PETER ROBERTS is a renowned British master watchmaker.

Peter Roberts has long been known to enthusiasts and collectors in south-eastern England’s horological circles. His ability to salvage and restore rare and complicated watches is enough to make collectors flock to him, and they try to keep him all to themselves.

What made Roberts a legend, though, is the watch he produced to complete his studies – the horological equivalent of a Master’s thesis. One look at it, and you know that here is a watchmaker who can be entrusted with anything from a 1930s Rolex Prince to a Vacheron minute repeater.

Roberts is a truly British form of eccentric, fascinated by all types of mechanical devices. He never seems able to break away entirely from a slightly-dotty-professor mode of behaviour; a simple question invariably inspires a discourse which walks the enquirer through the whole history of the subject. And despite his superior knowledge, he never exhibits even a tiny trace of superiority nor aloofness.

It started when Roberts became the first British student to attend the Watches of Switzerland Technical and Educational Program (WOSTEP). Perhaps driven by his status as the lone Englishman at WOSTEP, Roberts – with all the arrogance of youth – chose as his final project to produce a watch he’d seen in a generic text on chronographs.

The book contained drawings of every dial type and configuration, the final illustration showing five hands from the centre shaft. His instructor told him that it was only theoretical, and that, to his knowledge, no watch had ever been made with more than four hands from the centre.

The 5 hands watch created by Roberts in 1972
The 5 hands watch created by Roberts in 1972

Undeterred, Roberts used the Valjoux 726 – one of the finest manual chronograph movements ever made – as its base, and turned it into a certified chronometer with five hands indicating hours, minutes, seconds, date and a second time zone. It featured screw-down crowns on the winder and both pushers, and a mineral glass back – uncommon in 1972.

What has enhanced his reputation among the cognoscenti is the knowledge that the number of hands on Roberts’ chronograph has only been matched commercially by very few products from large concerns, such as the Maurice Lacroix Cinq Aiguilles, launched in 2000, and the Ulysse Nardin astronomical watches.

Roberts’ achieved Fellowship of the British Horological Institute, followed by a career that includes the post of Official Watchmaker with Rolex England from 1972-1975, Head of Showroom Repairs at both Garrard Crown Jewellers and Watches of Switzerland in London, and 13 years as a lecturer training a new generation of watchmakers. His students included Peter Speake-Marin and Stephen Forsey, now makers of eponymous watches of great repute.

Roberts is now a consultant to a number of highly-regarded British and Swiss watch brands. He still repairs and restores watches for a limited circle of dealers and collectors.

Featured Timepieces

PETER ROBERTS Concentrique Grand Complication 5

Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)1227 470 701