View all articles

Review: Felipe Pikullik FPSK Skeleton

This is one of the craziest stories I’ve come across in a long time. There’s a guy, Felipe Pikullik, a beautifully handmade watch and a journey that you will quite simply struggle to believe. What if I told you that Felipe sold his watches for just $900? That’s just the beginning.


Felipe is not your ordinary human being. He’s, shall we say, different. There’s an aura to him that makes you wonder what on Earth is going on inside his head. You know the meme of the lady with all the maths floating around? This is Felipe. I’ll tell you what’s going on up there: watchmaking, although he doesn’t quite consider himself a watchmaker. Honestly, this is probably the closest experience I’ve had to that moment of thinking, “This man is either a genius, or crackers.” Maybe that seems mean, but stick with me. It’s all going to make sense soon.

I was first introduced to Felipe through a friend of mine, Marko, who runs the Swiss Watch Gang channel. Marko specialises in finding awesome, up-and-coming watchmakers, and he was particularly sweet on Felipe. Marko really doubled down on his enthusiasm for Felipe by actually buying one of his watches, a custom creation with his logo and everything. It would soon become clear why he snapped at the chance.

So, who is Felipe? He’s a German watchmaker, although looking at him you’d have guessed he’s from somewhere quite a bit warmer. Seems like an odd thing to point out, but get this: his start in watchmaking came with rejection after rejection from the German schools, because, and I can’t quite wrap my head around this, what he looks like. Seriously, the things that were said to him make my skin crawl. I won’t repeat them here, but whatever you’re thinking, it was worse.

It takes a certain type of soul to stick to it after receiving such personal abuse, but as you’ll discover, this is Felipe we’re talking about. He’s got that watch stuff stuck up there in his head and it needs out one way or another. After much persistence, he finally found his way into a school, and it quickly became apparent that he wasn’t exactly the model student.

If you didn’t know, most watchmaking schools these days focus around the servicing and repair of watches, as that’s the most prevalent work for a watchmaker. There are little to no brands actually crafting watches by hand. CNC machines do most of the work with a light touch from a watchmaker at the finishing stage, and that’s about it. Even the finishing can be mostly done by machine.

So, when it comes to making things from scratch, the furthest these courses go is to build a clock. They’re a lot bigger and easier to make than a tiny watch, and it kind of serves as a way to scratch an itch for the students whilst they learn how to change a battery.

Felipe did not want to learn how to change a battery. He wanted to learn how to make a watch. And so, whilst he got top marks on the subjects he enjoyed, he didn’t even bother with the ones he did not. His teachers, as you can imagine, were distraught. Felipe pestered them to teach him real, proper watchmaking. Cutting and polishing bevels by hand. Skeletonising plates with a small saw. Black polishing components to a ripple-free finish. His teachers had to admit that they did not know.

Here's the thing: those skills are lost to all but a few watchmakers who either had the information passed to them by someone long since gone, or essentially having to teach themselves. And so, Felipe was forced to do the same thing, buying up a library’s worth of watchmaking books from centuries past and trawling through them to learn the secrets. Bit by bit he pieced the story together, staying late at the school to test his new-found knowledge. This all gets a bit Good Will Hunting, because Felipe’s dedication inspired the other students too, and he wound up teaching classes on the things he had learnt. See what I mean about genius?


Something you’ll also learn about Felipe is that if imposter syndrome was a personality, that’s him all over. Out of school, he found work with German watchmaker Stefan Kudoke, whose incredible watches we’ve reviewed before, assisting with the skeletonization and finishing of Stefan’s watches. It wasn’t long before Stefan had to verbally grab Felipe by the lapels and shake him. “You’re too good for me,” Stefan told him. “You should be doing this for yourself.”

That’s why Felipe started his own watch brand. Stefan basically forced him to. Now, if it hasn’t already been impressed, I want to explain a bit more about the different grades of hand finish. Sometimes a watch just comes out of the CNC machine with stripes and bevels already in place. Sometimes those existing finishes get a little touch of hand work for that final percent, using hand tools that have a little electrical performance boost. In the case of Felipe, his workshop makes the Amish look like they’re from the future.

He starts with a base Unitas movement. To the uninitiated, that’s an immediate red flag. Not in-house?! Well, let me tell you, this is the Trigger’s broom of watchmaking. What’s left over once Felipe is done isn’t recognisable as anything you can buy from Unitas. Every plate is cut into a new shape, by hand, with a tiny saw whose blade is barely thicker than a few hairs. Every polished angle is carved out and finished with hand tools whose only interaction with electricity is the light coming from the bulbs overhead. You see how wide those bevels are? You’re looking at hours upon hours upon hours of work. There’s no surface left untouched by Felipe.

And he started selling his watches at just $900. You can imagine why Marko jumped on it. He and I and many others, including Felipe’s exhausted business partner Abed, have explained to him that his work is worth more, but he just doesn’t seem to know or care. All he cares about is getting that watchmaking out of his head.

I asked him about what was next, and without batting an eyelid, Felipe whips out some sketches for some incredible complications he’s got churning around in his mind. You see, he’s working towards replacing the Unitas with his own movement, completely handmade from start to finish, and complications on the Unitas are a great way to work towards that goal. But he doesn’t have the money to work on those projects.

I ask why he doesn’t take deposits for the new ideas, and he says he doesn’t think his work is good enough. I ask him how many watches he’d need to sell to get the upfront capital, and he’s not sure. I ask him how many watches he’s made, and he’s also not sure. I’m stunned. This man is the complete opposite of a businessman. He’s a watchmaker. Although, he still doesn’t believe it.

He has a small team with him now, and some of them are apprentices. Instead of selling his watches for big cash—which he can, we’ll get onto that in a moment—he spends his time teaching other people everything he knows. He actually said he wanted to write a book compiling everything he sourced from a mountain of text into one guide. I thought that was a brilliant idea. He said he wasn’t good enough yet. Not a proper watchmaker. I facepalmed.

So, here’s the picture right now: he’s finally been persuaded to sell his watches for a price that makes more sense. They’re still a way off, considering how many hours of work goes into each, but it’s a start. Unfortunately, he’s got about thirty watches on back order at the original price, so he’s stuck with a cashflow problem. He’s so stuck he got nominated for a GPHG award but couldn’t afford the entry fee.

Felipe recently introduced a new complication, a moonphase, to his collection, something that had been a point of contention between him and his business partner Abed. Abed saw it as a chance to finally ask for a fair price, but Felipe wasn’t convinced. They both had a number in mind, with Felipe’s being about two thirds of Abed’s and Abed’s still being less than what the watch is worth in the first place.

Anyway, through an error of some description, the watch was published with the wrong price, the higher one, and the order books filled immediately. Customers were willing to pay 100% of the cost upfront to get an allocation. No greater proof could there be to Felipe that his work has value. That he really is a watchmaker. Does he see the light? Not really. He just wants to make his complicated watches. Unfortunately, he can’t. He can’t make the moonphase just yet. He can’t make his own movement. He’s still got thirty orders at $900 to go.

What do you think of Felipe’s watches and his predicament?