The Omega boutique inside the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver looks a little bit different today. Sure, the pristine displays of the iconic Swiss brand’s watches are still all there, as are the sales attendants in sharp suits. But the wooden worker’s desk lined up against one wall is new. And what’s on it is arguably as exciting as the luxury pieces in glass cases.
Today, Swatch Group Canada Inc. head watchmaker Victor Garcia takes a select few people through a hands-on watchmaking workshop. Displayed on the desk are the tiny guts that make up the body of Omega’s manual mechanical watches; there are screws, barrels, and wheels, and when put together properly, they make a timepiece magically tick.
“This is the watch for when the watchmakers go for training in Switzerland and have their first hands-on work,” says Garcia. “It carries a lot of emotional value to every watchmaker that ever goes to Switzerland.” Swatch Group staff go through at least five years of training, but today, a mini lesson under the guidance of Garcia is enough to give even novices a taste of the incredible patience, craftsmanship, and steady hand that is required to be a watchmaker of the highest caliber.
Armed with a lab coat, rubber finger covers, and a set of tweezers and miniature screw drivers, participants get to work first disassembling, and then reassembling, the watch’s parts. “One thing I love about mechanical watches is everything is logical and everything makes sense,” says Garcia. Indeed, like the children’s song teaching young minds about the bones of the body, every part here connects to something else. When placed perfectly—which is no easy feat, considering it sometimes means putting a minuscule pin inside an even more minuscule hole—the nuts and bolts come together in satisfactory harmony. Hunching over the desk, using tweezers to place a spring just so, it is hard not to feel anything but respect for the labourers who do this meticulous work all day long.
Like with a puzzle, it feels good to finish putting the watch back together—but of course, getting there was half the fun.
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