements, including an ETA 2824 and an Omega 1861.
I was also very keen to learn more about micro-mechanics so I often stayed after school to use the tools and complete other various personal projects. You can view all of them on my Instagram (@p.elliotwatches).
Do you have a ‘watchmaking hero’?
Christian Klings is currently producing watches using a process that I want to pursue.
In January, I visited Christian who is absolutely crazy about watchmaking and has nothing but a lathe and a few other tools. He avoids all forms of automation and thus, produces only a couple of watches a year without compromising on quality. He is really dedicated and sacrifices the fame and wealth that most watchmakers receive when they start making more watches with advanced modern manufacturing techniques.
I hope to produce contemporary watch quality using traditional methods. Only the best accuracy and decoration.
Interesting, so what got you into watches in the first place?
I used to work for a high-end car dealership in which I became close to many of the car collectors that were affiliated. As a young boy, I was all about cars until I was opened up to the world of watches. I immediately fell into the rabbit hole.
One of the car collectors had on a watch and, naturally, I was curious what a man like him would be wearing and how much it cost. At that time, I was dumbfounded when I learned that he was wearing a $50,000 watch.
Now it is on the daily that we hear these numbers as connoisseurs, but I had to know how and why, and everything there is to know about mechanical watches in watchmaking school, and here I am now speak with you about my watchmaking pursuits.
That’s quite a journey! Could you share with us the stage of watchmaking you enjoy the most or find it the most challenging? And how long does it take to make a watch?
I will tell you how long it takes when I finish but normally one can ‘prototype’ a watch in a few days or a few weeks with CAD and CNC. With a lathe, I estimate it will literally take me about a year.
Designed on paper and produced on a lathe, it requires many hours to make just one part and the function of the watch is unknown until each part is produced and the watch is assembled. However, it is the dedication and passion for a process that is not used anymore that drives me to make this watch entirely by hand.
Talking about parts, which component in a watch may appear simple but extremely complicated to produce?
The escapement is going to be a challenge to produce on a lathe but I know a few watchmakers who have done it successfully. The consistency of each tooth makes a huge difference when the pallet fork is dropping on each tooth, and it can drastically change the amplitude and timing of the watch. The balance and hairspring are also very particular when adjusting. The hairspring must be perfectly flat and center at both the center coil and outer coil in order to achieve high precision while the balance wheel must be perfectly poised to achieve good multi-positional timing results.
Sounds like a lot of work! What kind of watch will you be producing? Are you planning to take orders and what’s your offer like?
My watch will be very traditional in style. The process is what I am focusing on but of course, the beauty of the watch is very important. It will be a square movement in a square case.
The price will not be decided by me but by the person whom is interested in buying it for their own reasons. I will never put a price on my watches since I will never make two identical watch. When a watch is entirely handmade, it is extremely difficult to make a collection of the same watch because of the time involved in making just one.
What keeps your passion burning for watchmaking?
I enjoy watches for their obsolete-ness as they should have been gone before I was born. Because of people like myself, they are still being produced and sold in large number for all to enjoy. I want to continue to preserve the mechanical and traditional process in which they were once made.
Back to acquiring the lathe, why did you look to Kickstarter?
I am currently working in restoration for pure enjoyment and experience and thus, do not make enough to buy a lathe and have a workshop in my apartment. I am looking to those who follow me and are equally passionate about mechanical watches to support a young watchmaker achieve his dreams. I hope that everyone gets equal enjoyment out of seeing the entire process part-by-part. It is my desire to share everything I make since there is no transparency in the industry today.
In an industry where global conglomerates dominate, do you think independent watchmakers like yourself have an opportunity in the watch market?
The watches that I will make and the watches that other independent watchmaker produce are entirely unique. You can have a personal relationship with the person who makes your watch.
Brands will always hold their value and be in high demand, but independent watchmakers are gaining more and more respect in the past few years I have been involved in the industry. There is a movement happening and I hope to be at the FOREFRONT.
You can now support Peter in his Kickstarter campaign until 15 November 2017. In appreciation of your support, Peter is offering the following rewards:
€10: Shout-out on Instagram (@p.elliotwatches)
€50: Exclusive first-look into the process of Peter’s first handmade watch and an Instagram shout-out.
€100: A pair of handmade dice by Peter plus the preceding rewards.