Sunday, October 25, 2015

Handcrafted Art Piece - My Dragon and how it was made

Russian watchmaker and engraver Stefan Vinogradov has crafted some pieces worthy of an independent watchmaker from the AHCI.

Some background - as a young boy, Stefan realised he likes working with his hands and as he matured, he was toying with the idea of being a chef or a jewelry maker. Culinary's loss is our gain as he chose to enrol himself in jewelry art classes. And from there, he went on to work for a Russian watch brand mastering the craft of engraving and later modifying movements.

Stefan lives and works out from Moscow and was recently in Singapore for his "honeymoon" with his lovely wife, Svetlana. And we were lucky enough to spend time with Stefan and Svetlana on their first trip to sunny Singapore!
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And we had dinner too at French Road kopitiam - yes, they were game for the steamed fish head. Their favourite was the fried brinjal (eggplant). Here after our makan session.
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But I digress... the more important thing was about how he goes about crafting one of the beauties like the Dragon he made for me. I got to know Stefan via Instagram. We exchanged emails several times, he showing me his previous works and the different kinds of dials and movement finishing.

Step 1 - Art work

I took some Dragon images off the internet and sent them to Stefan who then used a software to "clean" the image and then sent it back to me for approval. This was what we agreed to.
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Step 2 - Choosing the Case Type

Once we agree on the drawing, we need to choose the case type. He sends me some generic steel cases mostly available in stock. But Stefan can also make precious metal cases on order but of course that would increase the pricing and lead time too. Here are some cases he showed me.
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Step 3 - Choosing the Movement Type and Finishing

Stefan uses mostly the UNITAS 6498 or 6497 manual winding movement. Which one he uses depends on the final design and whether owner wants the seconds hand or not. And then we also have to choose the finishing style.

Stefan showed me some of his handy work - from the base UNITAS movement to the disassembly and the final engraved and polished product. Here is a base movement plate.
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This is another part of the base plate.
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Some of the parts taken apart, cut, engraved and polished to a shine. All hand done!
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The whole movement side by side.
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And when all that is done, he puts them back together.
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Step 4 - The Dial

So after the artwork is agreed, Stefan starts on the dial. He starts off with a blank brass plate and "transfers" the picture onto the dial. He cuts them, engraves them by hand and in this case, pays particular attention to the scales on the body of the dragon. Following pictures courtesy of Stefan.
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Step by step he engraves the plate.
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And a semi finished product.
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And a finished product before plating. Assembled and shown here beside the original brass plate.
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Step 5 - The Plating & Finishing

Then the plating begins to give it the final shine. Where he needs to add in the jewels or perhaps do some enamelling, Stefan does all these by hand. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures to show this process.

The final product in this case is this beautifully hand crafted art piece.
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This is a one-of-a-kind, piece unique timepiece Stefan made for me. He tells me that it takes about two to three weeks to hand engrave the movement and another two weeks for the dial. The hand work on the dial is very much dependant on the complexity of the dial. It can take up to three weeks for a dial and for my timepiece, Stefan took around 6 weeks from commission to completion.

Stefan tells me I'm his first customer in Singapore and with this first piece, hopes to be able to get more customers here. And I certainly hope he succeeds in getting a few more pieces commissioned.

For those interested in his work, you may contact Stefan via email at You can also follow him on Instagram at @stefanjewels. Good luck my friend Stefan & Svetlana. I hope you enjoyed Singapore and meeting all the watch collectors too. See you back here soon.