Tradition and watches with soul

For 1903 the people of Husum have been buying beautiful watches and a beautiful lifestyle from the jeweler Detlef Jensen

Theodor Storm, the most famous son of Husum, gave his home an enduringly dreary image when he wrote that the North Frisian town was a “gray city by the sea.” Husum can also be quite different, naturally enough. On mild early summer days, when the sun is shining on the market square, the ancient and not particularly gray houses are still standing. Here, in the house where Theodor Storm was born in 1817, Detlef Jensen operates his jewelry business. Founded in 1903, it is now in its third generation as a family business; since 2000, it has been managed by master watchmaker Peter Koch, and for more than ten years the display window has always shown the current MeisterSinger collection.

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Life is not measured in seconds

Koch and his wife, Andrea, thoroughly remodeled the shop a few years ago. Bright and friendly, it combines modern aesthetics with an ancient and historical brick building, which was built in the 16th century and which contained a watchmaker’s workshop in the early 19th century. Antique pieces, such as the regulator made by an ancestor in 1914 and the wooden cash till dating from 1911, remind one of the current owner’s family history. Jeweler Jensen has fine jewelry, cutlery, and, of course, silver baptism gifts. “We grew up here and are of course close to the city and its people,” says Peter Koch. “We have long been a brand.” Husum not only has “a lot of wind,” but also a small-scale (wind) industry and more and more tourism. “Both are attracting new customers,” says Andrea Koch, “and among them are many people who delight in beautiful things and lasting value.” And, apparently, who share a taste for MeisterSinger’s watches: “The Circularis sold out immediately,” Koch recalls. “Most of the customers who come into the shop because of a MeisterSinger are already familiar with the name. Others are inspired by the beauty of the watches in the shop window and ask if they aren’t missing a hand.” Over a cup of coffee, Koch then explains the principle of a one-handed watch. “The visitors have time and are open to learning about carefully designed, unusual timepieces.” The one-handed watch not only fits well into the holiday theme, but into the region; here in North Frisia, there is not much hustle and bustle. Life has no secondary hand here, and lunch time is announced by the Church of the Virgin Mary.

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Cool watchmaking

Peter Koch continues the tradition of driving across the country to service the wall- and grandfather clocks of his longtime customers. He refuses, though, to install quartz works in the antique pieces: “You cannot steal the souls from the clocks!” That there is still someone in Husum who cares for such oldtimers was mentioned in a TV program by the NDR on unusual apprenticeship programs, which focused on Tim Minchau, who is studying at Jensen’s watch shop. “For us it was like winning the lottery,” says Peter Koch, delighted by the noticeable boost in popularity, after which, as Andrea Koch recalls, “we had to give appointments like a medical specialist.” And Tim Minchau is obviously just such a stroke of luck: above all, no awkward embarrassment as a watchmaker. “I knew when I was 14 that I wanted to learn this craft. I just found it cool,” he recalls. It was difficult to find an apprenticeship in the north; he convinced the Koch family during an internship at the company. Was he worried about living in a small town where everyone knows everyone? “On the contrary,” he says firmly. “To be honest, I hate big cities.” Now he takes part in all aspects of a watchmaker’s workday: from advising customers to tinkering at the high work table with a loupe in his eye. His master (“I do not have as much patience as Tim”) praises the perfectionism of his apprentice, who is always careful to set a perfect pointer position at every maintenance. With this passion, it is no wonder Minchau is enthusiastic about MeisterSinger watches: “I did not know the brand before, but I was immediately convinced by the idea.” Because he thinks not only about time measurement technology but also about aesthetics, he has a clear favorite: “The very round design of the Pangea is the perfect implementation of the one-handed concept,” he argues – quite in contrast to his boss. Peter Koch finds the striking housing of the Phanero particularly lovely. His wife, on the other hand, has a favorite among the faces of the dials: “Rensing-Green with sun-burst finish.”Compelling storytelling

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Compelling storytelling

It is this exchange of ideas among the members of the Jensen team, six in total, and their intensive engagement with their wares, that makes their counselling discussions and “storytelling” so convincing and authentic. A big historical exhibit will be held this fall, for Theodor Storm’s 200th birthday, in celebration of which Detlef Jensen will display contemporary art that deals with Storm’s best-known novel, “The Rider on the White Horse.” It is about the onslaught of storms on the west coast of the murderous North Sea, which characterizes the country and the people – although they are quite different on a sunny spring day in Husum.