Watches and clocks have been around for hundreds of years, countless watchmaking geniuses have spent their entire lives creating a large number of exquisite masterpieces. China has long been a powerful influence in the watch industry, although Chinese independent watchmakers are a fairly new phenomenon and there is a highly talented master who is not known to most people - the independent watchmaker, Qin Gan.
Qin Gan was born in Chongqing, a city in southwest China that’s the third biggest in the country. Most watch lovers may not have heard this name before, but for a small number of passionate enthusiasts, this name is very important, since Qin Gan is one of the few top independent watchmakers in China. In this country, there is just a handful of watchmakers who have successfully conquered high-complexity fields, and Qin Gan’s field of expertise is repeater watches.
Repeater is the most complex function in the watch industry. It is famous for its large number of parts and intricate structures, and it is extremely difficult to make. It is even more difficult to imagine the difficulty of putting a repeater function into a small wristwatch. So far, only a few brands or watchmakers in the world have successfully launched a repeater watch. Qin Gan is one of them.
Qin Gan's masterpiece is a small repeater automaton watch completed in 2014 that combines art, design, and technology in equal measure. He used a movement comprising 257 parts, and 33 jewels, and equipped it with a minute repeater, independent governor, a retrograde hour indication, and a dragonfly automaton that flaps its wings upon activation. The whole watch was designed and manufactured by Qin Gan on the basis of the Swiss F465N movement, and most of the parts he made by himself. It took a lot of energy, time, and skill to integrate several high-complex functions into a 25mm movement.
In 2019, the dragonfly automaton tourbillon was created with an apotheosis of the combination of past and present. The unique piece represents the watchmaker’s craftsmanship and creativity on a pair of wings that moves in conjunction with the tourbillon. The dragonfly miniature alone consists of 19 parts, with the wings measure in an astounding 0.02mm thickness and oscillate 14 time per second. It could be activated by the pusher at 10 o’clock.
Before Qin Gan, Chinese watchmakers have never created minute repeater automaton watches, so at the beginning, no one believed that someone in China could make such a complicated model, which also brought a lot of pressure on Qin Gan. But after the watch was completed, Qin Gan took it with his other works to participate in the exhibition of Chinese independent watchmakers, and eventually won the unanimous affirmation and high praise.
Qin Gan not only designs and manufactures complicated movements but also puts a lot of effort into decorating these movements. Qin Gan has a relentless pursuit of aesthetics and is even more meticulous about the parts he has worked hard for. Mirror polishing, chamfering, graining, etc. – all done by Qin Gan's skillful hands.
In addition to being an independent watchmaker, Qin Gan has another passion - repairing antique clocks and watches. Many of the world’s finest watchmakers have been engaged in the maintenance of antique clocks, and Qin Gan is no exception. While creating his own works, Qin Gan is also absorbing the essence of watch art from the past centuries, learning a lot about the workings of antique timepieces. He integrates the experience of his predecessors and turns it into his own unique concepts. Qin Gan's restoration level has reached a state of perfection, and he came to be known as one of the finest antique clock repairmen in China. Thanks to his excellent reputation, Poly Auction, the third-largest auction house in the world, invited him to Hong Kong to restore rare antique clocks.
In 2017, he left Poly to focus on creating his own timepieces. Soon after he made several watches decorated with miniature paintings executed like traditional Chinese ink works. But although the works of Chinese watchmakers are diverse and quirky, the styling of these watches can be difficult to understand for western collectors.
Because of that, Qin Gan started designing his timepieces with international taste in mind, marking his international debut in 2019 with the Pastorale watch. This simple-looking, classical three-hand wristwatch features a beautiful hand-finished movement with all of the finishing done entirely by hand. And while the hand-wound calibre uses the basic architecture of a vintage classical movement as a reference, the parts are made from scratch to show off both finishing and design.
Qin Gan understands art, and mechanics and has a flexible mind. In a small workshop, Qin Gan keeps his watchmaking tools, most of which he designed himself. There are many odd-shaped homemade gadgets on his workbench, which are surprisingly easy to use in Qin Gan's skillful hands. Qin Gan can make almost all parts of a watch by himself, which is especially valuable today when many top watch brands outsource parts for their movements.