Miki Eleta is a very special clockmaker. At the age of 50, a stage in life when most of us would have already settled on a career occupation, he taught himself how to build clocks. And his clocks, for all their horological qualities, cross that fuzzy line between ‘craft’ and ‘art’. They are true kinetic art.
With the warmth of a grandfather welcoming his kids, he waves and welcomes me into his atelier on the outskirts of Zurich. As soon as I enter, I realise that I have stepped into a whole new universe, a universe ripe for discovery. Clocks, sketchpads and books compete for space next to sculptures of differing sizes, a vintage computer, a variety of tools and machinery.

While moving a few things to engineer some space for me at a coffee table, Miki offers a cup of green tea. That’s all he drinks, as evidenced by the many tea boxes stacked in a glass cabinet in the corner. Miki sits down and starts as a story-teller the extraordinary tale of his life.

Miki was born in 1950 in Bosnia Herzegovina, then part of Yugoslavia. He was still a kid when he managed to get hold of a guitar. It became a passion he never let go of and in the summer of 1973, he joined his sister in Switzerland in search of work that would allow him to buy himself a new guitar.

Settled in Zurich, Miki took different shifts in a variety of companies to earn a living without really focusing on one particular field of activity. One day, he found a job in a hospital as a nurse's assistant and ended up marrying the very nurse he was helping and they now have two daughters. Then, Miki started exploring his long-held ambition to work with his hands.

In 1990, Miki set up a workshop in Zurich to restore antique furniture. Six years later, returning home from a cycling tour in France, he rid his workshop of woodworking tools to replace them with metalworking equivalents – he now wanted to make kinetic art from metal, in part inspired by a game featuring tiny balls making musical sounds, that he made for one of his daughters.

It was at the turn of the millennium that Miki reinvented himself once again when a visitor to an exhibition of his metal artwork questioned the accuracy of his mechanical sculptures. Slightly touched in his ego, he tells me with a large smile, to prove just how precise his work was, Miki decided then and there that he would construct a clock because “the precision is there for all to see".

Miki asked the visitor to give him a year in which he would create a fully-fledged clock. Knowing absolutely nothing about the art of clock-making design, he got the advice and help from Paul Gerber, master watchmaker and member of the Horological Academy of Independent Creators (AHCI). Miki finished his first clock in 2001. Unquestioningly going ahead with crazy ideas is a trait of Miki’s. “I’m not necessarily smarter than others,” he claims, “just more perseverant”. Still, he believes that he never could have followed a traditional horological education and remains convinced that higher education churns out graduates as if from a mould, minimising the possibility of real creativity and invention.

In 2003, Miki’s kinetic sculptures were exhibited at the Musée International d'Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds to demonstrate important stages in the evolution of the mechanical clock. Miki’s creations eventually earned him membership of the AHCI in 2006. Miki’s aims is to “fascinate people”. There is no better feeling for Miki than creating something that doesn’t exist. “Working – or creating – isn’t a job, it’s a pleasure!” says Miki, who has even created his own escapement, the Eleta-Hemmung, which regulates many of his complicated clocks. And he not only created his own escapement, but every single part of his clocks is also made by him. The metal treatments such as the plated or chrome parts are the only things he doesn’t do himself because of a lack of machinery.

All of Miki’s creations are unique. He has completed 28 completely different pieces. Out of the 8 remaining pieces he has left in his workshop, he has kindly let us display six of them at the MB&F M.A.D. Gallery until March 15th, 2013. We have unveiled as a world premiere his latest clock, the tallest he has ever made. The impressive Hippocampus, features a musical movement in which the melody will not repeat itself for at least a century. There is the Continuum Mobile, which acts as Miki’s muse: on the rare occasions that he is lost for inspiration, he returns to gaze at this. Pentourbillon was created to showcase the magic and beauty of a tourbillon escapement setting it aside and working with a separate mechanism. La Luna is a breath-taking way of indicating the phase of the moon and features a potent combination of gold, chrome, lapis lazuli, blued glass, mother-of-pearl and horn. N°26 possesses a ‘mystery’ moon-phase indicator and is all the more enigmatic for it. Then finally there is Die Sieben, not a clock, but a pure kinetic sculpture. Located at the heart of the piece, a little engine functioning as a lift releases at the very top tiny steel balls that travel through passageways producing a delightful visual and acoustic interplay.

When Max Büsser first saw Miki’s clocks, he was flabbergasted by their meticulous composition, and the fact they were designed completely from scratch by hand using only pencils to avoid computer software which patently demonstrates Miki’s genius. Max told Miki that the day he opens his own gallery, he would like him to exhibit there as an artist.

That day has come. So if you are visiting Geneva’s old town over the next few days, please drop in – and be assured that your jaw will drop at the sight of Miki Eleta’s amazing kinetic clocks.

With my very best regards,
Eleonor Picciotto
Public Relations