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Knower of the soul of watches

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Tuesday 09 May 2023

Picture Knower of the soul of watches Picture

There are not many watchmakers who not only design their movements but also make them themselves, down to the smallest element. Áron Becsei is at the forefront of this elite club, whose Bexei Watches models are regarded among the best in the world.

All the parts are developed in-house and made locally.

Shows Áron proudly his workshop in Buda, as his creations are on par with – and in many cases even outperform – the most exclusive luxury watches. It is no coincidence that collectors will pay hundreds of thousands of euros for a Bexei piece since they know they will get a handmade value for their investment. In the case of Áron Becsei, clock and watchmaking is a family tradition that spans several generations. His grandfather had already practised the profession to such a high standard that other watchmakers often brought him the ones they could not repair. Áron was introduced to the mysterious but fascinating world of watchmaking, its different styles and collectors’ values by his father. The watch he gave him for his graduation is still his favourite. Based on handcrafted values and locally developed and made parts of exceptional quality, watchmaking is a tool-intensive passion. Some of the equipment on display in the workshop was designed by the master himself, as the tools and machines needed to achieve the uniqueness and exceptionalism he aims for are unavailable in shops. Alongside the various precision drills, mini milling machines and the tempering furnace, the computer-controlled milling machine is a good addition, as each generation is almost obliged to raise the craft to the technological level that is available at the time. At the same time, the legacy of the Becsei clock and watchmaking family, the antique tools enjoy a place of honour and a basis for adaptation in a display case. 

The idea of making my own clock came to me during restoration work, as I had to produce the missing authentic parts myself -  says Áron, who graduated as a mechanical engineer and can put his knowledge to good use in the design phase.

Around the turn of the millennium, he created his first self-made clock, a miniature table zappler movement. He says that it was challenging to make the pendulum mechanism as compact as possible. In the meantime, he had become so hooked on the art of handcrafting that he started working on a tourbillon movement, one which is almost exclusively built into the most expensive Swiss watches. It soon became clear that Áron not only understood the ins and outs of clockmaking but was also passionate about it, so the question was what to do with this rare knowledge and enthusiasm. Although at first, he heard from everyone in the country that he had no chance of selling the clocks under his name, with the help of his wife Eszter – who supports him in everything and now also manages the company – they found their way to AHCI. It is an international organisation with the mission to help clock and watchmakers to market their products without a capital company or a big marketing budget behind them.

This is how they managed to get to the international exhibition in Basel, where the feedback was very positive, but everyone wanted a wristwatch instead of a table piece. „Yes, but the three-axis tourbillon movement designed for it is a very specialised movement,” smiles Áron, thinking back to the early days. But even then, he knew nothing was impossible in his profession.

The name says it all The story of Bexei Watches also began with the creation of the first triple-axis tourbillon movement watch, the Primus. „It is my first watch, and probably my favourite. It has a particularly complicated construction, and not to mention it is the first wristwatch made entirely in Hungary,” says Áron, showing off his treasured relic. This watch is not for sale, although collectors have made seemingly irresistible offers. The Primus will therefore remain the star of the exhibitions, as these events are considered to be almost the only showcase for the genre. Whether Áron chose his vocation or was chosen by it, he has joined a truly elite club, as there are very few – barely twenty – watchmakers worldwide who do it to this standard, and only three or four of them make wristwatches. Bexei Watches is a very customer-oriented business. From the moment the customer enquires about a watch, there is constant consultation with the client about the model, materials and specifications they want. The entire process takes about a year, but as the shape and positioning of the elements can be unique, no collector is impatient about it. The 3D design is followed by precision machining and refinement of the elements, always under a microscope. Áron knows that there is no room for mistakes, as the customer will also receive and examine the custom piece with a watchmaking loupe. Depending on individual requests, a Bexei masterpiece can cost between seventy and four hundred thousand euros. 

Most of the orders come from Asia, Australia and Western Europe, where collectors have formed clubs, stay in touch, and know that a luxury watch has an intrinsic value, like a painting, and cannot be priced by the weight of its material. The culture of watchmaking in these regions is very high, and in this respect, Hungary is still somewhat isolated from global trends. Customers of Bexei tend to seek out conventional, classical forms and, of course, mechanical movements. The finished and thoroughly tested watches are handed over personally by Áron during a dinner or reception; he has done this – among other locations – in Singapore and Hong Kong. «These are important events, as the customer invites friends and club mates who may be interested in purchasing a unique Bexei watch for themselves,» - says Áron enthusiastically. It is a strange paradox of fate that Bexei Watches company, including Áron Becsei, has to deal primarily with time, as the number of orders is far beyond capacity. Áron would like to increase the production of the manufactory with dedicated young people, but finding adequately qualified specialists for such unique items, for such positions of trust, is impossible, and even training anyone within the company is challenging. In the meantime, Áron designs, manufactures and assembles his exclusive watches (currently assisted by two colleagues) to represent and promote the Becsei family’s reputation as true masters of mechanical sculpture. 

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