Assembling a mechanical movement and watch can seem like an intimidating task if you’re not a trained professional. However, it can be an enjoyable learning experience with the right tools and guidance. This is what I experienced assembling my personalized Petite Seconde by Simier at the Watch Academy in Biel.
Simier’s origins can be traced back to 1924 when Joseph Lapanous founded his watch company in Holstein near Basel. Simier made a name for himself by selling significant quantities of good-quality and low-cost timepieces known as Roscoff watches. Labor watches. Today, the brand is headquartered in Biel, and since 2010, it has run the Watch Academy by Simier.
The Watch Academy runs watchmaking courses that include theory and practice, during which you can sit at the bench and step into the watchmaker’s shoes for a day, applying your patience and skills to various watchmaking operations, especially the movement and their assembly. Different parts of a watch.
You can even assemble your own personalized clock. Three different base models are available: the Royal Skeleton, the Petite Seconde (the model I chose) and the Big Matique (which is powered by a unique automatic version of the tried and tested Unitas 6497 calibre). Once you have chosen your model, you have a wide variety of models to choose from to personalize it: case material, dial, hands, strap… all of which can easily be placed on a practical stand so you can try different combinations and get an idea of how your watch will look. Another personal touch, you can also decide to have your case re-engraved when booking your session.
After choosing the parts, it’s time to don the watchmaker’s gown and head to the workshop. There, the watchmaker imparts basic watchmaking knowledge, which prepares you for the hands-on part. The process begins with the assembly of the movement, which is carried out step by step under the watchmaker’s guidance. There are some delicate operations, especially the assembly of the escapement wheel and balance wheel, but overall, it’s perfectly doable even for beginners. No prior skills or abilities are required. The watchmaker will eventually help you with the more difficult steps and to control and check your movement after completion. In addition, the movements of the three models proposed by CIMIER are all based on the Unitas 6497 caliber, whose large dimensions make things easier.
Back to the workbench after a friendly lunch with the Watch Academy team, the hands are mounted on the dial movement – probably the trickiest step is placing the small second hand on its pinion – after the casing of the movement, the final operations are attached to the leather strap and buckle.
At the end of the day, participants will be awarded a certificate along with a gift box and documentation of the watch.
Overall, the experience is both fun and educational. Spending a few hours at the bench usually definitely helps if you want to get a better understanding of how a mechanical watch works and watchmaking. Nothing compares to learning by doing. Most importantly, walking away with a watch that you assembled with your own hands is very rewarding!
The Watch Academy is located in Bienne, Switzerland. Watchmaking sessions are by appointment. Price starts from CHF 350 For and from watchmaking initiation courses CHF 1,400 To assemble your own clock. Some workshops are sometimes held in other cities or countries, especially for groups or companies.
For more information, please visit www.watch-academy.com.