Based in Ukraine, Valerii Danevych is a craftsman turned artisanal watch maker who is specialized in the manufacturing of miniature wooden timepieces such as clocks and wristwatches made of wood. Top performances of his artworks: Till now the only both wooden wristwatches worldwide, one of them with flying Tourbillon, as well as the probably smallest wooden timepiece of the world, a necklace watch.
Valerii Danevych was born in 1968 in the capital of the Ukraine, Kiev. He has descended from a family which has been marked since generations by cabinet-maker’s workshop where he already made during his school days wooden miniatures like an only 3 cm guitar with hair as strings. As a qualified precision joiner working with wooden constructions, restorations or artisan articles did not give him any more satisfaction. The feeling and ambition to manufacture complicated mechanical crafts completely from wood in miniature form was always on his mind.
In 2005 so he had the idea to make clockworks out of this material with out being educated as a watchmaker. His talent and perseverance motivated him to produce among many art works the only functioning wooden wristwatches worldwide. Also such complications like a flying Tourbillon, which is even difficult in conventional technology, were not deter him. There was a career jump in 2012 when he was appointed the official candidate of the famous association of independent and creative watch and clock makers all around the world (AHCI).
Valerii Danevych – Chronology of horologic activities
- In 2004 repair and restoration of wooden cases for clocks
- Since 2005 planning, development and manufacturing of wooden movements, first for clocks then for watches; self-educated in horologic technology
- Manufacturing of maximum 3 to 4 watches per year purely handmade; used materials are primarily degenerated wood (canker with amorphous structure) from birch, hornbeam, apple as well as exotic species of wood
- Mainly self-producing of fine tools, miniature lathes and auxiliary devices for manufacturing watches
- Long-term exhibition of a table clock as well as a pocket watch from wood in the Ukrainian national museum in Kiev, Ukraine, since February 2010
- Exhibition of two wooden pocket watches in Washington, USA, in May 2010, during the Ukrainian Days of Culture
- Participation on watch markets in Eisenbach and Furtwangen, Black Forest, since 2010
- Participation on a horological seminar in Titisee, Black Forest, in March 2011
- Presentation of clock and watch works in Kiev, Ukraine, in May 2011 during a study trip of the German Chronometric Society Inc.
- Restoration of an antique wooden pocket watch of Bronnikov in first half of 2011 for a businessman from Austria
- Exhibition of two wooden pocket watches in Illnau, Switzerland, in autumn 2011
- Presentation of wooden watches in Hamburg, March 2012, during the regional meeting of the German Chronometric Society Inc.
- Participation on the world fair for watches and jewellery BASELWORLD in Basel, Switzerland, in March 2012 at the stand of the Académie Horlogère of The Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI)
- Election as official candidate of AHCI during the AHCI general meeting at BASELWORLD 2012
- History report on life and work of Bronnikov dynasty in the club magazine of German Chronometric Society Inc., dated spring 2012
U. Smolycha 6-W/44
Interview with Valerii Danevych
How did you get around producing watches and clocks from wood?
- When I worked as a cabinet-maker, I have repaired cases of wall clocks and grandfather clocks and I have restored too. During these activities my interest increased in the mechanics of these clocks. I tried easy repair in it and had the need to build an own clock completely from the movement up to the case. Without equipment for these mechanics and without experience in the metal treatment, but with good knowledge about the qualities of the different species of wood and large experience in the wood processing I ventured the manufacture of wooden movement for a grandfather clock without use of metal parts. After some misses my first grandfather clock came into being. Motivated by this success I continued the construction of wooden clocks and watches, but smaller and more complicated.
Does this art/craft have tradition in Russia or the Ukraine? Are there other countries where this is practiced?
- As far as I know no one else deals in my country with this art. The tradition of wooden watchmaking comes from Russia of the early 19th century where the Bronnikov Dynasty has lived and created pocket watches. But so far I know nobody, who manufactures watches completely out of wood or has made, so also the pinions, arbors and pivots. Of course Germany is a country of great wood tradition by the Black Forest Clocks.
What is to be followed during the wood processing and with the production process of these parts particularly? What is difficult especially?
- Special attention is laid on the careful dry of the material and the specific choice of the single components. This also contains all qualities of wood and all distinctives of different wood species with craft finishing depending on their.
What are you fascinated about this work mostly?
- So I have found my favorite work. I like the process of experimentation and new challenges, miniaturization and complex working have great attraction for me. When I finish a timepiece, the most thrilling moment for me is their stimulation.
Are the clocks and watches with their mechanism made entirely of wood, not any metal parts?
- The weight driven clocks completely consist of wood, even the weights. For the spring driven watches the hairspring and the mainspring are of metal because of understandable physical reasons. Also a crystal protects the mechanism of some watches.
Can you live on it, do these watches sell? Where and how? Which strategy must one use on customers to persuade them of purchase?
- At the moment this is more hobby than living. I have good friends who support me and help me to become known in Europe. Some watches I have sold quite privately (USA, Western Europe and Israel), two timepieces deposited in the Ukrainian National Museum in Kiev and other watches are presented on fairs and exhibitions.
Are these clocks and watches affordable, how expensive are they?
- My timepieces – an exclusive job on base of pure handmade, partially under microscope – cannot afford so them everybody. The price orientates to the long production time and also to the exclusive proposition and the artistic claim like every work of art. I work alone and manufacture no more than 3 or 4 timepieces a year.
What kind of wood do you use? How about reasons of use, characteristics, advantages, disadvantages?
- The basic material for the movement is birch-grain bulb with an amorphous structure, no preferential fiber direction, to be petrified. Thereby this material is tight relative to normal wood and rather insensitive against environmental factors. Also I use grain bulb of other species of wood (apple, beech, cherry) as well as other wood like juniper from the Crimea region, bamboo and Australian guaiacum, sometimes mammoth’s tusk. Some design elements exist of mother-of-pearl and amber.
Are these movements mechanical only? Must they wind up by hand, how exact are they running? Which type of watches and clocks do you build?
- I only manufacture mechanical timepieces by spring or weight driven. During my works they became more and more exact – now the accuracy is about 2-3 minutes per day and 1 minute for the pendulum clocks respectively. I’m tempted to produce wooden clocks and watches of different type, size and complexity. Referring to miniaturization I have reached by manufacturing wristwatches the same level like watches from metal.
How about the durability and reliability of such wooden clocks and watches?
- Of course the strength of wood is not the same like metal, so especially wooden wristwatches are not recommended for hard daily use. Because of wood applied so far as possible they are not shockproof so right. But for special causes you can wear it like a normal metal watch with satisfied accuracy or easily for collection of very rare and exceptional timepieces. Concerning reliability and life there is no problem so as pocket watches of the Bronnikov Dynasty or old Black Forest Clocks work till today by little maintenance.
What are other specific features of your timepieces?
- Everything is 100% handmade and unique artwork. By myself I go in search of local wood into the forest and pick up this and that. I also produce the fine tools for manufacturing small watch parts by mainly myself. The smallest wooden part for one of my watches is of only 0.1 mm diameter.
Which projects, ideas do you have for the future?
- I am full of ideas and get suggestions by the study of unusual watches or more special mechanical instruments. I wish that my next timepiece surprises everybody, above all myself. I do it because I like it! And if somebody else likes this, it satisfies me very much and motivates me to other top masterpieces of wood!