Self-taught watchmaker Erik Sutterud was a sound engineer until he started as a watchmaker in 2013. Today, he repairs and restores old wristwatches and wall clocks, gives valuations on old watches and sells both new watches and vintage. Here you can learn more about the Norwegian watchmaker’s take on classic wrist watches.
“The classic wrist watches are classy, they are less expensive than new ones and they are just as reliable. Besides, let’s face it, who needs a watch to keep time to the second these days?” he asks on his homepage.
With a magnifying glass, he studies the critical parts of an older wrist watch – the anchor, the escapement-wheel and the balance that positions the force in equal seconds.
“Is there a watch that can possibly be better than a classic wrist watch? Find your favourite style from the best designers of your choice and you never need to get bored again! One glance at your wrist is all it takes to spin your head with interesting thoughts. What was it like back in the day when this watch was assembled? Who worked at the factories and who bought this particular watch”? The questions are popping up.
“Actually, I’m not that interested in watches”, he says. “It’s the clockwork I’m interested in – and the time itself”.
Wearing a vintage time piece is in practice to keep a tradition alive. An old watch is a live reminicense of the past and it bridges between past, present and future. We carry our ancestor’s wisdom, knowledge and even culture into new fashions and changing times. Very few artifacts act as a carriers of tradition in such an obvious way. The sensation of winding up your watch in the morning is another reason to look for the vintage mechanical watch. There is always time for this gesture and if you give it a little thought while you are at it, you may enjoy a filosophical moment to yourself.
Time is here and now, all the time, in a single set. Now and now and now. Over and over again. Time surrounds us like air.
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The Golden age
The fifties and sixties are sometimes referred to as The Golden Age of watchmaking. In these times quality was the most important factor in many manufacturing industries. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, quality was as an equal important factor as efficiancy. After World War two, every nation did its best to re-establish prosperity and wellfare. Things were to be better than ever, and for the wrist watches this led to some amazing time pieces. Even if the watches tend to be fairly uniform in style, there is no need to look for the top brands to get an excellent time keeper from this era.
One day I was discussing with a customer who was wondering if time is coming or going. I think that time just is. It neither comes nor goes. Time consists of moments, and every moment just is. All those moments that just are all the time, they are put together into a life. Those moments become our lives.
A great example of a great classic is this Certina DS. With an in-house movement Kurth Frères, the makers of Certina, put tremendous efforts into the development of reliable movements second to none, really. Furthermore, they placed a chunky 2.4mm rubber ring around it, clutching the movement within the watch case. Certina’s aim was clearly to achieve recognition for their quality.
For me, it’s the fascination that the little gadget keeps time in place despite the stresses I give it. That it manages to keep up, so precisely, even if I climb high in the mountains, or ride a motorcycle that shakes. And every time you look at the clock you see the gadget you are a little fond of. You are reminded that spent your savings.
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Another proud ambassador from the mid-fifties is the Omega. Well, I guess Omega needs no further introduction, and this is reflected in the ample number of watches available as well as their prices, 100-1000% above the less sought-after vintage watches. And not without reason. Featuring a very reliable Breguet hair spring and a robust movement, not to mention the design. The movement had been thoroughly tested and tried through several decades by the time they were named caliber 265 through 269, the 284 and 285. The eighty series have center second hands whereas the sixty series all have a small sub second dial placed at six on the dial.
It’s the mechanical part that interests me. The sublime. Watchmakers have tried and failed for 300 years, and arrived at the watches we have today. Someone has devoted his whole life to this, added a little detail, and now we are sitting here, with watches that are so finely honed, so thoughtful and so thoroughly worked out. It is not a random part, and all the small parts must be brought together, with tiny margins. Yes, in the critical parts, in the heart of the clock, you may have only a thousandth of a millimeter’s margin.
So, the next time you consider digging deep into your pockets for that latest technology wrist watch, take a deep breath and a good look at the vintage collections available. I promise you will be charmed by patina, ruggedness, reliability and, sometimes, price. And you get to carry a piece of history with you, just like an old uncle, following, making sure you are behaving right. Your cell phone keeps track of time. All you need to do is enjoy your fine time piece!
Norwegian Watchmaker on Classic Wrist Watches, compiled from sutterud.no by Tor Kjolberg
All images © Erik Sutterud’s Archives