Clock makers who are able to make their own running tourbillons, and whatever it takes to make a working clock from scratch, are small and medium. And watchmakers living outside Switzerland, who are able to do this, are probably in short supply. We already spoke with Machiel Hulsman as he built his first watch, which he had built from the beginning, made by hand by himself. He decided to do a good job as an IT financial advisor, on a mechanical tour and has just finished his second watch, which has a tourbillon flight, a time-lapse sign and a clock sign.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME VIEW – What has been keeping you busy for the past few months, since you finished Marie-Elise? Spoiler warning, your first tourbillon watch is ready, so tell us more!
Machiel Hulsman, an independent watchmaker, founder of the Hulsman Timepieces – That’s an unexpected story. After I gave my presentation to the service club I visited in the Netherlands, one of the members came up to me. That was the beginning of a new friendship. We started chatting and talking about the clock. He wanted a watch with diamond baguettes and a white gold bag to match his wedding ring (not coated with rhodium). When he is in some power and solar power, he wanted something in design that fits those issues. At first, she wanted an old-fashioned watch but she really liked the Marie-Elise story, so I redesigned the case with sharp lines to make it look more practical and modern and make it smaller (clocks completed 39mm and 9mm).
Everything else was up to me. I was able to come up with a design based on what they offered and we could proceed from there, choosing a single design and customizing it according to their needs. I always like to skip hours and minutes backwards, which is why I put it as an idea. I often find that the combination of these problems was not effective, so I made both problems as a combination, with the hours going by and the minute hand ‘going back’ to 0 in a second. This way, there can be no disruption or confusion (whether the hours have already jumped or will jump in 10 seconds, and 14:59 or 15:59, and so on). The buyer liked the idea, so it was a definite departure.
Then came the construction of the movement. Can you tell us how it happened?
When traveling, I thought a large but thin tourbillon would be ideal, and the customer agreed. I made a silver dial with guilloché ornaments, diamond indexes, backlinks and jumping hours and a great tourbillon. Then I made and calculated the electric train (with 20% more power to travel to tourbillon than to fly more often). I was able to enter two barrels with a capacity of 75 hours (with a sloping connector to not use the last part of the spring).
I incorporated an old sun sign and the compass lifted off the bridge below the tourbillon to connect the customer’s interest in a solar / electric light and found a good spot on the black polished disk of the crown to mark its initial letters. Côtes de Genève stands out from the solar panel as a starting point.
But I still had doubts about the great tourbillon barn. I suggested a flight of 28.800vph to survive (as well as a problem), but it was the fastest flight of tourbillon, not to mention such a big one. The escape wheel has to be very fast, but with a large tourbillon cage running the escape wheel, it can not be as fast as a Swiss lever escape. Also, dressing was a priority for me and that the big cage would stop whenever the escape wheel was closed-stopped by the mat, which caused the escape. I would probably go 21.600vph, but some of the problems would still be there. So I had to get the idea to fix this.
You certainly like to criticize yourself. So what answer did you get?
I found the answer in the escape wheel. I installed an extra spring on the escape wheel so that it collects its power from the tourbillon cage operated by the electric train. Spring contests are preparing for the reunion. But when the pallet opens the escape wheel, the spring on the escape wheel immediately steals the escape wheel. The tension of the spring is less than that of the electric train, so the parent starts to turn and re-springs a little until the quarrel between the train and the escape spring is similar.
Then the next plate hits the escape wheel, stopping the cage where a small spring will take the power of an emergency stop. I used these goodies to make a good escape wheel that is probably heavier than you might be, but it has its springs, so no problem there. Rotates on copper-containing beryllium to make it smooth. That’s why at the end we have a fast tourbillon with a stunning discount, minimal wear and a lot of running and power!
What else are you planning on? Any more information you can share with us on this?
At my next job, I was probably very happy. My clients want a large timepiece with a second timer on the back of an open clock, measuring 39mm in width and 12.5mm in width. I thought, why not make it a 38-time problem? I thought I had found a solution that was simple, solid and workable with a push button and a control button if something went wrong.
After a while, I found that it was not a very good drawing so I started to fix the problem. It was more difficult than a minute of repetition. I knew I was going wrong here, so I started again from the beginning with my findings and found the answer, using a few sections and using a crown. You can now go back-and-forth through time zones and the controller is no longer needed, and in doing so, I have been able to reduce the number of sessions. You might think it took just a few swims to achieve this.
So what good work is being done in the shower?
For me, sometimes, yes. Finding ‘easy’ answers to difficult things, from the simple to the most difficult and coming back with my way of looking at the problem in a different way. In this way I also found a solid solution for the big machines of the everlasting calendar, using only three parts and 2 springs (less is more!). Except for some sleep, but not enough hours a day. Although the connection between working 80 hours a week and having a good family, friends and social life is sometimes difficult, there is nothing I would like to do in the world, passion motivates me to keep going. In the meantime, I am making plans for the project and discussing more with the client. It’s hard to describe how fun it is to work on such a project with so many enthusiastic people who want to join in on such a journey. For me, that’s when passion meets passion.
So how do you develop your skills in making watches? Is it simply a matter of practice, or do you teach yourself in a certain way?
It’s a mix of things, but mostly a lot of sharing. During the Aurochronos exhibition in Poland, 2 years ago, I met Philippe Narbel from Manufactor (a final and decorating company). He invited me to come for a week to train him to complete his course as I told him I wanted to be good at the job. I went to Switzerland this year with a friend to learn how to finish his home for a few days and spend three days at the Julien Tixier conference to learn more about materials, finishing, manufacturing, and so on.
Julien and Einstein a watchmaker and my ideas are still amazing when I go there. Luckily I picked up a lot of notes. It was very humiliating to see these guys at work, to see their workshops and tools and to learn from real masters who want to teach us everything they know. He also showed me that sharing information (something I already love to do) is very important and I gained more knowledge on how to do it.
I hope I find a way to repay these guys more than just special relationships. Perhaps helping others by disseminating information is the first step. I know that I could not have come this far without the help of a Dutch person whom I can now call friends, and now even abroad.
What makes you different from other watchmakers?
My motto has been: a few parts are good. Swiss may be proud of how many parts are in their watches, I like to find answers using a few parts that can be broken or worn. Making things easier is often difficult, but I always look for better answers and new ways. It keeps me awake at night, it keeps me busy when I take a shower or drive my car, every minute of the day, it doesn’t stop.
Maybe it’s easy for me to get different answers or think out of the box because I don’t know about Swiss horological companies, I’m not Swiss! The Swiss could be a major player in this process, but they were not the first Europeans to start making watches. As Philippe Narbel put it: the making of watches is a European heritage, not a Swiss one. And it seems that the development of autonomous watches is growing, especially outside of Switzerland.
That’s what we’ve seen again, the spread outside Switzerland.
I think it might be time for me to think of Making a Vision as a European heritage, rather than just living in Switzerland. We must begin to spread our knowledge and help each other to keep our legacy alive, not keep the secret of Swiss companies. In this way we can all enjoy the beautiful watches from all over the world and make new friends.
For more information, please visit HulsmanTimepieces.com
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