One of the more interesting conversations I've had recently was with a watchmaker from Glashutte, who are currently displaying at the Raffles City atrium.
I was passing by on my way from Comics Mart (more about that another time, in another blog), and saw the watchmaker, sitting below a gigantic screen that showed him delicately putting together some part of the watch (I later found out it was the balance wheel, and he was putting screws into it) so I stopped by to talk to him.
One of the first questions I asked him was whether watchmaking ran in his family. It seems so much of a craft (rather than a profession) that I assumed that one had to be born into a watchmaking family to be one. As it turns out, his path to watchmaking was quite convoluted, taking along the way a 3 year apprenticeship as a car mechanic, a stint in Brussels working for the EU, a course of study in management, a 3 year apprenticeship as a watchmaker, and the last 6 years working for this particular company. That's a path in life that many of our students here wouldn't dream of taking, roundabout as it seems, but it's led to a man who can repair watches as well as his vintage cars (of which he has 3, and an Audi that he actually drives) and who seems pretty well settled in his career.
I couldn't help but admire a man who seemed to have found for himself (albeit after some searching) a place in life, a place that allowed him to make things. There's something satisfying about making things (as opposed to writing reports, for example), which explains why I make miniature models. The most satisfaction I get is from the ones I scratchbuild, rather than those built "from the box": even for those, the urge is to tinker and improve - to file away the bumps on the turret side of the T-34 and add real handholds from brass wire, for example (which I've never got around to doing), or to replicate the zimmerit anti-magnetic coating on late-war German tanks (which I have). I suppose I'll never have the patience of a watchmaker, but I can certainly admire the skill of a craftsman, and hope to emulate the qualities of craftmanship, rather than work, in my own way.