Coveted by in-the-know enthusiasts, who rave about its uncompromising yet ingenious technology and design, Ochs und Junior is a tiny watchmaking operation based behind an anonymous storefront in the central Swiss city of Lucerne. It draws on the genius of inventor/micro-engineer/designer/watchmaker and all-round renaissance man Dr Ludwig Oechslin who, after quitting his position at Ulysse Nardin – where he’d worked on a slew of award-winning timepieces – joined up with partner Beat Weinmann in 2006 to produce watches of elegant yet startling simplicity. They are also unbelievably cool.
Unlike the high-end watch brands that boast about the vast number of minuscule components that go into their complications, Ochs has taken a diametrically opposite route. For the exquisite complications – perpetual calendar, annual calendar, moon-phase, date and two time-zones – that feature on its watches are designed and built using as few parts as possible. The Ochs perpetual-calendar mechanism, for example, is a masterpiece of reduction: a unique and beautifully engineered gear system, it employs just 12 additional parts over the base movement (Weinmann tells me a comparable Patek Philippe complication would require more than 180).
Although Ulysse Nardin holds a minority share in the company – a Ulysse UN118 calibre is used to power Ochs’ perpetual-calendar pieces; other models utilise an ETA movement – the aim has never been to expand merely for the sake of doing so, or to make more noise than is created by word-of-mouth. The company’s sole watchmaker, Sandra Flück, makes just 15 perpetual calendars each year, and every piece is sold via the Ochs und Junior website. The advantage of that business model, says Weinmann, is that he knows – and is in direct contact with – every single customer.
Just as the complications are simple, so is the appearance of an Ochs watch, which is stripped-down minimal and devoid of logo or any other obvious branding. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t personalise your highly exclusive timepiece – indeed, to prove the contrary Weinmann hands me one remarkable watch whose dial is completely, though deliberately, rusted.
It was created as a special commission for a customer and the Ochs people readily admit that they’re unsure as to what, exactly, will happen to the oxidisation with time. But, says Weinmann with a smile, that’s no great cause for concern. The watch is covered – as is every Ochs und Junior piece – by a lifetime warranty, so they’ll doubtless work out what to do if, or when, whatever it is takes place.