Since 2011, in Bordeaux historic district, there is a shop full of treasures specialized in antique watches and jewels. Young couple Paul and his wife Emilie, a jeweler herself, received us at their charming boutique.
How did you get into vintage watches?
I didn’t start my career as a watchmaker, but by working with antique jewels in Paris. I was trained by a gemologist that teache me how to differentiate the minerals, how to recognize the inclusions… at the same time I worked as a store manager where, very often, clients asked me to appraise or sell their watches.
One day, a customer brought me a vintage Omega Constellation, and it was a true revelation to me. Just as I could be fascinated with a colombian emerald or an antique set of jewels, staring at that watch I instantly knew that I wanted to know more.
You had the chance to meet somebody who showed you the ropes… can you tell us about this experience?
When we moved to Bordeaux and we opened our jewelry, it was hard for me to find someone to service and repair the timepieces. I had to send them to Besançon, four hundred miles from Bordeaux (TN: this town located near Switzerland is the french capital of clock-making).
And then one day a man came to the shop and said to me: “I’m Jean Louis Strack and I’m a watchmaker looking for a job… I have my own workshop and I have experience on working with vintage watches”. Right away I felt that I could trust him, so I give him two 1970’s Valjoux watches to restore. The following week he came back, and the two wrist watches were like new! Afterwards, he told me that I was the only one who entrusted him work in all Bordeaux… Shortly after he started to teach me his craft.
And after that, did you continue to search for new ways of working? Is it possible to innovate in such a traditional profession?
In addition of being a very skillful watchmaker and pedagogue, Jean Louis is also an outstanding creator: when a tool or an instrument is not performing according to his desires, he is capable of making a new one. So yes, I think that there’s always the opportunity to innovate.
I’m glad to say that he relayed this way of thinking to me. For example, I developed a rotary leather brush that allows me to polish all the metallic edges without rounding them, and I’m really pleased with the outcome!
Working on vintage watches you are already helping to preserve a truly unique legacy, but on top of that you’ve started a new project: A blog about clock making…
I would like to bring my knowledge and what I learned within everyone’s reach. It is dedicated to all those who love vintage watches, both professionals and enthusiasts: I write about very diverse themes, like history, technology, or the inventors of innovative calibers and movements. It’s a fascinating subject and it fills me with joy to be able to write about it.