Assembling my own watch has been one of the things on my wish list - I recall looking for opportunities for years, and was even tempted to plan a holiday in Europe around a workshop there. It wasn't easy to find a similar opportunity in this part of the world.
I reached out to a university classmate of mine, Enyi, because I know his family founded and runs Aries Gold, one of the few watch manufacturers in Singapore, and asked if there was any way they could show me, or let me experience making a watch. That was back in 2016, when I first started my blog on mademyown.co. They were quite busy at that point as they were renovating their office, and there wasn't a right opportunity. Fast forward to 2020, Enyi remembers my hobby, and reached out again to follow up - of course I said yes!
I first got to see how the professional watchmaker assembles the automatic watch. Looked straightforward enough, and she was swift in putting it together.
I love the vibe of the workshop she works in - so old school and charming
Marveled at her dexterous hands
After which, it was my turn to give it a try!
The steps made sense earlier, but when it was my turn, somehow the sequence got jumbled in my head, and I needed her to remind me at every step.
Apart from the fact that I needed to be prompted on every step, I thought I was doing a great job of at least being able to follow instructions...until I had to install the watch hands.
The pieces are so fine and delicate, and the part where I had to fix and "stack" them was tiny! I never questioned how steady my hands were (I can thread needles fine!), but when doing that, I noticed my hands were quivering and it took me a while to affix the hands. The second hand was the most challenging because it was the thinnest, and the "hole" to align and stack it onto the minute hand was so so small (threading a needle is like a walk in the park compared to this - which felt like scaling Everest, just for comparison). Just when I fixed it on, I realized the second hand was not aligned to 12, and I cannot adjust it while it is on, so I had to remove it and try again (OMG).
A seemingly straightforward step was not simple to execute at all. Installing the hands was definitely the "highlight" / most memorable step, because I took so darn long ha.
Another exciting experience was when the team asked me to try assembling the watch again, after the watchmaker left. It certainly took a village - we referenced the video of my earlier experience to figure out the missing steps in between, and there was one step where we had to use a tool to "poke" a catch in order to release the crown. We somehow couldn't find the catch even after consulting trusty google (searching for the same watch movement and a video of assembling it...). Finally, when we were about to give up (we left the half assembled watch for a bit and took a break), we realized it had to be pushed in, and for the movement to be moving, for the catch to be visible...
This experience was really challenging, and pushed the limits for me in terms of making something - this was the first time I made something which won't work if I messed up. Wabi-sabi might not apply here if there were imperfections...I did make a clock previously, but that was a quartz clock and the hands were HUGE. As much as it was difficult, I love how I get challenged by new crafting / maker projects even after having tried to make quite a number of things!
Photo of my husband and I from our pre-wedding photoshoot
A special feature to highlight - there was an option to print a photo on the glass caseback of the watch, and I requested for that! It turned out so beautiful <3 And because it's on the back, it's a subtle way to make it my own, which is more in line with my style.
Here's the final watch - isn't it beautiful?
Here is a short video they made of my experience:
Duration: ~1 hour to watch the demonstration, and put the watch together, with professional guidance / supervision
Price: This was not an official workshop - Enyi invited me to their workshop to experience this because he knows of my interest in making stuff. This was the watch I learnt how to assemble - you can select customization options such as printing on the glass caseback (like what I did), and/or printing text on the dial
Level of fun: 3.5/5
It's very fascinating to see a watch taken apart, and how all the little parts come together to be able to measure time. Apart from the difficulty (more on that below), it's quite different from the other things I've made. Being slightly more technical, this made the experience interesting
Level of difficulty: 5/5
This ranks among one of the most difficult things I've got a chance to make. The challenges lie in:
1) everything is so small! Remember my miniature model experience? That was the same feeling, except that
2) the level of precision required is so high, for the watch to end up being functional and accurate at measuring the time! Usually, even if I'm a little bit inaccurate, it's ok because imperfections are part of what make handcrafted things beautiful. But in this case, if I'm not careful, the watch might not even work, or even if it does, the time it tells might not be very accurate
Lots of respect for people who do such precise work!