Europe of the early 1920s was recuperating after a brutal WWI. Everything seemed to have a new meaning and life was rebirthing again. Tirana was in the verge of experiencing a late "Belle Époque;" if I may say that. I'd like to think that the birth of our grandfather Bahri Tufina was of a great joy in 1923. He was born into a prominent family not only for their good financial status of the time, but for being known as a philanthropic family of Southern Europe. They would build new houses for people in need. The family owned 23 stores and would hire people from all backgrounds. Also, Tufina ran a teaching school for boys in watchmaking and jewelry. These boys could not afford higher education, which was hard to come by a century ago, therefore learning a trade was very valuable. European hand craftsmanship meant a good living. Teaching and lodging were free, meanwhile students had to work in the family businesses for as long as it was necessary for them to start on their own. When they were send off a start up budget was given to them from the head of the Tufina family. Thus, lots of students once they returned to their hometowns would call themselves Tufina's in order to market themselves to the public making Tufina a brand on it's own. Bahri's father was a successful watchmaker for the famous Eberhard Swiss company and ran many stores ranging from watchmaking, jewelry, trading etc. His uncle was an official selling partner for Omega with exclusive rights for the Omega in the region. The brand "Tufina Brothers" was alive, and it had started in the far year of 1828. Women too were not left behind. Bahri's aunts would run a women's gathering for tea and hand work. Women would get together to learn how to do hand embroidery. Learning how to cook traditional food was another high point for them. Meanwhile poetry of both orient and occident was a favorite topic in these gatherings.
This is the environment that our grandfather was raised in. Working with your hands and imagination was everything to Tufina's. Running from a store to another and trying to learn as much as he could was how he spent his youth years. He wanted so much to fall into the footsteps of his family, which for a century had been growing this magnificent world of watchmaking. He was determined to inherit it. Mechanical wristwatches fascinated him beyond words. The whole physics and the mastery that is involved with it, our grandfather lived and breathed them all. His family was huge in wall and standing clocks, which he would repair out of duty, but nothing made him happier than working with mechanical wristwatches. Even this, his most famous work was the night stand little clocks. He was the first one to make them from scratch in his country, thus he named them Tirana, after the city he was born in. Prior to our grandfather these clocks were bought abroad, but thanks to him they were now homemade and produced in masses. Not only he had the Tufina mastery gene, but the business mentality as well installed in him from youth.
When he was young he traveled to Italy for a kidney surgery. There he fell in love with the architecture and wanted to memorialize what he saw. In 1940 as a young man in Italy bought himself his first camera and photography became a strong passion for him. After getting well he made a red dark photographic room in his home. He got in touch with local photographers and would order many cameras from them. For a decade no one saw him without a camera. Thanks to his work we have a huge Tufina photographic archive today. His fiancé and later his wife became a specific subject of his photos. With his lovely wife he had 7 children and three of them inherited the watchmaking passion becoming themselves watchmakers. In particular the 7th child, his youngest daughter became one of his most distinguished students. In the 60s he was teaching watchmaking at the Tirana Factory ran by the government and many of his students were girls. One of them was his daughter Elira, which he taught her everything he knew. For thirty years he taught there. His family's stores and business were shut down and confiscated by the communists that took over the country turning it into a strong dictatorship. Our grandfather remained thankful that he was still able to practice his devotion for watches even though all his family's richness was forcefully confiscated. And now, it is up to us, his grandchildren, to pass on the love for watches.
Bahri's girls, his watchmaking students.