Thursday, November 8, 2018

The "hair" milling tool

This one is for fellow machinists and engineers: a newly arrived Dixi 0.1mm end mill. The cutting blade is 100 x 100 microns or as thick as human hair.
To put it in perspective, I took a photo of it next to the finest Japanese 0.25mm pen tip, with regular ballpoint pen above them.
But this is not the scary bit: due to its size, our endmill will have to spin at 50,000 RPM at the bottom of a 700 kg spindle column travelling at the speed of 1G with sub-micron positional accuracy and to start, stop and reverse instantaneously.  That spindle movement action draws 60 Amp of peak current per phase. 
The equivalent of your car going from 0 to 100kms in 2.47 seconds.

A simple message

Once again - this December-  we are going out in public ready to spread the 'good news': a full page advert in Company Director followed by Qantas in-flight Magazine in January.
A print ad is a major project for any small business: we've spent 2 months in preparation, stretching our resources to the limit. Today, the ad is ready for print and we can finally relax. Our message is simple: we design and assemble watches in Sydney; out of 649 sold, every single watch is fully functional; and, for the first time in the history of our country,  complex watch parts are manufactured in Australia. Investing in a NH watch is an investment in the future of a small independent Aussie watchmaker.
While the advert features our flagship model 'the fifty', it will be for watch enthusiasts to discover the story about this piece by themselves. Sophisticated readers will love it - it is a simple yet powerful story about ordinary people trying hard. 
To all of our supporters: thank you. We wish you a happy 5th rebellious anniversary. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

This could be you

A. Borriero, 24

Joined us on January 3 as a watchmaker apprentice and machinist. In less than a year he has become:

- proficient in CAM and CAD software
- trained to independently operate EDM at micron level
- undergoing training on Kern CNC Pyramid Nano world class 5 axis mill
- capable of assembling/disassembling mechanical manual wind watch movement, including jewelling
- proficient in hand finishing/perlage
- directly involved in manufacturing of the first Australian watch
- will this month attend JIMTOF Tokyo machining fair, and tour the Makino factory, Japan
- wears a rebelde watch
- will receive a pay rise of $13,000 as of January next year

This could have been you. This still could be you if you have Andrew's determination and attention to detail.

We are interested in smart, hard-working, loyal and driven people to join our small team. We will train you and we will reward your efforts.
Email today to get ready for a new start in 2019.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Put your sunscreen on Australia

As Master George Daniels famously said, watchmaking is all about finishes. Even in his case, this statement is more a cry of desperation than proclamation of victory. Attractive and artistic metal finishes are simply hard to master, which is why you will never see a Rolex with a transparent case back, and why you should respect every bit of a new Omega movement.

Last night we dipped our toes into the murky waters of engraving. We began by creating sunburst patterns, and some well-hidden text on the reverse side of the main plate, underneath the watch dial. We are even contemplating signing our watch in a hidden location where only fellow watchmakers can find it. It's probably a catastrophic marketing move, but it's also a clever way of saying 'we don't care'.  The sunburst is here to stay, and maybe the stars of Southern Cross. Only time will tell.

So far, consider this another small victory for the smallest watch brand in the world.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Machined in Australia

Watch main plates, bridges and balance cocks slowly coming out of 'production line' with first movements being completely assembled and adjusted. The plan is to assemble 20 prototype-batch mechanisms, test them for a few months, then pull them apart, decorate, engrave and gold plate.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Like no other

First things first: the (still unnamed) Australian made watch survived its first week . Very pleased to report that its daily error is less than 3 seconds per day. As you would imagine, I am wearing it myself with a great sense of achievement and pride. It’s a conversational piece to say the least.  Encouraged by prototype production, we are cautiously steaming ahead. One more set of plates was machined, jewelled and assembled over the weekend and today I am assembling the first numbered mechanism.
The plan is simple: to machine and assemble 20 mechanisms by Christmas, have them running, test them, and learn as much as possible about the repeatability of the manufacturing process.  This process cannot be rushed. There are countless unknowns yet to be figured out. For example: how many parts can we machine with one cutting tool? To answer that question you need to know acceptable part tolerances.  Which in itself is a critical piece of information no-one can tell you. There is no such a thing as a book titled "How To Make A Watch?" You can spend your entire life working for Rolex or Patek and you would be good in making one component while being practically clueless about the big picture. And, quite frankly, no-one in Switzerland will want to share their best guarded secrets with you.
That means we have to rely on ourselves. It also means taking countless measurements, gathering data, comparing and analysing. For example, my rule is to reject any parts coming from Brookvale which are not accompanied with a drawing and critical measurements.  Here is just one example of the escapement section of the main plate. The first column is design values, the second the actual machining result. The difference is 1 to 4 microns. The distance between the centre wheel and pallets bridge pin is 11535 microns and we are just 3 microns off.  You don't have to be an engineer to appreciate this level of precision.

So one day, the NH watch will not only come with the marking on the dial “Machined in Australia" but you, the owner and guardian, will have a technical drawing and measurements of its heart. Each component we make in our workshop will be individually numbered and signed, hand finished and fine-tuned. Your watch will be truly unique, with a story you will be proud to share. A story like no other.

Possible?  Sure it is - I am wearing such a watch right now.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Australian made watch project update

A major milestone. Happy to report that the first Australian-made CNC watch mechanism has been mounted into a case and, as of today, we have a fully working prototype.
So what is the big deal? Three points: 
- We have understood and mapped the 'watch genome'. We know what makes the watch tick from both a physical, functional and engineering point. 
- We are capable of manipulating and cloning the 'watch DNA'. Not just replicating the existing design but designing and manufacturing original components.
- First in Australia: milestone achieved by kids who are born in Australia, working in Brookvale, using materials sourced in Brookvale. 
If you wonder what percentage of the mechanism was manufactured in-house: the main plate, top bridge, balance cock, winding stem and screws. The main plate and bridges are core 'unifying' components which combine and house all other parts. Assigning a single percentage number would be impossible, but if we are to try: we reached 80% of the overall design and well over 50% of machining operations with 95% of integration, accuracy and performance. 
At this stage we made no effort to 'beautify' the mechanism so the main plates are straight out of the mill. No plating, hardening or engraving of any kind. 
What's next? More testing, refining, more machining. Our next milestone is to produce a batch of 20 movements and have them up and running, hopefully by Christmas.
A big 'congrats and thank you' goes to Josh and Andrew who spent the past 6 months making tooling, fixtures, learning how to operate machinery and making individual watch components. Without them we wouldn't be where we are now. Long hours and hard work are paying off and, quite frankly, this is a major achievement by two young kids who jumped into the project with no previous experience in CNC machining. Two of them are still on a $35,000 annual salary - but will be from now known as the first true Australian watchmakers. 
Right now, we have no name for this prototype movement but we believe that it deserves an indigenous name. Happy to take suggestions. The movement is cased in a Titanium 45mm case - a leftover of Ti A production batch, marked Ti M 1/1.
Some of you may ask - would it be possible to have an Australian-made watch case? The answer is simple: yes. The case itself is far less demanding than the mechanism. It can be produced on a single CNC mill/lathe machine. Taking into account already gained know-how, it would take 12 months of prototyping. The Swiss machine itself cost $800,000. Unfortunately, the case making is not going to be our priority until the new workshop is built in 2020. In one word: possible, will happen, but not just now. 
To all existing rebelde owners: this is a day you should be proud of yourselves too - without your trust and investment in our project, we wouldn't make it. Thank you.
Nick Hacko (Watchmaker - finally!)

Friday, August 24, 2018

The cutting edge of manufacturing

Today was an incredibly exciting day. 

Earlier this year I went to the Louis Belet factory in Switzerland. At the risk of succumbing to cliches, I would like to say that it was life altering. 

The organisation of the factory, the workplace culture, the care and commitment for on-time delivery, the massive investment into RnD, the pursuit for perfection in every day tasks and the seeming laser focus of every single machine operator, sales manager, design team member etc. Etc. It blew me away. If you ever have the opportunity to tour, please - do it.

On my tour I asked about something that I had seen at a trade fair the previous year, solid ceramic cutting tools. The response I got was interesting, a mixture of technical explanation and sales pitch, but surprisingly, very very little sales pitch. 

There was almost hesitation in Arnaud's voice when talking about these tools (Arnaud - the 3rd generation CEO of the family owned company) 

These tools were the venture into uncharted territory in this field. Ceramic tools have been made before, usually in the form of turning inserts for hard metals, but this was different. This was micro tooling specifically for high efficiency cutting in brass. Almost exclusively used in the watchmaking industry. The problem being that watch manufacturers usually aren't too willing to buy into new forms of tooling, and, therefore, very few people are willing to test these tools. We were.

The benefits? Almost no wear. The claim is that these tools last orders of magnitude longer than brass. Further, the surface finish should not degrade as quickly. 

This is due to the almost magical edge retention of the cutting surfaces.

The drawbacks? You need an extremely rigid and dynamic machine to use these tools. They don't withstand vibrations or shocks - think of how brittle your fine China dining set is. Yep. That's what we are cutting with. (Thank you Kern Pyramid Nano for the ability to use these tools!) I ordered these tools on Monday afternoon, they travelled around the world and arrived in Brookvale, in Sydney's northern beaches, on Friday morning. Amazing! 

The white is ceramic, grey- carbide.


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

From the workshop

We didn't make a single watch part in the entire month of August. Instead, the focus was on tool making and a work piece holding solution. Precisely: the main plate holder 2.0.

Happy to report that the new tool has been designed, coded and manufactured in our own workshop using our own machinery, without any external help or support. The tolerances are as per expectations, precision has been improved, the tool is lighter without sacrificing rigidity, and there is a substantial saving in raw material used in watch main plate production. I can't wait to see the new parts coming out this week. 
Time invested in this project: over 120 hours. 
Another important detail: we are able to do the CNC equipment maintenance ourselves! Thanks to video support from Germany, and local support from Japanese makers, the down time is minimal. This was something that was worrying me from day one, and knowing that we can do almost all maintenance ourselves is certainly making the project less stressful and more enjoyable.

Friday, August 10, 2018

So do you still do repairs?

The short answer is - yes - and no. There are a number of watches and brands we wouldn't even touch: all Rolex watches manufactured after 2010; all  modern IWC, JLC, Cartier, Panerai- the Richemont Group brands. Why? Because they refuse to supply parts so we are not interested in those watches - even when a repair is possible or an easy job to do.  We also stay away from Breitling for the same reason. 
However, we love jobs rejected by Rolex. If they reject your watch, or quote a ridiculous amount, or bundle one repair with another - trying to upsell - then you should contact us and we will be happy to see what can be done. Especially so with any vintage sports models. 
We also do plenty repairs of vintage Omega watches - because we can still source parts for older models. Again, in most cases, the cutoff year is 2010. 
The third group of repairs are lesser-known vintage pieces and pocket watches. The success rate is 80% or better. In general, our customers are serious collectors or watch owners who have their reasons why they would prefer to deal with independent watchmakers rather than Swiss brand services. Our charges are reasonable, but for those whose main concern is price, we suggest they take their business to our competitors. 
Recent repairs:
A gold water damaged 18k Rolex rejected by Rolex due to custom diamond bezel. The restoration included movement, case and bezel restoration. Similar project on a 1980s Cartier, also rejected by Cartier. A water damaged Speedmaster. A number of vintage GMT Masters and Submariners from 1960-1980. A vintage Stowa and Cyma.  And a Nomos with a winding issue which we managed to repair for just $150. 
All repair quotes are free of charge. 
For watch repairs in Sydney email if you have any questions, call (02) 9232-0500, or visit our workshop in the Sydney CBD:
Nicholas Hacko Fine Watches:  Suite 403, Level 4, 67 Castlereagh Street Sydney Monday to Thursday 11am-5pm, Friday 10am to 4pm.

Friday, July 13, 2018

MK1 winding crown problem solved

It was clear: the 6mm crown was simply too small. And a number of you jumped in saying the 9mm crown on our current models was simply too large for your wrist, literally begging us not to go XL. I agree.  Well, it's either going to be 7mm or 8mm. And, then, after putting our thoughts on paper, it became obvious that there was no way for us to figure out which size is going to be perfect. Solution: we are now commissioning both sizes - 7mm AND 8mm - so MK1 owners will have the option to select the perfect size for their wrist. The overall cost increase to the project is $24 per watch which I believe is a small price to pay for such a brilliant solution.
We ask, we share, and, most importantly of all, we listen - and we do what you want us to do. And this is precisely what micro watch brands are all about.
And while we are still on the Mark1, I would like to share a photo of the calendar wheel cover plate just to demonstrate a simple point.  The mechanism that we will be fitting in Mark1 is custom-finished in Switzerland by one of the top movement manufacturers.  While the rotor side is as finely decorated as the movement that IWC uses in their watches, it is the reverse side that shows the attention to detail and the overall quality.  Our calendar wheel cover plate is hand-decorated with a perlage finish.  A small, but not unimportant, detail and certainly not something that anyone will ever see except the watchmaker who will assemble your watch.  And here is another detail which is actually very important.  Our movement is fitted with 25 jewels while IWC count is 21.  Plus our movement is adjusted to pass Swiss chronometer certification but the fact that the watch is going to be assembled in Australia, it won't come with a piece of paper saying so.  But you do know that and that is the only thing that matters.
Nevertheless, as an owner of an MK1 you can be proud of the fact that no-one can say that your watch is inferior to an IWC. In fact, the contrary. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

What a night

A mixed crowd of watchmakers, machinists and watch enthusiasts gathered together once again, this time in Brookvale, for a night of horological fun last night. And what fun it was! We started at 6:30 with dinner, then proceeded with 3 presentations - then mingled together, and finally enjoyed a CNC mill demonstration, with the last guests leaving close to midnight!  Actually we were so busy that none of us even thought of taking a photo or two. In one word: a success!
Since our intention is to keep our workshop doors open and continue with horological gatherings on a monthly basis, our next gathering will take place on a Sunday, at 11am (date to be confirmed, most likely the end of August).  Switching from Wednesday to Sunday will allow us to be more flexible with time. Obviously, we are proud of the fact that we can offer such a unique opportunity to colleagues and collectors - so if you are interested to join us next time, RSVP early. Email us directly for programme details and to RSVP your spot.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

New financial year - same goals

A small business is like a living organism: constantly changing, evolving, growing - or at times stagnating or shrinking.  For us, the past few months stretched our limited resources to maximum – and it was all about just two things: setting up the workshop and learning how to use machinery. The good news is that we are entering a new financial year feeling relieved, knowing that the workshop is (almost) completed.
On the other hand, the side of the business which suffered was the assembly of rebelde watches. Only 20 watches have been assembled in the past 6 months.  In some cases, the waiting time was 3 months rather than the 3 weeks promised, but rebelde owners were very sympathetic and supportive so delivery time was not an issue.
However, my intention is to spend more time behind the bench and increase output to at least 10 watches per month. As far as range is concerned: I am running low on cases for classic Pilots (ribbed bezel, $2,500) steel model so when the current batch is completed there will be at least a year before new cases will be manufactured and delivered. The time to order one is - now.
Our flagship model F ('fifty' $5,000) has been almost sold out. This piece is the only watch in the world guaranteed for 50 years where all servicing, labour and parts are included in the purchase price. Less than 10 pieces are still available and there are no immediate plans to offer another batch any time soon.
The situation is bit more 'comfortable' with W batch (steel, smooth bezel, $2,500). The latest Titanium batch is the only Titanium model D in production. It comes with black dial and red seconds hand at 9 o'clock. It is fitted with a 'premium Swiss movement, swan neck regulator and gold balance wheel - same as in the fifty model  - with a price tag of $3,500. There are plenty of available serial numbers! 
Finally, I am yet to assemble the last couple of 18K gold pieces. I’m definitely not in a hurry to get rid of them! When sold, there will be no more 18K gold watches any time soon: the minimum batch run is 20 watches which would require an investment of $148,000 in gold alone!   Price: $13,980 and your pick: rose or yellow gold.
To say that we are very proud of our rebelde project would be an understatement. Over 600 rebelde watches have been assembled in the past 4 years, and to my knowledge, each and every one is in good working order. As we proudly say: there is no such thing as a broken rebelde! So if you decide to invest in a masculine, robust, reliable and fully reparable watch, designed and assembled in Australia, then I can't think of any other watch that would fit your requirement than - rebelde. 
It has been 2 years since we've stopped selling Panerai watches. Today, we made one final, symbolic gesture: we have removed the Panerai category from our website. Instead, you will find in its place a permanent listing of 7 rebelde models we have on offer. While our watch is no substitute for Panerai, it has stood the test of time and deserves every right to stand on its own.
Click the link below to be taken directly to our Nicholas Hacko watches:

Perlage - the art of hand finishing

Perlage - a traditional watch part decorating technique - consists of small, overlapping circles, achieved with a rotating, grinding tip.
Yesterday, Josh designed and made a jig, and then had a first attempt at perlage on our own main plate. I say not a bad job - actually, much better than one found on mass-produced Swiss plates. There is something special going on here: a CNC machined part receiving the final touches by hand, in the old, traditional manner. Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Andrew's tool holder video receives 5000 views on Instagram

An ugly looking, hardened piece of steel transformed into a beautifully finished tool. The cut can only be described as black mirror finish. Cutting time: 5 hours. Andrew designed it, drew it, programmed it and then cut it on EDM. 
And this is exactly what we are trying to create here in Sydney: an opportunity for smart kids to express themselves in an amazing way. Make no mistake: no University workshop would offer such an opportunity, and no commercial enterprise would 'waste' thousands of dollars just for the sake of learning. But we have no choice but to invest in kids, to allow them to fully develop, so that one day they will be making some amazing timepieces.
Check out the video on our Instagram below:

Monday, June 25, 2018

It's all about workmanship

So what is the big deal with watchmaking and clockmaking, you may ask? In one word: it’s all about workmanship.  For hundreds of years makers not only made timepieces but worked insanely hard to 'outdo' each other. Finishes, shapes, metal work, design, functionality all intertwined together with one goal: to impress and showcase the maker’s genius.

My approach is less pompous - but there is no room for improvisation and cutting corners. Here is just one example.

Yesterday the plan was to turn four brass pillars for regulator mainplates. Since this is still a prototype the focus was on construction rather than beauty. However, it soon became obvious that the inexpensive Chinese die for thread forming was outputting a rather inferior thread. Surely, once the nut is fastened, no-one would see it - except, of course, me. And that would bug me. So I pulled out a German die - and what a difference!  Judge it for yourself: The first 5 turns were formed by a quality precision die, and the last 5 with an inferior one.

If you now wonder why I didn’t use 'the proper' die in the first place the answer is - Hahnreiter dies are expensive and should not be used on prototyping – and, further, the die holder for our Schaublin has not arrived yet. So I made one myself - which turned the 20 minute pillar job into a whole afternoon tool making project.  Time wasted? Absolutely not.
And while we are on Hahnreiter: the German precision  toolmaking company dates back to the mid 1800's. After the second World War the factory was flattened to dust but in 1947 the firm restarted its tool manufacturing business with just one employee.  Today, Hahnreiter is the leader in German tap and die engineering.  They have 2600 different die sizes  in stock  and an order placed by 3:30pm is shipped the same day. Talk about the power of one!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Major Milestone

Major milestone: we've planted the watch winding stem! 0.6 mm drill travelling 20mm down to create 1.2mm deep hole. The action is at half speed and quite frankly nerve wracking. Next step: dial feet fasteners then some fine tuning. Yes, out of all places- watch made in Australia!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Watchmaker's regulator update

On Sunday, six hours were spent behind the Schaublin turning the barrel. The end result: about half done. I needed the grooving insert and boring bar to continue further, and, quite frankly, after standing for six hours my legs were just killing me. Josh quickly placed an order for tools and on Thursday a small packet arrived from Sumitomo, Japan.
Sumitomo was founded in 1907 and today is one of the fine-tuned, multi-industry corporations which span from automotive to energy, electronics, semi-conductors to toolmaking.  The cutting tools division was founded in 1927 with the development of cement carbide inserts. To say that they know how to make an excellent cutter would be an understatement. As expected, the small parcel on the bench was every bit you would expect from the land of the rising sun: a piece of art itself.
There is no guesswork figuring out the cutting speed or misunderstanding the other important parameters. Each insert is individually bar coded and traceable - indicating that a tool like this is used to make components that will later fit into devices of the most importance - think of airplanes and submarines, satellites and super fast trains - where mistake is not an option. Certainly an overkill for a humble Australian handmade clock – but, to be perfectly honest, being exposed to perfection is not a bad thing.
One thing is certain - if you can't turn a 17th century clock part on a Swiss Schaublin using the most advanced Japanese cutter then you have no-one to blame but yourself.

Friday, June 1, 2018

A bizarre conversation in the factory fires up our most important tool – our imagination

To be perfectly honest with you, the novelty of making the most perfect regulator gear wore off pretty quickly. While the machining process is painfully slow - and painfully expensive - the end result is predictable:  each wheel is identical to the previous one down to a couple of microns. Yes, we are dreaming the dream of every horologist who has lived in the past 500 years.  But perfection, without imagination, is simply boring.
On Wednesday Andrew and myself were just about to cut the last spoke, and we started thinking about how to design a recess which will accept a power maintaining spring. Traditionally, the spring itself is just an unattractive steel wire hidden behind the gear.
"I am sure we can do better than that, my boy" was enough to kick the young apprentice’s mind into gear.
"What if we make the spring out of brass?  What if we design it to become an integral part of the wheel itself?" He asked. 
"Sure - but why stop there?" I replied. "Let’s make it in the shape of a little sea monster who will hold the return pin in his mouth".
We argued a bit whether the sea monster had ears, does our mystical creature look more like a worm or a caterpillar, while Josh poured cold water on the idea by pointing out that brass has a very poor elasticity memory and our spring is not going to work at all. 
But it did.
It worked brilliantly: it fired up the most important tool we have - our imagination.
We can all clearly see that every regulator clock we are going to make will have a small, imperfect hand-filed and hand-finished "living" mystical creature in it; a dragon or a rabbit, perhaps a snake or a lizard, which will live inside the perfect mechanism like a little clock guardian. 
As crazy as it sounds, I wonder why in 500 years of gear cutting has no-one thought of this?

Monday, May 28, 2018

A quick update on the watchmaker's regulator

It's coming up alright.  The drawings are pretty much done and, with a bit of luck, we will start machining the first parts on Wednesday so stay tuned.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Watchmaking: From mill to EDM and back (making the balance wheel cock)

For those of you who are following the progress of the workshop, after about a week of not making any measurable progress whatsoever, Josh and Andrew programmed and machined the balance cock.  What makes this project special is that for the first time we are able to directly transfer a machined component from the mill to EDM wire cutter and then back to mill without loss of accuracy.  In other words, you can use Machine A, Machine B and then go back to Machine A all on the same component. We are also able to prototype components of a thickness below 0.3 of a millimetre, which is the thickness of the balance wheel cock at the point where it receives the incabloc jewel.  Stay tuned for more updates.
If you missed the video we talked about last week that NYC CNC recorded while setting up the workshop a few months ago, here is the link:

Monday, May 21, 2018

NYC CNC in Sydney

Earlier this year, while we were literally unpacking and setting up our newly-arrived machinery, Josh and Andrew got a knock on the door from a young American who happened to be in Sydney. His name is John. About 10 years ago, he got excited about CNC machining and bought a tiny mill which he then installed in his even tinier New York apartment. He started video recording his journey and sharing it on YouTube. Today, he is probably the most influential CNC YouTuber with a quarter of a million subscribers. John now runs his own CNC workshop but continues to tour the US visiting various manufacturers and sharing their stories.

Josh simply could not say no to John - so he invited him into our small workshop.   The video itself is an amazing story of what happens when two young people, crazy about precision machining, bump into each other.

I am sure you will enjoy it.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Made In Australia Project Update

Another busy and productive week. The current 'release' is 2.01 which means we have now moved to top movement layer:
- train / barrel bridge designed and milled
- bridge adjusted to height and jewelled
- successful test run, correct amplitude and timekeeping
In this phase we are slowly moving away from Unitas 6498 design and away from direct compatibility. In other words, we are no longer cloning but also 'genetically modifying'. 
There is still more to be done at the top layer: drilling and tapping for the crown wheel and click /click spring, as well as milling the channel for the sliding pinion. We expect to continue further as soon as we receive a few more tools and tool holders from the land of Heidi.
Obviously we are not focusing on finishes - the mechanism is still in its 'raw' form.
Very pleased to note that our project is generating a considerable amount of interest primarily from fellow European watchmakers and machinists. Can't ask for more!
Follow us on Instagram: 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Schaublin 102 - finally

This is probably the third or even fourth post on 102 - the most agonising tool acquisition since we decided to get into watch manufacturing. Full credit goes to a handful of subscribers who, despite my own doubts, remained stubbornly supportive and pointed out the obvious: while 102 costs more than a mid-class European sedan, it will not only pay itself off  but it will outlast 5 cars.

Yet it was only after we unpacked the lathe that we were blown away with its beauty.

And I am not talking here merely about the quality of workmanship, the lack of backlash, or the way various attachments fit perfectly into each other.  It is the very maturity of the Schaublin lathe that will impress any keen machinist: after 100 years of development, 102 has reached the stage where
there is really nothing that could have been done better, simpler, more accurate or more beautiful. We could hear its voice: "I, the tool, was here decades before your grandfather, making watch and clock parts. And I am here to stay, to outlive you and your apprentices. Respect me, take good care of me, learn how to play me and play with me -  and you will be amazed."

In a way, my mission is accomplished. We got the Stradivarius - and we are now ready for an Aussie Paganini to play on it.

Thinking of becoming a watchmaker's apprentice? More than ever, we are looking for enthusiastic, keen and talented kids to join our project in January 2019. Time to apply - is now.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Seeing is believing

Watchmaking is all about precision - and taking accurate measurements during the design and manufacturing process is essential. However, when it comes to the art of horology, often the relationship between arbours, bearings and gear meshing is a matter of 'how if feels' rather then how it should be engineered. As strange as it may seem, often the 'ideal' fit is not the most desired one; theoretical shapes and tolerances are not the most perfect. Why? Because tight tolerances do not necessary translate into long-term reliability or the best timekeeping under stress, changes in temperature and gravity. There is a saying that engineers are poor watchmakers which is equally true the other way around.
Some of you may remember the acquisition of a microscope for our workshop. I certainly do - we  sacrificed a really fine watch in order to acquire this lovely instrument. But it was worth it!  When it comes to the inspection of surfaces, part geometry, and the inspection of cutting tools, a microscope is worth its weight in gold. Trying to make a watch without being able to understand how the Swiss have done it would be impossible. So we observe, learn and try to replicate.
Here are just two examples. The first photo shows the mesh in a high grade Swiss watch. The second one is our attempt to copy the Swiss. A person with a keen eye could clearly see the difference in the meshing depth between the two examples. Without any doubt, our mesh is far tighter, more precise, and follows the 'ideal' calculated point of contact. However, we soon discovered that the sloppier Swiss way was actually more desirable. The winding action was actually smoother than ours! Lesson learned.
The second example: a short video showing the very tip of the balance staff inside the shock absorbing jewel. This is an actual recording of a high grade Swiss watch still in brand new condition. I have no doubt that any engineer (or car mechanic) would be horrified. But this is how it is, and this is how it's done. Check it out: Of course, do keep in mind that you are observing an arbour with 100 microns diameter under 240 x magnification.