Friday, February 24, 2017

Nuts and Bolts

I couldn’t wait for Tyler and Josh to return – not that I missed them, but I couldn’t wait for them to bring in the parts they manufactured in Germany. They landed in Sydney on Thursday night and first thing Friday morning I pulled out rebelde N00 prototype. It was the day of reckoning – I really wanted to find out whether the screws and stem they manufactured in Germany would actually fit in the watch.

Well, as you may have guessed, they did. 

For those of you who are probably not familiar with the entire exercise, it was a matter of accurately measuring the original parts, redesigning them in CAD software and then writing the code for the machine to produce them. A huge step for the smallest watch brand in the world.

It won’t be long now until the rebelde watches assembled in the workshop will come with the label –‘warning, your watch contains Australian engineered and manufactured parts’.

The amount of interest this project is generating definitely exceeds our expectations. In the past 48 hours we made another major step which was totally unexpected. Stay tuned for more.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Germany Updates, Part Two

***Josh and Tyler reporting from Europe [part 2]

"If someone had told me 6 months ago that I would be making watch parts, I would have laughed at them" - said Tyler. As excited as only he can be, Tyler is raving about the first batch of screws they've just made. Are we making history here? Two Aussie kids designing, programming and machining on their own CNC lathe?

Maybe. But it is fair to say that things are happening at such a pace that we are constantly focused on just one thing: the next tool, the next attachment, the next piece of equipment and the material we'll need tomorrow.

Josh is bit less cheerful. After disassembling the lathe's main head to change the collet and bushing, the complexity and the level of accuracy required finally hit him. While watching the German engineer doing the fine adjustment, he felt like a student watching a violin maestro playing Stradivarius. It is a steep learning curve. Achieving precision is going to be a true challenge. Amidst all that, he is keeping his head firmly on his shoulders and making the tough decisions, for which he certainly gets my credit.

There will be tears and sleepless nights, but hey - if it was meant to be easy then everyone could call himself a Master.

Below is a link to the video of the first screw being manufactured. The boys sent this video of the machining in action, but be warned: you need an eagle eye to see the action. It takes 28 seconds to make one screw - and they are still taking it easy. The movement of the tools is just amazing. Just watch at 00:13 the screw being ejected into the catcher.

Stay tuned for more!

Happy collecting,

Germany Update, Part One

***Josh and Tyler reporting from Germany: "No snow, beer too cold!"

Well, not quite - but probably not too far off either. Yes, the boys are having fun, and so far, plenty of good news. Our CNC lathe is ready; the official training has commenced and coding is well under way. With a bit of luck, by the end of the week they will be making their first watch components!
Sydney delivery and installation date is now June 1, which is in accordance to the previous estimate. The other good news is that the 316L steel samples obtained from an Australian supplier are within the required tolerances. So at least we won't have to air freight 4 metre long rods from Germany – or at least not for components smaller than 3mm.

The lathe itself is the crucial watch parts making machine, and this particular model is well used by both German and Swiss makers. Anyone from Nomos to Lange has it in operation so we know that machine is capable of producing the finest watch parts. Of course, it will take us many months - if not years - to master it, but we are definitely heading in the right direction.

Another piece of good news is that we should be able to make even more complex parts than we originally anticipated: the 6-axis lathe can accept some special 'attachments' capable of cutting very fine pinions as well as gears. However, we will be limited by the diameter – for components larger than 3mm in diameter (main spring barrel for example) we would need one more CNC lathe...

Exciting days ahead - so stay tuned for more!

Happy collecting,

Thursday, February 16, 2017



In 2014 an Englishman knocked on my door. He introduced himself as a writer, working on a new title called ‘How the World Became Obsessed with Time’. He looked smart and sounded sharp, so I decided to give him a chance. We chatted for about 45 minutes on a subject he found fascinating; a small anonymous watchmaker from Australia taking on the Swiss heavyweights. Quite frankly, I forgot all about him and our conversation before the lift even hit the ground floor. 

Until last week that is, when a customer mentioned that he’d read about the rebelde project in a book. “What book?” I asked. “The one written by Simon Garfield – the best-selling British author”, he replied.

Wasting no time, I went online and lo and behold, I actually found the book. To my shock and horror, not only was I mentioned, but Simon had wasted three and a half pages penning down our conversation. I even got myself on the top of the index: Hacko, followed by Harrison (George, the watchmaker), Hermes, Hillary (Sir Edmund) and Hitler (yeah, that one).

Of course, I could not bring myself to pay the full retail price of GBP 16.99, so I found a ‘used copy in good condition', for just US $4. I’m not going to spoil your enjoyment of what is said, but I would recommend that you do the same. The book is definitely worth a read.

Timekeepers is a vivid exploration of the ways we have perceived, contained and saved time over the last 250 years, narrated in Simon Garfield’s typically inventive and entertaining style. As managing time becomes one of the greatest challenges we face in our lives, this multi-layered history helps us understand it in a sparkling new light.

Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time
 By Simon Garfield
ISBN: 978 178 211 3195

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

new rebelde ambassador

***Brand Ambassador Introduction (by Tyler)

It’s with great pride that I make this announcement. Allow me to elaborate: I have three great passions in life: watchmaking, science and engineering; although it could be said that watchmaking is just a combination of the latter two. But it’s not just I that share these passions - we’re all advocates around here. There are frequent discussions about how we can do our part to give back to the fields from which we reap so very much. Not just for our own benefit, but for society as a whole. 

According to research by Jonathan Haskel, Professor of Economics at the Imperial College London, up to 50% of Australia’s GDP is essentially Research and Development (R&D) based. And that’s just what we can quantify. The true extent of R&D’s contribution to our economy probably runs much deeper. It’s at 50% now, but you can bet that it’ll be at 99% in the near future as every field continues to benefit from cutting edge developments at an ever increasing rate. An incredible return when you consider that only 0.4% (in 2016) of our budget is spent on it; the return on investment yielded simply can’t be matched.

When including private sector contributions, Australia’s percent of GDP spent on R&D jumps from 0.4% to 2.1%, still well below Japan and South Korea at 4.3% and 3.5% respectively (is it any surprise that so much innovation comes from them?) but a sizeable increase nonetheless, showing just how important our contributions are.

So how does this tie in with today’s announcement? We’ve been on the lookout for a new brand ambassador for some time, but we’ve been after a very specific type of person; someone who’s at the top of their field and whose work is helping advance society as a whole. 

We wanted to change the ambassador paradigm. We weren’t looking for someone that would bring us instant recognition. We didn’t want a famous name that we can flog at every opportunity to turn heads, nor did we want someone that would act as a constant advocate for us. On the contrary, we wanted an ambassador that we could contribute to and from whom we could learn from, and Nick was also hoping to continue supporting Sydney University as he’s done with Peter McMinn, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Sydney University, over the last two years. rebelde’s modest donation helped fund critical research in infectious diseases in Timor Leste with great success, an experience that really opened our eyes to the amount of good a small contribution can do.

With that said, our new rebelde ambassador is Michael Biercuk, Professor of Quantum Physics and Quantum Technology, and director of the Quantum Control Laboratory at the University of Sydney.

Professor Biercuk isn’t just incredibly intelligent and friendly, he’s also a real watch guy with a passion for horology and a collection of very nice pieces. As an added bonus, Josh and I are both Sydney University students, so we’re thrilled to have someone from our home team on board.

Nick, Josh and I had the opportunity to visit his lab last Wednesday (something I’ll talk about in more detail soon) and it was an eye opening experience. As many of you might know, Nick rarely dishes out superlatives; a vintage Patek Philippe might elicit a ‘nice’ or a ‘cool’, if you’re lucky, but he described the experience as ‘life changing’.  

Some of the equipment in the Quantum Control Laboratory at the University of Sydney

If you’re not familiar with quantum physics, just know that almost every piece of technology you use - mobile phone, laptop, GPS system, WiFi network - works because of our understanding of quantum physics. But staggeringly, we’re barely off the starting line when it comes to our grasp of the field.
The potential applications of Quantum Physics and Quantum Technologies are too vast to even begin to describe (though I’ll do my best to talk about some of these applications each week).  

And as if that’s not exciting enough, here’s something you, as a watch enthusiast, can really appreciate: the field of Quantum Physics traces back to our research on the measurement of time, and it remains at the core of what Professor Biercuk and his team of researchers are doing today.

A photo of three atoms captured in the Quantum Control Laboratory at the University of Sydney

Yes, without ever having known it, the great watchmakers of the past few centuries have, in their endless toil to properly understand and measure time, all contributed to the field of Quantum Physics that has changed our understanding of the world as we know it.  

The timing for this couldn’t be better; we’re on the cusp of producing our very first watch parts right here in Australia in the next few months.   

We’ll be delivering Professor Biercuk his customised rebelde watch tomorrow. Nick assembled this bespoke piece as per Michael's selection of rebelde movement, dial, case and hands. The watch has no serial number because Nick wanted it to stand out so he decided to leave it unnumbered, as it is a one-off special piece. I can only tell you it is a titanium 44mm case. 

We look forward to speaking in more depth about his work and I'm sure you'll find it fascinating; the parallels between our fields are great. As well, we'll continue to talk about how we can all do our part to support science and engineering as a whole.

It’s easy to get jaded when hearing of the new 100 million dollar machine that some laboratory has acquired, thinking that all is well and that a small contribution would be of little use. In fact, ten thousand dollars is enough to fund a single PhD student for an entire year. A thousand dollars might fund some critical field work for a few weeks. Our future success as a nation hinges on our continued support of these critical areas. 

But your support needn’t only be financial; at a time when many choose to be wilfully ignorant of science and engineering, just giving our researchers our time and understanding can go a long way.

Watch this space, as we plan on auctioning the one and only rebelde50 numbered 50/50 piece, from which all proceeds will go to the University.

Happy collecting,