Monday, May 27, 2013

A Few Minutes with Peter Roberts

Real talent is a truly rare thing. It is not something that just happens. It takes that initial spark, added to a devotion to learn, improve and grow.  Throw in decades of study, and teaching future watch makers...
like I said, it doesn't just "happen".
This BaselWorld marked the arrival of the Grand Complication 5 from Peter Roberts, and he was kind enough to spare me some time to talk about it, and a bit about himself as well.

And now, a few minutes with Peter Roberts -

Tempus Fugit - When you were a boy, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?

Peter Roberts - When I was young it was the age of steam trains so engineering appealed to me. We all wanted to be train drivers!

TF - What got you into working on watches in the first place?

PR - Meccano, mending broken toys and my Father's interest in Clocks and Watches - I found his copy of Donald de Carle's Practical Watch Repairing and read it from cover to cover - I was hooked!

TF - Where did you study watch making?

PR - Hackney Technical College London , WOSTEP Neuchatel Switzerland, and then to enable me to teach horology I qualified at the University of London.

TF - Where did the idea for your WOSTEP "Student Project" come from?

PR - I came across a book in Switzerland on types of Chronometers and their dials.  Inside the most complex drawing showed a watch with 5 hands working from the centre.  Subsequently on showing my Professor, he told me that this mechanism did not exist. It was a Draftsman's Fancy.  I decided that I would like to make one.
Courtesy of Peter Roberts Watches
TF - You qualified as a watchmaker just in time for the "Quartz Crisis" - what was that like to live through?

PR - It was an exciting period to be involved with the first quartz watches.  Of course at that time most Swiss companies were very involved with the latest electronic technology.  Throughout this difficult time I worked mainly with Rolex which as a company continued to develop it's mechanical watches very successfully and did not get too involved with quartz watches.  For many people in the industry these were difficult times but I never lost the faith.

TF - So after so many intervening years, what led you back to your "student project"?

PR - It was something that I had always planned to do but after surviving major heart surgery 3 years ago I knew that it was time to do it now.

Courtesy of Peter Roberts Watches
TF - So is this a "one-off" or is Peter Roberts about to break-out as a brand unto itself?

PR - This is a question I have been asked by many people and to be honest a brand was not something that I intended to become.  But saying that, I do still have lots of interesting ideas and concepts that I would love to see made, but if it is me who does this or for another brand  - I am not sure - Watch this space!!
Courtesy of Peter Roberts Watches
TF - My understanding is that Peter Roberts Watches and watch making are a bit of a family affair?

PR - Although dear friends in the business have been invaluable in their help to make this project possible, it is definitely a family affair.  This watch would not exist without the help of my wife Marie-Louise.  She has helped at every point regarding actual design of the watch dial and case and looks after all the logistics/ paperwork of the project.  She has had to endure many sleepless nights to allow me to follow my dream.  My Son James is coming into the fold and will be trained to look after the Concentrique in the future.  Daughter Heidi and her partner James help with Graphic design and daughter Claudine advises on import/export!

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

PR - My taste in watches is quite ascetic . I prefer simplicity and functionality - no gimmicks. I rather like the Jaquet Droz  Grande Heure GMT , some of Zeitwinkel's offerings, and the Louis Erard Regulator These are nicely styled watches. Of course, I enjoy the watches that my former students are making as well!
Courtesy of Peter Roberts

TF - When you're not busy with watches, what do you like to do in your spare time?

PR - Not that much spare time but we enjoy traveling, driving our 42 year old Lancia Fulvia Coupe, photography and listening to my old vinyl records on all valve hi-fi.

TF - If you weren't doing this, what do you think you might be doing?

PR - I accept that we now live in the digital era, email, text, social media etc - none of which tends to excite me very much. I will always be drawn to intricate mechanical work that requires hand skills. so maybe hand made bicycles.

TF - Who is the next Peter Roberts out there?

PR - I hope that the next Peter Roberts is my son James!!

TF - What advice do you have for the next wave of British watch makers?

PR - Absorb as much knowledge as you can, as you never stop learning, be obsessive about quality and always maintain your integrity. 

Read the whole story on Peter Roberts Watches at their site -

No comments:

Post a Comment