Interview: Martin Klocke, The Founder Of Sherpa Watches Talks Enicar And His Newly Launched Brand
Enicar is a brand that’s always had something of a cult following in the vintage watch collecting world until the last couple of years. While many vintage watch experts now consider certain Enicar models “hot” and “undervalued,” it was Martijn van der Ven’s 2019 book, Time for a Change: Discovering Vintage Enicar, that really helped bring the forgotten Swiss watch brand back to the mainstream.
That’s how I first met Martin Klocke: when he was just an Enicar enthusiast like myself – long before he had dreams of bringing classic Enicar models back to life with his new microbrand, Sherpa Watches.
The Sherpa Watches project started in 2019 but formally launched at Watchtime Düsseldorf over Halloween weekend 2021, and it is now, hopefully, just weeks away from production.
I spoke with Martin recently on behalf of Watchonista to talk about both the past, present, and future of Sherpa Watches and the brand’s first two model offerings – the Sherpa OPS and Sherpa Ultradive.
Who is Martin Klocke?
Thanks for speaking with me, Martin. Before we get into Sherpa Watches, can you talk a little about yourself?
I was born in Switzerland, near Appenzell, the region where RC Tritec (the producer of Super-LumiNova) is coincidentally based. I relocated to the Düsseldorf, Germany area, where I’ve lived since. Career-wise I’ve been a mechanical engineer in the automotive plastics industry for more than 20 years.
How did you get into watches and Enicar in particular?
I literally have no idea how I got into watches [laughs]. In 2011, I needed to get my wife a birthday gift and thought a watch made sense. I wanted to get her something vintage, something with character.
So, I scoured eBay and found a ladies Enicar Mini-Dive with an internal rotating bezel. The design, colors, funkiness – it was perfect. From there, I started accumulating some watches for myself – offerings from Junghans, Wakmann, Bulova, and Enicar.
As time went on, the Enicar subset of my collection grew; I became especially fond of super compressor models and the brand’s frequent use of the internal rotating bezel complication (both of which heavily influenced my work with Sherpa Watches). Now, I’m a full-blown Enicar addict!
Sherpa Watches’ Origin
How did you come up with the idea to revive some classic Enicar models and start Sherpa Watches?
Around 2018, I became frustrated with the current direction of the Enicar brand (affiliated only by name with the Enicar of the past, which apparently became insolvent in 1988) not offering any watches true to their heritage. I actually wrote the owners a letter offering to assist with re-creating some classics but never heard back.
After that, a friend recommended I take on the project myself, which at first seemed crazy. However, as I started doing some research – looking into what it takes to manufacture a watch – I believed I could do it, especially given my engineering background.
So, in 2019, I registered the “Sherpa” name in the European Union and other countries, which were new trademarks in those places for watches. At that point, I was committed to the project, though there were still many unanswered questions.
What have been your biggest challenges with the project thus far?
When I first got started, the biggest challenge was being a nobody in the watch world [laughs]. Finding the right partners was also difficult and required a lot of due diligence, sourcing every partner à la carte – case designers, part manufacturers, marketing folks, etc. Another tricky situation at the beginning was navigating trademark laws. Luckily my legal team has been great.
The pandemic also presented a variety of difficulties. The availability of materials has been very constricted. And since I only source parts from Switzerland and Germany, the pool of what was available, to begin with, was relatively small. However, that was a corner I was not willing to cut. It’s been better recently but still hasn’t returned to a pre-pandemic state.
Introducing the Sherpa OPS and Sherpa Ultradive
Let’s get into some specifics on the two watches, the specifications for which are on your website. What was your approach?
Firstly, from a design perspective, they are close to their Enicar inspirations. But it’s important to note: they are not copies! They have their own DNA.
The proportions and dial layout are comparable, but the technology behind everything has been updated considerably. For example, the originals featured pressed dials with integrated indices. Our dials are curved for better optics and feature diamond-cut facets on the applied indices and hands. We also opted to use Super-LumiNova Grade X1, which is the highest level of luminous material available. We worked with RC Tritec to create a custom orange color for our watches, which glows vibrantly both day and night.
The movement is our Mantramatic MM01, which is based on a Sellita automatic calibre and plated in gold. It features the highest level of finishing Sellita offers. However, we did opt to design and use our own rotor.
What inspired the case design?
It was very important to us to maintain the watches’ connection to the legendary case-maker, Ervin Piquerez S.A. (EPSA), who helped Enicar design the original Sherpa OPS and Sherpa Ultradive (among other Enicar pieces). EPSA became insolvent in the 1980s; so, I went to Switzerland and found several old EPSA archives. I re-designed a lot of their technology and incorporated the best of it into these watches. They are as much of an homage to EPSA as they are Enicar.
Regarding the crowns: Instead of using EPSA’s technology, we made them ourselves with better materials. Here is where my background in plastics was particularly helpful, as the center of the crown features a plastic injection molded part for maximum water tightness. Thus, the watches will be rated to 200 meters, despite not having screw-down crowns (which I hate)!
What do you think will be most attractive to buyers?
Between the EPSA connection and our proprietary crown technology, we are confident in saying that our watches are the only true modern super compressors on the market. While many other watches look like super compressors, they do not offer the complete functionality of the real thing (which really comes down to the caseback and crowns).
What about pricing and availability?
We will start by producing 150 pieces of each watch, with the Sherpa OPS costing €5,800 and the Sherpa Ultradive €5,900. Plus, both models will come on high-quality, Tropic-style straps made in partnership with Joseph Bonnie. The OPS will come with a black strap, and the Ultradive will come with your choice of black or white.
You can make informal pre-orders now by email via our website; a formal pre-order process will be launched soon. We hope formal production will begin sometime in December, but that might change slightly due to some of the challenges I mentioned previously.