Thursday, March 16, 2017

Your New Smile

***Your new smile


About 10 years ago, at the time when our shop was located in Mosman, I went to see a local dentist for a minor 'dental repair'.
“Really a minor problem”, he said, “painful never the less, but while you here, I would like to share some good news”, he said.
Good news in a dental chair? “Have they finally invented a painless drill”, I naively asked.
“Well, the good news is, that in just a week or so, you can leave this practice with a brand new smile!”
It was obvious that I didn't need a new smile but I couldn't resist asking how much that new smile would cost.
“Only $32,000” he said cheerfully. “We will start with the lower jaw then move up, left, right and centre - and you will have the smile of a news presenter!”
Needless to say, I got the tooth fixed for $120 across the road.


You see, there are plenty of idiots out there happy to take advantage of you. Watchmakers are as bad as everyone else, so keep reading. 

About once a week I receive a service report from a subscriber who just submitted their watch to a "reputable" Swiss brand service centre. And most of them appear to be prepared by the “you'll have a new smile” watchmaker: your watch needs a battery replacement, but it is also scratched. We recommend case polishing. While we are polishing the case, we will also do a complete movement overhaul (your watch is due for one!). We also noticed that your dial is oxidised, as well as hands, so we will replace them. The total repair cost is $1,100.

So you took the watch for battery replacement only to find out that your watch is a piece of crap which can be brought to former glory for a mere $1,100.

Before I go any further: please do not send me your service report estimates! All of them come with a disclaimer clearly stipulating that you are NOT ALLOWED to share this information with anyone. So legally, you are breaking confidentiality law. (Sorry legal people, you know what I mean).
Equally I am not allowed to comment on reports or to mention names. Also, even if your watch does not need any of above, it would take lots of money and time to fight such reports. Now, it goes without saying that since 'the reputable brand' is not going to supply any spare parts to me, in most cases, I won’t be able to help you. This is the beauty of a monopoly: it kicks you in the guts and then robs you of the opportunity to source a service from a non-authorized third party. 


One of the trademarks of sophisticated thieving is the use of scary terms which are not commonly understood. Oxidation is a perfect example. Your apple turns brown in matter of minutes when sliced; steel rusts in rain in a matter of days and a silver watch dial does the same - coated or not, protected or not - over the period of a few years. In other words, oxidation is just a very natural process, and the end result - as on the watch dial and hands - is more of a cosmetic nature than of any functional concern. And here is my punch line: if you magnify any surface enough, you will see that discoloration, so technically and legally, it's there. But if you are happy with your smile and with your micro-oxidized dial, which you cannot even notice with a naked eye, then you should tell your Swiss brand that you don't want them replaced. This is your consumer's RIGHT and don't let it be taken away from you.

The final question is the one in relation to servicing. Does your watch needs a complete overhaul when in reality you just want a battery replacement? Well this one is easy to work out.

If your car runs out of petrol and you take it to the "brand" car maker service (without telling them that you've just run out of petrol!), then you can bet your last dollar that the service report would take the opportunity to list a number of parts which would require immediate replacement: filters, maybe a clutch, surely brake pads, right down to the rubber wipers. They will have no problem claiming that your 10 year old car is no longer performing "as when it was brand new" (which is obviously true) so legally, they are not breaking any law trying to sell you that new smile. The only reason why such reports are rare is because your Government knows that you need your car to get to work (so you can pay your tax) and therefore protects you from predators and monopolists.

But your government could not care less about your fancy watch so your only protection is to stand up and rebel against unwanted and unnecessary watch repairs yourself. Tell them to go to hell and just replace the darn battery or otherwise you'll take it to someone else who will.

Happy collecting,
Nick

The Most Boring Job in the World

***The Most Boring Job in the World


Being a rebelde service person has to be the most boring job in the world.
They’re simply not coming back. No broken crystals, no missing winders, not even a torn strap. 542 rebelde watches simply refuse to stop ticking. Which can be a bit disappointing if your only job is to turn up for work, waiting for a broken watch to arrive into the rebelde workshop for servicing. You might think this is a joke, but it’s not. It’s a serious problem we have – if the watches are not breaking how can we improve them?
 

You too can become a happy watch owner - order your rebelde today.
Available styles: www.nickhacko.blogspot.com.au/2017/03/rebelde-2017-production.html
Delivery time: 4-6 weeks


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Introduction to Quantum Physics and your watch

***Quantum Physics and your watch - by Tyler

Continuing on from our introduction of Michael Biercuk, Professor of Quantum Physics and Quantum Technology at the University of Sydney and our rebelde ambassador, I thought I’d take this chance to introduce you a little more to the incredible field of Quantum Physics.

Why does it matter to you? Why might you, as a watch enthusiast, find it interesting? For one, as I’ve learnt, watch enthusiasts tend to have a constant hunger for learning. Yes, we can be a nostalgic bunch, but we’re often design and technically minded, always interested in what the future holds. The subjective nature of watches creates an inherent understanding amongst us that though perfection isn’t possible we’ll constantly strive for it regardless.

So, if you’re wondering where technology is headed, then you needn’t look any further - the future is Quantum Physics, so powerful are the potential applications of it. Already, your mobile phone, laptop, GPS system and WiFi network all work because of our (still rudimentary) grasp on the quantum world.

But getting a basic grasp on the field may well prove to be humanity's greatest collective individual challenge to date. Whilst concepts like Einstein’s general relativity, Hawking’s light-swallowing black holes and the expansion of our universe at a rate faster than the speed of light, have pushed us to the limits of our comprehension ability, still many concepts in Quantum Physics defy comprehension entirely.

Try quantum entanglement, for example, wherein two particles are ‘entangled’, such that if you touch one, the other one responds instantly - regardless of the distance between them. The length of the universe or one metre, it makes no difference.

I’m sure you can think up all sorts of incredible applications for this, but let’s talk about how this might be useful for timekeeping. As it turns out, the importance of keeping track of time spans far beyond the need for us to stay punctual.

I’ve spoken previously about how sailors of old relied on marine chronometers (such as those made by famed clockmaker John Harrison) to stay on course at sea, and time plays just as big a part today.
Keeping our instruments updated with accurate readings is the job of the vast network of satellites hurtling around our planet. Many of these satellites now carry atomic clocks, the ticks of which are regulated by atoms vibrating billions of times a second. They’re the modern day sea-clocks. While we’ve been lead to believe that quartz watches that use a resonating crystal to regulate time are accurate, they’re not even in the same league as an atomic one. Whilst a quartz watch might only lose five seconds a year, an atomic clock might lose a second every five million years.

In order for these satellites to provide accurate coordinate data, the clocks on them must all be carefully synced. The slightest variance can cause all sorts of problems, and engineers and scientists alike have developed complex systems to try to solve it. But, with quantum entanglement, we may be able to ‘sync’ the atoms in the clocks, effectively making them all tick at exactly the same time.

Here on Earth, quantum timekeeping may help us predict earthquakes and other natural phenomena resulting from shifts in the Earth’s crust.

As you may have heard, the continents are shifting, and Australia, moving towards Indonesia at a rate of 7cm a year (0.1mm a day) is the fastest moving continent of all. As small as this may seem, most movement in the Earth’s crust is many magnitudes smaller, and picking up on these minute shifts requires extremely precise and coordinated timekeeping - a level only a quantum timekeeper could provide.

Detecting these shifts would also help us solve the previous problem I mentioned - that of maintaining an accurate coordinate system. The Geoscience Australia foundation recently stated that Australia’s latitude and longitude coordinates are off by almost 1.5 metres, and being able to detect these shifts doesn’t just help us guard against natural disaster but is also the key to an accurate coordinate system.

In a world where we, and devices small and large, are increasingly dependent on having a perfect coordinate system, quantum timekeeping is the key that’ll allow us to take our technology to the next level.

It’s with this wrestle with time that you begin to notice some similarities between our fields. A mechanical watch can never be completely accurate. No rebelde will ever be a perfect timekeeping instrument. We’re locked in a never-ending improvement of timekeeping by the smallest of fractions. But none of that matters: even if your watch loses 10 seconds a day, it’s still 99.99% accurate. If the few seconds your watch gains/loses a day is the supposed cause of your lack of punctuality, you’ve got bigger problems. We persist, regardless.

And in quantum physics it’s much the same – the scientists need to content themselves that they’ll never really get a hold of time. I’m not sure if ‘perfect’ timekeeping is theoretically possible, but my layman’s guess is that it isn’t due some more fundamental laws of nature such as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (we can never know a particle's momentum AND position at any moment) and the observer effect (we can’t observe certain systems without altering the system itself). Maybe I’m completely wrong and it’s possible, or maybe I’m right but the reasons are very different. Either way, it’s something I’ll be sure to ask Professor Biercuk next time. For now though, it seems that perfect timekeeping is a fiction that we use in our calculations but which can never actually be achieved.

Watchmaking isn’t a science that’ll change the world, but the goals of watchmaking and quantum physics are much the same. Watchmakers spend their days ‘chasing the micron’, quantum physicists chase the...whatever unit of measure a subatomic particle is. I don’t mean to say the two are equally complex, but the goals are the same even though the methodology is completely different.


It’s these parallels that drew Professor Biercuk into watches and it’s what makes me so interested in his work. As I continue to talk about his research and how it relates to timekeeping I’m sure you’ll find it just as interesting too.


Professor Michael Biercuk's rebelde in the midst of ion-trapping hardware, in which Michael and his team at the University of Sydney can trap and manipulate individual atoms.

Until next time,
Tyler

Monday, March 6, 2017

False Dreams

***False Dreams


Probably the most common question we get asked: is the watch I intend to buy a good investment?

The question is not just a regular reoccurrence but also a very important one. I do my best to address this subject every now and then - yet somehow there are many subscribers who simply struggle with the whole 'investment' concept.

I'll keep it brief, but please try to digest it at your leisure: if busy, save and read later.

The first question you need to answer for yourself (and I can't answer it for you): are you an investor, collector, enthusiast or just a happy watch owner?

Of course, you can be all of the above at the same time, but here is the catch: unless you have an excess amount of cash you are willing to invest, then you are not an investor. Unfortunately we live in a world where many are sold a false dream called "borrow to invest". You can actually call yourself an investor without even having any money! The financial institutions are happy to lend money so you can "invest" in shares or buy your fifth "investment" property. Imagine a world where any 18 year old kid could obtain a law or medical diploma and start his own practice today - just by promising that one day, in 5 or 10 years, he will actually complete the studies. As ridiculous as it sounds, this is precisely what you can do if you wish to enter the speculative world of quasi-investing with money you don't actually have.

So if you are putting a watch on a credit card then you don’t have to worry about its "investment potential" because such a transaction is not an investment. By the time you pay that watch off, any potential investment return will be long gone, your bank will have made a nice profit on their loan and ironically, it won't even send you a thank you email.

Now the reality is that many of my customers actually do have a solid disposal income, including a significant amount of cash which could be potentiality invested. However, watches are not an income-generating asset. You cannot milk it; skin it; the watch cannot employ or educate people; it cannot be lived in, leased or rented out. Your watch will never find a cure for cancer, develop an app or figure out an algorithm to speed up the data flow. Actually, the amount of income they generate over time is precisely zero. So watches are an extremely poor income generating asset and, if anything, you would want to avoid them as an investment all together, at any cost.

If you are bit confused then you are actually paying attention. How come, then, that watches are always sold for more than what they were worth new, a decade ago? Surely, some of them are a great asset?

Unfortunately, based on my lifetime dealing in watches, such phenomenon is a myth. Only a fraction of watches in circulation actually increase in value. The majority don't. And picking a winner is like predicting the future - the outcome is highly unpredictable and often surprising.

There is however a clear pattern: those rare winners which have increased in value over time would tick most of these boxes:
- they are ‘locked in time’ (a unique design, discontinued, or of a certain size or shape)
- they have a GREAT STORY (provenience, past ownership)
- fantastic condition (all original components, good working order, cosmetically near mint)
- well-documented and well-researched pieces (i.e. there is a book or numerous articles about the watch)
- limited production run (only a few pieces made)
- feature a unique horological innovation, or was a trend-changer
- made by a famous, reputable maker

It goes without saying that collectors who have made money on watches have done that for a reason. They invested their time rather than their money doing the research, closely following the market trends and buying at the right time, snatching the pieces that do not often appear on the market. But it is clearly obvious that their motive was not only the monetary gain. They didn’t do it for money but for pleasure.

Someone said that luxury yacht owners are happiest twice in their lifetime: first, on the day they buy the yacht, and then again on the day they sell it. The same goes for most watch owners. But it shouldn’t be like that – you, as a watch owner can be perfectly happy with your choice every day of the week, for the rest of your life. Simply, follow the above guidelines, do plenty of research, take your time and learn how to say ‘no’. Instead of volume, focus on quality. Collect thematically – rather than just stockpiling the watches, build your collection in a meaningful and organized way (for example: focus on a particular brand, style or model – more about that some other time).

Over the years I have had countless opportunities to add more pieces to my modest private collection, but I restrict myself to no more than 2 watches per year. Actually, in 2015 and 2016, I only bought one watch each year and I could not be happier with my choices.

In my next newsletter I will be pleased to tell you which watches I bought and why. And then, I will also tell you which watch I regret selling – and which one is on my ‘to buy’ list for 2017.

To subscribe to Nick's free newsletter click here:
www.clockmaker.com.au/free_newsletter

Report from Europe

***The Report from Europe - by Tyler

The watchmaking road trip that Josh and I just went on has come and gone so I thought I’d write a small overview of our little adventure. To keep it brief as I can I’ll just hit on the main parts of the trip.

It only lasted 16 days, but we’d been planning the trip for some time and had a packed schedule. Notwithstanding the struggle to adjust to the time difference, we barely slept for the duration simply because we had so much on our plate.

The first part of the trip involved training at the Citizen Machinery Europe factory in Esslingen, just a few stops from Stuttgart. The factory surpassed all of our expectations; it’s filled with their entire range of lathes, prototype machines and a huge range of old school machinery, much of it still in use today. But the real kicker is that the site of the factory used to belong to Boley, a company established in 1870 who made some of the finest high precision machinery and watchmaking tools ever. I’m not quite sure what happened, but it’s as if Boley never really moved out; Citizen just moved in and decided to keep everything. And why wouldn’t you? Though it’d take a lot of work to make some of the machinery functional again, its educational value can’t be understated. And it looks awesome.
Going into the training I hadn’t a clue what we were in for -  I’ve got zero background in machining and had only started looking into the subject 3 months ago, so it was an almost absurd proposition that I’d turn my first part on a 6-axis CNC machine. I was outwardly confident that I’d be able to keep up with everything but admittedly, I still had some lingering doubts going into it. We’re a small team, and a trip like this is a big investment for us so I wanted to be sure it was worth it. Thankfully, with our trainer Marc’s help and Josh who is well versed in all things machining, I was able digest it all in the end.

The training began with a crash course in the theory of programming the G-code that runs the machine. While neither of us have experience writing G-code, this part wasn’t overly challenging - it all seemed easy - on paper, at least.

This was followed by an entire day simply learning how to navigate the machine’s interface. Despite being a modern machine, the interface on even the most advanced CNC lathe resembles MS-DOS from the 1990’s with only marginally better usability. How naive I was to have expected a touch screen of sorts!

Next, we finally got to get our hands dirty: changing the guide bush, collets and cutting tools.
Our greatest fear (Nick has had many a nightmare about it) with the project was of crashing the machine. It’s not your regular computer - if something goes wrong while cutting a part spinning at 5000rpm there’s no reset button. Damage to the machine can be severe and any repairs would be extremely costly. It probably didn’t help that we’d all been watching youtube videos of CNC machine crashes prior to even purchasing the machine, so Josh and I were initially hesitant to press the start button even with Marc’s assurances.

That said, our fears were somewhat allayed after we saw the machine in action and spoke with our trainer. Whilst old CNC machines had very little crash detection capability, the modern Citizen R04 lathe carries out an extensive range of checks before executing a cut. It’ll automatically detect whether one tool will crash into another tool, the part or the spindle, and won’t run until it’s certain there’ll be no conflict. In fact, it’s so overzealous in its checking that we actually had to turn off the crash detection later on because the machine was being too careful.

As we discovered, the real danger lies in the setup process. The machine doesn’t have a clue where the exact cutting edge of each tool is. It has a default offset, but every single turning tool, milling tool or drilling tool has a different width and length, so you’ve got to manually adjust each one into position, program its offset into the machine and then do a test cut to see if you’ve aligned it correctly. It is so critical to the machines operation that we ended up spending two whole days on the setup process alone.

The final two days of training were spent putting what we’ve learnt to the test: outlining the program, setting up the machine, setting up the material, writing the code, executing the cut and measuring the results.  With Marc’s help, we were able to produce our very first screws and stems. To see months of work finally produce something tangible was a special moment.

After training in Esslingen, we made our way down to Switzerland. The schedule for Switzerland was more relaxed, but we still had plenty to do. We’re in the market for a CNC milling machine and finishing tools, so our main reason for going was to visit a machine dealer in La Chaux-de-Fonds. For those that don’t know, La Chaux-de-Fonds could be called the heart of the entire Swiss watch industry. It’s a small town, but the amount of watchmakers that call it home is staggering - Patek Philippe, Cartier, Breitling, Greubel Forsey, Tag Heuer, Girard Perregaux, Jacquet Droz and many other larger brands all have manufacturing facilities here.

  
Nick had told me of how huge the dealer’s place was before going but I could never have imagined the true extent of it. Seriously - there’s a football field of space packed with all sorts of machines. You could spend weeks browsing through it and still not get through it all.



The dealer, as it turns out, is a 32 year old Swiss guy that bought the business from his father. He’s a funny guy with an obsession for fast cars and fine drink, and you’d never guess that he’s one of the most knowledgeable guys around when it comes to machinery. Despite having thousands of machines on the premises (all of which are in fantastic condition), he knows the history and how to operate each and every one. Show him a drawing of something you need machined and he’ll light up with suggestions as to how to get it done. We spent almost 5 hours browsing through everything, found all sorts of machinery that’d be perfect for us and learnt a ton whilst doing so.



When we were back in Zurich, Josh ended up doing a last minute trip to Munich to visit KERN Microtechnik, a manufacturer of the most advanced CNC machinery in the world (an experience that he said was one of the most rewarding ever), while I spent a day wandering around the city. I decided to visit the Beyer Clock and Watch museum. The museum is really just one big room, but then again, watches don’t take up much space, and the amount of stuff they managed to pack in is staggering. If you’re a horology fan like I am, you’ll find it fascinating. Most people spend about fifteen minutes there, but I ended up spending two hours looking over everything, relooking, noticing things I hadn’t seen the first time and talking with the passionate museum director.

Nestled amongst the vast assortment of ancient Chinese time measuring instruments, Breguet masterpieces and clock automaton’s are some (relatively) modern masterpieces and watches of extreme significance. The Rolex Explorer worn by Edmund Hillary on the first ever ascent of Everest? Check. Patek Philippe Grand Complication pocket watch? Check. Not one, but two George Daniels pocket watches? And one of his wristwatches to boot? Yep. An astonishing collection, especially when you consider that George Daniels, arguably the greatest watchmaker ever, only ever made 23 pocket watches and 4 wristwatches in his lifetime. I had no idea what I was in for going into the museum, so it’s fair to say I was completely floored by what I saw. It’s a must see if you ever visit Zurich.


I’ll wrap it up here, I couldn’t possibly talk about everything that happened and my hands are tied at the moment - there are things that can’t be discussed yet, but we discovered some very promising machinery that, should things pan out well, I’ll be able to talk about very soon. In the end, the trip didn’t just go well, it went far better than expected and was extremely rewarding for both Josh and I. We can’t wait to put what we’ve learnt to the test as we continue to take the rebelde project to the next level.

Happy collecting,
Tyler

rebelde 2017 production

***Rebelde 2017 update




Pleased to report that the first 11 rebelde FIFTY watches have been assembled and delivered to their new proud owners. Shortly I will commence the assembly of the Pilots Chocolate dial, V batch. Those on the waiting list should receive their watch by the end of March. The rebelde W Control Tower is now scheduled for April 1. Pretty much as planned with no hiccups or major delays.

We still have some cool serial numbers available for all three models and your orders are welcome. Call Robyn or Laura on 02 9232 0500 for further inquiries.

For more information, go to our rebelde homepage: www.rebelde.com.au


Happy collecting,
Nick