Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A Few Minutes with Eva Leube

From our partner site - Tempus Fugit

And now, a few minutes with Eva Leube
James Henderson - What was your first watch? Was it a gift? Is there a story behind it?

Eva Leube - My grandparents had a beautiful grandfather clock in their dining room. I grew up with its chime and was often allowed to wind it by pulling up the weights. At one of our family gatherings my grandfather took me to the side and taught me to read the time. I must have been around 5 or 6 years old. Then we went back into the dining room and in front of the whole extended family I showed off my new skill. Everyone cheered and my mother gave me my first watch, a manual wrist watch with a white dial and black minute and hour hands, I was extremely proud of it.

Later on as a watchmaker, I have sometimes been given watches that were in a bad shape and the owner did not want to invest in their restoration. My favourites are a small 18ct bangle watch which reads “La Leuba” on the dial and has a tiny Favre-Leuba movement inside.

Another is an Omega Geneve Automatic with orange indexes and orange seconds hand.
On my second day after arriving to work in Cape Town/South Africa I got talking to an interesting guy on a train. Before parting ways, he took his Rotary Automatic off his wrist and insisted on giving it to me as a lucky charm. He was on his way home from a party so I hope he didn’t look for his watch the next morning!

JH - When you were a young girl, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?

EL - I always wanted to learn a craft and be able to create exquisite things that would be handed down through generations. As a child and teenager I could absolutely immerse myself into making little, diverse things. I would paint armies of small figurines of Gauls and Romans or once made a 2-leveled jewellery box for my mother’s birthday, full of rings, necklaces and broches-all out of chocolate. From about 13 years old, I knew that I wanted to be either a watchmaker or a rock legend.

JH - Where did you go to school? What did you study?

EL - I went to a polytechnic high school in Berlin. I liked subjects like history, music, German, foreign languages but during the last couple of years I was good in maths and physics, because that was what you needed to get accepted into watchmaking and so I concentrated on it. I started my watchmaking apprenticeship in Berlin when I was 16 years old. Later, I went on to study in Hildesheim, 300km west of Berlin, where I received my Masters Certificate in Watchmaking at the age of 23.

JH - A bit about yourself please, what got you involved in the watch industry in the first place?

EL - When the time came to choose a profession, watchmaking was originally my mother’s idea but which I immediately liked a lot. As a child she had often visited a watchmaker near her family home. Her father was a physicist who told us that we “will be able to understand any sort of mechanism if we just looked at it long enough”, he must have given us the technical mindset and he was also the one that taught me to read the time. I think he put me onto my path very early on when he introduced me to his wood turning lathe. And to this day I love my profession, with its technical challenges and creativeness.

JH - Your CV has an impressive list - almost a who's-who of high end watches - Thomas Prescher, Rolex and Ulysse Nardin. What were those times like?

EL - My watchmaking career actually started off with many years of repair and restoration work for Antique stores. I loved this kind of work as it was very diverse and I got to look at many stunning and rare pieces from different eras and countries. Of course, fresh out of watchmaking school I probably could not yet fully appreciate what I had before me, this only came over the years as my understanding grew.

My years with Rolex were completely different and, again, very educational in a more structured way. Rolex has a long tradition as a company and thus a very comprehensive and thorough training program. It’s impressive to see how well this company is organized world wide. Working with the oldest through to the brand-new generations of movements one could appreciate the improvements that were implemented continuously over the years.
Ulysse Nardin are as well a fantastic company. Younger (counting from Schnyder) and more adventurous but also very well structured and set up with a great company spirit.

In 2005 I started with Thomas Prescher and found my calling in watch manufacturing. Thomas is a generous teacher and open with sharing experience and ideas. We built his complex mechanisms, including double-retrograde time indication and multiple-axis flying tourbillions part by part. What I always really liked was that he has great three-dimensional vision so we could constantly solve problems by discussing parts of mechanisms from one bench to the other without looking at drawings or, worse, pulling freshly oiled mechanisms apart. I learned a lot from him and went home happy every night with a great sense of achievement. We are still in regular contact.

JH - Australia is not always considered the first destination for a hand-constructed watch. What are some of the challenges you face working from there? What are some of the advantages?

EL - Up until my exhibition in Baselworld ’11, only close friends and family knew that I was working on “a watch” so I was pretty much on my own. I sometimes missed the conversations with people from the same field plus, sourcing tools and materials from Switzerland is more time-consuming and costly from here. But when I did meet some great specialists, a Swiss toolmaker, an English engraver and a few others these people always had a lot of time for me and an interest in my work.

I would have had more outside help available if I had built my watch in Switzerland or Germany. But the positive side of making it here in Australia is that it turned out very uniquely “me”. I have had the most exiting time in doing my own drawing, milling, turning, case making and having to solve new “mysteries” every day. To finally exhibit my work in Basel turned out to be one of my proudest moments. Since then, the internet and social media help to bridge the distance. They quickly got me in touch with many international watch enthusiasts which might have been a drawn-out process ten years earlier.

JH - The Ari is truly a work of art. How long did that process take from idea to completion?

EL - The idea for my watch had been in the back of my head for many years. I could always see it quite clearly but I was the only one. Following the birth of my son I started my own business and 4 very intense years of working on the Ari prototype followed. These years of course also included raising a newborn, teaching myself a drawing program ( I am still surprised ) and relocating back to Australia (from Switzerland), moving again within Australia, et cetera..

JH - Who else out there is making watches that interest you?

EL - I admire the work of each individual AHCI member and other Independents, what an extraordinary group and what an honor to exhibit with them. At Baselworld I was truly combining work with pleasure when for a week surrounded by a selection of their masterpieces as well as each watchmaker’s very individual personality.
I am also a great lover of historical time pieces and automatons. They tell us a story about the period they were built in and about the technical advances and fashions of that time. Centuries later, the great Masters of the past allow us a fascinating glimpse of the days before industrialisation, when everything we see in their time pieces was still made by hand, using their own hand made tools. The heart and soul and the mind of the watchmaker that is visible in their watch resonates much more with me than absolute perfect finish.

JH - What do you like to do in your down time?

EL - There is not much of that and I have packed in many of my hobbies for the time being. But I go running on the beach every day and I go hiking with family and friends. When I run I solve many of my technical and other little problems and when I’m in the forest I can switch off.
Australia is a very young and modern country so when I am overseas-and I love to travel- I always soak up the history of each place. I will visit every watch museum, historical museum or art gallery I can find. My brother who is an opera singer lives in the north of Germany, on the Baltic Sea, in which area you find a group of the oldest remaining monumental astronomical clocks in the world. The clock in the city of Stralsund is the most complete and best documented of them all. It dates back to 1394, a time of great concentration of political and economical power of the hanseatic or seafaring cities of the north which attracted many highly learned scientists as well as exceptionally qualified tradespeople.

JH - If you weren't doing what do you think you might be doing?

EL - I would love to be a mad engraver or painter, enamelist, goldsmith, cabinet maker and pianist, but unfortunately there are not enough hours in the day. And then I have a big fascination with automatons.

JH - So who is the next Eva Leube out there?

EL - I don’t know, because she will surprise us. My motto was always: "build the watch first, talk about it later".

JH - What advice do you have for the next group of independent watch makers out there?

EL - If you have a good idea, be confident, don’t give up until your project is achieved and enjoy the absolute excitement along the way! It might sometimes be easy to get intimidated by the enormous and rapid achievements of bigger companies. But instead, be yourself and be personal in your work because this is what independent watchmaking is all about. Most importantly, use the quiet time before your watch hits the market to be as prepared as possible for what is coming.


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