Could you shortly introduce yourself, name, age where you live etc.

My name is Olivier Gantenbein (IG: 0liiviier) and I will turn 20 years in October. I live in Solothurn, Switzerland, which is close to Bern. In my free-time I play the drums, and diving is also a hobby of mine which I really enjoy.

Where do you take your education?
I do my apprenticeship at ZeitZentrum in Grenchen, the only German-speaking watchmaking school in Switzerland. 

What do you like best about it?
I like to work with old and new watches. Already now as an apprentice I have a great amount of responsibility. When fixing all sorts of watches we can choose from a variety of resources -I love that about the job. Our watchmaker school is very well equipped,  so it is very nice to work on your workplace when you know, that you have the possibility to really work and make watches work again.

What are the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge is to work in a very clean environment. We work for customers who bring in their watches for us fix them. So all has to be very clean and in top quality. But all this is feasible if you want it to be. Sometimes you don’t have a plan how to fix the watch, so you must always think about what you do and take some pictures and make some sketches.

What are the career possibilities?
The career possibilities are enormous. You can work in a bijouterie where you perform a lot of different tasks or you can work in the watch-industry. On top of that there are lots of other „watchmaker-jobs“ .

How did you get into the watch making industry, was it always your dream?
It wasn’t always my dream to do this job, until I was about 14 years old. If you are interested in this job, then you need lots of concentration and you have to appreciate to work with yourself in quiet and put up with very difficult tasks.

What steps are involved and how long does it take to become a watchmaker?
To get accepted as a watchmaker apprentice in ZeitZentrum in Grenchen, you have to do an entry exam. The exam consists of the following:

  1. to take apart and put together a mechanic movement with instructions.
  2. to file a special work piece.  
  3. to do a mathematical and physics test.

Every year there are about 80+ applicants, but the school only accepts 14 new apprentices per year. So it is quite hard to get in. When you are in the apprenticeship, you learn how to handle lots of different tools, you learn how the different watch mechanics work, but we mostly work with mechanic watches. You learn what you have to do, if a watch doesn’t work, if you have to make a special wheel or hands for a watch and you don’t have any spare parts.

This youtube video illustrates what we do in our apprenticeship, during the 4 years it takes to become a watchmaker.

(Unfortunately only in German)

What steps are involved in making the watch?
You should know, what you want to do and then make a detailed plan so you don’t get lost in all the tasks you have. It is also highly recommended to have a partner. I, for example, made my watch with  S. Deutschmann.

Which watch movement do you prefer? Mechanical Manual Wind, Mechanical Automatic and Quartz and why?
I really like mechanical movements, manual as well as automatic. Those are interesting and you can see all the mechanisms and you can repair lots of things in both new and old watches and clocks.

What is your favorite watch brand and why?
I don’t have a favorite brand – not yet. I like my Eterna, because it is a one push button chronograph and you see it rarely and the watch suits perfect on my slender/narrow wrist.
I also love my two Rolex´s, because of the famous classy and simple design. Patek Philippe, Omega, Audemars Piguet, Girard Perregaux, Hyt, Linde Werdelin etc. also make very nice watches with new technics inside.

Could you tell us about the development of your own watch?
A friend and me, we had to do a project at school. It is a voluntary technical-school where you have to do a special exam for entry. This school takes four years, one day per week. We decided to make our own watch, because lots of people think a watchmaker always does his own watch, but this isn’t always the case. If you do such a big project for the first time, you need a time plan. We designed, planned and built our watch – the case and dial. We worked on the CAD, to design the whole case and our dial with the logo etc.

We have 2 designs. The sporty and the classy one. We needed 5 months to do all the steps in our free time  while working at ZeitZentrum during the day. We really enjoyed this difficult task and we were always looking forward to our finished product – our own watch. You learn how important it is, to have connections and how to use them. You need machines (CNC) for doing the case. You need a company which sells big sapphire glasses, and a company which prints your own dial, colors the case (The case is very light, it is aluminium, black anodized.)
We also did a watch box for our watch. This was a special project and we learned a lot. We are very proud and there are many things we had to have in mind, so our 2 watches would represent us.
This was also one of the reasons for the name we gave the watch – Aspiration. This means: longing, goal and endeavor.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope, I work in the watch industry in a good company – maybe in Switzerland or in a foreign country. But always and only for Swiss made watches!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *