Though I’m sure that couldn’t have been an easy path to take, Mr. Danevych persevered, and ultimately ended up creating the only functioning wooden watches in the world – including a model that features a flying tourbillon. A note on that – if you’re been reading here for some time (or listening to the podcast), you realize that while the tourbillon is of limited practical use within a watch, it’s a feat of precision engineering to create one – and that’s with using modern materials and methods. Just think about doing that in wood!
This article contains pictures of quite a few of the watches that have been created. To give you some sense of what all is involved, I’m going to focus in on the most complex (to create) one, which is known as the Retrograde. Fittingly enough, given the name, the watch features a retrograde function (for displaying the time), as well as the impressive wooden tourbillon. The 36mm x 13mm movement itself is composed of 154 different pieces (including the hands), offers a 24-hour power reserve, and has an accuracy within 2-3 minutes per day.
On the 46mm case that houses the movement, you’ve got a few other twists – partly for design, and partly due to the materials in use. On the right side of the case, there’s a crown (which doesn’t pull out) under a removable section of the case, along with a switch. To wind the watch, you move the switch to the upper position, and wind away. If you need to adjust the time, move the switch to the lower position, and use the crown to set the time. Push the switch back to the upper position, replace the cover, and you’re ready to go.
There are eight different woods used in this model, and it also contains eight springs – of which, only four are metal (the other four are made from bamboo). In terms of miniaturization, you’ve got parts as small as 0.12mm (a bearing pin) and 0.9mm (pinion). For a frame of reference, a common pin head is about 1.5mm in diameter. As you might imagine, this sort of work, when done properly, is not a quick process. Danevych ended up logging 1800 hours over a seven month period to create and assemble the 188 pieces involved.
Given the level of hand-made effort involved, and the obvious craftsmanship, it’s no surprise that these one-of-a-kind watches are firmly in the luxury bracket when it comes to pricing; the Retrograde model comes in at a solid 150.000 EUR (~$200,000) (other models start at 50,000 EUR; clocks start at 5,000 EUR and range up to 50,000 EUR). While I’m certainly a proponent of wearing what you’ve got in the collection, I think these watches are destined to be “safe queens” – and rightly so. And, for the vast majority of us, these pictures are likely as close as you’ll come to these pieces, but that’s ok. This sort of craftsmanship should serve as a way to let other watchmakers think about what they can do with the materials they have at hand, as Mr. Danevych continues to refine his craft. Frankly, if this sort of beauty and function can come from carving a lowly tree, then the sky is truly the limit with our modern materials. danevych.com
Images courtesy of Valerii Danevych