Besides topics like digitization and sustainability, there is one other aspect playing an ever-important role in today’s luxury goods industry: customization. A prime example of just how this works in the watchmaking industry can be found in Weifa in Eastern Germany, just under an hour’s drive east of Dresden.
“Indie watchmaking” is more popular than ever, as more and more luxury watch enthusiasts are looking for a watch off the mainstream path or simply for a little bit more extravagance on their wrist. Starting with a simple blued hand and ending with a bespoke hand-engraved dial, the sky is the limit.
Since luxury watch brands (belonging to Richemont, LVMH, …) are generally unable to meet these wishes, independent watch brands are enjoying an ever-increasing popularity. Freed from the often rigid requirements and demands of the watch industry or the parent company, independent watchmakers can devote themselves entirely to their own passion and incorporate even unusual customer wishes into their watches. The result is timepieces with character and a “watchmaker’s signature” that you would not find elsewhere.
Stefan Kudoke (who we already got to know last year, see here: KUDOKE watches from Saxony: Talking to GPHG winner Stefan Kudoke) is the founder and owner of his eponymous watch brand KUDOKE. To understand what watchmaking means to him, we decided to visit him in his workshop to experience it first-hand.
Although Stefan Kudoke, unlike many of his colleagues, does not come from a family with a long history in watchmaking, he has spent pretty much his entire professional career in the watchmaking industry. Kudoke finished his apprenticeship with honors and, at the young age of only 21, he began working for the renowned Glashütte Original watch manufactory in Glashütte. Only one year later he received his Master Craftsman Certificate.
After further stations abroad for Breguet, Blancpain and Omega, the decisive milestone and the fulfillment of a long-cherished dream finally came true: the creation of his own watchmaking brand. In 2004, Stefan and his wife Ev Kudoke set off for their very own horological journey.
Today, the lineup essentially consists of two collections: the HANDwerk and the KUNStwerk series. As the name suggests (at least for those who are mighty of the German language), the former focuses on Kudoke’s entire horological expertise. Inspired by historical English pocket watches, the in-house movement “Kaliber 1” is the pacemaker for ultra-classical watches that are meticulously crafted by hand.
The KUNSTwerk collection, on the other hand, focuses on elaborate engravings and painstakingly executed skeletonizations. In the “KudOktopus” model, for example, the tentacles of an octopus artfully wrap around the gear train and escapement.
With the model “KUDOKE 2” Stefan Kudoke won the coveted Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève award (GPHG) in the category “Petite Aiguille” in 2019 – as the first ever independent watchmaker from Germany. Watches in this category must have a retail price between CHF 4,000 and CHF 10,000.