Reuben Schoots works in silence because he is working by hand, at a scale of microns, on the pieces of a mechanical watch he began two-and-a-half years ago, ABC News reports.
When he made its first part, he knew almost nothing about horology, the study of timekeeping.
Once an athletic man working as a barista and studying nutrition at university, Reuben became sick from an unknown illness he contracted during an eight-month backpacking journey through Latin America.
“I became really unwell, I lost 16 kilos, I couldn’t leave the bed, I had this huge mental depression as well as this physical depression.”
Rarely able to leave his bed or his home, Reuben lost his job, his sporting ability, and ultimately quit his studies.
Then something unusual on the wrist of a friend caught Reuben’s eye.
“It was a mechanical watch, and you could see the movement through the back of the watch.”
“That was when I had the realisation that I wanted to begin watchmaking … I thought, that’s something I could do, it’s not massive movements of the body, I can take my time, I can do it from home.
But you cannot just start making a watch with 200-year-old techniques on the fly.
There are no online tutorials or group classes for making a mechanical watch from scratch — even modern handmade watches are usually built by a team of up to 32 craftsmen, each with a specialisation in a particular part honed over a lifetime.
His guide, a late master named George Daniels — famed for making complete watches by hand — would sometimes write a single instruction (like “make a flywheel”) for a part that required more than 100 steps and three months of work to make.
After 2,500 hours of work, Reuben has just two pieces left to make before his watch will finally tick.