TimeZone Dinner With Ludwig Oechslin
By Mike Disher
On June 30, 2000, a group of us got together for dinner with Ludwig
Oechslin, Master Watchmaker and designer of the movements in the Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium,
Planetarium, Tellurium, GMT ±, Perpetual Ludwig, and GMT ± Perpetual. Ludwig also designed the world’s most complicated clock, the Türler
Clock, located at the Zurich Paradeplatz Türler shop, and he was retained
by the Vatican to restore its 1000+ piece Farnesian astronomical clock. Dr.
Oechslin earned a combined Ph.D. in 1983 in philosophy, theoretical physics and
astronomy. His watchmaking apprenticeship lasted from 1976 to 1984. He also took
three years of advanced horological studies, receiving his Master Watchmaker
diploma in 1993. Ludwig has published extensively on watch and clock making. He
is in the San Francisco Bay Area consulting on the Long
Now clock project.
Attending the dinner in addition to the guest of honor were Richard Paige,
Walt Odets, Jeff Kingston, Rob “Cookie” Cook, John
“ei8htohms” Davis, Steve Richman, and your humble reporter. We needed
a special restaurant for this event, and I settled on Boulevard in San
Francisco, a personal favorite and voted best restaurant in San Francisco for
the past two years. Jeff Kingston very graciously brought a bottle of Lenoble
champagne (great value), a 92 Chablis Grand Cru Les Vaillons Domaine Long
Depaquit, and an 87 Vosne Romanee Les Malconsorts Domaine Clos Frantin. We also
delved into Boulevard’s wine list, finishing the evening in grand style, thanks
to Cookie. More on that later.
First, the watches…
– Ludwig Oechslin: Ulysse Nardin GMT ± Perpetual,
– Richard Paige: Dubey & Schaldenbrand Venus
– Walt Odets: His grandfather’s 1948 JLC, caliber
481, power reserve, center seconds
– Jeff Kingston: Ulysse Nardin GMT ± Perpetual
– Rob Cook: Ulysse Nardin Limited Edition GMT ± Big
Date in rose gold on strap
– John Davis: IWC Porsche Design compass watch
– Steve Richman: Limited Edition Blancpain Flyback
in white gold on bracelet, blue dial
– Mike Disher: Ulysse Nardin GMT ± Big Date in
steel on bracelet
Big thanks go to Ulysse Nardin for providing us with a Trilogy set, including
a rare Planetarium with meteorite dial, plus two of the new UN Acqua Perpetuals,
one on strap and one on bracelet.
After drinks in the bar, we adjourned to our table, where watches were
promptly de-wristed and passed around. I opened the case containing the three
Trilogy pieces, and eager hands reached to grab one as I unwrapped them. I’ve
been a fan of the Astrolabium since I first saw it on the cover of the Guinness
Book of Records back in the mid-80s. The Tellurium was big and beautiful, with
its cloisonne map of the Northern Hemisphere. The meteorite dial of the
Planetarium is truly something to behold, sparkling with flecks of gold, brown
and grey. These are awesome watches.
The Acqua Perpetuals were a big hit as well. Everyone agreed the pictures
they’d seen did not do these watches justice. These are large watches, with a
bold and striking design. If you need a sporty perpetual calendar watch, this is
We began the meal with the Lenoble champagne, drinking a toast to our guest
of honor. Then we proceeded to appetizers of lobster bisque, giant sea scallops,
ahi tuna tartar, and other delights. With these we enjoyed Jeff’s ’92 Grand Cru
Chablis, and for comparison a lovely bottle of 1997 Talbott chardonnay (not the
Cynthia Cuvee, but wonderful nonetheless).
Walt O sat next to Ludwig O, with John on Walt’s right, and it did not take
long for the conversation to turn technical. Before long, scraps of paper and
pens were brought out so that movements, escapements, overcoils and other
components could be drawn to emphasize and explain fine points. Jeff Kingston’s
fluent French also came in handy on a few occasions to clarify technical issues.
Next up were the main courses, including salmon, lamb, and filet mignon, and
with these we enjoyed the ’87 Vosne Romanee, and for another California
comparison we ordered a Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir. The conversation covered a
wide range of topics, including George Daniels and his escapement, Breguet
overcoils, perpetual calendar design, pocket watches versus wristwatches, and
similar topics that would launch patrons at other tables into a coma. This was
Then it got even better. The desserts at Boulevard are sublime, and Cookie
decided to spring for a bottle of 1983 Château d’Yquem, the Premier Grand Cru
Classé of Sauternes. A big thanks to Cookie for this gesture – it was truly
We adjourned after more than three hours of some of the finest food, wine,
watches and conversation I’ve ever experienced, but no one wanted to leave. We
stood outside the restaurant on the street, continuing the discussion and
fellowship. I finally tore myself away when my car arrived, and departed for
home, somewhat lightheaded. Truly an evening to remember.
Here are a few scans…
L to R: Jeff Kingston, Rob Cook, Steve Richman, John Davis.
Left side, back to front: Ludwig Oechslin, Walt Odets, John Davis.
Right side, back to front: Richard Paige, Jeff Kingston, Rob Cook, Steve
Richard Paige (L) and Jeff Kingston.
Walt O and Ludwig O discuss the GMT ± Perpetual.
L to R, John Davis, Walt O and Ludwig.
Ludwig Oechslin finally receives his WIS pin.
Ludwig and John talk while Walt enjoys a sip of wine.
Well, that’s the end of the slide show. See you back at the ranch.