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Experiences

Love of his life

Hansjörg Kittlas about the love of his life - the minute repeater

Text — Medard Meier Photos — David Willen Date — 24 August, 2011

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—Hansjörg Kittlas - Head of the department for special watches, calls the minute repeater "the love of my life"

It is an open secret that following the fall of the Berlin Wall IWC Schaffhausen played a significant role in reviving a passion for watchmaking in Saxony. And the success of A. Lange & Söhne is living proof. As indeed is Hansjörg Kittlas, 36, a first-class watchmaker who is in charge today of the incredibly intricate and highly complex Portuguese Minute Repeater and other special timepieces from IWC.

It all happened like this. After leaving school in Glashütte, the traditional centre of watchmaking in Germany, he was drawn to the idea of mechanical timepieces and decided to do an apprenticeship.

He completed his training with flying colours and on the day of the final exam ination was discovered by Hartmut Knothe, back then the CEO of A. Lange & Söhne. “The initial idea was that I should start with him but then go to Schaffhausen for a year,” recalls Kittlas. “At the time it felt like it was out of my league. Expensive watches like those weren’t really my thing.”

So he first moved to Dresden, where he found work in a watch retail outlet with its own workshop. But Knothe refused to let go. A year later Kittlas agreed to go back. “I’d needed that period to mature.” Straightaway, the young man was sent 600 kilo metres to Schaffhausen.

And that is where he has stayed. Initially, he had a bad conscience, as he recalls. But the economic uncertainty in his home country and then, of course, the fact that he was joined by the woman who was to become his wife – likewise a watchmaker from Glashütte – made it easier for him to put down new roots in Switzerland.

—The highly complex minute repeating mechanism in the Grande Complication and Portuguese Minute Repeater chimes out the current time in crystal-clear tones

Kittlas has long been a family man with two children and lives happily above the Rhine Falls. Appointed head of the department for special watches at IWC three years ago, he devotes all his time to the minute repeater. He calls it “the love of my life”. He assembles the mech anism from 350 minuscule parts: the finest axles are just 0.40 millimetres thick, 0.75 millimetres high and have a recess of exactly 0.28 millimetres. The job of making the adjustments, assembling the complications, ensuring that the dozens of tiny cogs and wheels at various levels engage correctly and that the two tiny hammers produce the beautiful deep tone for the hours and the mellifluous higher tone for the minutes is a demanding one. And it takes him all of three weeks. Once everything is functioning correctly, the movement is once again dismantled into its individual parts.

These are then repolished, cleaned and reassembled in a single day, lubricated and tested. It is a procedure about which the watchmaker says, laconically, “After the cleaning comes the cleaning.” Translated into practical terms for the lucky owners of a minute repeater it means they should send it in for servicing every five years.

Kittlas is the soul of equanimity, as one would expect all watchmakers to be. It is difficult to imagine, then, that in his spare time he plays the drums and shoots off his motorcycle to the hilly, winding roads to the north of Schaffhausen.
Or perhaps this contrast is precisely the all-important element in the work-life balance of an outstanding watchmaker.

Explore More Articles
BTQ_london
Meet The Team

The London boutique opened its doors in December 2014. Since then, every sales advisor has been evolving in the world of IWC, discovering insights into the brand as well as the different watch families.

IWC London Boutique
London Boutique on New Bond Street

Meet the London Boutique Team: Store manager, Watchmaker experience and information on London Special Edition timepiece.

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Heating up the Design District: IWC Opens in Miami’s Hottest Shopping District

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The new Portofinos are art, in the highest and best sense of the word. They will always be in style and they will always reflect time-tested fine taste.

GIVING A FUTURE TO THE GALAPAGOS

“September 17, 1835. As I was walking along I met two large tortoises, each of which must have weighed at least 200 pounds. One was eating a piece of cactus, and as I approached, it stared at me and slowly stalked away; the other gave a deep hiss, and drew in its head."

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