To young Rolf Studer, his grandfather’s shipyard by the lake of Lucerne was the most magical place in the world. It was not the quintessential Swiss tableau of crisp blue sky, glassy lake and surrounding snow-capped mountains that fascinated Studer. Instead, it was a dusty workshop by the lake’s edge from which the faint sound of hammering broke the silence.
“In the old days, my grandfather lived above the workshop in his shipyard. My mother grew up there. I used to visit as a boy and I still remember how the sunlight came in through the dusty windows, the smell of the mahogany and lacquer — 12 layers applied to each boat. It was very atmospheric. I fell in love,” says Studer, leaning forward in his seat.
“There were usually seven or eight boats in the workshop, which had sections for wood and mechanical work as well as storage rooms. I remember playing around and using his tools. Whenever I borrowed one, my grandfather would point to its handle and say, ‘You see, very small here, it says, thank you for bringing it back.’ And I could never see it but I believed him and always brought his tools back! Of course, there was no actual script engraved there. He had a very personal relationship with his work. It’s that pride old-fashioned craftsmen have in doing something with purpose that lasts for life. He made boats that are still around — wooden boats, if you take good care of them, they endure. It was a privilege to experience him like that, as a very genuine human being doing with a great deal of pride what he did best — making boats. He was a carpenter, a mechanic, an electrician, an upholsterer. He did everything himself, from drawing the plans to making the final product. I was always impressed by that and respected it.”
He might not have been able to articulate it as a child but those endless afternoons in the workshop stoked a deep appreciation for craftsmanship that he would carry well into adulthood. It might have taken a back seat in the early years of his career as he worked his way up to customer development manager at Coca-Cola, but when opportunity knocked in 2006, he left the global company to join Oris as a regional manager.
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