The Timekeeper
January 22, 2010 Stories

The timekeeper

The Audemars Piguet repair workshop restores timepieces that are over a hundred years old. Francisco Pasandin, head of the workshop, is the self-appointed guardian of a disappearing brand of watchmaking expertise.

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“I have been working on this model, which must have been created between 1870 and 1890, for six months now,” reveals Francisco Pasandin, who has been head of the Audemars Piguet repair workshop for the past seven years. His gloved hand firmly holds an exceptional pocket watch that sports a stunning array of features: an independent seconds hand, a jumping seconds, a minute repeater, a dual time function, a lunation indicator, a Réaumur scale thermometer and the date and day of the week.

“It was not working at all any more. So we had to patiently analyze each complication to discover the problem.” Often, from 100 to 300 hours of work are needed to get these antique watches functioning again. It all depends on the damage that has been done by other watchmakers. “For example, restoring a screw that has been stripped by a bad screwdriver takes a good fifteen minutes. With more than a hundred screws in a pocket watch, that could take quite a while. And that’s not taking into account damaged wheels, broken pivots and special situations, like parts that have been glued into a movement. We often have to take the whole thing apart and start from scratch,” explains the specialist.

His team, made up of about ten skilled watchmakers, puts together very complex timepieces entirely by hand. They have mastered all the steps involved, from working with various materials to roughing out the parts, then putting the finishing touches on the watch. “The techniques and tools are the same as they were a hundred years ago. We are more modern, but our way of working remains ancestral,” smiles the enthusiast who records this technical knowledge in notebooks so that it can, one day, be transmitted to the next generation of watchmakers.

The workshop’s cabinets are also witnesses to the treasures of time. Numerous coffers once belonging to master watchmakers of the 19th century are stored next to one another. The components they contain can be refurbished and used to replace irreparably damaged parts, enabling the heart of an antique watch to beat once again.