Thursday, January 16, 2020

The second-oldest tool

We love people who shape metal with their bare hands! Today, a quick introduction to no less than four craftsman, metalsmith knife makers! Knives need no introduction: the second oldest tool, still in continuous use - whose basic construction hasn't changed since day it was invented. An irreplaceable tool or a deadly weapon - simply and beautifully crafted, treasured, and worn with pride.

I have a real appreciation for people that are patient and determined enough to practise and perfect a true skill; particularly in industries where the standard for large corporations is mass production and low costs. I especially take interest when children and young adults demonstrate an early desire to learn how to design and machine their own creations.

Yesterday, I sent out a notice to knifemakers who also happen to follow our projects, asking them to share stories about their craft with us.

Meet Jackson Rumble from Canberra, Aidan MacKinnon from Melbourne, Clement Linder from Bern / Switzerland, and Bjorn Jacobsen from Sydney's Northern Beaches - our neighbour.

I hope these four short stories will motivate you to excel in what you do/make/design.
***Jackson Rumble
"I started making knives in 2013 after taking a knife making course at the Tharwa Valley Forge. Over the next few years I set up a basic shop in my parents’ garage. Starting out with some very basic tools, I gradually expanded getting my first belt grinder in 2015.

In 2016 I started making knives full time at the Tharwa Valley Forge. Later on that year I started teaching knife making and blade smithing classes. Which I’m still currently doing.

2019 was a massive year for me. I started working towards testing for my journeyman smith ranking with the American Bladesmithing Society. After around 8 months of painfully tedious work I achieved my JS stamp and was awarded the Joe Keeslar award for the best knife submitted by a JS applicant.

My favourite/ best knife would have to the keyhole fighter form my JS set. It was a huge challenge throughout the build, I was forced to rethink many of my processes. But well worth it in the end!"


If you would like to see more of Jackson's work, follow his instagram - @rumble_knives. 
***Aidan Mackinnon
"I am a full time bladesmith (knife maker) specializing in bespoke handmade kitchen knives working out of my workshop in Melbourne.

Knives are often our primary interaction between ourselves and our food - It is with this in mind that Cut Throat Knives are designed to enhance the cooking experience.

All our knives are handcrafted and sole authorship (just one person works on the knife from start to finish). They are made from the finest materials available with the care and attention that precision cutting tools deserve, with each blade spending roughly 20-25 hours a bladesmiths hands.

In a world of increasingly disposable, valueless items, where homes and garage sales and superstores are packed with mediocre pieces that are bought, used, and ignored, what could be more important than learning once again to value what we buy, and feel a connection to the people who create around us?"


If you would like more information about Aidan's work, here is a link to his website: http://www.cutthroatknives.com.au/
and his instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cutthroataustralia/
***Clement Linder
"I started making knives at the age of 14. I always liked making stuff and someday I got the idea that I could make a knife. I love knifemaking because of the combination of different materials like steel, wood, composite materials etc. It just never gets boring. The attention to detail needed in knifemaking is almost as crazy as in watchmaking. Every part of the knife must be finished by hand.

My favourite kind of knives are kitchen knives. They are interesting to make, and everyone can use it. I really like combining Japanese blade shapes with western style handles.

I’m currently doing an apprenticeship as a machinist. And with access to the equipment we have at school, the possibility of making more complicated knives opened up to me. I started designing my first folding knife, and after a few prototypes I machined 15 knives.

Last September I was lucky that Titan Gilroy (Titans of CNC on Youtube) came to Switzerland and visited our school. He liked what I did and decided to make a short film about my folding knife (
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86KZxZ4_Afc&feature=youtu.be)"

***Bjorn Jacobson
Originally from Norway where knife making is a traditional hobby, I started again in Australia some years ago.
In the beginning I was doing “kit knife making” where the blade is ready-made and I was making my own handles.
Over time I started forging and grinding my own blades, and today also run workshops in Sydney in chef knife making and blacksmithing.

Ray Mears is quoted as saying 'Carbon steel has soul, stainless has not.' I tend to also prefer carbon steel with its ability to be forged to shape. There is something primal in shaping a knife by hammer and fire, a connection to our human past of shaping the world to our will by hand. Seeing the steel coming out of the forge and be guided by the hammer and take on a new form is a powerful experience. I enjoy working with natural materials like wood, leather and antler and seeing an idea come to life.

For chef knives I prefer stainless steel due to ease of maintenance, carbon steel in the kitchen tends to patina a bit much. I like the Swedish stainless steel 12c27 for ease of heat treatment in my hobby workshop. It is a good combination of edge retention, corrosion resistance and ease of sharpening for my everyday knives.

Even my chef knives tend to be with Curly Birch handles, a Scandinavian pale hardwood that I just love the look of. I often stain the curly birch with dark leather dye, then sand it again to take some or most of the stain off. Like on this chef knife showing the grain structure of the wood through the stain and polish.
The chef knife in the photo is one my favourites and we still use it every day, it was one of my assessment knives for the Australian Knifemakers Guild."

Bjorn@CreativeMan.com.au                          


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Happy to serve you....


A common small business mistake: the assumption that both existing and potential customers are fully aware of the range of products and services available to them.

If your customers keep asking: “So what do you do, or specialise in?” then something is fundamentally misaligned, and both parties are losing out on revenue, time, resources and mutual appreciation.


Here is a (not so) short list of 'things' we can do for you:


1. We repair watches.

Our speciality is the restoration of vintage Rolex and Omega watches, particularly watches which are rejected by their makers as 'too old to be repaired'. Most vintage watches are repairable.

2. We offer a free assessment and free quotes.

We are always happy to discuss whether your timepiece is worth repairing. We always see a restoration project as a partnership. We invest our time, you invest your money. The end result should be satisfying for both parties. The first step is to assess your watch thoroughly, and we do so free of charge.

3. We repair pocket watches.

This might come as a surprise, but pocket watches are actually more time consuming to repair than wristwatches for a simple reason, the majority of pocket watches brought in for service are 100 years old! Unlike with wristwatches, pocket watch parts are hard to source and often the only solution if for them to be handmade.

4. Insurance valuations are our speciality.

Every day thousands of watches are stolen and only a tiny percentage are recovered and reunited with owners. A jewellery safe is not enough protection from theft; it is the watertight insurance policy that will cover your loss. In order to obtain cover, your insurer would expect you to provide and insurance valuation document - and this is where we come in! We charge between $100 - $200 per watch, depending on the amount of research required to quote a price. In most instances, we can provide a valuation on the same day that you come in.

5. We sell second-hand watches!

"Well that's quite obvious!" you might say. What is less obvious is that other than what we stock online,  we can also source a particular model that you might be looking for. You can find the entire inventory here: http://clockmaker.com.au/wfs1.html

6. We buy watches!

Considering selling a single piece or an entire collection? Happy to make you an offer for the lot! We offer quick, confidential, hassle-free settlement.

7. We sell premium quality, Swiss watchmakers tools

We are authorised dealers for Bergeon, AF, and Asco Switzerland. Whilst our range is rather modest, our loupes, screwdrivers, and tweezers are the best that money can buy- suitable for both professionals and enthusiasts. (https://shop.clockmaker.com.au/)

8. Need a clock gear? Give us a call

We can create one off, custom-made clock gears from 5mm in diameter, up to 300mm, and any module! Obviously, gear cutting services are for clock restorers. We are also setup for small scale high precision CNC milling, turning, EDM wire cutting, polishing, gear hobbing. When we don't make watch parts, we make other super cool bits for other makers.

9. We offer watch-making classes to people of all ages

During the winter months, we open up our doors, and offer watchmaking classes in our workshop. With a passion that is as intricate as watches, it is always a pleasure to share our excitement. We can teach you how to pull a watch a part, to see what makes it tick (and tock) - and if you have patience and dedication, we'll guide you through assembly process. A true life changing experience!

10. We have a Premium newsletter

The title says it all. A service offered to crazy watch collectors, who wish to be informed first about any new arrivals for a $99 per year subscription fee. (http://clockmaker.com.au/premium.html)

11. Almost forgot!

Yes! We also make our own watches.                         

The Birth of Papagena

Drawing individual components, machining, measuring to check tolerances, and then hand polishing them is the first phase of watch making.

The second, equally critical phase is colouring: the anodizing process which makes the dull, greyish titanium blossom into fireworks of colour. All this work is done in Brookvale, and the main plate and bridges are then delivered to my workbench for assembly. Assembly is sequential: ruby jewels are inserted by hand, of course, each individually finely adjusted to height using a 60 year old high precision tool. Steel locating and banking pins are pressed into Timascus, slowly but firmly. NH2 is a hybrid watch: it still contains a number of Swiss made parts (gear train and escapement). Making those parts work in harmony with parts we make in our workshop is a serious engineering challenge in itself.

The watch mechanism comes to life after a series of 'assemblings and dissassemblings', readjustments, and tuning procedures. Timascus is not an easy material to deal with because of its natural tendency to warp and bend out of shape. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful metal on so many levels: light, anti-magnetic, highly corrosion resistant - and above all: it blooms in colours like no other metal. Actually, the more you look at it, the less it looks like a metal and more like an organic living thing.

Coming to life is a moment of truth: a mere ‘ticking’ is not what makes a watch a timepiece. Watchmakers are striving for perfection in timekeeping. Usually, an hour after the first heartbeat, the mechanism will reach a level where it “becomes a regulator” keeping time within a few seconds in various positions. And at that point, officially, the watch is born.

Unfortunately, there is no time to celebrate. The next phase is disassembly – entirely and completely. Each component is cleaned, re-lubricated; from the mainspring down to the cap jewel, each requiring a precise amount of very specific lubricant. Three hours later, the watch is back on the timing machine for another run of adjustments.

The next phase: the watch mechanism is left to run for a week- alone, undisturbed, wound daily. In this phase I am looking for any potential problems which will only become obvious once every gear has rotated a number of times, repeatedly.

Assembling the dial and hands, inserting and securing the watch mechanism inside the titanium case, adjusting the winding stem and crown to fit, and pressing in crystals, is the next phase of assembly. Again, and quite often, there is still something to be filed, or tightened, greased or tested, but by the end of that day, the watch is ready to be strapped onto a watch winder. While NH2 is a manual wind watch, having it ‘in motion’ that imitates a wearer’s wrist is a practical test of it’s performance.

By the end of the second month, the watch is fully tested and almost ready to go- but not until it undertakes yet one more disassembly: the main plate is now ready to be engraved with a serial number and our logo, which is done in Brookvale.

In total, it takes three months to make a watch. During that period, we never consider the watch as a sum of its parts, but as a creature- and in the case of Timascus, we give the watch a name based on its character, its colours, and its behaviour throughout the making process. NH2 No. 11, Papagena, is no exception.

There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that one day, Timascus NH2 pieces will be recognised for what they really are. Unique pieces created with passion stemming from the roots of historical horology, manufactured in Australia, carved out of an incredibly exciting material, showcasing impeccable workmanship. Watches that will never be thrown away, but passed on, cherished, and looked after for generations to come.

You can watch a short clip of Papagena coming to life here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B7Sm4nyJFdf/

Friday, January 10, 2020

Not on my watch, Batman!




It’s been a while since someone has tried to sell me a fake Rolex- so imagine offering me a fake 'Batman' on the first day back to work! Clearly the seller stood no chance, but I was still surprised at the quality of his replica.

Not only did it look right from a distance, but it felt right. The quality of steel, bezel, and overall weight – the things that would usually be a dead giveaway, all seemed plausible. However, the devil is in the detail. Once up close, there was no doubt that we were dealing with a high grade, Chinese-built replica that could fool even a professional.

So, what gave it away, you may ask?

- Firstly, the rehaut was not engraved but laser etched.
- Secondly, whilst the Rolex engraving and serial number appeared fairly original and all the letters except for the ‘R’ seemed legitimate, that key digit had a slightly elongated flick.
- Lastly, the Rolex symbol on the winding crown was just ever so slightly different to the real one.

The bottom line is this: It didn't fool me, but only because I have handled thousands of Rolex watches over the years. However, there is no doubt that for a novice buyer, it would be impossible to distinguish this fake against the real version.

I wonder, how many fake 'Batmans' are floating around? If you have bought one recently, and have any suspicions, then here's the deal. Bring it in, I'll assess it FREE OF CHARGE in less than 10 seconds, and give you some peace of mind.
This free assessment applies to "Rolex Batman" models ONLY.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

NH2 Timascus No. 11


NH2 Timascus No. 11- Papagena. Under construction
After a couple of weeks on break, mainly due to extremely hot weather and unbearable smoke, we are back in the workshop. With temperatures in the high 40°s at times the machinery had to be shut down because we just could not get rid of all the heat generated from the cooling units and compressors. But late last night, the main plate for NH2 Timascus No.11 has been completed and the assembly will soon commence.

No.11 is our second green Timascus NH2. The first one (No.5) was nicknamed Papageno, and No. 11 is its matching partner and companion- Papagena. Papageno and Papagena are characters from Mozart's famous opera ' The Magic Flute'. Papageno is the bird catcher who is unable to find a wife, and Papagena appears in his life at his lowest point (note the noose!)
Watch this one first:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87UE2GC5db0
Then this version with English translation:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qF0lidudY74
... and dozens more of your choice!

Apart from the obvious - a green colour scheme - there are a number of other similarities between the green NH2 Timascus and Mozart's couple.  Bringing out the vibrant green colours out of Timascus is extremely difficult and at this stage a third green piece is not likely anytime soon. The pattern of Timascus No.11 is a beautiful rosebud with green, turquoise, lime and purple accents and the finest hint of french blue.


NH2 Timascus No. 5 - Papageno. Sold. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

What is time?

“What is time? We surely know what we mean when we speak of it. We also know what is meant when we hear someone else talking about it. What, then, is time? Provided that no one asks me, I know. If I want explain it to an inquirer, I do not know” lamented Augustine in Anno Domino 340.

Six hundred years earlier, Aristotle cut to the chase in his Physics “First, does time belong to the class of things that exist or to that of things that do not exist? Then secondly, what is its nature?” Is it even real, he wondered. And if it is, is time absolute, as Newton proposed, or relative, as Einstein argued?

Or, should we simply stop worrying altogether, and settle for probably the only way humanly possible: to describe time through a metaphor; to accept it as flow of a river, or something that stands still like a moment between two hearth beats, that flies like an arrow, freezes like ice, runs out like sand, cuts short, or like love, last for eternity?

My watch no longer keeps time”, he said.

It never had.   
                   

The Breguet of Moss Vale

It has been a week since we visited the best clockmaker in the world and I still can't get over it. Deryck Noakes was born and raised in South Africa, but in the early 90's migrated to London to pursue clockmaking. In London, he had the opportunity to study and restore some of the most remarkable clocks by famous 18th and 19th Century makers. Very swiftly he established himself as a go-to clock maker of  high-grade, custom made clock.

I said it last week, and I'll repeat it again- Deryck is a mechanical genius with a rare ability to see in his mind hundreds of gears and levers working in harmony and then reproduce those images and motions in clockwork. Furthermore, he makes all the components himself in his workshop from gear and pinion cutting, down to making jewels, and hand carving of ivory.

Twelve years ago, Deryck and his family migrated to Australia and set up their workshop an hour and a half south-west of Sydney. This was the biggest gift Australia could have received. Ironically, Australia is yet to discover Deryck, a humble man, focused on creating masterpieces- not self promotion.

Whilst we spent over three hours with Deryck, our main focus was on two clocks only. The first was the planetarium mentioned previously, and the second- a regulator in the style of Breguet No. 3671 currently in the British Royal Collection. Deryck describes his clock as an 'in depth analysis time-piece built in honour of Breguet's genius'.

What makes Breguet's clock so special?

A traditional clock with one pendulum could be easily set and adjusted to keep perfect time, however in the case of even the smallest disturbance it would take hours for a regulator to restore its original rate keeping.

Over 200 years ago, Breguet realised that two pendulums working in harmony, swinging in opposite directions would influence each other resulting in improved accuracy in time keeping. Also, such a system, if disturbed, would return to its original rate far quicker than a single pendulum clock. Breguet's  No. 3671 was a practical realisation of the theory behind two synchronised pendulums. After his death, his Double-Pendulum Resonance Clock was acquired by King George IV, one of his long term admirers, in 1825, and to this day, it remains an inspiration to every clockmaker trying to create a masterpiece of their own. Deryck's double pendulum regulator not only pays homage to Breguet, but features three distinctive solutions that elevates the original design to the next level.

Aesthetically, Deryck's clock displays the finest workmanship one would only expect from the most skilled craftsman. With a case of flame mahogany, and fully french polished with true mercury gilded mouldings standing two metres tall, Buchanan No. 5 is a very complex, very refined, and technically impressive scientific instrument which would be appreciated by any sophisticated horologist. The No.5 was completely built in Australia and arguably this is the finest Australian made clock of all time.

While over the decades a number of clockmakers have attempted to create a 'tribute to Breguet's clock', arguably only Deryck has lived up to the challenge. It goes without saying that the acquisition of Buchanan No. 5 should be on a list of priority cultural pieces for the Australian Government to attain. It would be an irreversible loss if the clock was ever to leave Australia. Personally, I am not in a position to acquire the clock due to current commitments to manufacturing project but otherwise it would be an honour to call myself the first guardian of Deryck Noakes' regulator. Even partial ownership in a syndicate would be quite a special pleasure if it means keeping the clock in Australia.

If you are wondering why there are no photos of Deryck and his sons, I am respecting his wish to not publish any pictures of them.

To be continued...

(For further reading, please see the following link for more information on King George IV's collection of Breguet timepieces: https://www.timezone.com/2012/07/31/the-royal-collection-a-l-breguet-clocks-and-watches-by-jessica/)                       

The best living clockmaker in the world

On 31st December, I had the privilege to meet the best clockmaker in the world. He is a very busy and very private craftsman and I was allocated 15 minutes to meet him. A man I have followed for years, a man with an admirable philosophy, a man who is a true genius allowed me to admire, up close, his inspiring work for over 3 hours.

I am still giddy and under the influence of his brilliance, because I have never met a clockmaker like him. In a time where people are self-confessed ‘influencers’ despite a lack of craft that they put out to their following, it is truly humbling to meet a man who's skill surpasses that of Breguet, but who does not seek fame or crave global recognition.

The clock in the photo has been in the making for over 14 years and is the most complex clock in the world, ever built. As bizarre and strange as it may sound, I didn't fly to Switzerland, or Germany, or Japan, or England to visit the clockmaker and his masterpiece. The workshop is in fact just an hour and a half drive away from Sydney!

Monday, December 30, 2019

What makes a watch- a watch?

Even a two-year-old can easily tell the difference between a rocking horse and a pony. A skilled carpenter can make a beautiful wooden toy with his bare hands, just from having seen a photo. However, if you want to discover where the real, living, breathing, and jumping animal comes from the best thing to do is ask a farmer.

A finely designed and perfectly crafted mechanical timepiece is not a sum of ad hoc, put together components which somehow 'keep the time'. The very DNA of a mechanical watch comes from strict, rigid, mathematical calculations which determine the shape of wheels, levers and springs as well as their relationship, engagement and physical position in space. The components themselves are then machined to perfection, which is a real challenge due to their size. In other words, a watchmaker's ability to make a watch – to manipulate its DNA - comes from a deep understanding of mathematics, physics, mechanical engineering, metallurgy, precision machining, precise measurements at sub-micron level, and plenty of fine tuning.

So, what makes a mechanical watch a watch?

Fundamentally, its ability to keep time accurately. If it doesn’t keep time, or keeps time poorly, it is not a watch.The accuracy comes from a number of factors, but essentially, it all boils down to the ‘freedom’ of a mechanical oscillator to resonate at an exact frequency, regardless of its position in space. I choose the word freedom – as a synonym for an oscillation free of friction, immune to shock, temperature changes, gravity and every other force trying to interrupt or disrupt that perfect, harmonical oscillation.

This is the theory. Practically, accuracy comes from a watchmaker’s ability to strictly follow and execute the mathematical calculation of oscillator escapement design. This means components manufactured with strict tolerances, perfectly burnished pivots, perfectly polished jewels, exact spacing between all the components, and impeccable parallelism. To do so is incredibly hard, and it takes decades to master the art of watchmaking.

Recently, it was brought to my attention that couple of young Australian "watchmakers" are working hard to hand-make their first watch. Hats off to them for giving it a go, but judging by what I have seen so far, both young men are trying hard bring to life a wooden pony using 15th century tools and techniques. And they are not alone: Instagram is flooded with young wannabe watchmakers from all over the world who are doing exactly the same: trying to make their first watch - a tourbillon- by following George Daniels sketches. What a waste of time.

Before good old George made his first watch, he spent 40 years behind the work bench. Before making, he perfected the art of watch repairing and restoration, until he was recognised as London’s top repairer, specialising in old masters like Breguet. Daniels had another slight advantage over the rest of us – he was a natural mechanical genius. To start a journey from where George finished is simply ridiculous.

Here is my advice to all young students of horology. Step one: focus on learning the trade from inside out, the proper way: from learning the basics, to advance repairing techniques. That will – and rightly should – keep you busy for ten years. Once you become a decent repairman, you are ready for the second step: the ability to read and understand the DNA of the watch. This starts with measuring, so access to advanced measuring equipment is must. From then on, task yourself with making your first components while striving like crazy to make them to exact dimensions. If you are smart and hard-working, that should take no more than 10 years.

Keep in mind that it takes two to make a watch: a watchmaker and a machinist. Daniels had his machinist (Derek Pratt) and I have two of my own (Josh and Andrew). George could never bring himself to acknowledge his machinists contribution, but it was Derek who made many of the components for George’s watches, especially the difficult dual escape wheel at the heart of the Co-Axial escapement. On the contrary, I am more than happy to give full credit to my machinists. However, if you, as a student of horology, wish to combine and master both trades – watchmaking AND machining - then brace yourself for a very long journey.

As we have said number of times: our workshop is open and young students are welcome to join us, in either trade. We have nothing to hide and plenty to share, including access to the most advanced watchmaking machinery in Australia.

Come join us!                       

Friday, December 27, 2019

Meet Your Machinist: Timascus Project Watchdog Night.


Monday Night's get together was an amazing event. We managed to pack nineteen people into our tiny office, and for two hours we talked about the most important project of 2019. The designing, machining, assembly, and completion of the first eight NH2 Timascus watches. Our young machinists presented their case well, explaining why Timascus is such a difficult material to work with, and how to turn a bar of a three composite titanium alloy- not intended to be used in watch making- into a high precision watch component. Polished to perfection to reveal fireworks of colour, one thing is certain, whilst some technical details might have been lost on our audience, the room was filled with excitement for a product manufactured in Australia. 

This now brings us to the next phase of our project-making plans for 2020.

There are many unknowns that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to creating products of high quality, with so many future unknowns. How many watches are we going to make? How much material, and how many tools are we going to order? And furthermore, how do we predict time? Time needed for annual machine maintenance that blocks out entire weeks of possible use? Or time needed to create proto-types, to hold educational workshops, and so much more? Only one person can run a machine at a time, and they have other commitments too, including attending trade fairs, presentations, and going overseas for further education. This is not an easy task for a watchmaker, untrained in financial planning. I do not have a crystal ball, but at the same time I do not want to disappoint awaiting customers.

The best I can do to solve this mystery is the following:  
We are Open for Orders.

Orders received up to 6th January 2020 will lock in place an order with us for the NH2 Timascus at the price as already announced, $8800. On 7th January, the price of NH2 Timascus will be $9800 so we need you to be clear about your commitment with us.

If there is a question if whether the watch itself warrants a price increase - my answer is absolutely yes! Our intention is to keep pricing NH2 Timascus so that one day the price will be our real production price. The amount of energy and investment that goes into this labour of love, we cannot subsidize the product forever from other activities.

It is clear that the NH2 Timascus watch can, and will, never be mass produced, and it is also clear that as we improve, we are increasing the number of components truly made in Australia that we can include. A true watch enthusiast that appreciates the uniqueness of a quality product will always understand and recognise the true value of a watch.

Monday, December 23, 2019

The best thing that happened to Sydney!

"You will not believe who just opened a boutique in Martin Place" said Bobby,
"FP Journe?"
"No, guess again"
"Richard Mille"
"No, think bigger and more exciting"
"No way! Seriously?


As a watch collector, the opening of the A. Lange & Söhne boutique in Sydney is like all my Christmases have come at once. Lange is my second favourite watch brand, and one that is so easy to fall in love with.

Of course, Bobby and myself could not miss the opportunity to poke our noses into the ALS Boutique, first thing Monday morning. With no specific expectations - except for a fireworks display of amazing horological pieces - we were simply blown away with the warm reception from the Boutique manager, Mr Delwyn Dass.  "Welcome to the second largest Lange boutique in the world!" - he proudly proclaimed.

Make no mistake: Lange is unstoppable. When it comes to workmanship, quality, finishes, complications and impeccable performance, the German watchmaker has very little competition at the very high end of haute horology. The pulling power of Lange is irresistible. It takes the will power of Ghandi to say no to the fresh, mint, and spotless 1815 Chronograph ref. 414.031 which is still the most affordable of all Lange chronographs ($73,000).

"What would you rather have- Lange or...?" is the game Bobby and I played all day. Almost every time, no matter what brand or model was mentioned, Lange was the preferred choice.

You see, unlike with most other brands, Lange is all about inner beauty; pure, traditional watchmaking; and impeccable craftsmanship. This is not a watch brand that attracts kids, or snobs, or flippers, or Instagram influencers, or those empty souls who constantly seek "external validation". This is a brand which patiently waits for patronage of true watch aficionados.

You buy and wear Lange because you want it and because you appreciate it - and because you could not care less what everyone else wears, wants, collects and buys. Lange owners simply do not care.

Mr Dass is both a knowledgeable and passionate watch dealer who is happy to explain and listen, but for the entire hour that we spent together, there was not the slightest attempt to over sell the brand, a watch, or his fine service. Unlike any Swiss brand watch representative I've encountered in the past, he was genuinely interested to find out more about our 'Australian manufactured' project. We felt a bit embarrassed to talk about NH watches in a Lange Boutique, but it was clear that when it comes to things that matter - inner beauty - our inspiration and aspiration comes from makers like Lange who share those same traditional values, firmly rooted in haute horology.

Lange's current stock range has around 40 models, of which quite a few are available for immediate delivery. Of course, some examples are made in very limited quantity and others have a delivery time of around 9 months. There is nothing boastful or arrogant about Lange's production and supply policy; no artificially created demand, no silly waiting lists, no patronising - simply an honest, straight forward "here is what we can do for you" approach.

As you walk into Lange's Sydney boutique, the very first thing you need to visit is their art installation known as the 'Wall of Components'. The entire wall is covered in 1316 individual watch parts which, assembled together, are the contents of a calibre L133.1 powering The Tourbograph Perpetual 706.025 (in actual fact, L133.1 contains 1319 components, but the last 3 parts are not on the display - for a very specific reason!).  The 'Wall of Components' is precisely what Lange's mission is all about; to excite us all and leave us speechless - from a novice to a collector; an apprentice to a watchmaker. The true art of watchmaking comes from the inner beauty.

The Tourbograph Perpetual 706.025 is from the famous Pour le Mérite line. "For Merit" was one of the highest orders in the Kingdom of Prussia, and later,  German Empire. It was awarded strictly as a recognition of extraordinary personal achievement, rather than as a general marker of social status or a courtesy-honour. The connection is obvious: when in 1994. ‘newly rebirthed ’ Lange offered it’s first Tourbillon 'Pour Le Mérite' the bar of extraordinary excellence was set. The Tourbograph Perpetual 706.025 released this year is the sixth 'Pour Le Mérite' in 25 years. I'll stop right here though, as I don't want to spoil anymore for you.

I strongly suggest the following: go and visit all Sydney watch boutiques, inspect the stock on offer, talk to the dealers - and then visit the Lange boutique last. Then ask yourself just one question: if you invest in Lange, would you really want any other watch on your wrist?

This brief review of Lange boutique is unsolicited feedback and a tribute, not a paid article. If you happen to deal with Mr Delwyn or Mr Andrea, feel free to mention my name, it would be mutually appreciated. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

When Rolex is not a Rolex?


LaCalifornienne, a company that "restores vintage timepieces and reimagines them in bold colour", has found themselves in a legal dispute with Rolex, who filed a lawsuit on the 15th November at the US District Court for the Central District of California.

LaCalifornienne is an independent watch dealer which customises vintage and pre-owned Cartier and Rolex watches, injecting colour into the classics by altering the original dials, bezels, straps and crystals. Founded three years ago by Courtney Ormond and Leszek Garwacki (defendants), the company is now being sued as Rolex accuses the husband-wife duo of producing and selling counterfeit watches.

Featured in the likes of Forbes and Vogue, laCalifornienne watches are praised for ‘breathing new life into vintage timepieces’ and seen as a ‘youthful upgrade to the classics’ (Goop by Gwyneth Paltrow).

However, Rolex doesn't think so.

During the customisation process, laCalifornienne replace original Rolex parts with non-approved parts, a process which does not sit well with the mega brand. In the lawsuit, Rolex claims that replacing parts in a pre-owned or vintage Rolex no longer “attains the aesthetic” of Rolex and makes an otherwise authentic watch a counterfeit.

Not only have laCalifornienne ‘revamped’ Rolex watches giving the Rolex trademark a complete makeover, but Rolex believe that the watches do not perform to the same standard as an unaltered Rolex.

After acquiring two of the modified watches, Rolex claimed that the bezels in both watches were “bent and not properly fitted to the watch, and therefore water is likely to leak through, and ultimately, adversely affect the dial and movement of the watch.” This flaw along with others could be detrimental to the Rolex name, “diluting the distinctive quality of Rolex’s registered trademarks” as stated in the case against laCalifornienne.

LaCalifornienne is also accused of “benefiting and profiting from Rolex’s outstanding reputation for high quality products and its significant advertising and promotion of Rolex watches and the company’s trademarks” along with falsely suggesting that the watches are “authorised, sponsored, or approved by Rolex when they are not.”

I’m kind of with Rolex on this one. While the consumer/watch owner should be free to modify his watch in any way he wishes to, setting up a business with the sole purpose of selling heavily modified Rolex watches and passing them off as genuine is a different story.

The fact is this: A Rolex name on a Rolex watch is worth more than the watch itself. And when buying a Rolex, you would want a 100% genuine Rolex watch, not just something that someone has put together.

We will be following this case with interest.

However, laCalifornienne is just one of many companies which specialises in Rolex modifications. Take for example, Artisans de Geneve (incidentally based in Geneva!). While Artisans de Geneve clearly points out that "modification service is for private customers only, and that customised or modified watches are not intended for resale", in my opinion the end result is the same: a customised Rolex containing non-Rolex components that barely resembles the original design yet bears the Rolex copyrighted logo. I doubt Rolex have not heard of them and wonder what action will be taken.

Quite frankly, if Artisans de Geneve are such great artisans, why don't they start their own watch brand, sign watches with their name and show us what they're good at, rather than bastardising Rolex watches and the Rolex brand? 

Another War Veteran Saved

Well, we are so pleased to see this one being reunited with its owner: A World War II military pocket watch issued by the Australian Department of Defence.

The watch arrived with a broken heart. What made the restoration tricky is the rather obscure Montilier calibre 62 movement. A classical restoration process which took us almost 6 months to source the parts and complete.

Montilier was established as a watch brand in 1852 by Etienne-Ovide Domon, founder of Fabrique d’Horlogerie Montilier. The Montilier factory, built in 1855, was the first in the Swiss watchmaking industry to manufacture complete watches in-house.

The technicality of Montilier watches won awards throughout Europe, and by 1890, Montilier watches were being exported around the globe. During World War II, Montilier produced many military watches which were particularly special due to their robustness and quality.

The watch we have today is no exception, and we are happy to report that this World War II Australian military pocket watch has been restored to working order. 

Monday, December 9, 2019

Fact or Fiction?

Whether a fictional character wore Rolex or Omega is kind of irrelevant. What remains a relevant undeniable historical fact is that in 1936, Omega, like many other Swiss brands, flirted with some rather strange characters.
This one comes straight from the Omega Bible: A Journey Through Time, page 233. 

'3752. Official Omega of the Axis Agreement, 1936: A Lepine with an enamel dial featuring the portrait of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, who concluded in October 1936 the Axis Agreement between Italy and Germany. Cailbre 38.5 L T1, minute track with 13-24 markings, blued steel Plume hands, gun metal case with a gilt reed bezel. (ref. MA 141 LV)'
Following the liberation of Rome by Allied forces, Mussolini and his mistress, Claretta Petacci, had attempted to escape to Switzerland but were captured by the Italians underground on April 27, 1945. They were executed the following day, and their bodies were hung on display in Milan plaza.

"I didn't know that" said Andrew.

Now you do.