Meet Watchmaker Wayne Donnelly

September 16, 2009

Wayne DonnellyI have been an associate at Ben Bridge for nearly 25 years, with a hiatus in the mid-90’s when I went to school in Switzerland.

I was originally hired to work in the shipping department at the Ben Bridge corporate office. While in shipping, I took an interest in the watch repair department and began spending my lunches there, learning certain skills and discussing apprenticeship. One thing led to another, and through further education and apprenticing, I worked my way from an assistant watchmaker to full-time watchmaker through a series of Seattle–area stores and eventually to the flagship store downtown. In 1995 I was accepted to WOSTEP in Nuechatel, Switzerland, where I would finish my education in watchmaking and eventually return to the corporate office to our watch repair and service center.

Today I am a Certified Watchmaker and manager of the service center, as well as assistant to our head of service, Jeff Grieff. I am the self-proclaimed Charlie Munger of Ben Bridge watch repair. He’s number two to Mr. Warren Buffett and I’m number two to Jeff–not a bad place to be.

There are several things about watchmaking that I find rewarding. The biggest difference between working on a watch movement and doing some type of repair to my 1925 home is the level of precision and tolerance required. You not only need steady hands but an extreme level of patience. There are times when you can completely lose yourself in a particular task and fully lose sight of the scale that you’re working in. I have gotten into particular operations of repair where I became so intent on what was under magnification right under my nose, that I hadn’t noticed that it had gotten dark outside. But the reward of overcoming the intensity, problem solving, and scale of this profession can be great.

Modern day watchmaking combines antique and often hand crafted tools with state-of-the-art electronic testing equipment. Skills can be passed down for generations, or created in a spotless lab environment. Every time I’m sent for any new training, I come back eager and empowered, as well as grateful to meet new peers in this age-old and ever-interesting profession. I am still amazed on a regular basis when I see or learn of something that was crafted by a watchmaker well over 100 years ago, and try to imagine what it would take to do something like that today.

I am also a competitive age-group triathlete, and I race on a team. When I’m not swimming, biking, or running, my real passion is travel. I have filled up two passports with the stamps of over 30 countries, and am always looking to see the next furthest destination I can reach. I love to be a stranger in a strange land, and have been blissfully lost in many of the far corners of the globe.

I have a wife of 10 years and no children, but we do have a wonderful dog. We have a great home that we’ve made to feel like our ideal vacation, filling it with treasures we’ve collected from around the world. Our home has been shown in several different home and garden magazines.


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