Perseverance in your own beliefs can get you places. And in watchmaking, this goes without saying. You need to have a strong conviction of your own abilities, and a certain degree of eagerness, to make it as a watchmaker. No one will hand it to you on a silver platter, as you have to invest blood, sweat and tears. One story that emphasizes this perfectly, is the path that German independent watchmaker Felipe Pikullik had to follow.
To quote him in his own words, Felipe searched for a watch that suited his vision, until he decided to build one himself. A bold move for sure, and one he has since backed up with a range of interesting watches displaying that very vision and the development of his watchmaking skills. We’ve talked to Felipe himself to see what his watches are all about, and to put a spotlight on this youngster.
Felipe Pikullik is another one of those individuals that didn’t follow the easiest of paths into watchmaking. He has had a passion for watches throughout his entire life. The interest came from seeing watches in shop windows and going through magazines at a young age. This motivated him to pursue a career in watchmaking, but initially, it didn’t seem to go down as planned. Aiming for education in Glashütte, he wasn’t let in.
Not deterred by this setback he kept pushing until eventually, the doors opened. After the first year of education, he created his first skeletonized watch, a trait he would later fully embrace when embarking on his own. What followed was an apprenticeship with Stephan Kudoke, a master in skeletonization, and with Rolf Lang, where he learnt to develop and finish watches.
The next step in his route to becoming a self-employed watchmaker was actually kick-started by a friend. That friend challenged him to create a watch with a special dial, featuring a hand-engraved lion’s head. A few years down the line, Felipe tries to do as much as he can by hand, by himself or with help from craftsmen from other fields. Starting producing watches under his own name in 2017, he combines traditional watchmaking with playful creativity and unique characteristics. Felipe states he is making watches from passion and tries to connect with like-minded artists to create unique dials, movements and more.
Felipe’s first two collections were limited to very small quantities and have since been sold out. The third model coming from his atelier is the Sternenhimmel, or Starry Sky in English. It comes as no surprise that this astrologically themed watch features an artistic interpretation of stars across a night sky. It comes in two base models, although a lot of the produced pieces featured special bespoke elements. In principle, you have the choice of a no-diamond or diamond-studded version.
The case for the Sternenhimmel measures a reasonable 41mm in diameter and 10.5mm in height. The lug to lug dimension is rather substantial at 50mm, so expect a watch that wears rather large on the wrist. The basic shape of the case is enhanced with sculpted lugs, and with a ceramic “FP” logo inlaid into the crown. A sapphire crystal covers both front and back and reveals where Felipe’s true passion lies.
The Sternernhimmel’s dial is made of brass and can be lacquered in a whole range of colours. This is done by hand, including the stars, and as a result, it’s very unlikely two will ever end up looking the same. Felipe gives the option of diamond hour markers, as well as other bespoke choices such as a personalized print, stone dials, a handmade minute scale, and more.
The choice of movement also provides a big canvas to play with, and that is exactly what Felipe does. Using the large pocket-watch based ETA 6497/6498 hand-wound movement, he meticulously cuts away at the bridges and skeletonizes them to free up the running gear. The movement is also finished by hand and looks rather impressive, especially given the price point. The base movement has swooping curves on all the bridges, but you can also choose a skeletonised three-quarter plate or full engraving.
What astounds the most perhaps is the detail he is able to put into the movements. There’s a range of techniques involved, with hand-applied anglage, polishing, engraving, frosting etc. And considering the price for a non-diamond Sternenhimmel starts at EUR 2,800, it’s quite an appealing proposition. With the given options that price can be bumped up quite significantly though, just so you know.
With the ZBM1 collection, Felipe Pikullik shows even more creative expression. ZBM1 stands for Ziffetblatt Model 1, or dial model 1, which is pretty self-explanatory. It is limited to 25 pieces and shares the same case and base movement as the Sternenhimmel. The dial for the ZBM1 is set with precious stones at each hour and has a fully hand-engraved centre. Felipe recently made a bespoke piece for SwissWatchGang with a custom running indicator (or small seconds indicator if you will). This is optional for the ZBM1 as it was initially presented without the small seconds subdial.
Movement-wise we once again see the ETA 6497/6498, but skeletonized even further. The base ZBM1 movement has a more contemporary, sharply cut set of bridges, with polished bevels and brushed top surfaces. Even though this movement design is primarily used in the ZBM1, it can also be put in the Sternenhimmel or a fully bespoke made watch. The ZBM1 has a base price of EUR 4,400, with a premium for any additional upgrades.
attainable Bespoke watchmaking
What stands out clear as day is the intriguing proposition of bespoke watchmaking, at a very reasonable price point. Take the Sternenhimmel for instance, a relatively simple watch but with plenty of space to play around with. You can pretty much configure the watch entirely as you want it, starting at a very reasonable price. Of course, the cost of any of the watches goes up depending on the level of detail, the inclusion of precious stones, etc. But still, having a mostly handmade and -finished watch to your specific preferences at such a price is pretty hard to pass up. Although the ZBM1 is priced a fair bit higher, the level of detail is already a big step up, especially considering the almost fully engraved dial.
Next to these “standard” collections, there’s also the option of commissioning a fully bespoke made piece. This will give you pretty much full creative freedom to work with Felipe on a unique watch, with a movement of your choice. Again, even though it is still a sizeable chunk of money to part with for just about everyone, this can be done for as little as EUR 3,500. As with the Sternenhimmel and the ZBM1, it all comes down to choices, choices, choices.
Talking to Felipe Pikullik about his watchmaking endeavours also made one thing very clear. Fueled by his conviction for presenting luxury watches at relatively attainable prices, he is already working on future projects. With a soft spot for astrological complications and designs, he is currently developing a movement with a 3D spherical moon phase indication, which he hinted at on his Instagram account. This will likely take quite a bit of time to be completed, but it shows the unbridled passion he has for the craft. He’s not in it for the quick win, he is in it for the passion, learning and honing his skill and pushing himself further. For sure, he is a future star to keep an eye on, which we will.