Saturday, October 13, 2012

Time Telling

Just because you can, does not mean you should.

If this is the first law of good design and engineering, then many watchmakers are as guilty as O.J.

Being able to tell the time is not an ability we are born with. Most of us still remember the time when we learnt how to tell it! Yes, we needed someone to teach us how to do it - and to explain to us the meaning of hours, minutes, division of time and relation between the short hand, long hand and twelve numbers. Very quickly we realized that time telling is all about the relative position of clock hands and we were able to 'tell the time' without even understanding how the clock works or how the time flies.

Very quickly, the link between the position of hands and the actual time created a series of mental images deeply 'stored' in our subconscious. Soon, we no longer needed to 'see' the actual numbers or even the minute track because the mere position of two hands was sufficient for very precise time telling.

The link created was a very powerful one - so powerful that with the introduction of digital watches, most watch owners quickly realized that while 9:37 was an accurate time reading, the information was lacking mental picture of "9:37".

Image source: Unknown

The LED display was dry, cold and artificial.

The position of hands on an 'old' clock dial was far more meaningful - it provided more complex information (not only the current time but also the relation between the current time AND some future / past time without any conscious calculation).

In other words, we knew how to tell the time because we were recognizing 'pictures'. On the contrary, LED watches provided no pictures, just a row of numbers which needed conscious effort of translation and calculation.

Very soon, the watch manufacturers realized that something was 'wrong' and what followed was a generation of digital watches which featured both analog (hands) and numerical display.

Image source: Unknown

As the novelty of LED and LCD wore out in the 1980s and 90s, digital display disappeared from the main stream watch market altogether. In other words, we accepted and embraced the accuracy and convenience of 'digital ' watches and happily rejected the inconvenience of mental gymnastics.

If there is one area which best portrays the stubbornness of the human race, then that has to be the area dealing with design of digital watches.

Refusing to accept the 'normal', some designers went into a great deal of trouble to create even more bizarre watches which required even more mental effort to read.

Take this one for example:

Image source: Unknown

What is the time? How fast can you tell it?

If this is not slow enough, then here is another 'clever' design:

Image source: Unknown

Finally, this could be the ultimate 'geek watch'...
the LCD Maze Holographic timepiece:

Image source: Unknown

The manufacturer admits that "initially, telling the time may be challenging, however after some practicing, you will be able to tell the time as easy as you can 'see' any other holographic image." Good luck with that one when trying to catch a bus.

Now, if you really MUST have a digital graphic-display watch then here is one which probably makes more sense than others and requires far less mental effort for our 'pre-digital era' brains:

At least, the designer was honest enough to recognize one simple fact: that more means larger 'pile'. Based on that simple concept, here is the watch:

Image source: Unknown

Of course, you can accuse me of nit-picking, but from a purely engineering aspect this toy is a very inefficient one: to display the time, on average, half of the 'lights' are switched on all the time. What a waste of energy!

So how long did it take you to figure out the time on this baby? Less than 5 seconds? A minute? (That was our office average :-)

As said before, displaying time-related information on the watch dial in a meaningful way is both a conceptual and technical challenge.

For that very reason, from the earliest days of horology, watchmakers have spent years perfecting a seemingly trivial functions.

Here is one example of such an effort: day of the week display.

From a mechanical point, the simplest day display would involve a simple pointer which will 'point' to the current day. The drawback of such a design is a relatively cluttered dial which is not aesthetically pleasing.

Image source: Unknown

Slightly more elaborate - and definitely more eye-pleasing design is where the day appears in a cutout:

Clockmaker.com.au

However this display lacks one important information: it no longer places the current day in relation to other days of the week. In other words, Thursday - or Sunday - is just another day in the week, not a particular day in weekly cycle.

Here is the third design which is not only more intricate, but also mechanically challenging: retrogrades.

Retrogrades means "reverting to an earlier position".

In this case, the day pointer goes from Monday to Sunday, however the transition of the pointer from Sunday to Monday goes in the opposite direction - the hand travels counter clockwise in an instant.

This bi-directional 'jump' function requires additional retrograde mechanism and as such, it is regarded as a horological complication.

Such a display combines all desirable aspects, it is 'true' to watchmaking tradition of skilled makers and places each day in an un-mistakable weekly cycle which then repeats itself in the way we are used to.

In addition, note the perfect silver guilloche dial, delicate print, blued steel hand and the exquisite white gold hour markers - all housed in a timeless tonneau shaped case.

A true watch aficionado and keen student of horology should base his watch choice upon those features, not exclusively on a brand name or price.

By the way, I am sure you have noticed how the watchmaker placed the pointer EXACTLY in the middle of the letter U. Attention to detail, of course!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Egyptians got it right!

Have you ever wondered why your watch tells the time in a 12-hour format?

If the day contains 24 hours, why are we so comfortable with the concept of 12 hour division instead of a more logical 24 hours division?

To find the answer to this question, we need to go back in time- to ancient Egypt. The Egyptians were obsessed with numbers and were very practical with their approach to mathematics.

For simple calculations, they used a base-12 system.

Unlike the number 10 (the base we use today), the number 12 is really a 'magic' number: it can be divided with 1,2,3, 4, and 6.

To count to 10, you can count your fingers on both hands. But to count to 12, you can instead just count joints on one hand! Therefore you can count more on one hand and use your second hand to hold a tool or a weapon!

Here it is: the world's oldest and simplest calculator - your hand:

... and it comes with a built-in pointer:

"I have 5 goats!"

The superiority of the Egyptian base-12 counting system was obvious, and it was used for all simple calculations, including time division.

While Egyptians had many different "clocks" (the water clock or clepsydra was their original invention), the most widely used timepiece at that time was the sun dial.

Because a clock which runs on sun could only measure daylight hours, the day-time hours were divided into 12 units. And so were the night time hours, with one sunrise to sunset cycle being divided in 24 more-or-less equal units.

This Egyptian division was passed onto the Greeks and centuries later on, to us.

The very first mechanical public clocks in 13th century used the same 12 hour time division display. While mechanical clocks were perfectly able to tell time in 24 a hour format, they too were 'in use' only during day time so 12 hours was more than sufficient for everyday use.

The first public clocks had only one hand, which was precise enough for most users. In a similar manner, the first domestic clocks only had an 'hour hand' as well. The minute hand was added later - actually long after the clocks were featured with date / calendar and moon dials.

In other words, the reason why your modern watch dial looks like it does is because your hand looks like it does. And because of the Egyptians and their obsession with precise division.

A note on medieval clocks: the moon dial was actually one of the most important features and it was a 'norm' with all better clocks. While our need to tell the moon phases is no longer important, the moon dial is still one of the key traditional features of a quality modern watch.

While the majority of timepieces are constructed and designed for everyday use by ordinary users, it is important to note that the 24 hour format is equally important to astronomers. Here is a picture of an astronomical clock in Hampton Court Palace, London:

Image source: Unknown

Today, wrist watches which display a 24-hour time format are popular with users who need to measure and record GMT time. Military users, radio operators and pilots who travel over various time zones to mention just a few. However, thanks to our lifetime exposure to the 12-hour format, our brain is not comfortable with this concept, and telling time using such devices requires mental effort.

In some way, 700 years from the invention of the first mechanical public clock, some watchmakers have reached the full circle, returning to a pure, simple, single-hand 24 hour display:

Image source: Unknown

While the above model from Jaquet Droz is out of reach for most watch enthusiasts, it still presents a fine educational example for a keen student of horology.

And here is another example of a watch by JLC which clearly demonstrates the makers' understanding of the time display concept featuring an AM/PM indicator.

Clockmaker.com.au

How to display time - and most importantly what to display or omit form the dial- is one of the most challenging steps in watch design. A seemingly small, unimportant or redundant detail can make all the difference between 'just another watch' and a GREAT watch which combines functionality, mechanical properties and design into a horological master piece.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jaw-dropping head turner: Wyler Titanium Carbon Fibre Chrono

Keen students of horology know that the enemy 'number one' of all mechanical watches is corrosion. The second deadly enemy is shock to finely engineered mechanism. Both are fatal and often cause irreversible damage to a watch, regardless of maker or price.

Here is a vignette about a man and a project which attempted to provide a solution to both problems.

Paul Wyler was a Swiss watchmaker born in 1896. At the age of 27, Wyler tackled one of the most challenging problems of his time: shock resistance of wrist watch movements. He was the inventor of Incaflex, a device designed to protect the balance wheel. The device was legendary at that time.

In 1937 Wyler created a stir amongst watchmakers with his water-resistant watch that was not fitted with the conventional soft gaskets. The mineral glass was pressed in between the edge of the case and a pressed or screwed bezel, the gap between the winding shaft and the watch case was sealed hydraulically by fitting the winding shaft and bushing together, in the same material, to 1/500 mm.

In 1956 Wyler became world famous: he dropped 3 of his watches from the top of Eiffel Tower in Paris to demonstrate the shock resistance of his watches. The story goes that while all 3 watch cases were destroyed, the watch mechanism survived intact, continuing to keep correct time !

Image source: Unknown

Ironically, despite the innovative design, practical improvements offered to watch owners and the large number of Wyler's watches manufactured and sold, the brand suffered the same fate as many other Swiss watch brands of the 1960s era: Wyler went out of business quietly.

In 2006 a group of Swiss watchmakers in Geneva, Switzerland, decided to resurrect both the Incaflex and the Wyler brand. The new modern Wyler appeared at the Basel watch show in limited production of only 3999 units in gold and titanium.

This was a very brave and ambitious project. The new Wyler was not just a head-turner, but a technically advanced concept featuring some rarely-seen solutions. The most prominent one was a case design where movement was suspended on 4 shock absorbers. A tourbillon version appeared the following year. A $300,000 baguette diamond-shaped piece premiered in 2008.

Reconstruction of what happened soon after is based more on speculation than facts.

Exactly why Wyler went out of business will remain a mystery. The 2008 global financial crisis was surely one of the factors. Another obvious reason was the exuberant recommended retail price. A $12,000 price tag for an unknown brand name base model was a huge gamble. While the Wyler was uber-cool, it was still an ETA-based time piece. One can imagine that most pieces were sold for significantly less than the asking price. Making a profit on a prototype is impossible, regardless of the industry.

Sadly for the brand owners (and even more so for the investors) the last examples of unsold Wyler timepieces were auctioned by Swiss auctioneer in 2011. Judging by the post-auction results, most bidders had no idea what they were bidding on. Same was the fate of machinery, brand name itself, designs, tools and spare parts - the Wyler project was buried for the second time.

Despite the crash landing, to this day, Wyler remains an uber-cool watch. Mint examples still do appear on the pre-owned market. It is important to remember that Wyler is one of the most copied concept-watches in recent horological history. Clearly, there is a huge demand for a watch which does not look like just another Swiss-made timepiece. Serious watch collectors are constantly looking for a watch 'with a twist' and this beauty is surely a conversation piece with story to tell.

The only remaining question is this one: what is the watch worth today?

In my books, $3,500- $4,000 for NOS example base model and few hundred dollars more for a chronograph is a very fair price. I doubt that even Wyler dealers and stockists paid any less than that 5 years ago. (More likely wholesale price was around $5,000). The stock list still available online and provides a fantastic insight into the brand's marketing policy: http://www.interwatches.com/wyler-pricelist

Would I wear Wyler? Probably not - but I am neither a cool 30-something nor a watch collector. Otherwise - yes, of course!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The difference between watch movement types is not a wind up!

Every now and then a customer asks us about watch movements and winding. It's easy to forget that what seems obvious to some is not to others and having grown up with mechanical watches and clocks, winding a mechanical movement to add power to it's spring everyday seems natural to us, but watch movement technology can be completely alien to others.
For those interested in how the motive power of their watch stacks up against the other options and learn a little about winding, read on...


Manual  Watch
Automatic Watch
Quartz Watch
Winding
Daily, by hand
Daily, by wearing the watch
Not required
Power source
Spring
Spring
Battery
How long does it take to wind (typically)
20 seconds
8 hours of daily wear
Not required
Power reserve (typical)
30 hours
42 hours
1-3 years depend on type
Commonly used in
Omega Moon watches
Cal 321 / 861 / 1861
Panerai base models
Unitas 6492
Most Patek Calatrava
Most Jaeger Reverso
Anything described as
Self-winding, perpetual, automatic etc.
No description on dial or "quartz" 
Maintenance
5 years
3-5 years
When required
Cost and resale value
Medium to high
Medium to high
Low to medium
Accuracy [COSC]
-4  / + 6 sec per day
-4  / + 6 sec per day
 1 sec/day or better

1.  Which type should you buy? 

To be honest any specific type of movement is very hard for us to recommend as there is nothing “wrong” with any of these of movements; their power sources are just different and some have features the others do not have. What we would say is that for buyers looking for accuracy, low maintenance and entry level price, the quartz models offer serious ‘bang for your buck’. For those who enjoy the knowledge that an intricately engineered mechanical movement is purring on their wrist, then your choice is already made. In previous newsletters we have discussed the delight many receive from their daily half a minute manual winding ritual, something we believe that everybody who loves watches should experience!

2. How to wind a manual wind watch?

To avoid confusion, it is recommended to wind the watch by rotating the winding crown forwards and backwards between finger and thumb. Typically 20 turns are needed until the spring is fully wound. At that stage resistance will be felt and the crown will no longer move in the direction of winding.


3. How to wind an automatic watch? 

Simply wearing an automatic watch will wind it. The oscillating weight (called 'rotor') which is connected to set of reverse wheels winds the main spring.

4. What is the "power reserve"? 

This is the amount of time that your watch will run for before it needs to be wound again.

5. Can I overwind a mechanical watch?

No. People often say a watch is ‘over-wound' but in reality spring is either wound or not.

6. Can I wind an automatic watch by hand? 

It depends on the watch. Some automatic watch movements can be handwound in the same manner as a manual watch, but the crown will not 'stop' when the spring is fully wound, however you may feel a light click at that point. It is important to understand that automatic watches are not design to be would manually.

7.  What is kinetc? 

Well... Probably too big a subject for today, let’s discuss it in another newsletter. In short: a cross-over between automatic and quartz.

Did you know? Manual wind watches have never said ‘Manual Wind’ on a dial, but Automatic and Quartz often proclaim their movement type in that manner. The reason is simple - why state the obvious? Automatic watches were first mass-produced after WW II. Before wrist watches, gentleman wore pocket watches which required daily manual winding. The oldest surviving pocket watch is one made by Peter Henlein in 1505.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Watch styles and your Personaility

As usual yesterday's subscriber special sold in mere minutes. That is the norm for subscriber specials these days, but what was interesting was that the gentleman who bought the watch told us that he did so because one of the lines in the newsletter description perfectly described the person he was buying the watch for.

'This is perfect watch for the lady who doesn't want to their watch shout out, yet still wants to enjoy a quality watch' 

That got us thinking about watches, style and personality. They say 'that clothes maketh the man', but many people don't always have the option to really make a statement about our personality through our clothes on a daily basis, especially those who wear a uniform, a suit in the office or those comfortable weekend clothes. That means that for many of us our watch probably speaks more about our true selves than any other part of our clothing.

Here is a quick ride though a few personality styles which you might not agree with, and as usual feel free to tell us if you feel that we are way wrong. So without further ado, put on those sunglasses... lets start with....


*** Bling!!!!

For those who's personality is larger than life, and certainly louder than the dress code at work! These watches often sparkle like their owners by utilising diamonds and pearl dials. They stand out from the crowd, catch the light and everyone's attention.

Whilst the allure of diamonds is universal and totally understood, the beauty of Mother of Pearl is that blends with many skin tones and helps to highlight the effects of both diamonds and gold. Blending diamonds with pearl produces a watch that is perfect when dressed up for dinner, and yet also not at all out of place when dressed down for a day out in the sun.

The Omega is pure bling with a serious diamond count surrounding its pearl dial, itself with diamonds on the markers, WOW! The Breitling might appear less obviously overt, yet that deep misty dial with conversely laid subdials really catches the light better than any photo could ever do justice, come in and see it!

Be the talk of the town with these watches!


Omega Seamaster Diamond Dial and Bezel
Omega Seamaster diamond dial and bezel, mother of pearl
Breitling Chronomat Acier Limited Series, mother of pearl dial


*** Classic and Subtle

Whilst subtle and classic are really two slightly different things, we grouped them together in our little office survey as often the more classically styled watches were favoured by those who don't want to make a fuss or shout about their choice of watch, like the Omega from the subscribers special yesterday.

These watches suit buyers that want to enjoy a quality watch but don't want anyone to feel they are showing off. They offer clean styling and time reading is simple and clear. These are watches that your colleagues would have to look closely to realise what they were, but of course you would have them half hidden under a shift cuff anyway, its just who you are...

The clean and classic Omega watches are obviously subtle, but the solid gold Rolex is so nicely toned down by the use of a leather strap that it's subtle as well as being a true classic.

Shussh! don't shout about these watches....


Omega Aqua Terra Quartz
1978. Rolex Oyster Datejust Ref. 1625
Omega DeVille Ref. 4813.40.01


*** Contemporary

When looking for a dressy watch that breaks away from the norm, it can be tough to locate something that is different enough from the crowd that you can be safe in the knowledge that you've got something that you wont see when you look around in a business meeting anytime soon. The people who are attracted to these watches tend to be those that don't want to toe the party line and while they wont often speak about it, they make their choices seriously with quality and style in mind.

Step away from the usual Rolex and Omega crowd and lets talk Cartier. Superb quality and watches that whilst contemporary in design are also subtle as well as classics. Hard to go wrong of course

Be different...


Gents' Cartier Roadster Automatic in stainless steel
Gents' Cartier Santos 100 XL


*** Techno Cool


While few will admit it, they are gadget freaks who will buy the latest technology no matter what it is; ipod, iphone, ipad... and they would probably queue to buy an iwatch if one came on the market, even if it wasn't actually of the quality they would usually favour in a timepiece. Then there are others who make use of technology in their jobs, and like to have a watch that has extra functions. Plenty of people use a stopwatch to time various things at work, and many Pilots enjoy having a watches with extra time zones and other slide rule functions and we should not forget that NASA flight qualified the Speedmaster and it helped save the Apollo 13 astronauts when their computer failed.

The Breitling Chronospace with dual time module is a technological tour de force and will keep any techno junkie happy for ages, and the Tudor provides a simple and easy to use mechanical stopwatch function yet in a more classic style. For those who just like technology but don't have the need, both will of course time your boiled eggs and toast to perfection!

Far better than another iWatch rumour...


Breitling Chronospace Ref. 56012.1
Tudor Chronotime Prince Date Chronograph Ref. 79260

Are you a watch user or abuser?

We often call them marvels of mechanical micro engineering, status symbols, precious heirlooms, and fashion accessories. And yes, of course that's what watches are. However, many of us simply forget the most important property of mechanical watches: the fact that they are designed and manufactured as precision AND accurate instruments.

(Although it is worth pointing out that many of these instruments are perhaps precise but not actually that accurate, but don't worry I am not going to bore you with a discussion about either precision or accuracy today! )

The point of this rant is this: While many can afford a mechanical watch, only some of us truly understand the challenges related to using mechanical watches. Of course, it does take bit of sophistication to truly appreciate a 300 component precision instrument. We might be rich by now if we had a dollar for every time a customer asked us, "So I can't really wear it in shower?", "I can play golf and jog with it, yes?" and, our 'favourite'; "What? I need to wind it manually... every day? no way!", usually finishing with "... my $99 Casio never complained when I do all that and more!"
Hmmm... Precisely !

If that is where you're coming from then obviously, due to your lack of appreciation and sophistication, then no, this precision instrument is definitely *NOT* for you. I'm sorry, but until watch owners care to learn the difference between the terms 'use' and 'abuse', they have no right to call themselves watch aficionados; because, frankly, they are not.

Sadly the other end of spectrum is that there are those who are always happy to point out that mechanical watches are designed to withstand extreme conditions. The proof is apparently in the fact that many watches survived years of abuse before giving up.

While this is definitely a testimony to makers of fine watches, this argument alone makes very little sense. Our aim is to preserve watches for next generation, enjoy the precision and accuracy, marvel at their mechanical engineering: not to push them to limits or beyond.

After all, pushing to the limit and beyond has already been done 54 years ago. To be flight-qualified by NASA for all manned space missions, the OMEGA Speedmaster Professional chronograph successfully passed 11 different tests.

1. HIGH TEMPERATURE 
48 hours at a temperature of 160 deg F (71 deg C) followed by 30 minutes at 200 deg F (93 deg C). This under a pressure of 5.5 psia (0.35 atm) and relative humidity not exceeding 15%.

2. LOW TEMPERATURE 
Four hours at a temperature of 0 deg F (-18 deg C).

3. TEMPERATURE-PRESSURE
Chamber pressure maximum of 1.47 x 10^-5 psia (10^-6 atm) with temperature raised to 160 deg F (71 deg C). The temperature shall then be lowered to 0 deg F (-18 deg C) in 45 minutes and raised again to 160 deg F in 45 minutes. Fifteen more such cycles shall be completed.

4. RELATIVE HUMIDITY 
A total time of 240 hours at temperatures varying between 68 deg F and 160 deg F (20 degC and 71 degC) in a relative humidity of at least 95%. The steam used must have a pH value between 6.5 and 7.5.

5. OXYGEN ATMOSPHERE 
The test item shall be placed in an atmosphere of 100% oxygen at a pressure of 5.5 psia (0.35 atm) for 48 hours. Performance outside of specification tolerance, visible burning, creation of toxic gases, obnoxious odours, or deterioration of seals or lubricants shall constitute failure to pass this test. The ambient temperature shall be maintained at 160 deg F (71 degC).

6. SHOCK 
Six shocks of 40 g's, each 11 milliseconds in duration, in six different directions.

7. ACCELERATION 
The equipment shall be accelerated linearly from 1 g to 7.25 g within 333 seconds, along an axis parallel to the longitudinal spacecraft axis.

8. DECOMPRESSION 
Ninety minutes in a vacuum of 1.47 x 10^-5 psia (10^-6 atm) at a temperature of 160 deg F (71 degC) and 30 minutes at 200 deg F (93 degC).

9. HIGH PRESSURE 
The equipment to be subjected to a pressure of 23.5 psia (1.6 atm) for a minimum period of one hour.
10. VIBRATION Three cycles of 30 minutes (lateral, horizontal, vertical), the frequency varying from 5 to 2,000 cps and back to 5 cps in 15 minutes. Average acceleration per impulse must be at least 8.8 g.

11. ACOUSTIC NOISE 
130 db over a frequency range from 40 to 10,000 Hz, duration 30 minutes.


Thanks to its accuracy, reliability and sturdiness, the Omega Speedmaster Professional not only survived all NASA lab tests, but continued to be an essential instrument in the exploration of Space for next decade. Yet, it is interesting to note that we see no mention of 'the shower test', 'Golf test' in NASA's exhaustive testing and it should be borne in mind that the watch is wound manually...

To wind yourself or get a winder?

You stand at the window and gaze upon the vista before you. The sun slowly awakening from it's slumber as it begins to spread its warm glow out over the city. Coffee aromas lift slowly in the atmosphere, mixing with the honey upon your toast on the table. Immersed in yourself, ignoring everything else around, you gently rotate the crown of your watch back and forth whilst thinking about the day ahead.


Some rituals transcend time and space, that quote could be from a classic, or could have been you this morning.... 
Every few weeks we get an email or a phone call from someone who wants to know a bit more about watchwinders and questions why we no longer stock them, so we thought we should explain our thoughts on these units with you, as some of you probably have questions about them too.


These winders sound good but why do I need one? 
Mechanical watches are superb devices that keep good time, but... as they are based on a clockwork mechanism if they are not wound the spring runs down and they stop. Watch manufacturers fixed this issue by developing watches that use a battery instead of a spring for storing their power and those watches will run from 12-60months depending brand/battery etc. This is great if your watch is Quartz, but mechanical watches need winding.


How do they work? 
A watch winder usually takes the form of an attractive mechanical machine and is used to keep automatic (self winding) watches wound and running while they are not being worn. The machine rotates the watch which is an action that mimics the way the watch is worn on a human wrist, thus allowing the rotor (a moving weight inside the watch that winds the spring on a self winding watch) to turn and wind the main spring.

Can it overwind my watch?
A winder cannot over wind an automatic watch.


Sounds good, but do I need one? 
Well, If you have more than one automatic watch then you probably have watches you are not wearing and their 'charge' is wearing down. If you leave most automatic watches off your wrist for 48hours then they will stop. It depends on how much the re-setting of the time and date bothers you.


How about Kinetic and manual wind watches?
Kinetic watches work with the same principal as automatic watches with a turning rotor to charge up a capacitor/battery so yes a watchwinder can keep those watches charged up. So far no one has produced a viable winder for manual wind watches.

Does using a winder wear parts of my watch?  
Short answer is yes. You wouldn't leave your car running in your garage and expect no wear on the moving parts of the engine.

 
Is it really a winder you need?
If you are finding that your watch is not holding its power overnight when off your wrist, then its not really a winder that you need, your watch needs a service. 


So it's just convenience then? 
Yes of course. Winders are cool and owning one is a nice part of the watch collecting hobby, but how hard is it to wind a watch and set the time/date? Lets face it you don't leave your car running in the garage overnight just so that it's warmed up and ready to go first thing every morning?


Is there an exception?
Exceptions always prove the rule, and highly complex perpetual calendar watches where calendar setting requires certain procedures, so manufacturers advise that they should always be run continuously. Frequent manual calendar setting on these watches can be problematical and may cause accidental damage so these watches often come with their own winders. However those watches must undergo a factory service every 4-5years because they are continuously run.


Why don't we carry them anymore?
We may be purists and watch geeks here at the shop, but we think that watches are more than just time telling devices. The fact you have a 300+ part miniature machine on your wrist is supercool in itself, and the chance to interact with it is in some ways a bit special. We firmly believe that there is enjoyment in winding your watch. There should be solace in the ritual in the same way owners of large clocks in big houses and the chosen men on ships were entrusted to look after the timepiece that the institution revolved around. Automatic movements have removed the daily manual winding ritual, why go further?

Monday, June 18, 2012

There is no such thing as a small victory

When we fight for our rights, there is no such thing as a small victory.

As most of you are aware, a few months ago we started a campaign called 'Save the Time'. Basically, we wanted to demonstrate to watch brands that we, the consumers, have certain rights and we want to be taken seriously.

This action was really long overdue.

Taking advantage of restriction on supply of spare parts to independent watchmakers, more watch manufacturers - and especially Swiss 'brand names' - are now forcing watch owners to undertake unnecessary repairs which they call "mandatory". As a result, often, the repair quotes are loaded with items which are not requested nor beneficial to watch owners.

While there is nothing wrong with being a monopolist, taking advantage of the monopoly and forcing consumers into service agreements which are only beneficial to the brand is something that is contrary to Australian Consumer Law.

For the first time, such practice has been exposed and dealt with at the NSW Consumers Tribunal level. On your behalf, Save the Time's spokesman initiated a case against a well known Swiss brand.

On 1st June 2012 Consumers, Traders and Tenancy Tribunal of NSW Sydney made an Order which I have attached for your reference.

This order basically states that a service centre for major Swiss watch brands is required to "provide ... Applicant with the specifically requested service ... without the additional recommended repairs."




This simple order is of great importance to Australian watch owners and Australian watchmakers because it deals with an issue which concerns many thousands of Australian consumers.

After the order was served, again, on your behalf, Save-the-Time has approached Office of Hon Anthony Roberts MP, who is Minister for Fair Trading in NSW, with a request that the order be made public and available for viewing online.

The order and our action generated substantial amount of interest and soon Mr. Tim James, Chief of Staff for Minister Roberts organized a meeting with your spokesperson.

It was a real honour and pleasure to meet with the Minister who actually took time form his busy schedule to visit the 'Save-The-Time' headquarters on June 15.

 Hon Anthony Roberts MP, Minister for Fair Trading with spokesman for Save-the-Time 


Minister Roberts was very keen to learn more about our campaign and was impressed with the number of petitions received in support. He mentioned a similar case in another industry which was brought to the Tribunal recently, and was resolved successfully. It was obvious that the Minister was proud of his department and the good job it does protecting the interests of Australian consumers.

Essentially, this is exactly what we campaign for: a fair trade - trade and servicing agreements which are beneficial to everyone involved.

Where do we go from here?

While this particular order is just a first step, it is nevertheless a step in the right direction.

It shows that no corporation is immune to being questioned about its policy towards consumers. While the preparation work may take months of efforts, and the order may appear minuscule, it does have a significant consequence in restoring fair trading and common sense.

It is also obvious that positive outcome can be achieved only when a number of people work together towards common interest.

Most importantly, the CTTT order sends very clear and very specific message to watch brands: we do understand our legal rights and we are ready to take a stand. Corporate bullying is not the way we do business in Australia.

Practical implication

You, as a watch owner and consumer, have the right to request for SPECIFIC SERVICE. While the watch servicing centre may recommend additional services, it is the owner's right to request and demand that only specific services be undertaken. Put your request in writing. If your request is ignored or if you are forced to undertake 'mandatory' service which is not to your benefit, contact the service centre again and let them know that you are willing to take the case to CTTT.

If necessary, make them know that you are part of a consumers' movement and that you are aware of a recent case where the Tribunal has made a decision which supports your stand.

I have no doubt that Swiss service centers will quickly get the message. We hope that their mindset and servicing policy will change for the better.

However, as two recent emails received from fellow subscribers clearly demonstrate, we are still not there.

Now is not the time to quit, rather it is the time to take an even firmer stand. We'll talk about that very soon.

To those of you who have publicly supported our campaign by signing a petition, a big THANK YOU and WELL DONE.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Getting it right the Australian way


To fellow Watchmakers of Australia,
To fellow Watch enthusiasts,

We will win.

We will win because we fight the battle in which "getting it right" is the only acceptable outcome.

As the newly appointed Secretary of the newly formed association, it is my duty to assure you that Professional Watchmakers of Australia is on your side.

The 'getting it right' may take time and effort. But you already know that.

As a professional watchmaker who makes an honest living doing what you do best - repairing watches - you also know that no person, no corporation or  privately owned entity has the right to restrict your trade. No person, no corporation and no privately owned entity has any right to push you out of business, to prevent you from earning income, to limit you in any way or to impose restrictions which are not in your interest or in the interest of your customers.

As a professional watchmaker, you are responsible to the Australian Government who gave you the right to practice your trade. And you are responsible to your  customers who trust your expertise. No one else.

As a watch enthusiast and an owner of a fine timepiece, you know that no person, no corporation or privately owned entity has the right to restrict your enjoyment or freedom of choice.

You own the watch. It is your property.
Therefore, no person, no corporation or privately owned entity has the right to force you into any servicing agreement which is not approved or authorized by you, the owner. Nor to impose upon you, any repair or servicing arrangement which is not beneficial to YOU. Nor to restrict the supply of any spare part, bracelet - or even a simple watch bracelet link - that you request. Nor to limit your choice of repairer, confiscate your property or impose some imaginary standard of repair which you really don't need or are forced to accept.

The watch is yours. The freedom of choice is yours.

Don't let your consumer's rights slip away just because like us, you love your timepiece.

The only reason why we are forced to take this bold stand is for the unfortunate reason that some individuals, corporation and privately owned entities believe that Australians either don't care or don't understand the issue.

The truth is quite the opposite- we do care and we are ready to take a stand.

And yes, with your support we will win.
Nicholas Hacko, Watchmaker
Secretary of and Spokesperson for
Professional Watchmakers of Australia, Inc
Watchmakers: please join the Association and offer your support to PWA now.
Watch enthusiasts: please go to www.Save-the-Time.org
and sign your petition to ACCC.
Watch the video and tell your friends.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Smart watches vs. dumb watch manufacturers: the battle for the most precious piece of real-estate in the world!

You don't need to be a chart analyst to work this one out. Yes, it is a tragedy. I just hope you have not invested in this company or its products. Because if you have, you've just lost 94% of your investment. Gone forever!

The company we are talking about here is Nokia, the Rolls Royce of mobile phone manufacturing fame. A company which still builds high quality phones, well engineered, sold at very reasonable price. Now, it is fair to say that Nokia is still the world's second largest mobile phone manufacturer with annual revenue of 38 billion dollars. But Nokia's share market is shrinking and as such, the share value has dropped through the floor. For one reason: Nokia is no longer a cool phone maker. Or more precisely, Nokia makes dumb phones.

In just couple years time, the phone market has changed dramatically. We have entered the era of smart phones: phones which no longer look like mobile phones but are capable of almost anything your personal computer is. When we think smart and cool, we now think iPhone or Samsung.

Don't take my word for it: on your way home tonight, look around you. I bet you won't find ONE Nokia user playing with his phone. And this is precisely why Nokia shares are almost worthless.

Now let me give you a bit more of bad news.

As we speak today, right now, we are in the middle of another shift in technology:

the smart phones are evolving to the next level: they are becoming smart watches!

Here are the two major players in the smart watch industry: Pebble which is "compatible" with Apple's iPhone and Android and Sony, compatible with Android phones. No, these are not prototypes: Pebble will soon be available in a store near you, and Sony is already available - for as little as $149! Sony's resemblance to the iPhone is just amazingly familiar.

While smart watches are still dependent on your main mobile phone device (via Bluetooth connectivity) these watches allow you not just to tell the time, but to check your messages, twitter, control music devices - and much more.

Now if you think this is cool, let me just state the obvious: this is just the beginning - on an evolutionary scale, we are talking about amoeba. Give them a year or two - and watch this space!

If you are not impressed, then here is a brief 'technical' introduction about this exciting technology.

For example, while the 3 watches on the left look like 3 different models, it is really the same watch. They look different because they run different applications. In other words, your smart watch is no longer just a piece of hardware, but anything you want it to be, controlled by a software application.

And here is another crucial bit: the software applications are not controlled - or even supported - by hardware manufacturers, nor in the case of SONY, not even by the operating system because the source code is FREELY available to all developers and users! Which means the smart watch will continue to get smarter and offer you even more functions and capabilities.

Now, if I am a Swiss watch manufacturer, I would be in a state of perpetual panic. Compared with what is coming, the watch war between the Japanese and Swiss fought in the 1970/80s is equivalent to that of WW1. The next war is going to be a full blast nuclear Star war!

While in the 80s Swiss manufacturers had all the hardware and know-how to at least produce decent watches and consequently offer some resistance to the Japanese, in 2012 the Swiss watch industry is armed with stone age technology, hoping to fight the Star War.

And here is my key point: the battle is not about the technology, or price, or even performance, this battle is all about that precious "piece of real-estate" - your wrist!

The smart technology is no longer happy to place your gadget in your bag, or back pocket. The smart watch wants to be placed on one and only one spot it deserves - YOUR WRIST. This is what the battle is all about.

You may have a bunch of watches, but you can wear only one at the time.

And you need not be clairvoyant to figure out which one will take that well deserved spot: a smart one, which represents free spirit, creativity, ever changing design, a watch which talks to you, and represents the new age of NO RESTRICTION; or the other one, which is a product of Swiss monopoly whose main concern is how to stop everyone else from entering the market (including fellow Swiss makers), restrictive to the extreme and arrogantly treat the most loyal supporters as ignorant, and whose only business model is this: "if it does not sell, double the price." A watch made by a company which refuses to sell you a spare part, spare bracelet, even a spare link! A maker so arrogant who can afford to upset even the most loyal customers and brand promoters.

Here is my message to the Swiss watch industry: myopic, narrow minded and restrictive policies are not going to work this time. Unless you change and open FAST, you will be out of the game. No one is too big to fall! (Ask Nokia!)

The 'luxury watch market' is no different from any other luxury goods market.

Customers buy luxury watches for many reasons, and value for money, ability to service watch at a reasonable cost and durability of the product are core reasons. Those who can afford your watches are not naive nor ignorant: they will only 'invest' in your watches if your watches are perceived as worth investing in.

There is only one way out, and if you don't want to take my advice, then watch this video: it is about the Porsche car manufacturer and the way Porsche treats its customers and their products.

It is about value for money, about respect and vision.

Mark every word and learn from those who got it right.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmG9LwzyS2A

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Preserving our dignity

Part 1.

I love my Holden Barina.

I got it new in 1997. Actually we had bought it just a few days after my wife brought home our baby boy from the hospital. On weekends, I would fit in a baby seat and we would drive along the coast. Monday to Friday, the Barina was used for business - if you lowered the front passenger seat and folded over back seat, you can fit in a full-length English long case clock!

Most customers would just shake their heads in disbelief. Yes, you can say I am sentimentally attached to my little Holden. Almost 15 years later, it still goes like a rocket.

Oh yes, it is soon due for new brake pads. The search for new pads started with a visit to the Holden website. From there I got the phone number of an authorized Holden parts supplier.

"Hi - do you still supply brake pads for a 1997 Barina manufactured in Spain? " "Sure do. In stock. $78". "$78 a piece?" "No, $78 for a set of four." "Fantastic. But just to make it clear, I am not in the car business..." "Sorry?" asked the salesman- "I said, I am not a car mechanic. Would you still sell the parts to me? "We sell parts to anyone!" "And I guess you want my old pads returned to you, right?" "No mate, just chuck 'em in the rubbish bin (laughing)" "...and do you need my car rego plates, or my drivers license?" "No, just your VISA numbers. That's all." "Great. But for your information, I intend to take my car to my next door neighbour, he is going to install the pads..." "That's fine, good for you. Now, can I get your card details so we can get this sale under way?"

I also wanted to tell him that my next door neighbour is not a car mechanic either but he was not really up for a chat. Anyway, I got my pads the next day in the mail.

While on Holden's website I also learned that Holden is in partnership with a third-party spare parts supplier which offers a range of parts to suit their vintage models. ("Restoration Parts are often made from the original tooling and are as close to the originals as possible.")

I happily left Holden's website under the impression that Holden is a business that cares for their customers.

If you are a young couple expecting baby and looking for a car, go Holden like we did. Good car, good memories.

Part 2.

Some of my long time subscribers are well aware that I am very passionate about my hobby. I LOVE my radios. After a long day behind a bench or in front of a computer, sanity is restored the moment I put headphones on and flick the switch of trustworthy ICOM.

This morning, I received an email from a fellow radio nutter. "The latest model of ICOM transceivers is now coming with newly designed transmitter amplifier. They will be using the most advanced gold metallized N-channel MOS field-effect RF power transistor".

Wow, that was cool news indeed.

But then I got worried - I love to repair my own radios, and while I rarely need to replace output transistors, the question was, would I be able to obtain such a very special component if I ever needed one? ICOM is Japanese radio manufacturer and amateur radios are just a part of a large Corporation which also supplies equipment to military, marine and avio users including the US Marine corp! Surely they would be very protective of their latest technology?

I was wrong once again.

A visit to ICOM's web page revealed that I have nothing to worry about: The Japanese were more than happy to tell everyone that the latest power amplifying device actually comes from STMicroelectronics, an Italian-French company, and that the component number is STAC2942. Another quick search revealed that while this component was only manufactured a couple of years ago, it is readily available from wholesalers everywhere - for just $120. Or for $90 on eBay!

If I ever needed replacement - or a truck load of them - I would have no problems fixing my latest model Japanese radio.

Yes I love my radios, and I will remain loyal to my favourite Japanese brand because my brand respects me and my hobby.

Part 3.

This Monday I need to deliver two sets of news. Both bad.

Right in front of me, on my work bench, I have two watches belonging to customers, which have been sitting there for some time now. One is a lady's gold and steel watch, the other is a gent's diver's timepiece. The first one belongs to a lovely lady who has been my good customer for many years. Her watch needs a new circuit. A fifteen minute job which requires removing 4 screws and fitting a new battery. The second watch belongs to a guy whom I have never met, but was described as a massive gym junkie. Another easy job - his watch needs a new winding crown and a rubber seal.

So here I am, staring at two "dead" watches, trying to solve an unsolvable problem: How to repair them without spare parts? Yes, you guessed right - both watches are Swiss made and no, I have no access to those parts. Both watches are over 20 years old. Both customers left them with me in good faith, expecting a hassle free, straight forward repair.

Yet the only thing I can deliver on Monday is "Sorry I cannot help you."

I really hate those phone calls:

"Aren't you a watchmaker? So you don't know how to fix them? You don't have parts? Why? So now I have to waste my time once again coming to your shop to pick up my watch? Where do I take them now? How much is THAT going to cost me? Why does it take 3 month to do a 15-minute job? Why can't you do it? Why can't YOU get parts?...."

Quite frankly I am sick of explaining how little I can do without access to Swiss 'brand name' spare parts. It is painful and humiliating. It is frustrating. I am losing time, money and reputation. I am losing my best customers. it is as simple as that: once you say NO to a customer, that customer will never come back to you. There will be no referral, no 'job well done' feedback, no income.

As my 14 year old boy said: "It sucks to be you, dad! "

Yes, it sucks to be a watchmaker.

It sucks to be an Australian watchmaker who pays tax to the Australian Government yet is unable to fix a watch for an Australian customer because someone out there, in Switzerland, has taken full control over our lives.

And what sucks the most is that I cannot even name the brands which are depriving Australian watchmakers of their basic right to earn income - without being sued in AUSTRALIAN Court!

Part 4.

Apparently, the key reason why most Swiss brands refuse to sell watch parts to independent Australian watchmakers (and American, British, Norwegian Italian, French and every one else) is this:

We, the independents, are not capable of handling Swiss watches.
We are somehow inferior, uneducated and inexperienced.
We are also unwilling to invest in modern tools and equipment.
Or something along those lines.

15, 35 or 40 years of repairing Swiss watches is still not good enough. The fact that we can actually repair far more complex watches than the majority of what they sell is irrelevant.

The fact that most of us are European trained, second, third or fourth generation watchmakers is also irrelevant.

My grandfather is now 92 years old and he still repairs clocks and watches. He was a master Watchmaker before WW2. One vivid memory from my earliest childhood is a pile of watch crowns, metal bracelets, plexi glasses and other spare parts which he used to bring in suitcases from Switzerland from his parts buying trips.

Back in the 60s, 70s and even the 80s getting a spare part for Swiss watches was as simple as getting brake pads for a Holden. The Swiss brands needed us, and they needed us desperately to service their millions of watches.

The independent watchmakers were in business a long time before the Swiss even got into watches!

The reason why Australian independent watchmakers are cut out, pushed away and left to "starve to death" is this: Swiss corporate greed. We all know that.

So please, Swiss brands, let us preserve some of our dignity. Don't call us incompetent. Stop telling your customers that "taking your watch to an independent watchmaker is risky because they can't fix it."

The only reason why we are unable to repair your watches is because you REFUSE to supply parts. It's as simple as that. Not the other way around.

Quite frankly, a battery or circuit replacement in a Swiss watch is something we don't even consider as watchmaking. Even an overhaul on your "super duper" automatic movement is something we can do while blindfolded. It's kids stuff to us.

When a customer brings a watch to you with a broken balance staff, you replace the balance wheel completely. We replace the balance staff only. When the watch is rendered by you as 'beyond repair, no parts available' we get our 60 or 100 years old lathe and we turn the staff. We make one from a steel rod, by hand, the old fashioned way. When you run into a problem you cannot solve (on your own watch!) you replace the entire mechanism. Instead, we look for the problem - yes this is time consuming, but extremely satisfying - and we solve it. We get a kick out of repairing stuff you cannot or don't know how to repair!

And this is just a beginning. Some of our members, the independent watchmakers of Australia are capable of much more. They can restore even the most complex Swiss timepieces ever manufactured. They can manufacture parts which are completely missing, cut wheels and pinions. They are capable of restoring some of the most magnificent timepieces ever manufactured: English and French clocks, American railroad pocket watches, ship chronometers.

Do your watchmakers know how to make a detent for a chronometer escapement by hand? Have YOU ever tried to make one? How many of your "in house trained repairers," whose job is to swap a quartz movement, have even seen the fusee chain? How many of them can explain what the difference between the tick and tock sound is, what a poise error is or even the relationship between amplitude and timekeeping?

Or let me be just a touch more personal: how many of your AD (Authorized dealers whom you also call 'authorized service centers' for your brand when in reality they are just administrative operators) have even the simplest timing machine on premise? How many of those who you have allowed and authorized to sell $50,000 or $500,000 watches would have the slightest clue about what makes those watches tick?

Once again, you are trying to pull out that old trick of Swiss corporate mastery. You know so well that refusal to sell spare parts to independent repairers is in breach of European competition rules and US anti-trust law. Australian consumer law is no different. But it looks like you simply don't care.

Either way, our message is simple: don't ever call us - the Australian watchmakers - incompetent or incapable. Because you may find out that one day when we are all gone, the table will turn around and the watch owners, YOUR customers, will say: it sucks to be you.

Mail bag

Hi Nick,

A little while ago you wrote an article about losing a Rolex watch; always a painful experience. I thought I'd tell you about the Rolex my father had for a number of years until it was lost (well, stolen is probably more accurate).

My father enlisted in the Australian army (2/5th Field Regiment) in 1940. Just prior to sailing off to the Middle East on the Queen Mary, his mother gave him a Rolex watch. I'm not sure of the model but I believe it was a gold Rolex. Having an accurate timepiece was very helpful during the war (not much point having an attack commence at 0500 if your watch is running slow!) and my grandmother thought it would not only assist him but it would be a bond with his mother whilst he was on active service.

My grandmother was not a rich woman and the Rolex had been a very large investment for her. Accordingly my father took great care of it and was also very attached to it.

Posted to Syria as a forward observation officer in the artillery (25 pounders), my father was soon heavily involved in fighting the French Foreign Legion who were aligned with the Vichy government. As a forward observation officer, my father had to be at the front line and sometimes he had to advance past the line so he could spot for the artillery.

At Merdjayoun on the 19 June 1941 the Australian infantry attack was checked after suffering heavy casualties from an enemy counter attack with tanks. Enemy machine gun fire swept the ground but my father with another artillery officer and a small party pushed on ahead of the infantry and established an outpost in a house. The telephone line was cut and he went out and mended this line under machine gun fire and returned to the house, from which enemy posts and a battery were successfully engaged.

The enemy then attacked this outpost with infantry and tanks, killing the Bren gunner and mortally wounding the other officer. My father and another manned the anti-tank rifle and Bren gun and fought back driving the enemy infantry away. The tanks continued the attack, but under constant fire from the anti-tank rifle and Bren gun eventually withdrew. My father then personally supervised the evacuation of the wounded members of his party.

What is not mentioned in this description (which is paraphrased from my father's citation) is that when the enemy attacked the hut, my father had taken his Rolex off (I suspect he didn't want to have it scratched during the attack) and that when he retreated (carrying a mortally wounded officer on his back) he forget to take the Rolex with him. When he got back to the front line he realised he'd left his watch behind!

What happened next was an example of my father's determination and courage; he went back and got it! Not a simple task as this entailed crossing the front line once again and crawling around enemy positions in the twilight. But he got his watch back! For the remainder of his war service the watch remained firmly on his wrist.

The watch was later replaced as his day to day watch in the late 1950s by a gold Omega constellation. In 1966 my father moved from the Netherlands back to Australia and all our possessions were shipped out. The Rolex was put in a suitcase and taken as excess baggage. The very sad thing is that the suitcase vanished en route to Sydney (I suspect it was stolen) and much to my father's great regret the Rolex was never seen again! For your information, my father was Roden Cutler.

Much is known about him but I doubt very few people know about the watch incident!

Yours,
Mark Cutler


Dear Mark,

Thank you kindly for sharing such an exciting story. For all of us who are 'adopted Australians' and fellow overseas subscribers, I recommend further research on the exciting life of your dad.

Sir Roden Cutler, VC, AK, KCMG, KCVO, CBE (24 May 1916 – 22 February 2002) was an Australian diplomat, the longest serving Governor of New South Wales and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry "in the face of the enemy" that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth armed forces.

If Sir Roden was still around, I am sure two of us will be on the next plane to Geneva to serve our Letter of Demand :-)

The most amazing detail to me (apart form the fact that he battled a shark to save a swimmer at Manly beach) is that he was the Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand at the age of 29!

Beat that!

-Nick