Marking The Hours With Stefan Kudoke On The Inspiration And Journey As An Independent Watchmaker

THM Desk
20 Apr 2024 |
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Kudoke is driven by a singular pursuit - to craft exquisitely designed and engineered timepieces that blend traditional high horology with avant-garde creativity. What sets Kudoke apart is their boldness to challenge convention through innovative timekeeping displays and complications. We caught up with independent watchmaker Stefan Kudoke to discuss his journey as an independent watchmaker and more!

THM: You ventured into this field without any prior knowledge and later upskilled at service centers of brands like Omega and Blancpain. Could you share a little about your journey?

Stefan: From a very young age of 16, I was captivated by watchmaking. There was a watchmaking store next to the apartment where my family lived, and every day on my way to school, I would stop and gaze into the window display.

Stefan Kudoke

One day, I mustered the courage to speak with my mother about the idea of learning this craft. With her support, I went into the store and inquired about an apprenticeship opportunity. To my delight, they agreed to take me on as an apprentice for the restoration of old clocks and watches.

This marked the beginning of my journey and the realization of my passion for watchmaking. I spent countless hours at the store, honing my skills and knowledge under the guidance of experienced watchmakers. After completing my apprenticeship, I continued working there for a year as a full-fledged watchmaker.

Driven by my ambition and thirst for knowledge, I eventually moved to Glashütte Original, where I joined the department responsible for developing prototypes and complicated watches. This opportunity allowed me to further expand my expertise and contribute to the creation of intricate timepieces.

THM: How many watches do you manufacture in a year and what is your team like?

Stefan: It's not just my individual journey anymore. After our incredible win at the prestigious Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève in 2019, things really took off for us. We found ourselves moving at a rapid pace, expanding our operations.

Today, we are a dynamic team of around nine to ten skilled watchmakers and artisans. We have grown into a tight-knit group, united by our passion for the craft and our pursuit of excellence.

KUDOKE 2 – Starry Night – Limited Edition in collaboration with Grail Watch

Our production has also scaled up considerably. Each year, our dedicated team meticulously produces around 200 exquisite timepieces. Sometimes, depending on demand and special orders, we may create a few more or a few less, but we consistently maintain a high level of quality and attention to detail.

THM: We know Kudoke watches incorporates different complications in their timepieces. How important is incorporating complications in a timepiece as an independent watchmaker?

Stefan: While having unique designs, features or complications in our watches is certainly important, I don't primarily look to market research or study what big brands are doing or what customers supposedly like. That's not where I start.

For me, the first and most crucial step is to develop watches that truly resonate with my own personal tastes and desires. I begin by envisioning the kind of timepiece that I myself would want to wear on my wrist every day. Satisfying my own discerning criteria is paramount.

KUDOKE 2 – Bauhinia – Exclusive Limited Edition in Collaboration with A Watch Company

When I embarked on this watchmaking journey, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my individual style preferences, the characteristics I appreciate in a fine timepiece, and the type of watch that would bring me joy to wear. Those deeply personal considerations formed the foundations for my designs. Only after crystallizing my own vision do I proceed with actually developing the watch.

THM: If there was a dream collaboration for a concept watch who would it be with?

Stefan: I would definitely collaborate with a watchmaker from 200 years ago for instance John Harrison.

THM: What is the inspiration behind your watches?

Stefan: The inspiration for our Caliber One movement came from studying old English pocket watches. You know, here in the Saxony region, most of the major brands produce watches with a three-quarter plate design, where the balance is positioned on the side of the movement.

However, the inspiration for our movement stemmed from examining those classic old English pocket watches. They had a distinct design where the balance was always positioned on top of the bridge, creating a visually striking and symmetrical appearance.

GPHG Winner

This traditional English pocket watch architecture provided excellent design inspiration for us. We aimed to take that balanced, aesthetically pleasing layout and reinterpret it in a modern way for our contemporary movement.

THM: What’s so special about the Kudoke 3 timepiece which you have recently released?

Stefan: The Kudoke Three introduces a novel and ingenious concept for telling time. Central to this watch is the hour hand, which resides beneath the dial or between multiple dial layers.

This unique hour hand features three articulated arms of varying lengths. As it rotates, the arms extend outwards at three distinct angles, tracing arcs across the dial's surface to indicate the hours, minutes, and seconds.

Instead of conventional hands sweeping circularly, the hour hand's three multi-length arms move in a visually striking angular pattern. The varying arm lengths allow the time to be precisely tracked as they point to markers on the dial. In some instances, such as when displaying the hour "10," the traditional minute hand works in tandem, sweeping in a circular manner while the hour hand's two shorter arms indicate the tens and single digit hours.


THM: As an independent watchmaker, do you face any challenges? 

Stefan: Being a family-owned independent brand without outside investors is one of our biggest challenges. When you have an investor with deep pockets, it certainly makes life easier. However, we choose to go it alone, handling everything from supplier relations to brand positioning with our own resources and finances.

This lack of massive financial backing that larger brands enjoy is a constant hurdle we must overcome. Yet it also motivates us to be resourceful and strategic in our approach.

Simultaneously, our other major challenge is producing watches of the highest possible quality within our means. As an independent maker, upholding impeccable standards requires tremendous dedication and effort without the same abundant resources that established giants can tap into.


When you start an independent brand, connecting your unique ideology and vision with an audience is enormously difficult. The initial launching phase with limited production and funds is undoubtedly the toughest.

Most independents begin with small batches simply because that's all they can sustainably produce and market in those formative years. It's a vicious cycle - to attract a following, you need to showcase your brand's POV through quality products. But scaling up production requires having achieved a certain level of success first.

THM: What is your outlook on India and Kudoke watches?

Stefan: India is an interesting story for us. Back in around 2016 or 2017, we participated in a small exhibition there along with a friend from India and some local collectors. However, at that time, my feeling was that the market was not quite ready to embrace independent watchmaking brands.

Now, nearly eight years later, we are starting to get some traction and attention in India. But truthfully, from my vantage point here, I cannot definitively say how mature or receptive that market currently is for independent brands.

We'll have to wait and see how things unfold in the future. But if I had to speculate based on other markets, the typical progression is that collectors often start their journey with the major, established brands first. Then, after some time, their curiosity leads them to explore the wonderful world of independent watchmakers operating outside the big conglomerates.

They begin to appreciate the distinctive creativity, craftsmanship and passion that independent brands bring to horology. So in that sense, India may be following a similar path - with a growing audience now becoming aware of the independent scene and its unique offerings.

It's certainly a market we are keen to explore further as the appreciation for independent watchmaking hopefully continues gaining momentum there.