Ireland’s newest watchmaker on what it’s like to start a timepiece brand

The unforeseen ending of a successful career as a photographer due to a stroke has led to the creation of one of Ireland’s newest and most interesting watchmakers

47ZERO’s 9STEIN slate watch: ‘My aim is to offer something less macho and maybe even more playful, there's plenty of watches out there for action men’

In 2017 for Cormac Hanley, everything changed. Having been a successful graphic designer-turned-photographer, he moved to France in 2007 with his wife and three young children. Then, having built up a strong reputation for his photographic work, in 2017, he suffered a stroke, aged 47. “This set me back to zero. I had to learn it all again – speech, movement, walking. I regained most capacities back to varying degrees and found myself in need of another challenge that was feasible within my new limits.”

Cormac Hanley in his watch atelier

During his rehabilitation, he developed an interest in watchmaking. “In addition to allowing me to continue to be creative, it was an activity that I could focus on, step by step, which is compatible with my limitations.” Still a young man, and with the responsibility of three teenage children, he was determined to create a new future for himself. On 9 March 2020, just before Covid hit, he submitted an application for a watchmaking course in Annecy, a large town to the East of France, just 45 minutes from the watch mecca of Geneva, just over the border in Switzerland.

Following a three-month preparatory programme, he was accepted.

There he trained full-time for 18 months, completing a one-month internship with Holthinrichs watches in Delft in Holland. “I wrote to the owner, Michel Holthinrichs and to my amazement he accepted me. This, in watch geek terms, was like finding the golden ticket in a Wonka bar.” While doing the course, during his free time, he was designing and making watch dials, experimenting with new looks and finishes. “Having spent my life in creative fields the aesthetic is where my heart is.” The course finished at the end of 2022 and almost immediately after, along with his wife Gráinne, he set up 47ZERO, a watch atelier that combines precision and passion into unique timepieces.

While already designing and crafting watch dials, with the support of the French government initiative, he was able to secure a dedicated studio to continue to grow the business. Being close to Gevena has meant proximity to shows like Watches and Wonders as well as the Time to Watches show for smaller brands, as well as parts and handmaking watch specialists. Already, Hanley has six models in the collection, all of which are in 39 or 36mm.

Cormac Hanley and his wife Gráinne set up 47ZERO, a watch atelier that combines precision and passion into unique timepieces

They are no strict men’s or women’s styles, but given their ornate nature, you could say they would definitely rest in the dress watch category. All are designed and assembled by Hanley with a unique story. Date-at-Eight for instance (€1,250) is one of, if not the only watch with the date at the number 8 on the dial, something Hanley says is there to remind us that dinner, relaxing, wine with friends, “the evening ritual” as he calls it, should never be taken for granted. It is all part of the consideration of time that is behind the atelier. LIFE≥TIME is the strapline, “it’s up to us whether we just clock up the years,” says Hanely, or keep chasing the dream.”

‘The Big 3’ watch, €1,250
The ‘Tumbledown’ watch, €1,250
Date-at-Eight, (€1,250) is one of, if not the only watch with the date at the number 8 on the dial

Join our Watch Club for exclusive content, updates and private events here.