6 minutes

Editor’s Story: From Mechanical Engineer to Watch Nerd

By Tim Breining

Not including guest authors, there are more than ten writers who regularly contribute to the Chrono24 magazine. You can find a brief introduction about each of us online, but it’s hard to distill a person into a few sentences – and it’s impossible to convey how each of us comes to discover our passion for watches in just a few lines. Thus, in this series of articles, our Chrono24 authors are recounting how they found their passion for luxury watches, what piques their interest, and, of course, the brands and models they like best.

I’m pleased to kick off this new series of articles with my own personal story.

2014: Planting the Seed

I’m often asked how I got interested in luxury watches, but I’m sorry to say my answer isn’t all that exciting. The oldest “evidence” I have in my possession is the 25th-anniversary edition of a German watch magazine dating back to 2014. Why did I choose to buy that magazine all those years ago? To be honest, I can’t even remember.

Nowadays, I typically describe how I became fascinated with complex mechanics when I began studying mechanical engineering in 2012. Prior to my university days, the world of high-end watches was a complete unknown to me. I imagine the same is true of most watch fans before they dive right in. Of course, we’re all aware of the enormously expensive brands that sponsor athletes and major events, but most people think of their products just as timekeepers, a function that comes “free” on every cell phone and in most public spaces.

Plus, I’d never really worn a watch before, not even the obligatory colorful Swatch as a child! But in 2014, at the age of 21, I’m guessing my interest in mechanics moved me to purchase a magazine about luxury timepieces. By 2015, I had become a regular reader of multiple industry magazines and a big fan of numerous well-known and obscure blogs and YouTube channels. I felt the time was right to take the step from pure theory into practice. That is, to visit a trade show.

2015: The Year of Fairs, Books, and Blogs

Since Baselworld (the demise of which was nowhere in sight at the time) was considered neither consumer nor wallet-friendly, I chose to attend Munichtime 2015, a nice, small trade show in southern Germany. A similar show in Dusseldorf has since replaced the event. Admission was free (perfect for my student budget), and attendees could interact with the brands in a low-key, relaxed manner. It was great to see famous watches in the flesh, pieces I had only ever had the chance to see in pictures or videos before. Even more fascinating for me, however, was speaking to the employees, or sometimes the owners, of different watch brands.

I have since had the chance to attend several similar trade shows and small industry events. I’ve even joined a specialist conference on the history of measuring time. I have very fond memories of my encounters with watchmakers and other enthusiasts at these events, including some industry greats, and these are a big part of what I love about this hobby.

Tim Breining Chrono24
The watch section of my bookcase

2016: Introduction to Watch Maintenance

Reading about watches, exchanging ideas about them with other fans, and wearing them is all well and good, but as a budding engineer, I felt like I should try my hand at assembling and repairing timepieces. An acquaintance passed on a few mechanical timepieces made in China, and some relatives donated alarm clocks, stopwatches, and a broken pilot’s watch. I picked up some watchmaking tools online (some poor quality, others decent) and set out to dismantle and reassemble the watch movements I had on hand.

I was equipped with theoretical fundamentals thanks to a few specialist publications. I soon learned, however, that when it comes to wristwatches, in particular, it takes a lot of practice and patience to handle the tools and various components skillfully. Needless to say, the first movements I worked on did not survive my amateur fiddling. That being said, things got slightly better with each attempt, and now I’ll even work on watches that I’d like to wear afterward. My first successful complete overhaul, including lubrication with appropriate oils, was a Glashütte Spezimatic. This automatic timepiece dates back to before German reunification and serves as inspiration for Glashütte Original’s current Sixties model. You can typically find them at reasonable prices today.

Glashütte Spezimatic
The Glashütte Spezimatic that survived my overhaul

I can highly recommend every watch enthusiast give some maintenance a go. Sure, we’ve all heard of ratchet gears and various striking mechanisms, but nothing beats the knowledge you gain by disassembling and reassembling these components. You can easily get your hands on a cheap tester watch; there’s no need to tamper with your beloved collection. To start with, try opening up an old alarm clock, wall clock, or inexpensive automatic watch with a Chinese or Japanese movement.

2018 to Present: My Arrival (and Departure) From Chrono24

In 2018, I had one year left to go before completing my master’s degree. I had a manageable number of lectures to attend and felt the need to work alongside my studies. I had already completed several internships in my field, so I thought, why not turn my hobby into a part-time job? While the southwest of Germany isn’t a hotbed for the watch industry, it is where Chrono24 is headquartered. I went out on a limb and applied.

A mechanical engineering student may not seem like the best fit for an e-commerce company, but I was hoping my knowledge and love of watches would get me in the door. And that it did – I got a job in the content marketing department, working on the Chrono24 Magazine.

I was given the opportunity to write some articles, most of which were focused on the technical aspects of watchmaking – my preferred subject to this day. I also had the chance to give some presentations on the basics of watch mechanics to colleagues who were less specialized in the field.

Tim Breining Chrono24
Presentation at Chrono24 HQ

My stint working at Chrono24 came to a close around the time I was finishing my degree. I didn’t feel ready to give up writing about my hobby, however, so I stayed on as a freelance author for the magazine. I’ve carried on doing this alongside my main gig as a project engineer, and my articles still regularly appear in the Chrono24 Magazine.

You’ve probably heard the adage to turn your passion into a career, but my advice to all watch fans is to turn your hobby into a part-time job!

My Watch Philosophy

I can’t end my personal watch story without saying a few words about my favorite brands and models. I always find this bit quite difficult because I like such a wide range of timepieces, from inexpensive models to those well beyond my reach. For instance, I like affordable Orient divers, vintage dress watches from both sides of the Berlin Wall, well-built models from NOMOS, and finely hand-finished works of art from Romain Gauthier. This list could go on and on. I don’t place much value on brand ambassadors, color trends, or the so-called perfect size.

I am much more interested in the technical specifications and unique selling points of timepieces, particularly when it comes to in-house movements. Regardless of reliability, I always appreciate when a manufacturer breaks away from the monotony of ébauche movements and grapples with the challenge of creating a new design. Of course, these can come with some growing pains that you don’t have to worry about with a 50-year-old design from a major movement supplier – oh well! After all, it’s not the timekeeping or stopwatch functions that fascinate me about watches. It’s the knowledge and expertise of the watchmakers and designers who continue to surprise us again and again with their innovations.

Grand Seiko SBGA 373
A Grand Seiko SBGA373

If I had to pick just one favorite brand, I’d have to go with Grand Seiko. The combination of top-quality standards, massive vertical integration, and down-to-earth attitude of the brand wins for me. That, plus the pricing, makes Grand Seiko a package no watch enthusiast can refuse. No matter how hard I try, I always struggle to pick one single model that tops all others, but as a tech nerd, it would have to be a watch with a Spring Drive movement.

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About the Author

Tim Breining

My interest in watches first emerged in 2014 while I was studying engineering in Karlsruhe, Germany. My initial curiosity quickly evolved into a full-blown passion. Since …

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