In 1881 as Russia’s great Royal reformer, Tsar Alexander II, was assassinated, one of Europe’s greatest watchmakers, Konrad Penkala, was making the first sounds of life in a small house in the sleepy Polish village of Malachin near Gdansk, at that time part of the German Empire.
Barely out of his teens, he left his birth city with his Polish wife, Barbara and young child Pawel, choosing to settle in the small town of Lobzenica where he began to learn his watchmaking craft.
A successful retail trader, Konrad was soon in charge of his own mini empire, and a proud father of several children including, Pawel who early on took a keen interest in learning his father’s watchmaking craft.
But when Konrad died in 1918 and with the Second World War looming, Pawel was called up by Hitler’s Army because of his German passport.
But his loyalty to Hitler’s troops was short lived. As a Pole with little loyalty to Germany, Pawel deserted and joined the Soviet formed Ander’s Army, which went on to become the Polish Armed Force’s presence in Eastern Europe.
Pawel was quickly charged with high treason for taking up arms against the Third Reich.
But somehow he survived the atrocities of the Second World War and, despite witnessing terrible sights, once again found peace in his workshop making bespoke timepieces for the great and good of Poland and beyond.
His reputation quickly spread and, before long, Pawel became known as one of Eastern Europe’s finest watchmakers.
The workshop, still in Lobzenica at that time, continued to become a mecca for aristocrats and the elite as Konrad’s son continued the family craft, refining and improving on his father’s work.
Informally known among high net worth individuals as the ‘House of Penkala’, the workshop was anything but ostentatious, but when it came to timepieces it was second to none. It was a place of passion, precision and discernity.
When Pawel’s son, Wojciech Penkala was born in Poland in 1943, neighbouring Russia, like Wojciech’s homeland, was in the middle of the Second World War.
He managed to avoid the indignities of armed combat, unlike his father, and within two decades was also a highly skilled watchmaker considered by many to be even better than his forebears.
By the 1960’s the Polish Communist Party knew of the Penkala watch dynasty, and Wojciech was selected for elite horology training in Switzerland and Moscow.
He eventually became personal watchmaker to members of the Soviet government elite. Wojciech died in 2014 and now his son, Mariusz, carries on the family tradition with sister and Global CEO, Jowita Penkala, at his side.
They continue to design and make unique watches for the world’s elite.