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1. Your grandfather founded Circula in Pforzheim. What did the circula clocks stand for then?
In 1955, just as today, Circula’s goal was to create fine watches, high quality, precise and at fair prices. There is also a local aspect. Then as now, many parts came from Pforzheim and the surrounding area and the watches were also made here.
2. Did your grandfather also give you the watch fever? And have watches always played such a big role in your life?
I got the watch fever from my father. He himself had already started working in my grandfather’s watchmaking business right after school and until two years ago he had run Huber & Co, for almost 50 years in total. So you can say, the man knows his stuff. As a child he had taken me to suppliers, for example to Junghans in Schramberg or to jewellery shops all over Germany. With so many watch topics all day long, I couldn’t help but get excited about them too.
3. Can you still remember your first own watch? What was it and what memories do you associate with it?
One of my first watches was a Casio with remote control. I can still remember an English lesson at school, where I used the clock to turn the TV in the classroom on and off as if by magic, until the teacher finally put it on the corridor. Beautiful memory.
4. At some point, things got quiet around your brand…
In addition to the watch brand Circula, my family always had a watch wholesaler, Huber & Co, where we sold big brands like Junghans and Casio to jewelers all over Germany. I think there were several reasons. In the late 80s, more and more domestic suppliers disappeared and there was no time to build up a new network. In addition, there was a lot of growth potential in the wholesale business after the reunification in the 90s. Therefore the focus has shifted until I have been fully back to Circula for the last 2 years.
5. And now you come into play, Cornelius: in 2018 you have taken over your grandfather’s legacy and created Circula. To continue the family business is a real rarity today. Has this always been clear to you, or did you first imagine your career differently?
It was not certain, but I had been flirting with it since I was a child, mainly because of my enthusiasm for watches. However, there was never any pressure on me and so I first made a career in a management consultancy before the time was ripe to concentrate fully on watches. I think the decisive factor was the imminent birth of our first son. So I thought, it’s now or never, because I was afraid I would not be able to have children and miss my dream.
6. How did you approach the Circula 2.0 project? That’s quite a daring step, to start from scratch. Were there any teething problems in the revival of the watch manufacture?
Sure, it is not easy to gain a foothold in such a competitive market as the German or even worldwide watch market. Therefore I have tackled it in two steps: First the quartz watches as a quasi test series to see with little risk how the brand and design are accepted. After such a successful start, it was clear that I wanted to produce mechanical watches as soon as possible, if only because of my own weakness and the history of Circula.
7. What did your father actually say about the project? And is he still pulling the strings in the background?
My father was a little skeptical at first. Giving up the good and secure job for the ups and downs of self-employment…But when it came to it, he always gave me his full support. He takes care of the logistics a lot and rides the small parts (mostly by bike) in Pforzheim to the different suppliers, e.g. to the engraver or the electroplating shop.
8. Your flagship is the Circula Heritage manual winding collection, inspired by the first Circula from the founding year 1955. how did you come up with the positively insane idea of incorporating historical P.U.W. movements from the 1970s? Was this planned or rather a lucky coincidence? And where did you find these movements?
It was first by chance and then by intuition to persistently follow the rumour. When I finally got the contact to the P.U.W. works, it was only a logical step. I think that no one else can offer movements that are all 100% made in Germany for less than 1000€ – not to mention that this closes the circle for us as a Pforzheim brand in a unique way.
9. So the movements and the circula have a lot in common – they were brought to new life…
Absolutely. Two Pforzheim legends have, so to speak, found each other. Actually, one has to say that they have found each other again, since the first Circula watches from 1955 were also equipped with P.U.W. movements.
10. How do you reconstruct old watches? Can you plan this exactly or do you rather try out a lot?
That was incredible work. First find someone who can assemble the works without an exploded view and then build a case for it, without a technical drawing and dimensions. It took us a lot of time and patience. I now have a watchmaker who trained at P.U.W. That helps a lot. When that was solved and the parts arrived at our company, we spent nights sorting thousands of parts. On the positive side, it has to be pointed out that all parts are new, that means they were never used as movements and therefore don’t have a scratch or oil stain. They seem to be spick and span and that after almost 40 years of storage.
11. Are there actually differences to the originals from the 50s?
No, everything is the same as back then, that’s why the movements are also called NOS, New Old Stock. That’s something very rare.
12. Characteristic for Circula is above all the historical clockwork. What else distinguishes your watch manufactory?
As mentioned above, the local connection to Pforzheim, with local suppliers. Even the leather for our ribbons comes exclusively from southern Germany, partly from Stuttgart. We also rely on very high quality materials and also careful control of all watches before shipping. If something does go wrong, we always leave ready to find a good solution for the customer.
13. What do you like to wear most in private? Do you stay loyal to the family business or do you have other brands on your wrist?
Of course I wear mainly the Circula Heritage models, but every now and then I also wear my Junghans Flieger Chronograph Replica with Valjoux 7760 on my wrist. A present from my parents for my high school graduation. As a little boy I was in Schramberg near Junghans countless times and while my parents were in meetings, I went up and down with the paternoster there. Once I got out in the attic and saw this clock in a picture. In the evening I had told my father enthusiastically about it. Over 10 years later, he gave me the clock, including the picture of the Junghans attic.
14. The first step in building a successful start-up is done. Even more difficult than getting to the top is, as is well known, staying at the top. How will you and Circula continue in the future? What do you have planned?
There are plenty of plans for the future, new models, new ideas. Above all, it is important to me to offer something special to stand out from the crowd and reach enthusiasts. Therefore I have a few ideas, which I will tackle bit by bit in the next years.
15. Finally, back to your grandfather: he has the first watch from the limited edition of the Heritage. What does the critical expert say? Were you able to satisfy him?
My father has worn the watch every day since June and I think every day I am thrilled that we have managed to make such a great watch. It runs precisely, looks good, is of high quality and has a special history. What more could you want?
Circula Heritage Hand-wound: https://circulawatches.com/en/heritage-hand-wound-circula/
Circula Heritage Hand-wound: https://www.watchdavid.com/circula-heritage-hand-wound/
All photos & text: Circula