Paul Gerber

Without doubt one of the world's greatest living watchmakers, Paul Gerber has over the years built up a reputation for immense mechanical ingenuity, and is now revered in horological circles. Born in Bern, Gerber was trained by his father, himself a watchmaker, but opened up his own business in the early 1990s in Zürich. From this atelier, he now makes and sells his own signature line of watches

Paul Gerber 1 1

His illustrious career spans 3 decades. He first garnered attention by creating the world's smallest clock with a wooden movement, which was entered in the Guinness Book of Records in 1989. This remarkable sense of intricate miniaturization and technical prowess has helped him to continually develop movements and complications for other manufacturers.

Paul Gerber 1 2

The Retro Twin

Paul Gerber 1 3

MIH Watch of 2005

His other accolades include combining a mechanical alarm with an automatic chronograph movement without altering its height for Fortis, as well as a wristwatch with a retrograde seconds and two synchronous moving rotors (the ‘Retro Twin’) – all world firsts.

His most recent collaborative effort was in the construction of the Musée International d'Horlogerie (MIH) watch of 2005, whose annual calendar movement is comprised of, amazingly, just 9 parts. Gerber is particularly fond of this watch, and wears it frequently, and considering the watch’s robustness and the brilliant simplicity of its engineering, it’s not hard to see why.

Making The World’s Most Complicated Wristwatch

Gerber’s finest hour was undoubtedly when he was asked by a private collector in the early 1990s to co-create what was at one time the world's most complicated wristwatch. Starting from a privately-commissioned one-off timepiece co-developed by a then-unknown Franck Muller and based on a legendary Louis-Elysee Piguet movement of 1892, the watch proved to be a spectacular showcase of Gerber’s watchmaking ingenuity.

Paul Gerber 1 4

The Piguet-Muller-Gerber Uber-Complication Watch Face

Paul Gerber 1 5

The Piguet-Muller-Gerber Uber-Complication Movement

Overcoming mind-boggling mechanical challenges, Paul Gerber managed to add a flying tourbillon (the world’s smallest), a split-seconds flyback chronograph and two power-reserve indicators for both the main movement as well as the chiming mechanisms. What was remarkable was that these additions were made to what was already then the world’s most complicated watch, he did this without increasing the diameter of the movement, and he had absolutely no room for error, given the rarity of the base movement. Gerber as mechanical genius? You bet.

Gerber's philosophy isn't easy to quantify, but you get the feeling from his meticulous work that he is a man of focus. He says his watches have no unifying theme, which is believable judged on aesthetic value alone, but look closer at his creations and you notice in all of them impressive mechanical innovations, such as in his Retro-Twin watch, or in his miniature interpretation of the “flying” tourbillon movement.


A shining example of the man's ideology is his Model 33 watch. The case is of a tonneau shape, and the movement is designed to fit the case exactly, a rarity in this present day prevalence of spacer rings. Form closely follows function in line with Gerber’s watchmaking philosophy. Indeed, he revealed to us that after designing the movement, he was disturbed by an empty space in the top left corner of the movement, and promptly decided to build a three-dimensional moon phase indicator in that space!

Accurate to within one day every 128 years, the moon phase indicator, half of which is made of stunning lapis lazuli and half crusted in diamonds,  is special for its sheer imagination and elegant execution. Because it rotates in conjunction with the celestial body it is based on, it is a sight to behold. Best of all, it can be adjusted at any time without damaging the mechanism.

[image, caption below]

Paul Gerber Calibre 33

[video, caption below]

The Moonphase

The watch boasts other innovations. Discovering that traditional escapements were subject to compressing forces due to the nature of their construction, Gerber designed his own three arm pallet fork, which eliminates such forces due to the division of labor between the impulse and stop of the pallet wheel.

Paul Gerber 2 2

The fully in-house Gerber caliber 33. Note the extremely large balance wheel, reminiscent of old watches, and how the movement fills up the entire watch.

Paul Gerber 2 3

The unique 3 armed Gerber escapement.

With its new escapement, innovative moon phase display, and sheer attention to detail, the Model 33 is just the latest in a long line of significant Gerber creations.

Indeed, it seems that his genius can only be matched by his equally legendary humility. A modest man, he has been described as someone who would create the most incredible mechanisms and yet be the last to boast about it.

There is absolutely no doubt that the world will continue to be astonished by Gerber’s ground breaking innovations in time to come.


Copyright © is part of the SPH Magazines Luxury Network