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A watchmaker’s home

by Jordan Ficklin

Nora, a student of architecture, recently contacted me for some ideas about a house for a watchmaker. This is one of those inane projects they ask you to take on in architecture school. I’ve decided, however, to throw some ideas out there.

First, I don’t like to bring my work home because I have 3 little boys and a wife who need my time, so I don’t. I need a house suited to the lifestyle of young children. White carpet is not a good idea! White walls are not a good idea. I need a house I can spray down to wash it off.

Watchmaker's BenchNow, to leave my cynicism behind and address the needs of a watchmaker in his shop: Watchmaker’s spend much of their time focusing on the 9 square inches directly in front of them. During the repair of a watch I wear a loupe which, as we discussed before requires your face to about 2 inches from your work. Since this is where you spend most of your time a good bench is essential to a good shop. It should be high enough that you don’t have to strain your neck to get that close to your work. It should also have arm supports which allow you to keep your elbows below your shoulders and your hands at the workpiece. It also needs good lighting. Natural light is the best, but may provide security concerns. Most of my hand tools are stored in the drawers of my bench on my right hand side, since I am right handed.

In addition to my work bench I have storage for spare parts and additional work areas. Ideally this area has a microscope at a lower counter where one can actually work with the watch, if need be, and all kinds of tools for the casing work of the watch. A computer with Internet access is also a must in today’s modern world. I need a master clock to compare the watches to. I use a radio controlled quartz clock which receives the time signal from the atomic clock at the Bureau of Standards in Fort Collins, Colorado.

A watchmaker’s shop needs to be very clean. Dust and lint are a watchmaker’s enemy so acoustic tile is horrid! Smooth surfaces are the best. I sometimes, look for stuff on the ground so a floor that is soft, smooth, and a solid light color is ideal. That tiny gap between the floor and the baseboards, is a great place for things to get lost so a smooth transition between floor and wall would be absolutely ideal. And as long as we are talking about ideals, a positive air flow to keep dust from entering would also be the things dreams are made of.

Cleaning equipment should be kept in a separate area from the work area and should be well ventilated. In addition polishing equipment should be in another separate area and heavily exhausted. Another shop with a bench and a lathe for micro-mechanical work would just be super nice to keep the metal shavings generated from filing and turning from contaminating the clean area.

As for security: a watchmaker needs a safe to put away his work at night. If he works directly with customers he/she needs an area to receive customers and their work, which should be comfortable, safe and away from the work area.

In addtion, the American Watchmaker’s Clockmaker’s Institute makes available sample floor plans for workshops.

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  1. Nora
    Posted November 2, 2009 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! You gave me some really cool ideas for my design!
    I’ll make sure to keep you updated on the project and how it goes.

  2. Posted November 2, 2009 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Excellent points, J.Peter. Lighting, well thought out flooring, and a good bench are all essential. Positive air pressure (and tacky mats!) are also great for keeping the dust at bay. Another ideal I would add to the list would be a good quality chair. I have had the good fortune of working on an Aeron chair in the past, and really appreciated the support it offered. If I could pick any chair, though, I think it would be Niels Diffrient’s Freedom Task Chair. At approximately $2500, though, it’s quite a ways out of reach. A watchmaker can dream, though, can’t he?

  3. Nora
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I’m really sorry to bother you this much, but the link you posted regarding workshops plan is opening but I need a membership to see them.So if its ok could you send them to me via e-mail. I know thats a lot to ask but I’d really appreciate it!

  4. Mike
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Let’s see some bench shots ­čÖé

  5. J.Peter
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Bergeon Benches
    The bench on the bottom is pretty nice

    A slideshow of shots from my shop

  6. J.Peter
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    The next post may also be of interest and help you out Nora.

  7. Posted February 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Great article. I wonder if you can help me source one of these containers

    They look ideal.

  8. Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Hi Mark,

    That particular tray is only available through Rolex. However, many watch and jewellery supply houses carry very similar variations on it. I know for sure that Casker ( carry’s an almost identical tray, but they don’t come cheap. Hope that helps.

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