Friday, July 29, 2016

Watch Talk Night - coming soon

***We're very excited to extend an invitation to a very special Watch Talk Night which will be held in August, probably in the last week (date tbc). 
The topic of the night is 'Get Into Watchmaking With Seiko 7S26 - Do It Yourself Style'.

For anyone even remotely interested in the inner workings of a watch, and especially those who want to give it a go (disassembling and assembling a wristwatch) this is a night not to be missed.
We will talk in detail about which tools are required for DIY watchmaking, what the challenges are of disassembly/assembly, and how much skills and effort are required to successfully complete the project.

If you’re worried that age or lack of skills could be a hurdle then rest assured that in the past four years hundreds of watch enthusiasts worldwide have successfully completed the challenge, following our online DIY course. So there is no reason why you should not give it a go. The set-up costs are around $250 which would include the acquisition of a new mechanical Seiko watch, which makes the DIY a great project even for students on a budget. 

There will be a practical demonstration on screwdriver sharpening by Tyler (who will be doing most of the talk as well) but Josh and I will also be there to answer all your questions. This will be a 2 hour presentation, the cost is $40 per person and seats are strictly limited to 12. Book your seat now.

Happy collecting,

New Toy

Exactly a week ago we told you about a new toy that had arrived in our office - the watch design software.

We're happy to report that both Josh and Tyler already have drawn their first pieces. Josh drew the winding stem for rebelde, based on Unitas 6497, and Tyler's project was bushing for a minute wheel canon for a Rolex 3135. For some reason he chose to colour the ruby stone in green which I thought was a mistake, but his reply was "I'm not using a red ruby but a green sapphire".
Thinking outside of the box at its best. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

rebelde caps

***Hey, good news - we're working on rebelde caps!

These are protoytpes, just in this morning, but if you'd like one please express your interest so we can work out quantities. 
Email now.

Available in black and red and can be worn all year round. 

Happy collecting,

Swiss Not Happy

***Export of Swiss Watches in Decline

Swiss watch corporations are freaking out: the latest data shows that the export of Swiss watches has declined for 11 consecutive months. The reason apparently is the high Swiss Franc and the price of gold. Richemont Group just fired 350 people and Omega is apparently contemplating doing the same.

While this explanation may sound plausible to shareholders, the problem is far more complex. The price of gold is on the rise, but gold is still 30% cheaper than it was in 2012/13 when export was booming.

In May, Richemont CEO Richard Lepeu said Swiss watchmakers "should never be arrogant" and shouldn’t rule anything out. "Technology's progressing very fast, and we never know what might happen."

Lepeu is referring to smart phones. Once again, it appears that Swiss underestimated the impact of new technology: except for TAG, no major Swiss watchmaker is interested in getting into the smart watch business.

However, in my opinion the real reason for a decline in export and sales is a more obvious one: the price of Swiss watches went through the roof. The product is simply too expensive and there are only so many watch buyers who can afford to spend $10,000 on a new timepiece every few months. The other even more obvious reason is the crazy idea that Swiss watches should be sold exclusively throughout 'brand boutiques'. Getting rid of independent retailers who were able to sell volumes of watches at somehow discounted prices is now firing back. Just a few years ago, one could have bought a new Omega watch from a number of dealers located from North Shore to Parramata. Today, there is just one independent AD who still has an Omega account.

The solution is simple: lower the prices, open more independent retail accounts, make the spare parts available to independent watchmakers and watch your export sales go through the roof.

Happy collecting,

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Celebrating Inquisitiveness

***When it comes to watchmaker lathes and manual turning, my skills could be best described as at novice level. I am more familiar with 'large' clockmaker-size work and tool making, something you do on a Myford ML7 size lathe. 

Earlier today I was looking at carbide and tungsten gravers blanks, suitable for hand engraving of fine pivots. The seller was located in the US and the price was right - but what really dampened my enthusiasm was a line above the tool description: "If you need instructions on how to use it then it is not for you".

A statement like this is both arrogant and obnoxious. Mastering hand engraving is a life-time journey and any piece of information that would come with a new tool would be more than welcome. Lathe work is like playing a guitar; each player has their own technique, of which some are better than others. 

When it comes to the precision, speed, accuracy and repeatability of turning then every detail, no matter how unimportant it could be, could make the difference between a good job and a fantastic job. If a seller is unwilling to share their knowledge then I really don't want to do any business with them.

The same applies to our customers. The watches we sell - both new and preowned – do require some level of 'introduction' to the new owner. While I have handled tens of thousands of watches in my lifetime, I am often surprised with a function or a detail I haven't noticed before. Just couple weeks ago, a buyer of an Omega Moonwatch asked me if the 1861 Calibre was fitted with a hack function. I really couldn't remember - despite disassembling that very same calibre hundreds of times.

Asking questions should be encouraged, and inquisitiveness should be rewarded, not ridiculed.
Unfortunately the way we teach - from kindergarten to postgraduate studies - is by flooding the students with knowledge expecting them to absorb it without providing any feedback in return. No wonder kids hate school, teachers are frustrated and customers are unhappy.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Putting things into perspective

***Putting things into perspective

This morning we talked about the size of watch components we routinely handle in our workshop.
Any craftsman - a violin maker for example - would have no problem cutting and measuring a piece 1 millimetre thick. But our watch components are much finer and smaller. For example, the escape wheel pivot is 15 times thinner than a millimetre. And a hair spring is just 20 microns thick (one micron is one thousands part of a millimetre).

To put things into perspective, we took a photo of micrometre jaws holding the hairspring.
We shone the light from behind the instrument so you can see the gap between the 'jaws'.
Without the light, the gap is not visible to the naked eye.

The majority of vintage watches suffer from poor handling so hair spring alignment is often part of the service. To make the coils perfectly concentric is an art form - this job is done by hand using fine tip tweezers and without any special magnification, except the eye-glass. And this is what you learn to do in the third year of a watchmaker apprenticeship.

A 20 micron part is literally the cutting edge of fine mechanical engineering and it is obvious why watchmakers are so proud of their skills. A person trained to handle such fine work is a priceless asset to society - and if you know how to repair watches then you can be easily trained to handle any 'larger' components in the medical, optical or electronics industries.

Sydney TAFE is the last remaining teaching faculty for aspiring Australian watchmakers. Only 12 watchmakers enrol in the 3 year course each year because Australian watchmakers are not taking up the apprentices. 

And the main reason why knowledge and skills are not passed on is simple: the calculated and precisely executed restriction of the supply of spare parts to independent watchmakers by big Swiss brands is causing devastating effects. Yesterday I had a conversation with a Swiss colleague who said that even Swiss watchmakers are very upset by the restrictions and corporate greed which is causing loss of jobs in Switzerland.

But the small rebelde team keeps marching on - and we are looking for another young and talented person to join us. If you wish to become a watchmakers apprentice or know someone who is excited about practical micro-engineering then spread the word.

Happy collecting,

Monday, July 25, 2016

Tool of the Week: More expensive than snake oil

***Apprentice Corner

This week’s tool is a set of oilers. One of the most common causes for vintage watches failing is because they’re bone-dry. With so many points of contact in a watch, if even one of them isn’t properly lubricated it can result in unnecessary friction that has a domino effect throughout the watch.
It’s not something to panic about, watches can function well for years before they need to be re-lubricated. A good rule of thumb is to have your watch serviced every 5-6 years. It’s better to be safe than sorry; replacing the jewels and pivots that have been worn out, especially in vintage watches, can often be near impossible.

The watchmaker’s oil is not your average oil. There are different types of oil for different parts of the watch, each one with different properties and viscosity. 1 ml of it costs $14 - that’s $14,000 per litre!
Thankfully, one bottle can last years if it’s well kept. Only the tiniest spec of oil is needed for most parts, which is why the tips of the oiling pens are as sharp as a needle. It’s a bit of an art form, knowing where and how much to apply is a skill that’s acquired with time. 

As a quick reminder, don’t forget to follow the Instagram account we recently made for rebelde here: @rebeldewatch

I also started my own Instagram account where I’ll be posting pictures of some of the great watches I come across and other interesting watch-related things. Follow me @tylerhailwood.
I’ve just posted a photo of Nick and Joao Santos, where Joao is ‘supervising’ Nick’s work…

Until next time,

Book Review: Jaeger-LeCoultre: a Guide for the Collector, by Zaf Basha

***From Apprentice Corner

In this week's instalment of Week In Review, I’m reviewing the book Jaeger-LeCoultre: a Guide for the Collector. I’m not a seller or a collector, so why am I reading this book? Simple. Being a watchmaker requires one to have an all-encompassing knowledge of the different watches, their reference numbers and their movements.

Each time a new watch comes into the shop I’m amazed at how Nick is immediately able to identify the calibre in each watch. Knowing what calibre is in a watch, what that calibre is based on and how it operates allows one to make an assessment of what might be wrong, how to go about fixing it and what it might cost. And well, the book is just interesting.

It goes without saying that Jaeger-LeCoultre (JLC) is one of the best brands out there. The brand has been a trendsetter and an innovative force in the industry ever since it was founded in 1833 by Antoine LeCoultre.

I’ve been a fan of the brand for a long time but never had a chance to see one in the flesh, so it was a real treat when I got to play with a Jaeger-LeCoultre Squadra Reverso World Chronograph last week.

For reasons that I can’t explain, I’m a huge fan of rectangular watches. Alongside the Rolex Prince, Reverso’s are the undisputed king of the category. They exude class unalike any other watch. It can be hard to imagine why a watch like this is so appealing until you see it in the right context. It’s not an everyday wearer (okay, I’d happily wear one every day), but worn in the right setting with the right attire, it’s unbeatable.

Would anything look better than a Reverso on Jay-Z’s wrist in the picture below? I think not.

Although it’s filled with great pictures, it’s perhaps too technical to be considered a coffee table reader. The book is heavy on detail, with parts/serial number listings, technical drawings and in-depth movement descriptions, all interspersed between historical discussions of the timepieces.

There are plenty of surprises too. Jaeger-LeCoultre hasn’t just produced fancy Reverso’s and complications; they’ve also produced many watches made for practicality and toughness. Case in point; a 1953 Mark 11 that was issued to Royal Australian Air Force pilots:

Built to exacting specifications in order to overcome the extreme magnetic and electrical fields experienced in a cockpit, the movement was housed in a soft iron enclosure based on a ‘Faraday cage’ which helps to normalise the effect these fields had on the watch. Specific alloys were used for the hairspring and balance wheel to further reduce sensitivity to magnetic and temperature fluctuations. The oversized crown was added to facilitate winding the watch while wearing pilot’s gloves.

This book is a serious collector’s book. It’ll tell you all you need to know and then some, leaving you even more fascinated by the brand. It can be bought from Amazon for around $130.

 The JLC Duoplan – the predecessor of the Reverso

Until next time,

Friday, July 22, 2016

Christmas in July at rebelde HQ

***Christmas in July

Christmas has come early for Tyler and Josh who just received a small parcel this morning. 

The content: engineering software for watch parts design and manufacturing. Yes, the very same software Patek uses their design and manufacturing process.  Writing a cheque for $12,800 was not easy but planting the first seed of Australian watchmaking was a rewarding experience.

We will have more great news coming soon, so stay tuned.

Happy collecting,

Why I Love Watches

By Tyler, the apprentice 

Today I thought I’d quickly address one of the questions I’m often asked: Why do you like watches? The first and easiest answer I usually give is I just do. I’ve always liked them. It’s something you’ve either got or you don’t, there isn’t necessarily any rationale for it.

But I do have some more concrete reasons. They’re the only universally accepted jewellery that men can wear. Conversation starters. An expression of your personality and your mood. You might even use them to check the time.

Watches are the product of painstaking research, merging many different fields to make them a reality: mathematics, physics, metallurgy, chemistry and design. The list goes on. Watchmakers are artists that weave these different, often conflicting, fields together to produce something eternal. You can’t carry a sculpture or painting around, but your favourite timepiece can accompany you anywhere you go.

Few other things we own are as personal as a watch. It goes through what we go through, always there to reassure you and evoke memories. A single glance at your watch can bring a smile to your face. What else is passed down across generations like a watch? There lies a lot of power in this fact. It speaks volumes to the importance a watch can have in our lives.

Beyond even owning the watch, the discovery process is equally thrilling. The thrill of the hunt, the hours of research that lead you to your favourite piece and the joy that comes when you’ve found something that ticks all your boxes. It’s addicting.

As the weekend approaches, here’s hoping you get a chance to wind up your watch and unwind yourself. One of my favorite quotes is by playwright Fran├žoise Sagan who said: “My favourite pastime is letting time pass, having the time, taking my time, wasting my time, living out time - against the current”.

Only in those precious idle moments are we able to take a step back and properly assess life as a whole. Paradoxically, work gets done when we take the time to do nothing. Watches remind me of the need to take time off and enjoy the quiet moments, to be more like my watch itself; content with letting time tick by.

Enjoy your weekend!

Until next time,


Monday, July 18, 2016

Book and Tool Review: The Watch & Clock Makers’ Handbook, Dictionary and Guide

***Apprentice Corner

As promised, here is my review of the book and tool we added to the workshop this past week.

For my first book I decided to pick up The Watch & Clock Makers’ Handbook, Dictionary and Guide.
First published in 1907, by F.J. Britten who served as Secretary of the British Horological Institute for 33 years. The book is a classic reference that has been used by watchmakers over many generations. Having undergone numerous revisions over the years, the book’s content remains just as relevant today as it did when it was first published.

You needn’t even be interested in watches to be fascinated by it - the book’s beautiful illustrations and diverse range of topics could hold anyone’s attention. Not just a reference for tools and parts, it also references some of the important figures in the field and their contributions, such as Robert Hooke, an extraordinary scientist who spent much time trying to solve the horological problems of his day, and Abraham-Louis Breguet; arguably the greatest horologist ever.

Despite the huge breadth of topics, the author still finds time to cover some topics in great depth. Indeed, its entry on repeating watches (a watch that chimes the current hour and minute at the press of a button) spans some eight pages.

Of course, more could be said about repeating watches than could possibly fit on eight pages, but the intention of the book is to condense difficult topics into understandable short passages that encourage one to enquire further. An example of the author’s ability to do just this is its entry on astronomical clocks. Watches that map the motion of the moons and planets have always captivated me. The ingenuity required to make them cannot be overstated, and their development spurred on advances in many other fields, including one that is of particular interest to me: computer science. Though incredibly complex, the book does an excellent job of summarising the workings of such a complication, giving one a basic idea of how the gears interplay to produce the magic.

It’s a book I’ve already found myself referring to multiple times a day and it’ll have a permanent place on my desk for years to come. I’ve only scratched the surface; one post simply isn’t enough to do it justice, so I’ll likely write about it again sometime.

***This week’s tool is a set of five Horotec Precitec pliers that were recommended to us that we bought for $95. Unfortunately, our experience with them has been rather unsatisfactory. They aren’t of the best quality, something not becoming of a brand such as Horotec, a brand that usually produces the finest quality tools. They’ll have their place, but won’t be used for some of the finer work we do.

Pliers may not seem overly exciting, I know, but what’s interesting is just how many odd ways we’ve put them to use. When they first arrived on my bench I thought I’d only use them when I needed to adjust a bracelet or cut a stem. They’ve certainly been used a lot for bracelet adjustment, but we use a much more precise power-tool for stem cutting.

The tool is an odd one in that you might struggle to name any uses beyond the two aforementioned, and yet you find yourself reaching for them multiple times throughout the day. Most of the time they’re just used to hold a part while you do something to it with another tool, but occasionally they serve a very specific purpose.

Nick demonstrated a neat little technique of tightening the cannon pinion (on a tester watch of course!). This is done by tightening the cannon pinion by ‘squeezing’ it. The cannon pinion is held perpendicular to the teeth of the end-cutting pliers and downward force is applied by lightly tapping the handles using a watchmaker’s hammer.

It’s a very risky thing to do - an old-school watchmaker’s trick. Not something I would yet attempt on someone else’s watch! Too much force and you’ll split it in two or put an indent so deep that it becomes useless.

Cannon pinion tightening is normally done with other tools (unsurprisingly, there are tools made specifically for this job), but this served as a good lesson nonetheless. Here’s hoping it never comes to that.

Until next time,

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Rolex Servicing

Probably the most common inquiry we get is “do you do Rolex repairs?”
The short answer is; it depends.

With the current workload of rebelde watches to be assembled, every moment in the workshop is priceless. In other words, rebelde is, and always will be, our priority. However, there is always that great sense of satisfaction that comes from the repair or restoration of a Rolex watch that was written off as unrepairable or too old to be repaired by Rolex themselves.

Our bottleneck is the availability of genuine Rolex spare parts. Since Rolex no longer supports independent watch makers in Australia, we are forced to search for genuine parts worldwide. In general, the restriction of spare parts makes them more expensive and it takes longer to get them. So if you’re not in a hurry then in most cases, yes, we can help you.

The other group of customers that we are able to help are the owners of vintage Rolex watches who prefer to keep the watch in as an original condition as possible. When it comes to servicing and replacement of spare parts, our golden rule is to preserve the original dial and hands, bezel and bracelet; which means our goal is to preserve the authenticity and collectability of the Rolex, rather than to turn them into factory-new condition.

The third group of customers are Rolex owners who simply find Rolex servicing prices unreasonably high. If you need an independent second opinion and a second quote then again, most likely, we would be able to help you.

The final group of customers are those who find our service more down-to-earth and who prefer a more intimate relationship with the watchmaker. To them, we simply can’t say no.

Our speciality is vintage Rolex sports models like the Submariner, GMT Master, Explorer and, of course, Datejust.  In most cases, the complete overhaul/restoration cost would be around AUD $850.
The only restriction is we don’t work on watches manufactured after 2010, we work only on the older watches.

Happy collecting,

Sydney Watches Pty Ltd is an independent watch repair service centre, not affiliated with nor authorised by Rolex, Switzerland.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

1973 Rolex Explorer II Ref. 1655/0

Rolex Explorer II 1973

Big projects call for big decisions.

To finance the acquisition of a CNC watchmaker’s mill, I will be reluctantly parting with one of the watches from my private collection: 1973 Rolex Explorer II.

Stainless steel case and bracelet, case size: 40mm. Black dial.

What is special about this piece is that it was acquired from its original owner - a gentleman who bought it in 1973. 

The watch has been overhauled by Rolex a few years ago and has not been worn since.

It comes with the original Rolex box and two service guarantee cards - from 2004 and 2013. The serial numbers and model reference numbers are clearly visible and match the paperwork.

This Rolex Explorer II with the bright orange hand is one of the most popular vintage Rolex models and is sought after by serious collectors. However this particular watch has been meticulously restored so it is perfectly suitable to be worn daily - if you choose to do so.

It goes without saying that my preference is for the watch to remain in Australia. My price is AUD $27,000 + GST. However, if the watch is to be exported, then the export price is USD$20,900.

Available for inspections: please call for an appointment.

Panerai PAM 112 Twins

Hey, Josh here.

This doesn’t happen every day so I thought “let’s frame it”.

Two identical Panerai PAM 112 arrived to our workshop with the same problem: a broken main spring. 

Working on two watches simultaneously is great fun. And the job can be completed almost as fast as when you’re working on one piece. The Panerai were powered up by ETA 6497-2 movements.

The only thing that left me under-impressed was the Perlage finish of the main plate. The only finishing was done on the externally visible parts of the main plate, whereas the areas under the bridge were left raw and unfinished. This would be as if a painter painted your whole house, but not the areas covered by furniture. 

Obviously Panerai is not in the business of impressing watchmakers.

Happy collecting,

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tool of the Week: Horotec Bezel Remover

***Apprentice Corner: Week In Review

This is Part One in what is intended to be a weekly series. As the workshop continues to expand and I continue to learn, Nicholas has committed to buying a new tool and a new book each week. That, or we’ll pull a book out of the shop’s library or dust off an old tool that has sat dormant for many a year. I’ll then do a write-up of that tool and a review of the book, highlighting anything I find interesting. Both the historical and technical aspects of watchmaking will be covered and I’ll do my best to demystify some of the more complex topics. I hope you’ll find it interesting!

A short post today, only covering the tool. The first book has just arrived so next week’s post will include a detailed review.

The latest tool in the shop is a Horotec Bezel Remover (MSA 07.117) that removes a snap fit or friction fit bezel, such as that on a Rolex Datejust. These watches require a tool that ‘digs’ under the bezel in order to pop it off the case. Taking off bezels can be tricky business. Years of build-up gets into the grooves and makes them very hard to pry open.

There’s not much to say about this tool - it performs a very specific function, but it’s almost always frightening to use a new tool and this one is no exception. There’s no easy way to tell if the blades are correctly aligned with the grooves - you’ve just got to put on your loupe and carefully inch it into place. One of the nice things about bezels like this is that you don’t have to worry about the build-up that gets into the grooves in screw-on bezels that makes them hard to twist open, but this is usually only something that occurs on very old watches that haven’t been opened for decades.

The dangers of using this tool are clear: If the blades aren’t correctly aligned there’s only one other place they can go - straight into the watch case. This will leave a permanent cut on your expensive (sometimes irreplaceable) case. I’ve only practised on a tester watch thus far; I dare not try on one of the Rolex’s in stock!

With the addition of this bezel remover my workbench is beginning to look like a Horotec display. The characteristic red of the tool makes them stand out. It’s a name I’ve become already become well acquainted with - they seem to be the producer of the finest quality watchmaking tools. They’ve been supplying high quality parts since 1946 so they’ve got a reputation to uphold. They aren’t even paying me to say this! As I flick through the catalogue, Nick tells me we’ll eventually own most of them as we expand our capabilities. The company claims to have over 3,500 products - where will we put them all?!

A teaser for next week's book:

Until next time,