“I feel so on my way right now,” said independent watchmaker Eva Leube. “I realized that life is short and I want to do something that touches me.”
Over the years, her work in watchmaking has taken Ms. Leube around the world, from her native Berlin to jobs in Cape Town; Boca Raton, Florida; Sydney, Australia; and several locations in Switzerland. For more than two decades, the watchmaker has restored and repaired timepieces for both big brands like Rolex and Ulysse Nardin and small companies like Chronos Watchmakers and Thomas Prescher.
But Ms. Leube has never forgotten the joys of making her own watches. “When you have a handmade watch, it has a whole different soul,” Ms Leube, 50, said in a phone interview from her home on Lake Zurich in Switzerland.
The soul has occupied Ms. Leube’s mind a great deal over the past few years. In June 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, she quit her job in Australia, moved her family back to Switzerland and finally decided to strike out on her own. Still.
Ms Leube launched her first handmade watch, the Ari, in 2007. The watch, which took four years to develop, had a mechanical movement in a rectangular case about 52 millimeters long and just over 21 millimeters wide (about 2 inches by 1 inch) that curved around the wrist. The following year, she founded the Eva Leube watchmaking company.
In the 1910s, Swiss luxury watchmaker Movado introduced the first watch with a curved case, called the Polyplan. But Ms Leube went further with the Ari, creating a more pronounced arc and turning the watch mechanisms up so they could be seen through the case, rather than down as is usually the case. case in more traditional watches. “This watch kind of pushed me over the edge,” she said.
She made two of the timepieces; one, in platinum, sells for $92,000. And over the years it’s had requests for design changes – the most recent from a man who wanted to dive with it. “Ari is a dress watch; diving is not the idea,” she said.
“Ari remains that iconic holy grail,” said Adam Craniotes, president and founder of RedBar Group, the world’s largest watch collecting community with more than 80 chapters worldwide. He continued; “Eva did something no one had done before; there was no need to make this watch. It is a fantastic creation. But she’s just so good. As an independent watchmaker, Eva, if she wanted to, could choose to never invent anything again and just keep making Ari because she planted her flag so deeply with this watch.
The ‘problem’, Ms Leube joked, is that she now has two sons: Ari, 15, and Leif, 10. “I named my first watch after my first son, but my second son, Leif, he needs a watch now. .”
During the first few months of unpacking in Switzerland after the latest move, Ms Leube said she “felt drawn” to an unusual move she had stumbled upon. This discovery proved to be the last push she needed to start designing and manufacturing independently again.
“It’s called a Phoenix movement; it’s a cool automatic system that I’ve never seen in my entire career,” said Ms. Leube, who bought 33 of the moves. She plans to completely rework them, “except the wheels; I will definitely use the wheels, but I will change everything else.
For the past six months, she’s been in the sketching and building phase of the new design named after Leif (pronounced “life”), and Ms. Leube said she hopes to present the watch before the end of the year. ‘year.
“It’s a self-winding watch, and it sort of tries to skeletonize the movement while focusing on making a nice case and dial,” said Christian Klings, an independent watchmaker based in Dresden, Germany. , who, like Ms. Leube, uses traditional tools to create bespoke pieces.
The two met at a workshop in 2005 and now talk to each other twice a month, exchanging ideas and sketches. Mr. Klings said he rarely grants interviews, but would be happy to talk to Ms. Leube. “Eva is very ambitious and has an interest in manual work,” he said. “She is one of the few who makes complex watches with simple, old-fashioned machinery and a lot of manual work. It’s very impressive and I really appreciate this work.
Ms. Leube’s workshop is filled with lathes, files and polishing sticks, and she has also made some of her own tools. “I’ve always liked being responsible for the whole watchmaking process; it’s an extremely meditative feeling for me,” she said.
As a young girl in Berlin, Ms. Leube said, she always loved clocks, and her mother suggested watchmaking as a career because it was something she had always wanted to do.
Mrs. Leube began an apprenticeship at 16 and obtained her master watchmaker’s diploma at 23. His international travels followed; “I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” she said.
But it was the work she did on her own that she found most rewarding. In the late 2000s, for example, “I remember sitting on my bench in Sydney, working all night on the Ari with the boys camping out and sleeping on the floor in the workshop. Everything was calm. The phone didn’t ring. In a way, it was the best moment of my life.
For Ms. Leube, the return to independent watchmaking forced her to create a specific space to focus on her profession. She’s set up a home workbench overlooking the lake, and she says she’s continually trying to clear the clutter — no simple task, considering her housemates.
She has described herself as a minimalist; a yellow coffee table and a worn light brown leather sofa, traveled the world with her.
During the interview, Ms. Leube said she was ready to embrace the sometimes tumultuous road of independent watchmaking again. “My grandfather once told me, ‘You can figure out any mechanism if you look at it long enough,'” she said. “I have often remembered those words since, and I think about them now, because I know I will need them.”