“It occurred to me quite spontaneously as I ran along the Werenbach brook: why not make watches from burnt-out space rockets?” says Werenbach founder and CEO Patrick Hohmann. That was more than ten years ago. Today, his ‘crazy idea’ – as it was once affectionately termed by many – is a company making waves in the established watchmaking world. Yet the road there wasn’t easy: it demanded dedication, a great deal of energy and an even bigger helping of grit. Where does one even get rocket material, anyway?
A journey into the unknown
Hohmann and his crew made their first trip to Kazakhstan in spring 2012. There, in a rigorously guarded military zone in the middle of the Kazakh steppe, lies the landing place of burnt-out rocket stages from manned Soyuz rocket missions. These missions are launched from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome. “Our contact, Mukhtar, is one of the few people allowed to enter the area,” Hohmann says. “The first time we sat in the car with him and drove towards the smoking debris, our hearts were beating out of our chests. It was an adrenaline rush like none I’d ever felt.” Hohmann worked with Mukhtar and his men to salvage the material, just as he still does today. The booster parts are dismantled directly on the steppe. After that, they are transported to a warehouse, where Hohmann sorts the pieces by type and colour, bundles them, and prepares them for transport to Switzerland. Yet even once the material has been loaded and the truck sealed, Hohmann’s Werenbach journey is far from over.
It all starts with the material selection on site. About 90% of the rocket material is not usable for us because it is either warped or too scratched. Nevertheless, we also select pieces that show particularly exciting scratches or burn marks – because this material is suitable for exceptional custom pieces.
The selected material is then processed into dials using two different methods. Both material processing methods are unique in the watch industry.
Fine mechanical process (original surfaces)
In the fine mechanical process, we cut the dials directly from the outer skin of the rocket. The surface of the rocket is preserved. The dials have the original colours of the rocket (orange, olive and white). Silver coloured dials come from the uncoated inside of the boosters. Since the dials are original, they have small scratch marks, which makes each dial unique.
For people who love perfect dials made of original material, we have applied a special coating (Pearl Black, Eclipse) which eliminates all scratches and irregularities.
Micro casting process
In the micro-casting process, the material is melted down and cast. This process allows the production of dials whose simplicity is captivating: due to the casting process, it is possible to give the dials a unique 3D profile. Logo and indexes are raised, other areas are recessed. The material remains 100% original rocket material.
World-class watches need movements to match! At Werenbach, we use two: the SW-200, the most proven Swiss movement of all time, and a speciality movement from Swiss manufacture Soprod.
Our challenge is not quality, but rather to assert ourselves as a small manufacturer against the big and well-known brands.Our recipe: the same quality standards, but maximally lean business structures and a community that supports us.