Independent German watchmaker Stefan Kudoke expands into a new field with a clearly classical Haute Horlogerie approach at an attractive price.
Stefan Kudoke has made his mark trough creative and artistic skeletonising and engraving of watch movements to create art pieces for the wrist whose purpose to indicate the time is secondary at the most. Now he has added a completely different collection of watches with classically clean looks and an impressive new own movement. With the decoration of this movement, Stefan Kudoke enters Haute Horlogerie standards which he offers at an attractive price. I met him at Baselworld 2019 where he presented himself at the booth of the AHCI as a Candidate.
The new collection from Kudoke is called “HANDwerk” (handcraft) to differentiate it from the former models which now form the “KUNSTwerk” (work of art) collection.
The first model of the new collection is a time only watch bearing a small seconds display at nine o’clock corresponding to the layout of a classic Lépine type pocket watch. To keep things simple it is called Kudoke 1.
The dial has a finely grained silvered surface that is complemented by a circular brushed silver ring carrying printed black dot indexes for the small second at nine and a silver plate carrying the brand name at three. Apart from a tiny hint to the origin of this watch at six, there is nothing to disturb the almost strict clarity of this dial. The minute scale is a silver ring around the dial in the same design as the ring for the small second. Miniature Roman numerals on this outer ring indicate three, six, nine and twelve o’clock.
The hands are Kudoke’s own design. They are made of dark heat-blued steel. As a signature, the hour hand integrates the infinity symbol which is not only aesthetic but also strongly related to time.
The 39mm steel case is completely polished. A thin stepped bezel holds the crystal without interfering with the cleanliness of the dial. Tapered curved lugs elegantly integrate a black alligator strap. A relatively big onion crown carrying an engraved letter K facilitates convenient winding and setting.
A display back reveals Kudoke’s impressive Kaliber 1 movement. More on that in a moment.
The second model in Kudoke’s HANDwerk collection is named – you guessed it – Kudoke 2. It is similar but different from the other model. Instead of a horizontal layout of sub-dial and nameplate, these are arranged vertically. And the small second is replaced by a day/night indicator realized as a 24-hour display.
The domed disc that forms the rotating centre of this day/night indicator is a unique feature of this watch. The day half of this 24-hour disc is represented by the sun with rays in a golden hue while the night half shows the moon and stars in a silvery tone. The hand-engraved details on this disc are a typical example of Stefan Kudoke’s artistic style which he established in his skeletonised watches. The day/night disc is surrounded by a silver ring carrying hour indexes in the form of printed black dots and numerals for 6, 12, 18 and 24. A triangle in a bright golden colour in the night half of the 24-hour disc points to the current hour.
The brushed rings for the time indication and the plate carrying the brand name are a nuance darker than those on the dial of the Kudoke 1 and the graining of the dial appears slightly finer. Remarkable attention to detail in the design of these two different models.
The hands and crown are the same as those of the Kudoke 1. The case is a bit higher to incorporate the additional module for the 24-hour indication. This expansion in height is realised through a higher and wider bezel.
Both models are driven by the same base movement. The inspiration for Stefan Kudoke’s first own movement came from an old English pocket watch movement. Following the impulses given by old masters, he contributes his share to honour the tradition of his craft.
The most striking features of this movement are its symmetry and the big richly engraved balance cock. A gilt full bridge covers all functional parts except crown wheel, barrel ratchet wheel and balance. All parts are decorated by hand.
The graining on the surface of the wheel bridge, which produces a frosted look is created by a kind of reaming technique. The bridge is gently reamed in a mixture of oil and abrasives in circular movements. The execution of this technique reminds of the Grenage technique which is used to decorate dials.
The extensive surface of the big balance cock is completely covered by traditional floral engravings. These engravings are executed in a classical way and not in the Kudoke style of engravings that are more artistic and more coarse as you can see on the 24-hour disc of the Kudoke 2 watch. But Stefan Kudoke put his mark here nonetheless by integrating his signature infinity symbol in the engraving. To take any opportunity for applying as many different decoration techniques as possible (yes, I’m kidding) the surfaces of crown wheel and barrel ratchet wheel receive different circular decorations. The heads and edges of all screws are polished and some of them are heat-blued.
But all these examples of top-grade and truly individual hand-finishing are not what impressed me most in the decoration of this movement. Take a close look at the edge of the wheel bridge. Typically the edges of bridges are chamfered by applying 45 degrees “anglage”. In that case, the 90 degrees edge of a bridge is levelled by creating an additional thin plane at an angle of 45 degrees. This can be and usually is done by CNC machines today. Applying a mirror polish or black polish to such an anglage or preparing sharply accentuated angles already requires hand work. But in Kudoke’s Kaliber 1 the edge of the wheel bridge is rounded! Creating such a rounded chamfering requires filing a convex surface with exactly the same width and the same curvature along the complete distance of the edge to be decorated. This is the top grade of Haute Horlogerie hand finishing. This is the kind of movement decoration that has made Philippe Dufour famous. Only a few people on this planet are able to create such a decoration. In this movement there even is an impressive concave edge at the tip of the balance cock where the fine adjustment of the balance spring is attached.
Many parts of Stefan Kudoke’s Kaliber 1 originate from the Habring2 A11B movement. What could be the starting point of a useless discussion about true in-house movements in fact means that there is someone else who, in case of emergency, would be able to service your Kudoke watch other than Stefan Kudoke himself, which is a priceless advantage.
Kaliber 1 is a base movement. The day/night indication in the Kudoke 2 watch is the first extension. More will follow. We may be curious what Stefan Kuoke’s creative mind will breed in the future.
As the wristshots show the Kudoke 1 and Kudoke 2 look even better on the wrist. The curved lugs comfortably envelop the wrist. The size is perfect.
I slightly prefer the Kudoke 1 because the lesser height and the slightly thinner bezel create a touch of more elegant overall look for me. On the other hand, the Kudoke 2 includes that unique day/night indication that you won’t find anywhere else.
With these two watches, you get wonderful traditional yet truly individual design on your wrist. When you turn over one of these watches the impressive movement puts a bright smile on the face of the connoisseur in you. And the best is: You can get all this for a 4-figure budget, which is a little sensation.
Visit the official Kudoke website to find more Information.
Andreas Ahrens is a contributor to Fratello from Germany. He lives in Hamburg and works in the Aerospace and Automotive industry. Andreas received his first mechanical watch in 1984, a Mortima Dive watch. Since 2004, he is a collector and... read more