Ultimate Cars, Watches & Hi Fi S02 ep12 : McGoingle, McGoingle Watches, [????]

Interview with McGoingle

Having benefited from years working in Switzerland producing complicated watches and prototypes, and restoring antique horological pieces for the most exclusive watch houses, we have decided to start making watches under our own name. With McGonigle Watches, we aim to create unique timepieces of exceptional precision and quality and revitalise a tradition of watchmaking in Ireland.


McGonigle: McGonigle well it’s two brothers, myself and Steven, we’ve always been madly
passionate about watches, it brought us to Switzerland, it brought us to developing complicated
watches for some of the well known brands and at this stage McGonigle for us is making the
watches we want to make.

McGonigle: Well our dad, he was a compositor in the newspaper by profession, but he used to do
loads of other things, he’d repair any kind of machine, he built a lot of things, electrics and
electronics, and he developed a bit of a reputation for being a clock repairer, so we kind of grew up
in a house with, where the clocks come in through the front door, went into the shed where they
were repaired, when they were repaired they’d come into the living room until they were collected.

McGonigle: It was very, very clear that I had a mechanical bent, I was going to do something
either engineering you know something like that, and he said listen there’s a watch making school
in Dublin, would you be interested in trying that, and I was like yeah, as soon as he said it, I was
intrigued with the idea.

McGonigle: The first thing they give you isn’t a watch, they give you a block of wood and tell you
to file a 45° angle on the end, then you move onto a block of brass and then steel and then they
give you, you make tools, you don’t touch a watch for about oh about four months. It’s scaling you
down from what you handle in every day life to pocket watch size and then you get to work on a
wrist watch in your second year. By the time you get to a ladies watch, size is no longer an issue,
you’re not intimated by the smallness of things.

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

McGonigle: During the time we spent in college I came across George Daniels’ book
“Watchmaking”. I think you’ll find an awful lot of independent watch makers will say exactly the
same thing, that kind of opened up the notion that one watch maker could make a watch from
beginning to end.

McGonigle: The Swiss that set up colleges all over the world, during the 60’s, with repair in mind
and when the crisis came in the 70’s, most of them closed down, but they had a good man in the
college in Dublin and he punched above the college’s weight and they were really well taken care
of by ETA which is now part of the Swatch group of course, they were resourced fully you know
with movements with equipment, and eventually I did walk into a Swiss workshop, it was no
surprise at all, the equipment was familiar.

McGonigle: Steven’s story is that he really didn’t, wasn’t interested in clocks at all because they
were big dirty things and you were working out in the cold shed, there’s not much glamour
attached to working on clocks the way my father did, but I had to work on a wrist watch at home
while I was still in college and Steven saw me you know like putting the seat down to the work top
level in the kitchen, lighting it properly, taking the thing apart and he was just like, wait a sec, this
is different, he was hooked at that point and I think what gets everyone eventually is the fact that
you’re giving life to these little bits of metal.

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

McGonigle: I worked in England for a while, I did a short spell in Bermuda, I did the refresher
course in Worstep which is like an international school for watch makers in Ashtel and then I
worked with … Marpiga for five years and I moved to a small little company in the Loch, it’s
actually getting quite big now, Christoff Clarie and I was really attracted there because of the high
complications they were making. And while I was there Steven joined me so for a while we were
working together.

McGonigle: One thing that Steven had always from the very start was an inability to compromise.
I arrived in that company one year out of college and the first watch he had to work on was a
miniature piece with automats and Clarie at the time was a struggling company you know it’s ok to
say that now because they’re flying now, it’s an extremely successful company, but they’d
embarked on a program of several prototypes, for very, very complicated watches, they had very
limited resources and in truth, they’d really over-extended themselves so into that environment he
was thrown where every watch you did made a big contribution to the company, for that reason he
moved very quickly onto prototypes. It’s one thing doing complicated watches, but when you’re
put on prototypes you’re required to have a watch maker that is utterly responsible and is prepared
to face up to any mistakes he might make, pedal backwards, not lose heart, and then find new
solutions and then execute them. I think it really is the pointy end of watch making you know
because you’re working on things that no one knows if they will work.

McGonigle: I was only there for two years but during that time I did three prototypes, all three of
them are repeaters and one of them was a grand complication, we had to try every trick to get
things working, it was a huge lesson in managing resources, because we didn’t have great
resources at the time, being very inventive and like thinking past problems. When you have a
movement that is 90% made and it’s not working at all, you know you can’t throw it in the bin and
start again, you have to really develop systems to work around it.

Jewellery Theatre Elements

McGonigle: Both Steven and I … come from a background of restoration and after sales service,
you know you come across the good, the bad, and the ugly in watch making when you do after
sales service, it’s a pleasure working on a beautiful watch that’s well designed, a bad watch is a
nightmare to work on. It’s no fun at all and so but really it teaches you what not to do.

McGonigle: If you talk to an awful lot of the very high end watch makers, they’ll freely admit to
fuck ups, you know you’re not embarrassed about it any more, it’s like yeah, I’ve fell down a lot
but like you know as you can see, I got up.

McGonigle: Even when we were doing very, very complicated stuff, I always tried to strive to do it
as simple as possible and always bear in mind that a watch when it goes together, it goes together
only for five years and then it has to come apart again and we will never have a big after sales
service network worldwide so the responsibility that’s placed on us is to design and make watches
that are obvious for a very good watch maker to take apart you know, do the work and put it back
together again and it should function as well as the day it was made. So you really have to consider
the guy who comes after you.

McGonigle: To that end I think we took an awful lot of, from the experience of working on late
19th Century, early 20th Century watches, because they really were thought out, they were no
special technologies or anything used, they were just extremely well designed and made and that is
the principal behind our watches really.

McGonigle: Like we really do have a very ordinary existence back in Ireland you know, recently I
was staying in a hostel with the kids and I was cooking breakfast with this guy, after a while you
know he said you know so what do you do for a living, I said oh I’m a watch maker, he said really,
like repairs or you make them? I said I make them, he said, you have anything, have you ever
heard of those two brothers who make watches you know, this guy was from England, and so he
read about this in the newspaper I think The Times or something did a feature on us, and I was like
ah well actually I’m one of them and he could not believe that you know.

Jewellery Theatre Fairytales

Selling $50,000 watches and you’re staying in

McGonigle: $50,000?

What’s the retail sticker price?

McGonigle: In gold it’s 180,000 Euro, before tax and

And you’re staying at a hostel.

McGonigle: You can pull the Irishman out of the bog, but you can’t pull the bog out of the


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