Monday, December 11, 2017

Not as popular as a cat video on Youtube but who cares?

I am sure many of you remember that 6 months ago we had a major capital raising for the purpose of the acquisition of a Strausak gear hobbing machine. Strausak is the Mercedes of watch gear hobbing and I made a special trip to Geneva to meet the company director. After day one of negotiations it was clear that we were not heading in the right direction and, by the third day, the price of the machine, the cost of tooling, all added accessories, shipping and training ballooned to over $250k. This was a major disappointment and significantly more than we were prepared to invest in a gear hobber.

Geneva is really a village and a "cashed-up Aussie" sticks out like a sore thumb. It wasn't long before I was introduced to another gear hobber machine. This one was made by Affolter. There was only one small problem: I was well aware of both Affolter and this particular machine which I saw the year before. To put it simply, Affolter is a Porsche, not Mercedes C class. But due to some circumstances, the machine was a demonstrator, available for immediate delivery, with only a few hours of run time. A 911 with 100kms on the clock! 

To cut a long story short, our Carrera twin turbo Affolter AF90 arrived last week and was powered up for the first time yesterday. A gear hobbing machine makes watch wheels and it is a crucial piece of equipment which will allow us to make gears in-house, in our Sydney our workshop. Clearly we are excited: the 8 axis CNC hobber is truly a piece of art in itself. But, equally important, the Affolter people are excited as well. For them, selling a machine to us meant 'ticking off' the second last continent and cementing their position as a true world-wide leader in precision gear cutting. After Australia, the only continent with no watch gear cutting machine of this precision is Africa! (This really speaks volumes about us as 'tech giants'!) We are looking forward to training in Switzerland at their factory mid next year! 

The time frame: The next step for us is to design a few prototype wheels.  Based on our drawings, a Swiss tool manufacturer will make custom hobbers (gear cutters). Also a third party precision manufacturer in Switzerland will make tools and holders/collets to hold each gear while cutting. This preparation work should not take more than 6 months. In June next year Josh will travel to Malleray, a tiny village in Swiss Jura (population 1,900!) to the Affolter Headquarters. With a bit of luck, we should learn how it's done, and be all set to manufacture our first prototype gears by Christmas next year. 

For those of you who may wonder: What is the manufacturing cost of a watch wheel made in Australia?  Unfortunately, the math is not straight forward. But if we take the cost of the machine itself out of the equation, then the tooling cost per wheel and number of wheels made 'in one go' is really what determines the cost. Our problem is that we will never make more than 200-300 identical wheels, which is just unimaginable in the gear industry! A CNC hobber like the AF90 is designed to output tens of thousands of precision, top quality wheels at a time. But we are not in mass production.  Nevertheless, at 200 pieces per batch, our cost per wheel should be around $60 a piece, which is about the same you would pay wholesale for a top Swiss-brand wheel. 

Here is a 14 second video of our AF90:

And here is an Affolter video of the machine in action, hobbing a watch winding pinion, diameter 3,66mm and half millimetre thick, with module of 0.19. Production time: 55 seconds: 

Note the video view count: 243 views - and we've watched it probably 50 times ourselves! Yes, we are dealing here in something incredibly unimportant, not just to the general public but even to engineers (a good cat video on YouTube can generate millions of views; a half-naked squeaking singer a billon!)  But sophistication is not about numbers...

Once again, from our small team: we appreciate your continuous support.


Monday, December 4, 2017

We love our collets

A collet is a special type of chuck designed to hold either material machined or a tool machining it. And to do so in a very special way: by providing a firm and rigid, yet very precise grip. Collets are mighty things and there is only one rule about them; you can never have enough of them!  Indeed, each and every machine in our workshop has its set of collets; and some - like in the case of our Citizen lathe - come for both material and tool holding, in a variety of styles, shapes and sizes. All custom made too. 
The latest addition to our workshop is our lovely 30 pcs tool-holding set from Schaublin made for Kern. These lovely collets are designed for fast, automatic clamping on a spindle. And since the spindle speed goes up to 50,000 RPM, you can imagine how extremely well-balanced they have to be to retain positional error under one micron at that speed!
At last count, we had over 150 different collets in stock. By the time we make our first in-house watch mechanism, we are going to have close to 1,000.  The good news is that a precision collet can last forever, assuming proper care is taken. Josh is our collet guy and he is allowed to buy them without even asking me for approval. Actually if he doesn't buy any more before Christmas I would be seriously upset.
Machining is cool!  Did i mention that we are looking for a watchmaker’s apprentice?  No?  Well, we have to talk about that soon.  

Friday, December 1, 2017

No worries, darling, only 29 years to retirement

You had so much to offer. You had potential, attitude and a good education. Not to mention that from the age of 3 everyone was saying how clever you were.  You had big dreams, imagination and charisma.
Yet, for some strange and inexplicable reason, you ended up working for a multinational, doing the most boring job on the floor. The same boring repetitive job day in, day out. Your boss is an obnoxious moron who wears Hublot. Your wife asks you "So, how was your day" - not expecting any answer. And what could you really tell her? That 150K per year may sound like good money - if that would be compensation for the hours you slave. But how in the world did you end up trading your SOUL for an unlimited supply of lukewarm coffee and tasteless snacks?
And what kind of hobby would you have to take up to preserve those last remaining bits of sanity? Perhaps, you just repeat to her what you said yesterday: "No worries, darling, only 29 years to retirement, so I'll put up with them".
Make no mistake - unless you DO SOMETHING NOW and take some action, kick the multinational in the gut, steamroll your bosses Hublot and simply QUIT that boring job, you will end up as a brainless vegetable. 
And make no mistake - your next job too will be just another deal with the devil. But this time, make sure you get the fair end of the bargain: Do something you LOVE and ENJOY. 
No, you are not too old to take up a watchmaking apprenticeship. And you wouldn't believe your luck: we just happen to be looking for a kid just like you! 
A smart, hard working, well-educated dreamer with imagination and charisma to join one of the most exciting watchmaking projects in Australia. Yes, the pay is ordinary (but hey - we don't set rates, that's the Government's job!) but as you have already figured out, a good job is not about money but satisfaction and creativity. 
I am not going to sell this too hard. Let me just tell you that in 6 weeks Josh and Tyler will be flying to Germany, to be once again trained by a world leader in micro-machining. Yes, all expenses paid for, and yes, there will be PLENTY of snow. And since neither of them drink, YOU will be the one to do the after-hours partying with the German staff. I think the company moto is "Oktoberfest all year around", or something like that.
Our business plan for the next 12 months? We have no target, no clue and an unlimited budget! (Eat your heart out Google and Amazon!). No pressure. Just plenty of fine precision work, endless hours of learning, making, designing and measuring. Two great young team members and a third generation watchmaker who'll teach you everything you've ever wanted to know about watches. As well, you'll go through training in a dedicated watchmaking course at Sydney TAFE run by a Swiss-trained watchmaker with decades of experience.
The choice is yours. Please don't send your CV and resume, I don't need to see it. Instead, send me a photo of something that you made yourself out of wood, metal or even LEGO (an object that shows your creativity and design capabilities) or something that you fixed, restored and returned to life recently.  Then call me on (02) 9232-0500 to visit us on Monday. We'll have a chat and sit you down for a test. If you fail, we'll ask you to retake it, again and again, until you break every screwdriver and pair of tweezers in our workshop. 
This will tell us whether you've got what it takes to call yourself a watchmaker: a serious determination to succeed, and an ability to solve any problem, no matter what, where or when.
I'm waiting to hear from you.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

You know you've made it when...

... your product becomes a synonym for an entire industry. Which is precisely in the case of Renishaw - or renishaw.
The Renishaw company was founded by two Englishmen: Sir David McMurtry and John Deer in 1973. McMurtry had needed to measure fuel pipes on a prototypejet engine. At the time, measuring machine sensors featured a rigid 'tip' which required manual positioning and which yielded poor repeatability when measuring delicate components. To meet this need, McMurtry invented a spring-loaded touch-trigger probe device tip, which he then patented. The new instrument tip was an elegant solution and was quickly adopted by leading manufacturers who needed measurements of ultra precision.
Our Kern mill arrived equipped with a renishaw probe. What a beautiful instrument! A glass enclosure reviling an electronics 'brain'; micro ruby ball on the tip of the styli; rigid - yet at the same time, a fragile, delicate instrument. The renishaw is mounted on the tool holder and can be 'grabbed and attached' on the main milling spindle automatically. Of course, for those of you who are into fine machining or coordinate measurement systems, this precision instrument is something you commonly see in action, on perhaps a daily basis. But for us, who have just started our journey into watchmaking, this renishaw is a very exciting newcomer to our workshop.
Made in the UK. Cool! 
And here is one more bit. Unlike the watch industry where every brand is working hard to 'stamp' its name on every single component claiming that the dial, hands, cases and all movement components are made 'in house' (when they are clearly not) it is really refreshing to see that true engineering companies which specialise in high-end manufacturing are actually proud to disclose their association with other industry leaders. And when you think of it - why would Kern even want to make their own renishaw when Renishaw has already invented a damn good one? Why would a world leader in the milling industry want to make collets for its machine when Schaublin, the leader in collets, has already reached the levels of precision required? And the list goes on - Erowa, Siemens, Zeiss, Boch... all supplying parts and technology to each other, for a common benefit. 
While 100% 'made in-house' may be great marketing news, such a watch mechanism is doomed to be a very average performer. Like it or not, sooner or later, 'in house' will become a synonym for a product which will lack the future; a product developed to please the brand itself rather than a consumer, at the cost of innovation and technical advancement. Open for cooperation, open for learning and sharing, an open mind. 
Quite frankly, I am so glad we are not in the watch industry anymore.

Monday, November 27, 2017

It's all about information

The year is 1850.  Suppose you are a reputable country watchmaker. In your shop window you have a large dial clock and all day long your customers and passers-by would stop in front of your shop to set their pocket watches against your master clock. The question is: How would YOU know what is the correct time?  Obviously this information would have to come from somewhere!  The solution was simple.  Every week or two you would take your best pocket watch, buy a newspaper, hop on the train, travel to London - and there you would set your pocket watch against the clock on display at the most reputable London clockmaker, who himself would have got 'his time' from Greenwich.  And there, at the observatory, clocks were set and regulated by astronomers, mathematicians and scientists who were really the 'true time keepers' because they knew how to calibrate their clocks against the movement of the stars.  Indeed, for a country watchmaker weekly trips to London were often the highlights of the week. 

Of course, with the invention of radio, everyone with a wireless could have direct access to accurate time. Bip, bip, bip - the time is 8 o’clock. 

Nowadays, we no longer need radio signals nor any effort on our behalf in order to 'know' the time. Thanks to GPS and the internet, our mobile phones and commuters are 'synchronised' countless times per day - and the time itself comes directly from the network of atomic clocks located all over the planet.  In just 100 or so years we have come a long way!

However, when it comes to the 'dissemination' of some other types of information we are still facing some serious issues with accuracy.

For example, suppose that you live in Germany and you've engineered and built two superbly precise machines. One stays in Germany, while the other is disassembled and shipped to Australia. The question is once that Australian machine is reassembled how are you going to calibrate it so it will machine metal as accurately as it did before, as the one on the different side of planet?

As clever as it is, the machine itself cannot calibrate itself.  As accurate as your watch may be, it will not tell you the time, unless you FIRST tell your watch what the time is! In both cases, the information has to come from an external, super accurate source.

I will not bore you with the details - but in the case of our five axes nano precision Kern mill, this outside information comes in the form of a small metal object which 'contains' crucial information. This object is machined in Germany to extremely tight tolerances, measured in a number of points, then shipped to us to be used as calibration 'etalon'. Without it, our machine could not be set.

While the geometry of 'etalon' is simple, thanks to the extreme precision with which it was machined and measured, it contains a number of crucial information. It will help us to establish the centre point of the table, work holding position, the eccentricity of the spindle, the relationship between the three main axes - and much more. 

Due to the fact that it had to be mounted on the tool holder, it was manufactured not by Kern, but by Erowa, a German 'tool holding' specialist.  However, after Erowa measured its dimensions, Kern re-measured it and re-certified it again, with even more accuracy. Each dimension was measured a number of times to 1/10 of  1 micron. Yes, we are talking nano!

The photos below are attached for your enjoyment. If you wonder what the cost is of this tiny piece of metal, then let me just answer this question in an indirect way: the etalon is kept in a safe and I am the only person allowed to handle it.

As you would imagine, we are now very anxious to get our mill assembled, calibrated and running.  However, we still don't know when the German engineers will be able to travel to Sydney to assemble it. Christmas/New year and endless European holidays are not working for us.  Patience, patience!


Thursday, November 23, 2017

So what is your business?

It was early 1980 and the Swiss watch industry was on its knees. Caught unprepared by the onslaught of the battery revolution, watch factories were closing and brands disappearing like never before.
A young American executive of a large and famous advertising agency was assigned with the task of creating a campaign for a  handful of Swiss brands. Trying to impress them with his knowledge of market trends, he addressed them with a rather patronising opening line: "So, gentleman, how is the watch business?". The room went quiet. Encouraged, he then turned  to the Rolex director and repeated the same question. The Rolex guy replied, "Watch business? We have no idea. Rolex is not in the watch business but luxury goods business".
And this is precisely why Rolex not only survived but came out of the crisis stronger than any other Swiss watchmaker.  Unlike others, without any doubt, they knew what business they were in.
A couple of days ago we reached yet another milestone. After 10 months of negotiations, preparation work, servicing, packing, shipping and a million other hurdles, our 9-tonne baby arrived from Switzerland: A Kern Pyramid Nano 5 axis milling machine. It took four teams of professionals to move 3 large crates form Port Botany to Brookvale. The size of this machine is simply frightening. But, hey, in less than 10 hours, the machine itself, plus electrical cabinets, coolant refrigerators, hydraulic pumps and filtering units  were moved into position. The mill is now ready and awaiting final assembly by two German engineers who are expected in February.  Before that, Josh and Tyler will travel to Germany for training. And if all goes well, in about 6 months from today, our Pyramid Nano will be finally turned on and we’ll be ready to start LEARNING how to use the machine.
To paraphrase Rolex: we are no longer in the watch business but in the business of learning how to shape metal at sub-micron level. The road will be bumpy, the journey will be long, and the destination is still unknown, but we are loving it.
Photos below: the arrival of the load, Kern PYNO partially assembled (about half of the actual machine!).
Our special thanks goes to lovely Melody who solved the unbelievably hard problem of organising the 20-tonne forklift; to Anthony from Headland Machinery for project management, for JPM Cranes skates team for their magic, Mike the ‘clean up guy’ who removed tonnes of packaging wood in one hour, and our comrade rebelde Peter Tibbels from 1066 Steel who came in to offer his encouragement at a time when it was needed the most.
For those who are interested in more details: PYNO video

Friday, November 17, 2017

The art of self-promotion

It is not just bad taste, poor manners, lack of empathy - or simply just being a jerk. Self-promotion is a crime. 
And especially so in Japanese culture! I am not kidding: a poor Japanese craftsman would rather commit a harakiri than post a message on Facebook about the knife he hand-polished for 3 months to perfection. He would rather take 40 lashes with the cane for failing, than one compliment for achieving perfection. Strange.  
It is funny, but while the Anglo-Saxon culture has almost nothing in common with the oriental one, self-promotion is a sin even in our little colony.
Crocodile-wrestling-tough-as-nail sun burnt Aussies crawl under the rock at the very thought of even being in the same room as a self-promoter. Nearly a hundred years of exposure to Greek-ism, Balkan-ism and Latino-sim (the cradle cultures of macho-self-promotion) made our good Aussies even more resistant and more sceptical to any form of advertising with even the slightest hint of 'yeah, sure, we can do this'. 
"Wait until they discover your talent" say Mosman mums to their daughters as they jump out of mega-monster 4WD’s, being dropped in front of $40K per year schools. "Wait until they discover your talent" say dads dropping off boys at multi-billion dollar ovals. And make no mistake, like mums and dads, these very kids are already driving their own E-class Mercedes and wearing gold watches – and they play great cricket. But to tell anyone how good they are would be totally inappropriate. "Wait until they discover your talent" is what every 12 year old surfer hears every time he eats his vegemite. Be modest, be humble, be invisible; let others see what you are really worth and give you the credit you deserve. 
But life is no longer as it once was. "Others" are no longer a passive audience quietly waiting for the next Sir Bradman. "Others" are us: posting selfies on FB, Instagramming, chatting, and simply being alive; connecting, talking and sharing.  
You see, I don't mind modesty. Actually, I much prefer to wait 'to be discovered' than to self-promote myself. But on the other hand, I am not a big fan of posthumous awards either. 
Right now, as I type this, we have a great need for a 10 tonne forklift to move some equipment; we need an energetic and reliable office assistant; a smart and hard-working apprentice keen to learn about watches; a photographer who won't charge an arm and a leg; a reliable local server to host our new website; a 2KV petrol generator (not too loud!), an oven for steel hardening, a polishing machine - which comes with expert advice and the right polishing compounds. And we are not any different to other small Australian businesses. Yet somehow, those who are experts in their fields are often hard to find - because they have always been told the same old thing; "wait until they discover you". 
This week a rebelde-owner brought in his 3 year old watch for a minor adjustment. However, he wore that watch daily so it was heavily scratched. So we decided to surprise him:   We pulled the watch completely apart, serviced it, polished the case, fitted a new winding crown and seals - and even fitted a brand new leather strap.  Total charge: zero. Why? Because we simply want to show him what we can do, and how proud we are of our workmanship. And how much we appreciate the fact that out of hundreds of brands he put his trust in rebelde.
And here we go - I just committed the worst crime ever: I self-promoted.  
Guillotiner, make it quick.
Completely overhauled relbede I09 ready to be returned to its owner

Monday, November 13, 2017

Introducing Titanium L40

Over the years, Swiss watch manufacturers figured out that the best-selling watches are those that can be attributed, associated or worn by celebrities; James Bond, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen are just a few examples. Then, to further create desire for mass-produced watches, Swiss marketing employed the concept of "Limited Edition". It is fair to say that the Swiss didn't invent it, but Swiss watch brands are milking the concept to the extreme.  Special Edition and Anniversary watches which were originally released for a 'special occasion' shamelessly remained in production for half a decade!  While only a few years ago a run of 500 pieces could be called 'Limited Edition', the production quantity is now stretching to 2000, 5000 - or even 15000 pieces - all described as "LIMITED". Even a naïve novice would have to wonder what is so special about such huge production outputs?
The title says it all. Again, the job of a marketing department is to somehow magically turn mass-produced machine-made items into something that is luxury, limited, rare - and ultimately - collectable. But the very definition of a mass-produced watch contradicts all four objectives. A collectable watch is one which is rare and hard to find; and luxury always means something which is exclusive and not affordable to the masses.
It's simple: to reject mass-produced commercialism and offer a TRULY LIMITED production run of watches. While there is nothing wrong in selling standard issues to your customers, limited edition pieces must adhere to a special set of rules; a batch produced in a small quantity, for a strictly limited period of time. Upfront and transparent communication with customers is the cornerstone of any limited series.
Last year, we introduced rebelde FIFTY - the watch that comes with a 50 year guarantee. In addition, all regular servicing, all spare parts and leather straps required to keep the watch going for 50 years are included in the original price. While this was a shock to everyone within the watchmaking industry, our customers were hardly surprised. Properly educated watch enthusiasts are not naïve; they have refined expectations and understand the importance of mutual trust and respect. Rebelde FIFTY simply means: we have no competition; we are not a start-up crowdfunded business. We are proper watchmakers and we are here to stay.
Today, we are taking our project to the next level. I am extremely pleased to announce Nicholas Hacko Titanium L40. The TiL40 is not only a batch consisting of just 40 pieces, but only ONE watch will be assembled and delivered each month. The first "red chocolate" (02/40) will be delivered on November 16, 2017 and the last one (number 40) on January 16, 2021.
YOU ARE SPECIAL, and so are we.
In the sea of mass-produced watches, your L40 will stand out in a very special way. This watch signifies an important partnership between YOU, the owner and your personal watchmaker. Neither party is in a hurry; neither party is in it for monetary gain. Workmanship we can be proud of cannot be rushed. Patience and persistence always pays off.
"Red Chocolate" SPECS
Titanium, 45mm case size, chocolate brown dial, red seconds hand, powered by Swiss made Unitas 6498 movement, manual wind. Fitted on the calf brown leather strap with rebelde buckle. Mid-case: brushed finish, high-gloss bezel. Sapphire crystal glass. Water resistance: 10 bar. Power reserve: 36 hours. 5 year guarantee. Designed, assembled and adjusted in Australia.
Price: $3,000.
How to place your order?
It's simple: to place your order call 02 9232-0500 or email me at If you are calling, then ask to be put through to me directly as I want to personally take your order, tell you when your watch is ready for collection and I especially want to thank you for your support. All orders will be processed strictly in the way they arrive and your serial number will be allocated and secured with your $500 deposit. Balance is payable at the time of delivery.
Is L01/40 available as well?
The first watch to be completed and released is L02/40 in just 3 days. As with previous releases, the very first watch, L01/40 remains in our stock as a prototype. This will allow us, if needed, to re-make casing and dial components in the future.
... and an apology for a rather average photo. You are more than welcome to inspect L40 in person, try it on, check it out and photograph it on your wrist. Your FB friends will love it.
PS:  By the way, our new NH website is now officially online.  Tyler did a fairly decent job in translating a cacophony of opinions into a practical mobile-friendly website.  Check it out at

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Watch Talk Night: Next Week

Over the years we've done quite a few watch talk nights on various subjects:  Some were about watch collecting, watch repairing, vintage Rolexes, ship chronometers and time keeping, while others were on a dozen more topics I can't even remember now! What I do remember, however, is that our meetings always lasted far longer than intended; we always have a great time chatting, exchanging ideas, learning and just simply "talking watches". 

The Watch Talk night scheduled for next week (Tuesday and Wednesday evenings) is quite a different event. We would like to invite you to a two-hour presentation on watch parts manufacturing or, more precisely:  What kind of equipment, machinery and tooling is required to set up a watchmaking facility in Sydney, what are the challenges, and what kind of skills and mindset are necessary to solve countless problems. Basically, Josh and Tyler will walk you through the past 18 months of their lives. This is a presentation not to be missed.

It will also be a unique opportunity to bring along your 12-18 years old kids to. I guarantee they will be impressed and motivated to pursue their interests more vigorously and seriously and learn a lot on the night. If your own kids are not of that age, then bring along your smart niece or nephew. Kids will remember it forever and it could be life-changing! 

As always, seats are strictly limited so you need to act promptly and book yours as soon as possible. Cost: $50 per person. Please let us know which night is preferred: either Tuesday the 14th or Wednesday the 15th, starting at 6pm sharp. Location: Level 4, 67 Castlereagh St Sydney 2000.
Call (02) 9232-0500 or email

Friday, October 27, 2017

We have reached levels of madness never seen before

Paul Newman's Rolex Daytona Sells For AUD$23 million (USD $17.7) Becoming The World's Most Expensive Wristwatch Ever Sold
Well, it's official. We have reached levels of madness never seen before - and this auction result has got nothing to do with horology, watchmaking or watch collecting.
There is no doubt that this 'record' will be celebrated for months, but in my books this is just a prime example of a media circus; audience clapping at every bid, a pretentious clown creating fake tension and drama by yelling Tiffany, Nataly, Tiffany, Nataly, last chance, fair warning, Tiffany, Nataly selling, Tiffany fair warning, last chance Tiffany.  Quite frankly, any lower Northshore real-estate agent would be more entertaining to watch.  
A fool parting with his cash. On what precisely? A mass-produced piece which in the 1970s was less popular than the Omega Moon Watch Professional, retailing for around $1,200. The watch that Paul Newman casually took off his wrist and gave to a boyfriend of his daughter. "Yeah, man, thanks for taking my darling out last night, I am sure you two had a good time, but tomorrow, please, bring her back before 5am”. “But, sir, I don't have a watch”, said the kid.  “Here, take this one, just don't forget to wind it".  Probably not word for word, but the story is more-or-less authentic. Paul Newman couldn't have cared less about his Paul Newman. THAT was what made HIM Paul Newman, but this act of generosity didn't make this Rolex more important than it really was, which wasn't really that much.  
Surely, you can call me a cynic, but I am not complaining about the amount that fool paid. I am just trying to point out one important detail: There are many timepieces of far greater historical value, technical importance, beauty, and provenance which are sold for peanuts every year. But they don't generate media hype. They cannot be sensationalised because the average newsreader has never heard of Breguet, Dent, Graham, Jacquet Droz, Berthoud,Lepine, Ditisheim, Earnshaw - or even Adolph Lange.
However, as of today, I have one more nuisance to worry about:  To explain to my friends, neighbours, and people I travel to work with on the bus: "If Rolex is NOT the best watch in the world, why is it then the most expensive watch ever sold"?
It's the question I have no answer for. Unable to untangle this paradox, to all of them I'll just look like an ignorant fool. 
So Rolex, you have beaten me and won another battle, again. Congratulations.
PS: No Rolex photos today. Instead, one of Abraham Louis Breguet, as a sign of respect and appreciation.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Going public

Dear Josh, dear Tyler and dear Karin,

As you know, we are just 3 days away from an important event: the Qantas magazine advertisement and the day our watch will be released to the general public.  For the first time in the history of our small brand, we will be telling our fellow Australians our story and offering them an exciting opportunity to be a part of it.

This is going to be an exciting moment!  However, 'going public' means that we will be no longer sheltered by the convenience of dealing with rebelde supporters, established customers and valuable subscribers who are well aware of what we stand for, but potential customers who only have a very vague understanding of what watchmaking is all about. 

Make no mistake: a few of them will quickly understand the uniqueness of our project and fall in love with our watch. But a large majority won’t.

In a few days’ time you will start receiving phone calls and emails from strangers. I want to make myself here absolutely clear: treat everyone with the utmost respect, be modest and polite as you already are. Do not try to sell - we are not in a sales business. We are manufacturers of fine, robust and reliable mechanical timepieces which sell themselves. But you already know this. So you may wonder what am I really trying to say?

We live in an age where common marketing knowledge is that: One, the customer is always right and, two, everyone who expresses interest in your product is your potential customer.
Both of these claims are half-lies and perpetuated by people who have never run their own business. I said half-lies because they still work for large organisations which sell low cost mass-produced stuff; fast food restaurants, banks and Government departments. But not for a small business who specialises in a sophisticated product which is built to last for generations and requires regular maintenance. 

There are three groups of people who are never right, nor potential customers: those who ask for a discount, those who question our expertise and those who ask if they can return a watch for a refund if it is not to their liking. I beg you not to deal with them, ever. If we are to remain in business, keep building watches, and investing in manufacturing facilities, we simply must say NO to such requests. 

Do not listen to experts who say that there is no harm in selling a product with some discount. Yes, you will sell the watch, and probably still make some profit, but when you adopt such a sales model, very soon you will realise that you are not discounting your watches but your brand. And since you are the brand, you are discounting yourself.

Guard firm your expertise!  We have worked hard to get where we are now, and we have an obligation to continue to learn. But don’t waste your time arguing with fools, of whom there are plenty. Spend your time improving your skills, read, listen, educate yourself and associate with those who are better than you.

People who talk over you, ask questions but don’t listen to your answer, or question your expertise and reputation are not your customers. 

A person who wants you to build him a custom watch and then expect you to take it back for a full refund is simply a thief. He steals your time with a smile. He does not care about your watch, your story or your reputation; he only cares about himself. You don’t want to deal with someone who will tell everyone that your watch failed to impress them but only with customers who will love your watches so much that they will wear them daily, become your ambassadors, and tell all their friends.

So when someone calls you or emails you, don’t talk but listen; don’t reply without reading carefully. In no time you will be able to tell who IS your customer and who isn’t. It’s as easy as that.

You should not have to have the slightest doubt in this proven business model.  We are not rug traders, we are watchmakers.  After all, this is precisely what our family has been doing for three generations, and so should you.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Who's laughing now?

The red arrow is pointing to the actual screw.  The green arrow is pointing to the screw being measured.

When a German engineer came to train Josh and Tyler on our automated CNC lathe, I couldn't help but ask him, "What is the biggest challenge your customers face while running the lathe?"  Without hesitation he said that the major problem is since these machines are designed to run independently 24/7 for months at a time producing one component, the machine operators simply forget how to reprogram them for new parts.  At that moment it became clear that we must use our machine daily, learn how to make as many different components as we can, and rather than just preserve the knowledge received during the training, we have to build on it and expand.  So right now it is not our priority to make components but to continue to the learn code and to make as many different components as possible.

Wednesday night I arrived home late but Josh insisted that we go to the workshop.  We arrived there about 9pm and by 11 Josh had prepared the technical drawings to create another screw.  The material was already loaded into a bar feeder but the tooling had to be set and calibrated.  Then he wrote the machine code from scratch and we started manufacturing case screws.  The production cycle was 46 seconds per screw, however, the moment of truth came when we measured the length.  The actual length of the screw was 1.969mm which was just a micron within the intended length and in this case the screw length is the least critical dimension.   

The next step now is to beautify the screws, which means deburring, polishing, hardening, re-polishing and bluing.  The video below goes for exactly 46 seconds, the time required to make one screw.   Enjoy the video.

We arrived home at midnight laughing, remembering a statement made to us by Swiss manufacturers a few years ago that Australian watchmakers are too old and too dumb to be trained.  Who's laughing now?

Happy Collecting,


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Rebelde taking the heat

Nothing gets me more excited than a picture of a real man wearing a real watch, and not just anywhere, but in an environment that most watches would shy away from, and not with just any watch - but with a rebelde no less!
We just got two emails from our rebelde ambassadors, Garry and John. What a huge compliment.  Notice that John is wearing the N batch which was the very first production batch.

"The picture is a 900mm diameter steel pipe with a wall thickness of 12.7mm being bent using an Induction Heating Ring.  300kWh of power cycling at 1.1 kHz generating 950 degrees C across a 25mm band on the circumference.  

N60/70 is in the foreground.

Although I am sure my Trusty Rebelde is built to take on a lot of things this is as close as it gets to the Induction Heater". 

- John

"Dear Nick, seeing power is all the news at the moment, please find picture of current contract where I am the Safety Manager.  Ti 06 is on the job.  

I wear it every day.  it was noticed by a young guy asking what sort of watch it is. I said a hand wound one made by a Super-Hero in Sydney.  He had never seen a hand wound watch and could not hide his amazement when I took it off and showed him the movement.  I was struggling to keep up with his questions on how it worked."

- Garry

Thursday, August 24, 2017

No Excuse Not To Get It Right

An essential part of watchmaking in the 21st century is Computer Aided Design (CAD). It combines elements of draughtsmanship, engineering and design to 3D model parts.

While watchmakers of old did it all on paper, and we're amazed at how they managed to full off such feats of engineering, there are certain insurmountable limitations inherent to this process that CAD allows us to overcome.

One of the main benefits is that CAD allows you to immediately detect any incorrect geometry in your drawings. The nature of a watch mechanism is that every part is closely connected with every other, which means that the design of each part is based on the previous part in the chain. If an angle is off by 1 degree somewhere in the watch, the error will compound throughout the mechanism. It's an all or nothing type deal.

However, even if all your dimensions are correct, there are other problems that could pop up that you'd have no way of detecting without CAD. With it, we're able to assemble all of the individual parts and creating a functioning 3D model. This allows you to check the tension of any springs, that the gears are meshing properly and whether any parts will collide - all before you've made the first part.

Pen and paper is still an indispensable part of the process; It's where ideas are first conceived and refined thereafter, but CAD is now an essential tool in the watchmaker's kit.

As we work towards making our first in-house rebelde mechanism, we're spending many long days carefully modelling each and every part used in our current watches and for our future pieces.

In the image above you can see just one of the components I've made over the last week.

What you're seeing is a part called a sliding pinion. The 'sliding' part of the name is owed to how it works. Depending on what position your crown is in, the sliding pinion slides back and forth to engage either the winding or setting mechanisms.

When your crown is in the winding position, it's part of the gear train that turns to wind the watch's mainspring. When it's in the setting position, it engages with the gears that turn to set your watch's hands.

It's a part you'll never see, but a critical one that's in every single mechanical and quartz watch regardless of make or model.

I feel privileged to be continuing the watchmaking tradition built up over the last few centuries, but it's an evolving art and requires the use of modern tools as with any other field of engineering. Here in our little workshop here in Sydney, we're using the exact same CAD software as Patek Philippe and many other top-notch watch brands, so we've got no excuse not to get it right.

Till next time,