Carrying on a watchmaking legacy

Marc Brown and Adrian Fernandez in the workshop. - PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

A young Caymanian and a third-generation watchmaker are working together to hone skills as finely tuned as the precise movements of a well-made timepiece.

Marc Brown, 22, has been working with his mentor Adrian Fernandez at Island Companies for two and a half years, starting as a complete novice who now “can put anything together.”

“It’s amazing. I learn something every day,” said Mr. Brown, who the company chose for the apprenticeship after running an advertisement.

The company was seeking young Caymanians interested in learning the skills of watchmaking “and out of few, we chose Marc … because he is focused and shows interest to learn,” Mr. Fernandez said of the former John Gray High School student.
Watchmaking was not a vocation Mr. Brown had considered, but now his enthusiasm shows. “Never did I think I’d come across a profession I’d love so much,” he said.

“All I could do [with a watch] before this job was to tell the time,” he laughed. “Now I can put anything together.”

He can now service most quartz and mechanical watches.

“This profession is very meticulous, very hands-on and detailed,” he said.
“[Mr. Fernandez] has made learning fun. He’s friendly and knows what he’s doing. Plus, he makes learning easy,” Mr. Brown said.

After four years as an apprentice, Mr. Brown, like his mentor, will have the opportunity to attend workshops in Switzerland.

The mentor

Although Mr. Fernandez has 21 years’ experience as a watchmaker, he continues his own training. Later this month he will attend the esteemed Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program.

Mr. Fernandez, who is from India, comes from a long line of watchmakers dating to around 1890. The first in his family to study the art of watchmaking was his grandfather, Joseph, who learned the trade from a British priest in India.

In 1901, his grandfather opened what would become the family’s watchmaking workshop, Joseph Fernandez & Sons. Now run by Mr. Fernandez’s uncle, the workshop still operates in Kollam, Kerala, India.

Mr. Fernandez’s interest in watchmaking began when he was 15 and started taking timepieces apart at the family business.

“I used to visit our family workshop on a weekly basis, and there I started learning the basic things,” he said.

He earned a bachelor of commerce degree in college, but by that time, “watchmaking was already in my blood,” he said. At age 21, he enrolled in the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program, and worked in Switzerland, Dubai, Holland and India before moving to Cayman in 2012.

When he was hired by Island Companies for a watchmaker position, he and his family moved here.

“We all came together to the island without even seeing the place before,” he said. “I made some friends through Facebook and did research before arriving and got to know this is a paradise.”

His precision work is “simply brilliant,” said Bob Nickoles, zone sales manager for Island Jewellers. “I’ve watched [Mr. Fernandez] assemble a watch that was in 250 pieces.”

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  1. This is a wonderful, enlightening story.

    Also, it brings to mind a new industry for Cayman. What about watch making? I could see an entire industry sprouting up from an intern network of international watchmakers here.

    Afterall, we have the international market here, import/export facilites and shipping. Spending the time to develope a reputation for fine watchmaking (on a small scale of course) might be worth thinking about. Perhaps some of our well-healed residents would consider an investment??