Monday, August 29, 2016

Mitutoyo Optical Comparator

***Tool of the week: horology here we come!

How we managed to bring up the 300kg pallet up to the fourth floor is still a mystery - but we managed.

The arrival of the box was a long anticipated event: it travelled across seas, and we watched the ship's position daily as it made its voyage from Japan to Australia. The Mitutoyo Optical Comparator finally arrived on Friday.

For those of you who wonder what the comparator is and what it does: it is a high precision measuring instrument which allows us to measure even the smallest watch components with extremely high accuracy. Without it, it would be simply impossible to design and make a watch part. It is a giant microscope, but also a computer which calculates distances, angles, radius and complex shapes, and work out tolerances. 
In other words, it allows us to see the very "DNA" of the watch mechanism and to measure at sub-micron level.

Tyler and Josh couldn't wait a second longer so while the tool was still on the floor they started playing with it. I was watching them from the distance, having a hard time to contain my excitement. Every few minutes they would joyously proclaim: "wow, look at what I've just found - it can measure in polar coordinates" or "hey, there is a motorized auto focus" or "gee, there are even more functions than are mentioned in the user's manual!".

Our comparator is made by Mitutoyo - the Rolls Royce of measuring equipment. And the boys are over the moon! This unique instrument will provide them endless opportunities to learn and design. We have now reached another important milestone in Australian horology, and proudly, we can say that we have a tool that no other watchmaker in Australia has. Of course, we would be more than happy to open our doors and make the comparator available to fellow watchmakers and keen students of watchmaking: I believe that fun is multiplied when shared!

I know this is not necessary to underline but allow me to say it again: every time you spend money with us, a great portion of that money goes straight into the acquisition of watchmaking equipment and tools. These assets are brought into Australia and are here to stay. And this is just the beginning of what we intend to do. With your help and support, in a few years from now, we will be able to do things which will make us all proud. 

Happy collecting,

Friday, August 26, 2016

Worth the Investment

***Right now, I have 3 watches on my workbench: a 30 year old Rolex Datejust which needs major restoration, an Omega Moon watch with a broken pusher and winding crown and a five years young Panerai Submersible due for its first service. The Panerai also needs a new rotor ball bearing which, in its short lifespan, has worn itself to death. To complete these 3 repair jobs would take weeks: sourcing the spare parts is both unpredictable and a time-consuming task. The parts will be arriving from all over the world at snail-speed.

However getting back into repair business was necessary: this is the price we have to pay in order to train Josh and Tyler. Before they can call themselves “rebelde watchmakers” they need to master general horological skills.

Yet every time I work on a customer’s watch I cannot help but to note the obvious: how easy it will be for Tyler and Josh to one day service, repair and restore rebelde watches! They will have at their disposal thousands of spare parts, ready to be installed. They will be able to complete servicing in a matter of hours, not weeks. Not to mention the most obvious of all: their customers, rebelde owners, will be more than happy once they see the repair bill: a fraction of what Rolex, Panerai or even Omega owners have to pay to keep their watches running.

And that in itself should be the most important reason to invest in rebelde: a watch designed, assembled, adjusted and maintained by your local watchmaker who cares about your business.

I am both proud and humbled: there are now 450 rebelde watches out there, ticking and keeping time. Most of them are worn daily by their owners. And out of 450, not one has been back with a broken winding crown, or with a crystal which popped out. Not one suffered water related damage or ‘leaked’. Running a rebelde service department has to be the most boring job in the world: there is simply nothing to do because there is simple nothing to repair. Maybe I am just lucky that I got the design right in the first go. Maybe I am just lucky that my component manufacturers got the tolerances and finishes ‘spot on’ in the first go. Or perhaps, maybe, after 3 years of development, I can say that maybe, after all, rebelde IS what I’ve promised you: a robust and reliable timepiece worth investing in. 

Happy collecting,

Tool of the Week: Moebius FIXODROP

***From Apprentice Corner

Today, I’d like to share with you a short story of one Hermann Moebius. Haven’t heard of him? That’s okay – few have. But despite his relative obscurity, he’s a man whose lifetime pursuits helped solve one of the greatest issues faced by watchmakers. These innovations have proved to be of use in a wide range of micromechanical and electronic applications.

His story ties in to this week’s ‘tool’ of the week. It isn’t really a tool at all, but rather something you use to help ward off the devilish force that plagues all things mechanical – friction.

Watchmakers knew of the importance of lubrication early on, but none had the time nor the necessary background to solve the problems associated with the oils used. The first oils used were a mixture of animal, vegetable and mineral oils. Such oils have very good lubrication properties but suffer from poor oxidisation stability. That is, they tend to thicken and gum up in a short period of time. Stabilisers were developed to help prolong the decay process but not enough to be sufficient to be used in a watch.

In large mechanisms, parts tend to operate at a relatively slow speed and high pressures prevail throughout.  The parts are usually bathed in oil which is replaced at regular intervals. The spread of oil isn’t usually a problem.

Watches have almost the exact opposite properties: they operate at extremely fast speeds; low pressures prevail throughout; oil spread is a problem; they’re serviced at long, irregular intervals.

A watchmaker himself, Hermann Moebius was acutely aware of the need for a lubricant specific to micro-mechanisms. In 1855 he founded his company ‘Moebius’ and set about developing the perfect oil, systematically testing oils with a multitude of different properties and selling them on to other watchmakers.

His efforts didn’t go unnoticed and he quickly acquired a strong following. The product of his research solved many of the problems of classic oils and remains in use to this day. From a chemical point of view, the ‘oil’ he developed doesn’t have anything in common with classic oils – it’s a type of synthetic oil.

Today’s ‘tool’ helps solve the problem of spread. Getting oil to stay put when the surface area is small or geometrically awkward can be a real challenge. Developed by the company Hermann Moebius founded over 150 years ago, this liquid is a surface coating, a type of liquid plastic that acts as a glue for oil.

We use it on parts which “work hard”:  pallets jewels, auto rotor wheels and rotor bearings.
Its use is simple: the part need only be dipped in the solution, leaving an invisible film over the part which helps retain oil at these critical points.

And every time we use Fixodrop, we honour the legacy of Hermann Mobeius, the man who solved one of the most challenging problems of modern horology.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tool of the Week: Bregeon 30638-3

***Apprentice Corner

Today a customer brought in a watch which needed urgent attention: an Omega Apollo MoonWatch with a broken component in the chronograph section. The watch was also long overdue for a service so Nick thought he’d give me a practical demonstration of how an Omega 1861 movement (found in most moonwatches) is disassembled. 

This movement is the first one I’ve witnessed being disassembled that has a chronograph function, representing a huge step up in difficulty. I don’t pretend to properly grasp how the complex system of gears, levers and springs interplay to make the chronograph work, but this little introduction was both exciting and very, very enlightening. I had always wondered how the hands fly back into position after being reset and upon seeing it in action for myself I smiled from ear to ear for the next half an hour, marvelling at just how ingeniously designed the mechanism is.

It was during this disassembly process that this week’s tool of the week was needed. At first glance it’s (tool on the right) almost indistinguishable from a hands removal tool (tool on the left):

It’s only when you look closely at the tips do you notice the difference between the two. This tool is a wheel remover (Bergeon 30638-3) that removes sweep wheels from fourth wheel arbors and chronograph driving wheels.
The teeth of the tool lock underneath the wheels spokes and the wheel is then pulled of its arbour.

Despite its relatively large size, this gear is one of the easiest components to break in the entire mechanism. The wheel must be pulled upwards at exactly 90 degrees to the plate; any deviation will result in a bent pinion which can’t be fixed.

The disassembly process took well over an hour; we wanted to completely strip the movement apart and were in no hurry to do so. There are over 30 different types of screws in the movement and we wanted to segment them to enable easy reassembly. Mixing screws is something that can result in a lot of time wasted later on. Some screws might seemingly perfectly fit a slot, but it’s only later on, and after fitting multiple components, that you find it actually belonged somewhere else. This is to say nothing of the time spent actually handling the screws, which itself is something of an art form.

Though what I’ve just described may sound rather tedious, I assure you it’s anything but. When you finally finish piecing it together and breathe life into the mechanism via the winding stem it’s a magical experience.

New tools appear almost daily here in the shop and with each one of them comes a new challenge and insight. Nick assures me (not that I need the reassurance!) that such tools will forever continue pop up throughout my career. How very exciting indeed.

Until next time,


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Monday Lessons

***A quick Monday afternoon exercise turned out to be more of a challenge than originally anticipated.

While I was working on Valjoux 7750 I asked Tyler to quickly work out how many times the chronograph hand ticks per second. He recorded the motion then slowed down the video and quickly pronounced the chrono seconds hand ticks 4 times a second. I then asked him to figure out how many teeth the chrono wheel has.

He quickly concluded that the count is 240, "give or take 1 or 2", and this made perfect sense because if you divide the frequency of the oscillator by the number of ticks per second then 240 would be the right number.  But for some reason I really wanted him to physically count the number of teeth exactly. After all Valjoux 7750 is the movement he will be working on at the TAFE in his third year and we don’t want him embarrassing us.

As enthusiastic about watchmaking as he is, he found the task of counting a bit trivial and assigned the job to Laura, who to her credit, without being burdened by estimation did the proper count. To our surprise the centre wheel has not 240 but 200 teeth. Which means that the seconds hand actually ticks 3.333 times a second, not 4. The point is you can be deceived by what you see, and even what you recorded. Once again, watchmaking is all about being overly pedantic, even when you are “100%” sure that you are right.

The question remains, how are we going to cut a 200 teeth on a 7.2mm diameter wheel one day in our workshop? We have no idea yet, but we will do it. 

Happy collecting,

A special THANK YOU to comrade rebelde

***Once again, I was humbled by your support for the rebelde project. The entire batch of R series was snatched up in less than two hours. 
For those who were not quick enough: unfortunately I don’t have an estimate as to when the next batch of watches will be released. Right now, the focus is purely on rebelde50 as well as a number of other exciting projects of which I will tell you more in due course.

The good news is that I am completing last few pieces of rebelde Titanium B batch and two watches will be available by the end of the week. We’ve had tons of good feedback on titanium: you love the feel (super light) and you love the size (45mm). I wear one myself on our Puerto Rico black croco strap which gives the watch a cool, almost "dress look". See the pic below. The price of TiB is $3,000 and the watch includes our 5 years guarantee on parts and labour.

For our overseas subscribers: the reddish wood (watchmaker’s bench) is Queensland maple and the little block is Tasmanian oak. One day, when I have nothing to do, I intend to hand-make a couple of simple watch boxes using some exotic Australian wood. I am getting better at finger-joinery but this is an art form in itself yet to be mastered.

The past 3 months have been just crazy. My mind is completely consumed by watchmaking. We are learning so much about machining, measuring and CAD. We are spending great deal of time and money setting ourselves for the next phase of 'Australian Horology'. In few weeks time Josh and I will be travelling to Germany and Switzerland and I cannot tell you how excited I am about this trip. Again, all we do here is purely result of your continuing support. 

Thank you kindly and stay tuned for more!

rebelde TiB 65/75, assembled and available for immediate delivery.

Happy collecting,

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Announcing rebelde R

***The biggest product announcement cliché of all time has to be the one starting with "Good news! - Our new gadget is here!" And I have to admit, I've used this opening line myself more than once.

However, for a few people out there, today's announcement will not only be good, long awaited news, but a total surprise! After almost two years, the Control Tower is back in stock, ready for immediate delivery.

Yes, this is the one you've been waiting for: the stainless steel maxi dial rebelde.

The entire production re-run is 10 pieces because right now I could only source 10 'gold-signed' 6497 movements. Also, the dial supplier could only provide 10 maxi dials. And finally, only 10 steel cases with plain bezels could be manufactured and engraved on such short notice. Limitations galore.
What we have for you is therefore a limited re-run of rebelde R batch, with each piece signed R01 to R10. The red seconds hand is not just an icing on the case, but a very distinct detail that makes the R batch stand out from the original issue.

It goes without saying that rebelde R will find their new owners in a heartbeat. However I am happy to make you even more special and even more appreciated by including two more goodies:
- a sterling silver rebelde Mark pen to accompany your new watch
- a very special 5 years + 1 day guarantee [5Y1D]

Now, you may rightly wonder what the 5Y1D guarantee is all about? It's simple: your rebelde R is fully covered for 5 years, parts and labour, so you won't have to spend a cent to keep it going. 
However, if you bring your watch to us one day after the guarantee expires, we will extend it for one more day. And that one day extension is priceless to you, because on that day we will completely strip your watch down, do a complete overhaul, polish your case and fit a brand new strap. And we won't charge you a cent for your first major overhaul - we'll treat it as an 'under guarantee' job.

Your rebelde will be then ready for another 5 years of faithful performance.

It has been almost 3 years since we started the rebelde project and the beauty of it is that we are now 'richer' by over 400 happy watch owners. We measure our success not by the number or value of watches sold, but by the number of happy rebelde comrades. And I have no doubt that if you join our club today you will be more than happy with your rebelde R and our commitment to you, as a valuable partner who is helping us to write yet another humble chapter in the history of Australian attempts to produce an Australian watch.

Thank you for your support.
Rebelde R, total production 10 pieces, 8 pieces available for sale (numbers R02/10 - R09/10).

Happy collecting,


Monday, August 15, 2016

Book Review: Timepieces - Masterpieces of Chronometry, by David Christianson

***From Apprentice Corner

No book review last week - I was too busy snowboarding! Anyway, straight back to it.
This week I read through Timepieces by David Christianson, a renowned horological historian, certified master watchmaker of 25 years and a past president of the American Watchmakers and Clockmakers Institute. Timepieces chronicles the various developments - across different cultures over thousands of years - that produced watches and clocks as we know them today.

Interestingly, most of the critical developments were not concerned with time at all. The incredible hydro-mechanical astronomical clock tower built by Chinese polymath Su Song (1020-1101 AD) was not built to tell the time, but rather to track celestial bodies as they hurtled through space - crucial for calculating dates in the Chinese calendar and for interpreting astrological signs. The most important technical development related to mechanical watches - the marine chronometer built by John Harrison - did not tell the time per se, but rather used differing times and spherical trigonometry to allow sailor’s to calculate their longitude while at sea.

Indeed, in its early years, mankind was mostly content with letting time flow by. It was only with the onset of prayer requirements from religions such as Christianity and Islam that man began to require more fine-grained structure in their lives, facilitated by clock bells ringing out across the town.

These events are carefully related in Timepieces along with many, many others. Whilst the first half of the book details pre-modern developments, the second half focuses on those that have occurred in more modern times. The fall of the American industry and rise of the Swiss are touched on, the author detailing the conflicting forces that shaped the landscape. Technical advancements such as the coaxial escapement and the electronic watch are weaved into a narrative that helps the reader understand the interplay of factors that led to each one’s development.

The selection of photographs, paintings and diagrams chosen for display in the book are excellent; the author’s encyclopedic knowledge of the field enabling him to select the perfect photos required to properly illustrate the topic at hand.

The photos used in the section on some of the earliest watches are but one example of this. Early watches were hugely expensive, fragile and terribly inaccurate - losing minutes or even hours each day. They were objects reserved only for the particularly well-to-do. Owing to this, they were often extravagantly crafted - engraved, enameled, jewel encrusted, oddly shaped (sometimes made to resemble religious symbols) and built to reflect fashion trends.

Sure, watches are still made this way today, but it’s worth noting that the earliest watches were not really made to be worn. They were seen as objects used to decorate, and so were much more delicate, better resembling an ornament you might place on the mantle than wear on one’s person.

Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a watch exquisitely painted in the manner found on this French necklace watch from the 16th century:

Timepieces is not just a book for horology nerds. The story of how modern timepieces came to be is a fascinating one and should be of great interest to anyone with an interest in science, engineering or fine craftsmanship.

Understanding the history behind that faithful mechanical wonder on your wrist will leave you in awe at the sheer audacity of it. Shock, corrosion, friction, magnetic/electrical fields, temperature, gravity - every phenomenon imaginable is pitted against it, willing it to stop ticking.

The defiance it displays to function in spite of it all is the result of an unbroken chain of toil stretching back hundreds of years. Reading Timepieces gives you some insight into that process. You'll smile each time you glance at your watch – though I’m sure you do that already.

The graves Astronomical watch by Patek Philippe. It remained the most complicated watch from its creation in 1933 until 1989.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

rebelde50 dial design

***Work in Progress

We bring you today the update on rebelde50, and exciting photos of the dial being designed:

Josh working hard on the new software designing the new dials for rebelde50

Here is a snapshot of an unfinished dial design – a work in progress and nothing has been decided as yet.
As much as we love the Californian dial, many of our customers prefer the straight Arabic numerals. At this stage due to the amount of requests we've had, it looks like rebelde50 will the first non-Californian style dial featuring straight numerals.

Exciting times at rebelde HQ!

Happy collecting,

Friday, August 5, 2016

Tool of the Week - Dumont 14A Watch and Clock Hands Holder and Remover

***From Apprentice Corner

This week’s tool is an odd one. I had no idea what it was used for when I first saw it. The locking system told me that it’s made to hold something (as opposed to just picking and placing, as with tweezers), but I was still none the wiser.

Unable to deduce exactly what it’s used for, a demonstration was in order. Nick walked over to his bench, grabbed a container of seconds hands and placed one directly into the tool, locking the hand in place by its inner tubing.

The tool is primarily made for removing and holding watch and clock hands, but its odd shape and circular cut-outs along its length make it useful in a whole range of unforeseen circumstances.

Picture of the tool from the Dumont manual

The 14A is used daily in our workshop for holding parts in place whilst drilling seconds hands for rebelde watches.

The 14A is no longer available from Dumont. Like watches themselves, watchmaking tools can be discontinued, making them even more special and desirable.

Until next time,

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Rare Breitling Memorabilia

***A rare piece of memorabilia

Here we have a set of 6 pack of Breitling postcards, exclusively available from Breitling themselves.

Photographer: Kazuyuki Takahashi

Happy collecting,

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Removing a Rolex Cyclops Date Window

Cyclops date windows have been polarising ever since they first emerged.
Some people love them, some hate them. Do they really help you see the date more clearly? It's subjective.  Horses for courses. Personally, I don't mind them, but I can understand why people might not.

As we're often asked to remove them (and sometimes to add them!), Nick thought it'd be nice if we were to write a short tutorial about removing a Rolex Cyclops date window. There are other guides online, but worryingly, many of them do the removal whilst the crystal is still in the case.
With that said, step one is obviously to remove the crystal from the case.
We won't be going into that in this tutorial - removing the crystal is another process altogether.

Next, you'll need a lighter or other source of flame. Holding the crystal with a pair of pliers or similar tool, apply the flame directly onto the cyclops window.

As you're heating it up, you'll notice a black residue begins to form on the crystal. Fear not, this residue can simply be washed off with a liquid soap. Heating the crystal will bring it no harm.

As you continue to apply heat, you may be able to smell the glue beginning to melt. Regardless, using another tool, try and shift the cyclops from its original position. If the glue has been sufficiently melted, it'll slide right off. This is not always the case, so don't be surprised if it requires a little bit of force.

Once the cyclops window is off, run the crystal under water and gently scrub the black residue off with a non-abrasive cloth.
After cleaning you may notice some remaining glue:

Using an emery paper stick with extremely fine-grit paper (granularity greater than 2000), sand the area with the glue residue. Apply as little pressure as possible while sanding; the emery paper stick should rest on the crystal under its own weight. The glue should come off with ease, leaving you with a shiny crystal free of the dreaded (loved?) cyclops window.

This should only be done if you're absolutely sure it's what you want. Of course, the 'renovation' is reversible by fitting a new crystal with the cyclops.

Until next time,

Monday, August 1, 2016

Book Review - Legendary Wristwatches: From Audemars Piguet to Zenith by Stefan Muser

***From Apprentice Corner

Legendary Wristwatches, written by watch expert and auctioneer Stefan Muser of the Auktionen Dr. Crott auction house, provides an overview of some of the most beautiful and important timepieces to have emerged in the last one hundred years.

The book is largely pictorial, most watches having an entire page photograph accompanied by a short description of the piece. It uses a 6-star rating system; a 1-star watch being an 'interesting and trouble-free entry level wristwatch', whilst 6-stars represents an 'exceptionally rare delicacy for ambitious collectors'.

Rolex Reference 6542, the most sought after Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master of them all, featuring the classic blue and red "Pepsi" bezel.

The author has gone to great lengths in order to photograph some of these watches. Many of them are extremely rare, being either museum pieces or very limited in number, such as the Patek Philippe Chronograph Ref. 130, of which only three white gold copies are known to exist. The Ref. 130's movement leaves one lost for words at the mere sight of it. Finished to the highest possible standard, few other movements even come close.

I’ve actually owned this book for a while now, having flicked through it countless times, so I didn’t need to read through it to write this. It's one of those books you'll forever find yourself coming back to, surely finding something that piques your interest each time. Though I've seen many of these types of books, this one remains my favourite because of its carefully curated collection. Indeed, most 'best of' type books read like huge catalogues, with hundreds of watches but no real focus.

The sporty, the elegant, the complicated and the downright zany - it includes them all, but the author's expertise allows him to narrow the watches featured to those that best represent the zeitgeist of their time, doing an excellent job of tracing the key developments over the last one hundred years whilst capturing the trends and events that influenced them.

This can be seen in sections like 'On the Way to Automatic', which documents some of the pieces that emerged shortly after the period when Rolex's patent on the automatic movement expired. It was a time of great innovation in the industry in which many brands produced some of their most technical and notable pieces. Rolex itself, not one to be left behind, was to produce some of its most iconic pieces in this era, such as the fabled
"Pre-Daytona" Chronograph Ref. 6238:

The Mechanical Renaissance section goes on to show some of the responses from various brands to the flood of quartz watches. Those that doubled-down and continued in the mechanical tradition were to produce some of the finest - and rarest - pieces to ever emerge. The Breguet Tourbillon (a tourbillon by the inventor of the tourbillon) and the Audemars Piguet Perpetual Calendar pictured below are two such examples, likely to be highly coveted by collectors into perpetuity.

Every watch enthusiast should own a copy of Legendary Wristwatches. It'll look damned nice on your coffee table and serve as a conversation starter for years to come.

The only downside is you'll start lusting after that which you can't afford or that which money can't buy. Well, we can all dream.

Until next time,

Tool of the Week: Bergeon 5700

***Apprentice Corner

Tool of the Week

Case-back openers. More of them! Seriously, we can't get enough of these things. Despite having so many different shapes and sizes, we still routinely encounter watches that don't quite fit any of our templates.

Sure, some might 'almost' fit, but it's not worth the risk. If the part that locks around the case back was to slip whilst turning the handle of the bezel press it could well result in serious damage to your watch.

Nick has even resorted to turning parts on his lathe at home just to fit certain models. There's no one-size-fits-all tool.

Here is more of a tip: if you’ve just started setting up your watch repair shop then invest in Bergeon 5700, which is industry standard and will accept a wide range of attachments.