Kalle Slaap: the driving force behind the Dutch Watchmaking Club
Watchmaker Kalle Slaap unleashed a ‘Big Bang’ among Dutch watch brands by organising an event in Grootschermer in the Netherlands, where nearly all Dutch watchmakers had the opportunity to catch up with one another. This Watch Meetup proved to be a huge success. “As it turns out, our professional field is in a lot of turmoil. This event fills a need.”
There’s an old, wooden house situated in the beautiful polder landscape of North Holland. In this house watches are repaired, cleaned and cherished. When entering the house an old-fashioned doorbell chimes to announce the visitor. Here, in the traditional, timber-framed, 19th-century interior, time has apparently stood still. But nothing is further from the truth, because next to this vintage watch repair shop-cum-atelier we also find a small but hyper-modern watch lab of the kind your average watch aficionado can only dream of. This is where watches are returned to as-new condition and get a second chance at life. Here, watch lovers can acquire and/or exchange knowledge and look over the watchmaker’s shoulder, and those with a professional interest can spar with like-minded people about traditional techniques as well as the latest technology.
More than just a repair shop
What makes this place in Grootschermer so special, therefore, is that it’s more than just a repair shop. The owner of this wonderful setup is Kalle Slaap, watchmaker and part-time technical college lecturer, who compares his atelier to a beehive: it’s buzzing with watch-related activity and novelties. The ‘buzz’ is also generated by the activities Kalle organises and his open approach to the professional field and innovation; he is an ardent user of social media and the Internet.
Originally, Kalle is an IT specialist with a technical education, but these past eight years he has been a passionate watchmaker specialising in vintage watches and mechanical automotive clocks. The jobs he takes on range from changing out a battery to a complex vintage chronograph overhaul. Watch buffs also seek out Kalle, as do fellow watchmakers and designers. He is ready to provide advice and a helping hand to both traditional watchmakers and young up-and-coming watchmakers who want to become proficient in the 3D printing of watches. He is also the driving force behind the watch event that took place in Grootschermer in June this year. Virtually all the Dutch watch brands came from far and wide to meet their colleagues. It was an unexpected and extraordinary success. Kalle: “Six hundred people turned up and that is a lot for an event that was put together in just a week, and in the holiday period to boot.”
It’s high time to change the introverted nature of this profession and put the many technical developments in the spotlight
Watchmaker Michiel Holthinrichs from Holthinrichs Watches and Holke Dijkman from Dijkman Clocks, present at the interview, share Kalle’s enthusiasm and stress the importance of such initiatives. “It’s high time to change the introverted nature of this profession and put the many technical developments in the spotlight”, the men agree. Kalle: “This spot in Grootschermer, reminiscent of an old pioneer village, serves as a kind of centre for movement technology and is a magnet for watch buffs. For me it’s about the art of watchmaking and the fact that we must not allow it to be lost. That is my ultimate objective. I want to bring together all the information and issues we see and deal with here on a daily basis in order to generate cross-pollination and synergy of new ideas and creativity. The idea of a kind of watch club is what came out of all this. It was a strange convergence of circumstances. Something was already brewing. I wanted to organise an open day for this repair atelier; it’s something I have done before. I prepare a presentation and invite people via Horlogefreaks, Horlogeforum or Facebook. In that same period, I was given the opportunity to use the meeting room in the pub next to my premises. That’s when the idea of bringing together all those passionate professionals and aficionados and creating a stage for that cross pollination of ideas took hold. I really wanted to gather all those people with the same interests to be able to share expertise and join forces; a bit like musicians who get together for a jam session, that same feel. So, I started making phone calls and the fuse was lit. Via social media it soon became a raging fire. It’s important to note that this was experienced as a kind of ‘Big Bang’ resulting in lots of spin-offs.”
A Woodstock for watch lovers
“The word ‘club’ is quite apt, because passion rather than money is the driving force behind it. It was a very low-threshold event that felt like a family day. Entry was free and it became a super day that people still talk about animatedly. Comparisons are even being made to a Woodstock for watch lovers; they spontaneously all came together at the same time, which had never happened before. A first. That’s fantastic. Don’t forget: under the radar of the famous names there is quite a bit more going on in the watch world, and at a high level. It’s not just about a few individual enthusiasts obsessively working on a watch in their lonely back room. We started something in the Netherlands, and it deserves a follow-up. But it’s imperative that when we do, we are able to show new things. What’s more, it’s incredibly important that we can demonstrate creativity and innovation compared to the established brands. It’s essential that watchmakers are able to find each other in that endeavour, and an event like this one is a wonderful start.”