His creations look like they could have been crafted by the finest Swiss precision watchmakers, yet Valeriy Danevich has no experience in clock making. Three years of trial and error have paid off for Danevich however, and in 2008 he completed his first functional wooden pocket watch. Since then he first won fame in the world of horology, before his work went viral courtesy of the internet, featured on numerous websites worldwide. His timepieces are works of art and they command prices accordingly. A men’s wristwatch he created with a tourbillon movement (which improves accuracy) and full retrograde indication (the additional “face” seen on high-end watches) has a $128,000 (1.5 million hryvnia) price tag. Not that it’s easy money, it was the result of 1,800 work hours over seven months.
You come from a long line of cabinetmakers, but what prompted you to branch out into clock making?
I was taught to work with wood by my father, and he, in turn, learned from his. I like wood for its clarity and suppleness, as well as its diversity of ornaments and qualities. When I first started, I looked for the broadest way to utilise its qualities, and I settled on clocks as it involves the most complex mechanism and artistry of design. In 2005, I was restoring the body of an antique clock when the idea sprang to create the whole mechanism from wood. And so I started with fully functional floor and grandfather clocks. Then I tried to make pocket watches but those were very experimental and I was still learning the basics. It was only in 2008 I managed to make a pocket watch I consider to be my first success. Today I have 16 samples, 15 of which are made of wood and one of which is carved out of mammoth tusk.
It must be intricate work, what’s the most difficult aspect?
I didn’t expect I would have so many troubles doing this, honestly. It requires knowledge of the materials, their specifications and ways to treat them. Some woods are simply not appropriate. I spent a lot of time searching for the proper combinations of wood types to cope with the friction of the mechanism and the respective endurance of those types.
So you approached the idea from a carpenter’s point of view, but you were forced to start looking at the engineering side?
True, I focused on design first and wasn’t thinking of the technicalities. But now I understand clock mechanisms; their function fills my mind! I’ve started working on more complex mechanisms, on increasing accuracy and step-by-step I have come to accept myself as a watchmaker.
You’ve crossed the line from hobby to business, how did that come about? How much does your work cost?
When I started I didn’t even think it could bring in money. Later, when I met my business partner from Germany, the opportunity arose to make some cash, which turned my hobby into a profession. Still, my main motivation is the art aspect. Speaking about cost, the sample I took to the Baselworld Exhibition in Switzerland in 2012, my last watch, was valued at $128,000. I was also inducted into the Swiss Horological Academy of Independent Creators on the basis of that work. It’s the pride of my private collection.
So, they definitely fall into the luxury goods category. Who are your clients?
Today my clients are collectors from across Europe and the US ordering watches as well as commissioning me for restoration work. Though my watches and clocks are unique, they are more than ornamental and can be used in everyday life.
Do your wear your own watches?
I don’t wear watches at all. I have one watch I made for myself, but I use it rarely, mostly just to test it, because after Baselworld it too was labelled a collector’s item. I still have hopes someday of making a watch for myself.
What type of timepiece do you dream of making?
Well, I dream of making an astronomical clock (a clock which displays information, such as the relative positions of the sun, moon, planets and zodiacal constellations), from wood. I’ve been working on this project for the whole year so far. Hopefully it will be finished soon.
by Vadym Mishkoriz