January 17, 202411 min Read

Felipe Pikullik – The Watchmaker Who Challenges Tradition

By Niclas Berglund

Glashütte, August 2013.

The afternoon sun illuminates parts of the classroom, causing the teacher to squint as he looks over the room. With a practiced motion, he claps his hands together, signaling that the lesson is over. The students, dressed in their white coats, begin to pack up their personal belongings.

The atmosphere is cheerful. Happy shouts and laughter mix with the clatter of tools being put away and arranged. It’s Friday evening, and the young watchmaking students are about to head to the local pub.

As the last students leave the classroom, a silence falls, with only the hum of the room’s ventilation fan audible. The teacher lets out a sigh of relief before turning around and noticing that one of his students is still sitting there, engrossed in working on a timepiece. He asks the student if he doesn’t want to join his friends. But Felipe Pikullik doesn’t hear his teacher; he is deeply absorbed in the task of constructing his first perpetual calendar. His skilled hands move deftly as he uses tweezers to place small gears into the movement.

Some of his classmates pass by the classroom on their way out into the mild late summer evening. They see Felipe still sitting there, look at each other, and shake their heads.

Berlin, December 2023, 08:00 AM.

I ring the doorbell at Felipe Pikullik’s studio, but there’s no answer. Standing in the chilly morning air, I start to wonder if I’ve misunderstood the time of our meeting. After waiting for another ten minutes, I ring the doorbell again. Suddenly, the lock buzzes and the door opens.

Inside the studio, the activity is in full swing. Several watchmakers are engrossed in their work, surrounded by timepiece movements and tools gleaming under the bright work lights. Felipe greets me with a smile and leads me into his workroom. We sit down, surrounded by watch parts and sketches that testify to his skill and creativity.

Felipe Pikullik at his workbench in his studio in Berlin – where tradition meets innovation.

The atmosphere is relaxed, and I can’t help but notice the little crib behind Felipe’s workbench. He follows my gaze and asks with a smile if I have children. When I tell him about my two energetic little ones, aged three and five, he nods understandingly.

– I have a little girl, sometimes she sleeps here behind me while I work. I always start my day at 4:00 AM. It’s the only way for me to get everything done and still spend time with my family in the evening.

He pauses as if searching for the right words, before continuing.

– The best ideas come to me at night. That’s when everything is calm, and I feel most creative.

I ponder his working hours and curiously ask when he sleeps if inspiration often strikes at night. He laughs and replies that some nights he only gets a few hours of sleep.

I wonder if parenthood has brought significant changes to his life.

– Actually, nothing has really changed. I had this work routine even before our daughter came to us. I highly value family time, so I adapt my work to fit around it, says Felipe Pikullik.

“Sternenhimmel” – A Tribute to the Starry Sky. This watch combines traditional watchmaking with a fascination for astronomy and physics.

Watchmaking With A Fascination For Astronomy

I first discovered the German watchmaker Felipe Pikullik through Marko Koncina’s YouTube channel, Swiss Watch Gang. Since then, I have followed the watchmaker’s work with great interest. There was something almost magical about the first watch I saw from him – Sternenhimmel (starry sky), a dial that explodes in shades and shimmer, like a dreamlike interpretation of a night sky.

– Sternenhimmel is an important model for me, a cornerstone of our range, says Felipe with a mix of pride and thoughtfulness.

He continues:

– The model is a result of my fascination with astronomy. It was Sternenhimmel that really put me on the map. Within just three days of its launch, I sold more of that watch than I had sold of everything else in the previous seven years. It was a frightening feeling.

Sternenhimmel, a masterpiece of traditional techniques such as frosting and hand engraving, presented on a dial of natural blue goldstone resembling a starry sky.

I am surprised by his candor and ask him to elaborate on that feeling. With a thoughtful look, he stands up and walks over to the coffee machine. Pressing a button, the machine begins to grind coffee beans with a crunching sound. Soon, the room fills with the aroma of freshly ground beans. He returns with two steaming cups and continues the conversation.

– I had a feeling that Sternenhimmel was the beginning of something bigger. That watch elevated my brand to a whole new level. Suddenly, I had eyes on me, with customers eagerly awaiting my work. It’s an amazing experience, but at the same time, it brought a kind of performance anxiety. As a perfectionist, I strive for every watch to be flawless, perfection in every detail, says Felipe Pikullik.

Felipe Pikullik, a watchmaker who is breaking new ground with his company in Berlin. His focus on details and quality is reflected in every watch he creates.

The wooden tool is carefully sharpened to effectively polish the edges.

The wooden tool is carefully sharpened to effectively polish the edges.

The Beauty Of Nature Is A Central Point

Felipe Pikullik was born and raised in Berlin, but his roots lie in Brazil. His mother and father moved to Germany in the 1990s to create a better life for the family with improved work opportunities. However, the lively and colorful traditions of Brazil have always been a present part of the family’s life, where the beauty of nature has been a central point.

Berlin, October 2003.

Felipes mother stands by the stove cooking Feijoada, the Brazilian national dish made of black beans and various meats. She sings softly in Portuguese, her song blending with the clatter of the pans. But eight-year-old Felipe doesn’t notice any of this. He sits in front of the family’s TV, completely absorbed. On the screen, a watchmaker is demonstrating how to disassemble a timepiece and explaining its various mechanisms. In that moment, in the family’s small kitchen, Felipe Pikullik makes a decision.

– I already said then that I would become a watchmaker, but all children have dreams about different professions. So my parents probably thought it was just a phase. But every year, I wished for a new watch for my birthday.

For his ninth birthday, Felipe’s family had been saving money for a long time to buy him a watch. A few hours after he opened his birthday present, the new watch lay in small pieces across his desk. When Felipe’s mother enters the room and sees the family’s savings scattered into hundreds of small screws and nuts, she is distraught.

– They were worried that I just wanted to take apart my watches. But I always managed to put them back together. My grandmother had a mechanical wall clock that was broken, and the clock hadn’t shown the correct time for several years. When I managed to fix it for her, my family began to realize that my interest in watchmaking was more than a passing idea, says Felipe Pikullik.

Felipe Pikullik works intently at his workbench in his studio, located in the heart of central Berlin, Germany.

The cylinder is shaped by hand, a process that requires precision and skill. This is a crucial step in the creation of the moon phase for the “Moon Phase” model.

Manufacturing the moon for the moon phase in a watch is a complex process. It is a detailed and demanding task that can only be performed by an experienced watchmaker with many years of expertise.

Felipe Pikullik in deep concentration at his workbench, meticulously crafting the moon phase for one of his exclusive watches. Each movement is a demonstration of his skill.

To Take The Passion To The Next Level

Felipe Pikullik continues to explore his passion from his boyhood room. By the age of 18, his knowledge in the field has reached an impressive level. Now it’s time to take his passion to the next step. But getting accepted into a school becomes a major challenge despite his deep knowledge.

– I needed formal education in watchmaking to move forward and develop, kind of like a Formula 1 driver needs a driver’s license to race. All my life, I dreamed of attending the watchmaking school in Glashütte, but my application was rejected time and again.

Felipe’s lack of interest in the subjects of elementary school proved to be an obstacle now when applying to the watchmaking school. His grades weren’t good enough, and the school in Glashütte prioritized students with higher grades. But Felipe refused to let grades in subjects he considered irrelevant to the profession stand in the way of his passion. He sent application after application, called the watchmaking school and persisted. Finally, they relented and invited him for a practical test.

– I had always dreamed of going to Glashütte, the small town in Germany known for its rich watchmaking tradition. They marketed themselves as heaven on earth, which was perfect for me. It allowed me to dream, and their advertising deeply inspired me, says Felipe Pikullik.

Felipe Pikullik focuses at his workbench where he meticulously assembles the model Sternenhimmel (starry sky).

With a magnifying glass, Felipe Pikullik carefully examines the function of the movement. He scrutinizes every detail with precision, leaving nothing to chance.

Glashütte, 2013. 

It’s summer in the small German town. Felipe Pikullik sits in the family car with his mom and dad, who have driven him from Berlin. He absorbing the surroundings that feel familiar from pictures, but he does not experience the anticipatory feeling he had expected. Instead, he feels an underlying unease. After registering at the school’s reception, he soon finds himself sitting in front of a practical test – a watch that he is to disassemble and then reassemble. An hour later, Felipe is finished.

Felipe Pikullik passes the test and impresses the school’s teachers so much that they offer him a spot right away. It becomes a strange day for Felipe, having achieved his dream of being admitted to the school, yet feeling out of place.

– I never made any real friends at the watchmaking school, and I think my classmates saw me as someone who received undeserved advantages. But I worked hard, always staying at school after the others had left. I completed the school’s three-year program in one year, and my teachers gave me extra tasks to challenge me.

 

Felipe Pikullik carefully instructs his apprentice Martin in the art of setting diamonds on one of his models.

About Challenging Tradition

After a year, Felipe Pikullik felt ready to take the next step in his career and left school to become an apprentice at the German watchmaker KUDOKE. It was a crucial period for his development, where he elevated his skills to a new level. He enjoyed working at KUDOKE, specializing in watch skeletonization. After a rewarding time at KUDOKE, Felipe started working for Rolf Lang, where he gained valuable experience in watch research and development.
Felipe describes his time in the small village outside Dresden with Rolf Lang as a quiet period with limited opportunities outside the watchmaking world. It was there that his homesickness grew stronger and eventually drove him back to Berlin.

Back in the German capital, he faced new challenges. To finance his life and his passion for watchmaking, he took various jobs, including moving furniture. During this time, he also worked on repairing watches from brands like Audemars Piguet, Rolex, and Patek Philippe, further deepening his understanding of different movements. All the income was invested in tools and watchmaking parts. With the experiences and knowledge he had gathered, as well as an ambition to make watchmaking more accessible, he started his own brand in 2017 under the name Felipe Pikullik.

– If you want to work as a watchmaker, Glashütte is the place to be. But I wanted to change that. Why should it be the only place for watchmaking in Germany? I want to think bigger and at the same time give more people the chance to become watchmakers.

He describes his vision of making the profession more accessible, especially for those from countries where the watchmaking tradition is not as established as in Germany.

– Most books about watchmaking are in English, French, or German. I want to make the profession more accessible, regardless of the language you speak. My studio in Berlin means you no longer need to go to Glashütte to train. In my studio, there are watchmakers from Italy, Portugal, Germany, and Turkey, says Felipe Pikullik.

Martin has been an apprentice with Felipe Pikullik for six years and has now developed into a very skilled watchmaker.

Watchmaker Eduard, works on meticulously polishing one of Felipe Pikullik’s watches, carefully examined under the microscope.

Felipe Pikullik has a business model that allows his company to grow slowly but surely, a strategy that maintains the high quality he is known for.

– I have an apprentice, Martin, from Germany. In turn, Martin has three apprentices, and these apprentices have their own apprentices. This model allows production to grow slowly, but it also gives many people the chance to learn the profession. I don’t have time to personally take on more than one watchmaker; my time is limited as I handle everything from developing new watch models to managing the company’s finances. But Martin has more time available and can pass on the knowledge I give him.

Felipe Pikullik is still a small manufacturer, and it requires a lot from him to keep everything running. Even though he has a good model for the company, it’s his responsibility to ensure that every step in the manufacturing process is of the highest quality. Felipe oversees all the watchmakers’ work.

– I’ve often been told that I’m a gifted watchmaker with natural talent. I disagree. What I have is a strong work ethic. I have sat countless hours every day since I was eight years old. If you only work seven hours a day and start as a watchmaker at 18, it will take a lifetime to accumulate the experience I have. It’s all about how much time you’re willing to invest. There are no shortcuts called talent, says Felipe Pikullik.

The unique moon function displays a dark side coated in black rhodium and a bright side in white rhodium, viewed from the perspective of the southern hemisphere, a tribute to Felipe Pikullik’s Brazilian roots.

Moon Phase: Felipe Pikullik’s masterpiece of craftsmanship and innovation. This watch represents his first handmade complication.

The development of the Moon Phase took two years, during which Felipe Pikullik evaluated and refined every handmade component.

An Exciting Year With Several New Models

When I ask Felipe where his inspiration for the watch designs comes from, he answers with enthusiasm.

– I love contrasts. A dial without contrasts becomes boring. My watches should have an exciting and somewhat unexpected design. Take, for example, my Moon Phase model. Close your eyes and try to describe it to me.

I laugh and admit, a bit embarrassed, that I can’t fully recall the dial. But Felipe’s joy is apparent; it’s exactly the reaction he was hoping for.

– See, now you want to look at the watch again, right? says Felipe with a smile.

That’s exactly what I want to do, and I realize what he means. A predictable watch becomes dull. A watch with asymmetrical elements piques curiosity and makes you keep coming back to its design.

– I’m inspired by nature and its colors. Look around my studio – I like to mix the colors of nature. For example, combining the brown shades of the forest with the blue of the sea. In the same way, I think about my watches. Taking a gray dial and combining it with a warm color like rose gold creates something beautiful and exciting.

2024 looks to be an exciting year with several new models from Felipe Pikullik. He plans to release a new version of his Moon Phase. I ask him what he is most looking forward to in the coming year.

– I have been working for a long time on my new Moon Phase 2 model. The design is exciting and unlike anything I’ve done before. I am really looking forward to showing off my new creation later in 2024. But most of all, I look forward to being a parent. My daughter is the best thing that has happened to me, and I feel blessed. She will inspire me to many fantastic and exciting things in life, says Felipe Pikullik with a warm smile ⏱

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Visit Felipe Pikullik’s website to discover more about the watchmaker’s unique timepieces. There, you can also explore the opportunity to order your own masterpiece from him.

🎥 See the trailer with watchmaker Felipe Pikullik.