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Fabio Bertini on Watchmaking and Affinity with the Sea

Fabio Bertini, who has worked for Pisa Orologeria for many years, is an expert in the history of watchmaking and a point of reference for the whole sector.

What do the sea and watchmaking have in common?

«The watch has become an object of desire, even though it began life as an instrument. Mankind, even before the invention of the wheel, had established a close connection with the sea, both as a source of food and as a space that had to be crossed in order to  trade. Over the course of history, time became increasingly important, and this meant that it needed to be measured with greater precision. It’s no coincidence that people like Abraham-Louis Breguet were given such titles as Watchmaker to the French Royal Navy».

What changed with the advent of the wrist watch?

«Watches migrated from the pocket to the wrist in the 1920s. Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, came up with the idea of presenting an Oyster watch to Mercedes Gleitze. In 1927 she became the first British woman to swim the English Channel. Her first attempt wearing an Oyster was in fact a failure, but her timepiece survived intact. This marked the start of  a new era, both for watchmaking and communication.

Back then the world was analogical and not digital, and watchmakers needed to concentrate on research in order to produce a water-resistant timepiece. This enabled the entire sector to make a great leap forward».

In what way?

«Limiting the scope to water resistance offered a partial vision of the goal. At the end of the 1960s I remember that one of the biggest problems was the presence of dust and this often prevented the watches from functioning properly.

The advent of waterproof cases enabled us to find a practical solution, thereby offering greater protection to the  mechanical heart  of these timepieces which had been conceived for a specific use at sea».

Apart from the technical aspects, why are watches still so fascinating?

«The sea is highly symbolic and we all have a personal, even intimate relationship with with it. It could be a memory, an emotion, a sunset. These are moments that live on in a watch, which can also be a traveling companion».

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