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Peter Roberts – 40 Years of Watchmaking

Peter at SalonQP 2012 earlier this month

Peter Roberts had originally lined up a job at Philips in Holland and would probably have never even considered a career in watchmaking if he had not seen an advert for the “first watch worn on the moon”, the Omega Speedmaster in late 1969. Practicing initially on military watches that he bought on Tottenham Court Road (he would repair them and sell them on to fund the next purchase) Peter became the first English student to be accepted at the WOSTEP school of watchmaking in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

It was here that Peter had an idea to create a watch that he had only previously seen in the pages of a book – a watch with five hands. Adding jewels to the movement, a mineral glass back to display his finissage of the base Valjoux 726 and cannibalising the screw-down pushers from a Rolex chronograph and the bezel from a GMT, the nineteen year-old produced a certified chronometer as his graduation watch, that had five hands indicating hours, minutes, seconds, the date and a second timezone. It”s a complication that has rarely – if ever – been seen since.

Peter”s WOSTEP watch
It has taken Peter (with the help of his wife Marie-Louise) almost forty years to find a source of movements that will allow them to produce a new version of this watch. The Peter Roberts Concentrique watch – Grand Complication 5 (after the five hands) will be built in extremely limited numbers from a source of NOS Valjoux 88 movements. Each of these will be completely reworked by Peter into a unique calibre – the Concentrique – and enclosed within 40 stainless steel and four rose cold cases. Of course, the numbers represent the number of years – and decades – since the original watch was made. The watch was announced on November 9th 2012, at the SalonQP 2012 event at the Saatchi Gallery.
The Complication 5
(C) Peter Roberts Watches 2012

The announcement was, for me at least, the highlight of SalonQP. I have been admiring Peter’s WOSTEP watch since I first saw it a few years ago, although there were many others in the room, including fabled watch journalist Ken Kessler, who have been waiting a lot longer. Peter had been regaling us with stories and anecdotes from his forty years of watchmaking, such as trying to fit a bracelet to James Coburn”s newly-bought IWC (while working for Garrard), or working in the ultra-secret, weird and rare world of Atelier Deux  – apparently the workshop where Rolex take all the watches on which they don’t want to work / won’t admit that they will work. The watch itself is wonderfully unique – not only for its set of five centrally-mounted hands, but also the moonphase, which adds yet another complication to the piece. Peter Roberts Watches can be contacted here, and a Press Pack can be downloaded from their site; the watch is likely to be in the region of £15,000 plus VAT.

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Published inbritish watchmaking

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