ThePuristS interviews Andreas Strehler

ThePuristS Interview Andreas Strehler:
The Watchmaker

ThePuristS.com Feature Section
by Curtis Thomson, ThomasM and Ei8htohms
V.1a - Published January 1, 2002 ©

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An Introduction

With a father who was once a machinist and now a clockmaker, it is no surprise Andreas Strehler is a watchmaker. Not in the generic use of the word, mind you, but in its purest, most literal form - Andreas Strehler makes watches. In his mind a concept is born, and through his skilled hands, the concept manifests into something rarely seen in today's horology, that is, something new and unique.

Andreas is the youngest and possibly most forward thinking member of the AHCI. After watchmaking school in Solothurn and repairing watches at a jewelers, Andreas left for LeLocle to hone his skills as a prototypist with Renaud & Papi. Andreas thrived in this creative and free environment, until 1995 when he left to work and create for himself.

I encourage you to read this "TEASER" written with our friend, Hans Zbinden, for a brief overview of Andreas' work.

Andreas Strehler - An Interview

TP178: What was your inspiration for your calendar/time display mechanism?

AS: I wanted an easily legible system with separate indications. I, of course, was familiar with Breguet's Sympatique, but this is not the same. My idea, is like a computer. You may have several programs open, but only one is visible. The other programs are hidden but working and available at an instant. My system is like this.

TP178: Have you ever thought of a mechanism or design and have not been able to make it a reality?

AS: No. Some things are not impossible to make, but are bad in practice. (Andreas makes constructions for various houses, as well as for individual collectors)

TP178: How do you feel about, and would you use, modern machine technology (spark erosion, electro-forming, micro molds, CNC,etc...) and materials (plastics, carbon composites, ceramics, etc..) in watchmaking?

AS: Sure, Breguet used the most modern machines and techniques available in his day. The best watchmakers were hired by Breguet and they were skilled in all of the modern techniques of the time. 

But, it is important not to go crazy with it. A watch, any horological construction, must be made serviceable. If a construction cannot be serviced by other qualified watchmakers... it is a bad construction. I have many modern machines (self built CNC milling machine and may construct a spark erosion machine!) which enable me to make many complicated things much easier, but this must not get in the way of watchmaking or the watchmaker. I feel the future will bring many non-traditional materials into watchmaking.

TP178: Is there one aspect of watchmaking you enjoy the most, e.g., design or construction?

AS: I like everything. Each element is enjoyable. At the moment, case making presents many new challenges as it is something new for me.

TP178: What is the essence of your watchmaking and what motivates you?

AS: (After some thought) To realize my own ideas and to have the possibility to expand them in the future. My ideas motivate me. I have so many, they are floating in the air and waiting to be grabbed!  Trying to apply these ideas in my watches is what I'm doing. To make something that may be complicated, but in use is easy.

(This is a major thread in Andreas' fabric, as confirmed by Giulio Papi of Renaud et Papi. Mr. Papi told TP178 that when Andreas worked for him in constructing prototypes, Andreas would have new, exciting ideas almost daily! And, that he was very sad to lose Andreas, but proud and pleased at his success.) 

TP178: What has helped you reach your goals as a watchmaker?

AS: All things I've been exposed to. Renaud et Papi gave me insights into the use of machinery and series watchmaking. My father (a skilled clockmaker who shares Andreas' workshop) taught me to "just do it!"  He was always making and fixing things around the house. He gave me confidence. My desire to make things differently or in ways not conventional has helped me reach my current position. I am not like everyone else.

TP178: Would you make a specific watch for a client, or must all of your watches be of your own design?  For instance, a TP178 participant would like the following: 35mm yellow gold, thin case, automatic, center seconds, day and date window, chronometer rated. Any interest?

AS: I will make watches for individual clients, of course. Many will have ideas which have to be incorporated or I have to discourage, e.g., flat or slim watches hurt the overall quality of the watch. As far as the TP178 request, yes I could do it but it would be very expensive.

TP178: Will you explain how your calendar mechanism works? Has the patent gone through?

AS: The patent has not gone through yet. This can take several years. Until the patent has been granted, I can't reveal the mechanism.

TP178: With quartz watches and atomic timekeepers, what is the importance of accuracy in mechanical watches?

AS: The importance is not the same. A mechanical watch could never be the same as a quartz for accuracy. A mechanical watch is a living system and its importance is not the same any more. Do we need a precise mechanical watch? No,we are surrounded by precise time, e.g., T.V., radio, computers, etc... To enjoy the relationship with a mechanical timepiece is what is important. I am not saying mechanical watches can't or shouldn't try to be good timekeepers, but that is not where the importance lies anymore. It is in the relationship.

TP178: Is a bigger balance wheel better than a smaller one?

AS: Yes, it should occupy as much space as allowed. The maximum size in proper proportions is the key.

TP178: Are overcoil hairsprings better than flat hairsprings?

AS: Yes, concentric breathing in all amplitudes and positions is the benefit of the overcoiled hairspring.

TP178: Are freesprung balances better?

AS: Yes, they avoid watchmakers tweaking! (We all laugh)

(At this point, we notice the time, and realize we must head off to pick up a friend at the train station. We all share a wonderful meal together, after which Thomas, Andreas, and I go back to Andrea's workshop, and we explore some more ideas until 1am!

I cannot now share the contents of that conversation, but all I CAN say is, expect lots of very cool things from Andreas!)


Photo credits:

All photos provided by author and Andreas Strehler


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