Ochs und Junior Strips Down Swiss Watchmaking

Bespoke simplicity

The screw is the size of a baby gnat, and it’s all I can do to just to snare it with the tweezers. I pull the magnifying glass over my left eye and focus in on the hole where it needs to go. My hands start shaking. I clumsily drop the screw and it skitters away. This watchmaking stuff is hard.

Ochs und Junior watchmaker Sandra Flück is patient with me, but when company co-founder and CEO Beat Weinmann asks how I’m doing, the best she can muster is “he has patience.” I’ll be keeping my day job. If I was looking to switch careers though, working for Ochs und Junior seems like a pretty a cool gig. It couldn’t be further from my expectations of what high-end watchmaking is like, and that’s just the way they want it.

As Ochs und Junior mirrors Rolls-Royce’s affinity for custom luxury creations, I took a break from being chauffeured in a Phantom to visit its largely non-descript storefront next to a laundromat in Lucerne, where Weinmann is tending to a hip, older local couple wearing funky colored glasses, dog at their side. They’re seated at a modern, Ikea-look long wood table, watches and watch gears splayed out in front of them.

Outgoing, handsome, and slightly intense, Weinmann warmly greets us, fixes us up with an espresso and asks us how the Phantom is. He quickly launches into what makes his company unique, why it’s the anti-Swiss Swiss watchmaker (as if the shop wasn’t enough to tip us off). He explains that the couple is looking for something different, a watch they can have a hand in creating.

Along with co-founder and noted technical watchmaking innovator Ludwig Oechslin, Weinmann set out to create a new kind of luxury watch company when he started Ochs und Junior in 2006. Everything they do is stripped down, starting with a decided lack of advertising, marketing, and shiny retail spaces, which Weinmann says most other major watchmakers spend far too much time, money, and effort on. “Here it is just product,” he says.

And then there are the watches, which have become famous for their elegant simplicity, while offering customers numerous options to customize dials, hands, and other details. “It takes 182 parts for Patek Philippe to do a calendar. We do it in 12,” Weinmann says with great satisfaction about the unique gear system Ochs und Junior has developed. I was clumsily working on a calendar movement, and indeed it is stunning in its lack of parts. It takes Flück as little as 23 minutes to put one together. The outfit creates about 130 watches a year, with prices from roughly $5,000 to $21,000.

Looking at the Ochs und Junior watches, they probably aren’t the timepieces you would normally expect a Rolls-Royce customer to wear, and we ask Weinmann what his company has in common with the super luxury brand. “I think it’s the bespoke aspect of it,” he says. That’s a word Rolls officials and its buyers know very well.