Wixon Jewelers in Minneapolis, MN


Len Karter and his motorcycle

A Man, His Motors, and The Outdoors

From sports cars to fine timepieces, some of our favorite mechanical machines simply could not function without the use of mechanical gears. Hundreds of components must come together and harmoniously work in consort to power these highly precise and technical machines. With a love for all things mechanical, our lead watchmaker, Len Karter, epitomizes the definition of a gearhead.

Len has been a certified watchmaker for over 45 years, and has become one of the most highly respected and well-known watchmakers in the entire industry. He was awarded Horologist of the Year by the Minnesota Watch and Clock Association, Best Watchmaker by Mpls St. Paul Magazine, and he is enshrined on the Wall of Fame at St. Paul College. While he holds a myriad of certifications and awards for watchmaking, that isn’t the only passion in his life.

When he’s not rebuilding gear trains and working with tiny gears to repair watches, he can usually be found shifting gears and burning rubber. In his eyes, there’s no better way to spend a beautiful afternoon than by enjoying what only a motor, two wheels and the great outdoors have to offer. “My favorite part of riding has to be the freedom… it’s that whole sense of freedom when it’s just you and your bike.”

Combining exhilaration, freedom and relaxation, the experience of riding a motorcycle is a physical and emotional pleasure with the added layer of anxiety and adrenaline. But for Len, riding a motorcycle has always been less about the speed and more about the experience. With the smell of the air and the rumble of the road, riding simply sparks your senses in a way that nothing else really can. Along with seeing rainbows after just getting caught in the rain, the simple act of sitting on a park bench with a Coca-Cola and watching boats on the Mississippi is all part of the experience.

“I don’t ride for the speed. I ride for the solitude, the scenery.”

Watching Marlon Brando in the Wild One is what sparked Len’s love for motorcycles and inspired him to purchase his first motorcycle when he was just fifteen years old. Although unlike Brando’s character, Len didn’t ride a Harley; his first bike was a Yamaha 60. “Back then it was mostly Honda motorcycles. There was a Yamaha called the Big Bear that was cool, but Harleys weren’t popular with us.”

After becoming a father, Len’s mindset shifted from taking his bike out for joyrides to putting it up for sale in order to pay for a driveway. He decided early on that he wanted to share his love for riding with his daughters when they were little. After each of his daughters turned five, Len would buy them their own four-wheeler—a tradition that he has continued with his grandchildren today.

As a true gearhead, Len’s love for motors extends beyond two-wheeled machines. He is extremely passionate about cars and realized early on that he didn’t need to have a supercar to have the passion for supercars. His first sports car was a 1966 Corvette Stingray, followed by an MG, and his current baby is his Porsche 911. Propelling his love for freedom into the clouds, Len received his private pilot’s license when he was 30. Although he doesn’t get to fly much due to the expense, he says there is nothing quite like being in the air. The stimulation that occurs when all of your senses are perked is what makes flying and driving so exhilarating to him.

In Len’s eyes, watchmaking, driving and flying are all integrated together as hobbies of precision. Len has accomplished a great deal throughout his life, but his humble nature and natural kindness towards others is what makes him such an incredible person. Although several years and motorcycles have come and gone, the passion for the freedom of the open road has remained the same.

See the full issue of The Wixon Experience 2021 | Volume 8

Posted In: Lifestyle

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