Ludwig Oechslin is a simple man, and he appreciates the elegance in simple solutions to problems.
Oechslin is also a famous man in the watch industry, having worked with Ulysse Nardin to revive the brand, alongside Rolf Schnyder, and he was also curator of the MIH, the world’s premier watchmaking museum in La Chaux-du-Fonds. Today, he is concentrating on his own brand called ochs und junior.
Oechslin is concerned about watchmaking, which in his opinion has got away from its core – precision and elegant solutions to challenges. “The mechanical watch is going in the direction of jewellery, in and of itself,” he says. “The other brands make jewels, I make watches. I like to have good readable indications. The goal of the dial of a watch is to have good indication and I like to find the best solution.
“Simplicity is not the goal, it’s the result”
“Simplicity is a result of the desire to have less faults.”
“Simplicity is not the goal, it’s the result,” he continues. “When you have to make a new construction for a complication, for a perpetual calendar for example, you can do so many different things. With a perpetual calendar, you have four problems to resolve – the 31 days, the 30 days, the 28th of February and the leap year.
For each of these problems, you can add a new solution after the first problem, after the second and the third. Then, you need a lot of pieces to solve all these problems. The more pieces you have that have to play together, the more possibility for faults. With each added piece, you add more faults. The fewer pieces you have, the fewer faults you will have. Simplicity is a result of the desire to have less faults. When watches are simpler, the work involved is less as well. If you have four extra pieces, for example, you have four times the work in planning, production, finishing, assembly and testing.”
“The problem today is that constructors can make the solutions additive, but when you think that you can with the first solution find the way to solve the other problems, then you have less pieces, but you have to think more,” he says. “To find the synthesis of four solutions in one piece, this is the difficult part. For me, this is also the challenge. It’s not the simplicity that is the challenge, it is finding the solutions in a unique way.”
For Oechslin, finding a solution may be a result of something he saw over the course of the last 20 years of his watchmaking life. “Behind this challenge could be ten years of work, using a solution that I found a long time ago, that I am just now applying,” he says. “Inside all this experience is the know-how to find the solution. It’s all a result of my experience and my development.”
In a way, Oechslin thinks the complexity of some of the watches on the market is a way to justify the high prices they sell for today. “With more parts, you have more work and more expense in the execution of the pieces, which puts more value into the watch,” he explains. “This is like a diamond, which has more angles inside. A diamond that has a lot of facets has more work behind it but it is also more beautiful.
“A more complicated movement has a lot of pieces inside that are more beautiful for the eye to see, but you don’t really need all these pieces and parts”
“A more complicated movement has a lot of pieces inside that are more beautiful for the eye to see, but you don’t really need all these pieces and parts,” he continues. “For me, the function is first and foremost – the design is functional and the function is good. At first blush, you might think a given design is too simple. With the wearing of the watch, you find the piece beautiful at last. It’s not at the start you think it’s beautiful, after you wear it you appreciate it and think it is a beautiful watch.”
Source: Europa Star August - September 2014 Magazine Issue