Of Multi-Axis Tourbillons, Indicators - and our future watchmakers:

Impressions from the 'Die Presse Gala' in Vienna

by Magnus Bosse
January 22nd, 2005

The center of the watch world - that's Switzerland, right? And with a significant distance, then comes Germany, ok? Well, this is true at least for manufacturers, and one is tempted to say also for exhibitions. For the latter, as we have learned from the various reports on different internet watch enthusiasts fora, there are now additionally Asia and the USA which are the places to be. Really? The only ones? No, there is a little neutral state, located now in the center of Europe, which is highly unsuspicient when is comes to watches: Austria, to be more specific: Vienna! Despite famous of being a reasonable place to satisfy epicurean desires, one can, with a little bit of luck, attend one of the more interesting watch exhibitions: The 'Die Presse Gala', organised by the reputable Austrian newspaper 'Die Presse'. There is a person behind all this whom many of us know: Mr Alexander Linz, famous watch journalist and moderator on IWC's own watch forum.
Thanks to Mr Linz, I was able to get an invitation to the exhibition. It was a fantastic event, well-organised and with an exciting variety of watches, persons and entertainment. Here is my report:

Welcome to my impressions about the
'Die Presse' Uhrengala 2004 at the Museum Quarter Vienna


The purpose of the 'Die Presse Gala' is to fire the interest of the Austrian audience in fine watches and to given them a chance to vote for the 'watch of the year in 4 different categories:
- Design and Trend
- Ladies' Watches
- Men's watches
- Complications
The contest entries were selected by the watch companies themselves (what sometimes made me shake my head: there were simple GMT watches or watches equipped with a rather mundane Valjoux 7751 to be found in the complicated watch category...). The watches were publically presented in November 2004 in the very nice ambience of the Museums Quarter Vienna, and a few weeks later, the rather formal gala was held where the winners were announced, and many of the international watch world 'celebrities' met each other: a really familiar atmosphere! But let's begin with the already exciting and fast start:

Porsche was present with a selection of the most recent models, amongst them the new Carrera RS. What a coincidence that Porsche Design was also a real sensation to present inside, but this is part of the 2nd volume if this report!
More importantly, at least in my opinion, was the presentation of the two watchmaking schools in Austria: The Wiener Uhrmacherlehrwerkstätte and the Uhrmacherschule Karlsstein. Both watchmakers schools dirigated their students to the public watch exhibition and brought along all the tools necessary to demonstrate their skillls to the intersted audience. What I did not know is that both schools are supported by a watch manufacturer part of the Swatch Group: The Wiener Uhrmacherlehrwerkstätte gets suppport from Omega, and the Karlsstein school from Glashütte Original. A very nice move for both companies to engage themselves in the education of future watchmakers and in the preservation of watchmaking skills.
The Watchmaking Schools of Vienna and Karlsstein:
I think it is very important for young, aspiring watchmakers to acquire not only the necessary skills to create and repair watches, but also to be able to communicate with customers. To explain a watch, to justify prices and service times is highly influential on their own future economic well-being - and also for their joy they will gain from their work! These skills are unfortunately not often tought in watchmaking schools. Therefore, the public presentation was a good training camp for them.
The Vienna watchmaking school provided a very useful service for all Omega owners: They were invited by letters sent out beforehand to bring along their Omegas to the exhibition and have it there tested for precision, accuracy and water resistance - for free! The watchmaking students had a hard time in handling all the numerous requests - but also to explain what they are doing and what's behind these fancy graphs on the Witschi timing machines. They had to learn to argue and negotiate. This was a very fruitful experience for boith sides, studens and customers. I wittnessed a discussion between a Ferrari owner and a student about the allegedly 'exorbitant' costs of a service for an Omega Speedmaster. The student had to explain that a service is more than pouring some drops of oil into the movement and to check the water resistancy! It took quite a time, but then the guy got really interested and promised to send in his Speedmaster. A quick look at his watch immediately gave the explanation why he had no clue about a watch service: the Speedmaster was in a very alarming condition, and the chronograph did not work at all! With this excellent idea all parties involved in the watch business, manufacturers, retailers, watchmakers and also the customers, made a surplus. Furthermore, life-imaging of a running automatic movement made some people litterally crawling into the movement...
The Karlsstein school on the other hand chose to give a tour through the four years of watchmaking training. For each year, one student demonstrated what he/she learned. In Austria, there is lack of new blood which could be desperately used by the service departments. So the issue of their presentation was to attract future trainees. They brought along a fascinating variety of school watches and mechanisms, amongst them a desktop planetarium and a clock with a central tourbilllon. One of the most impressive demonstration of excellence was the life-skeletonisation of an Unitas pocket watch movement.
One thing you may want to know: Walter Lange, heir of the Lange watch dynasty and one of the most admired personalities on the internet watch community, got his watchmaking eductation in Karlsstein!
Young future watchmakers discussing with interested people (above). The life video imaging of an automatic movement gained much interest (left), and finally the students had to demonstrate their skill in a rather unususal and noisy environment under the eyes of the public (right).

The Unitas movement gets naked! Please compare the raw movement (above), and then take a look at the result (below): what an amazing achievement!

Omega had a very nice idea to support the Vienna School: They installed a both where glogg was sold. 1€/glass was donated to the Vienna watchmaking school, and in the end 750€ could be collected (so the Constellation glogg was my choice...;-)!)! Omega was even ready for a nice surprise and doubled the amount up to 1500€!! Harald Rinder, chef of the school happily announced that he is now able to buy a few Fréderic Piguet movements to train his students on very fine, flat and more delicate movements.

Works of the Karlstein watchmaking school: a Planetarium (above) and a desktop Tourbillon clock (below)
At the end of the exhibition, the students went of to the watch showcases, intensively discussing the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gyrotourbillon 1. One student demonstrated it to his mother, who was a bit lost and asked him: "And how do I find these funny balance?" - His frank response: "Well, give me the money, and I'll buy it and show you at home!"
So, that's it about the watchmaking schools. The 2nd part will go into medias res and finally show you what you are striving for: Gyrotourbillons, Indicators, McLaren watches, Double Splits, Equations and so on and so on...
just follow me to...

...Part 2!!