Sticks are humankind’s oldest tools. The fact that wooden sticks are still used in the manufacture of sophisticated machinery such as luxury watches is of particular fascination. Wood is uncomplicated, natural and has many near-magical properties. Of particular interest is that wooden sticks are used in one of the most important aspects of high-end watches — the fine finishing.
Watch nerds can enjoy endless debates on the relative merits of boxwood and beech for polishing pinion leaves, and gentian stalks versus elder sticks to buff up chamfers. For maximum effect, should the wood be harvested in spring, in autumn, or even at midnight during the full moon? It’s an endless debate because there is no one correct answer.
Dominique Buser and Cyrano Devanthey had the opportunity to learn more about using wood for hand finishing by the master himself, Philippe Dufour. They joined Dufour in the Vallée de Joux to share his knowledge and experience, taking a seat at the workbench, by the master’s side.
Cyrano Devanthey explains, “To gain Mr. Dufour’s trust, you have to show enthusiasm and seriousness. But once he is convinced, he opens up to you and shares his knowledge without restraint. Mr. Dufour hid nothing from us, and on the contrary, he revealed many of his secrets and techniques that make his timepieces so sought after. Mr. Dufour explained that you have to use all of your senses, including touch and sound, when aiming for perfection.”
Gentian wood is used for the final polish. Its hard shell makes it resistant and its soft core is perfect for the final shine. Elderberry marrow with alcohol is then used to remove polishing residues because it doesn’t mark the gleaming surface beneath.
The wood used here is a present from Philippe Dufour himself.
Under the aegis of the Time Æon Foundation, Robert Greubel, Stephen Forsey, Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei have decided to support the project of two talented watchmakers for Naissance d’une montre 2. Under the benevolent gaze of their elders, these two watchmakers will create from scratch, by hand, an exceptional watch. Then in turn they will pass on their experience and knowledge.