German watches are typically free from any unnecessary details. No frills, no fuss, just clean, elegant watches. Whether you look at brands like A. Lange & Söhne, Glashütte Original, Moritz Grossmann or at smaller independent brands, most of them offer very elegantly, stylish watches. One of these independents is Stefan Kudoke, founder and watchmaker of Kudoke Watches. Besides his intricately detailed skeletonised and engraved pieces, his HANDwerk collection reveals typical German traits. We go hands-on with the Kudoke HANDwerk 1.
Who is Stefan Kudoke?
Stefan Kudoke is new here on MONOCHROME Watches, but has been active for over ten years now, with his brand Kudoke Watches. Usually, this kind of storyline continues describing the lineage someone has in watchmaking, through either a father or grandfather or whatnot, but Stefan’s story is a little different. With no family background in watchmaking, Stefan started his education from scratch. Under the guidance of his teachers, he learned the craftsmanship needed to become a watchmaker himself.
After graduating with honours at the age of 22, Stefan worked for Glashütte Original, Breguet, Blancpain and Omega, in both the complications and service departments. This led him to eventually pursue the dream of creating his own watches, and thus Kudoke Watches was born. His goal is to contribute to the preservation of traditional watchmaking skills, something I can only applaud. Under his own brand, he offers three types of watches. The HANDwerk collection covers traditional handmade watches such as the Kudoke 1 we are reviewing here. The KUNSTwerk collection is about engraved or skeletonised watches in very limited numbers. Third, the YOURwerk collection is dedicated to unique, bespoke watches.
The Kudoke HANDwerk 1 is a watch that doesn’t reveal all its secrets from the start. From the looks of things, it is very restrained in design. Almost a bit, dare I say it, too simple. But, rest assured, this is a German watch so it all about the finest details. German watchmaking is essentially a minimalistic approach to functionality. Form follows function, where everything that is unnecessary is eliminated. The emphasis is placed on clarity, simplicity, symmetry, as Xavier explained in his article “Germans do it better”.
Kudoke Kaliber 1
The goal for Stefan Kudoke has been to create his own movement, rather than relying on third parties. After more than ten years of skeletonising and engraving watches, he was finally able to present his own calibre during Baselworld 2018. A year later, he showcases his Kudoke HANDwerk 1 and 2 (which has a day/night indicator instead of a small seconds) as an AHCI-candidate.
The design and construction of Kaliber 1, as it is called, is inspired by historical English pocket watch movements. The hand-wound movement is visible through the sapphire caseback. The design is simple and elegant yet striking to the eye due to its symmetry: the balance wheel at one end, a single large and hand-engraved bridge holding it in place, and a frosted finishing on the entire surface of the full bridge.
This frosted effect is achieved by a technique called reaming, much like a grenage finishing. The bridge is placed in a mix of oil and abrasive material (usually glass granulate or very fine sand) and meticulously ground in circles. The entire bridge and the balance cock are also finished with a hand-polished, convex edge, something that is extremely challenging to achieve. This is a painstaking and very delicate finishing technique that not many can master.
Kudoke HANDwerk 1
The dial of the Kudoke HANDwerk 1 is silver with a very fine graining on the surface. The centrally mounted hour and minute hand are made in steel and blued by hand by Stefan. The hour hand has a tip shaped like an infinity symbol. The chapter ring for the hour and minute markings, extremely narrow by the way, creates a sense of depth. The chapter ring is decorated with Roman numerals at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock, dots in between for the remaining hours and smaller dots for 1-minute increments. A matching small seconds ring, with another tempered blue hand at 9 o’clock completes the time indication. Opposite the small seconds indicator is a Kudoke nameplate, providing a bit of visual balance. At the bottom edge of the dial, you can find a hint of the origin of the watch.
The 39mm wide by 9.5mm high steel case is entirely polished, from the stepped bezel to the case band and the screw-in caseback. A very nice touch is the slight protrusion of the bezel and the caseback to add a bit of profile to the side of the case. The onion-style crown is slightly flattened and engraved with a “K” for Kudoke. Winding the movement with the crown is very easy. The grip is very good and you get a nice sense of resistance when handling it, not too much but not too little. Same goes for setting the time. Of course, sapphire crystals are used for both the front and back, and the watch is water-resistant to 50m.
The modest dimensions of the watch make this a very comfortable one to wear, as it will fit 99,9% of folks just fine. The shape of the lugs is very elegant and slightly angled down. It’s paired with a black alligator leather strap and a polished steel pin-buckle – a folding clasp is optional. The Kudoke HANDwerk 1 is very attractively priced, considering the amount of handwork involved. It will cost you EUR 6.303,- before taxes, which is a pretty penny but does buy you a hand-finished, in-house movement! Overall I was impressed with the watch during the time I had it. Very comfortable, very well-executed and very elegant on the wrist.
For more information, go to Kudoke.eu
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.