Friday, December 14, 2018

Zuffenhaussen, pretzels and ordnung


Five hundred years ago Gutenberg started the printing revolution. What a ride that was! If there is one single reason why humans evolved from the dark ages to an era of enlightenment, science and discoveries, then it has to be due to the printed word. But printing is changing - literally as I type this! Nowadays our thoughts translated into words are printed in electronic format in a fast, cheap, powerful way. And when was the last time you've sat next to someone on the bus reading a REAL paper book?
And then yesterday, totally unexpected, the postman delivered a mighty big box from the land of Gutenberg, containing over 4000 pages of the latest PH Horn toolmaker catalogue! I cannot even imagine the number of engineers, graphic designers and specialists who worked on this epic project. Tens of thousands of tools for almost any machining application, drawings, tips - all there ready to be explored, bought and used to machine some super cool watch components. 
The cost of the catalogue? Free, of course. Boy, do I miss Zuffenhaussen, pretzels and ordnung.

The sharp cutter


A few months ago we received a very warm email from a long standing customer of ours - Rob, a rebelde owner.  At the time of writing he was visiting his ailing mother in the UK. She spent a number of days attempting to gift him her life savings of approximately $1,000 and finally - after much resistance - Rob bowed to her wishes and accepted her kind gift.
In his own words he wrote, "I don't want to spend this money on 'nothing' but I want something for the rest of my life to remember her.  Therefore I thought of the Rebelde 50".  Rob kindly requested to have his mother's birthday engraved on the back of the watch movement.  
To say that we were overcome after reading Rob's email is an understatement.  It was a huge compliment to us that someone could think of us so highly.  There was really no greater honour.  The problem was that we were not set up for engraving.  So we took the watch to the best hand engraver in Sydney who was reluctant to even answer the door to Karin and merely said to read the sign, he was not taking any new orders until 2019.  Then Karin did some more walking around town and found the second best hand engraver in Sydney who point blank said he wouldn’t touch it because of the delicacy of the components.
We then tried to solve the problem in a more elegant way by offering engraving on the outside of the case, which would be much easier to do, but Rob politely declined the offer.  We then realised we actually had no choice but to do it ourselves. 
Clearly the first step would be to disassemble the watch.  The second step would be to make the special jig (part holder) so that the bridge could be placed into the Kern milling machine.  The third step was to find the location on the bridge where engraving would be clearly visible, yet fit into the existing pattern.  We decided that the engraving will follow the contours of the centre wheel. The fourth step was to write a CAM program which will turn a 5-axis milling machine into an engraving machine.  The next step was to program the machine to actually do the cutting and do the necessary calibration in relation to the height of the tool and the depth of engraving. 
It was clear that there was no room for mistake, nor was there a second chance.  The rebelde 50 bridge was manufactured in Switzerland and finished as per our specification, plus rose gold plated.  This was a one-off order and ruining a bridge would mean the replacement of an entire mechanism.
Josh and I spent a few evenings just contemplating the challenge.  More than once I suggested that we should really pull out and refund the purchase rather than make the mistake of ruining a perfect mechanism.  To his credit, Josh said, “I’m going to do it”, and he did…all by himself…including the final step of reassembling the watch movement.
 
***The sharp cutter
A few months ago we received a very warm email from a long standing customer of ours - Rob, a rebelde owner.  At the time of writing he was visiting his ailing mother in the UK. She spent a number of days attempting to gift him her life savings of approximately $1,000 and finally - after much resistance - Rob bowed to her wishes and accepted her kind gift.
In his own words he wrote, "I don't want to spend this money on 'nothing' but I want something for the rest of my life to remember her.  Therefore I thought of the Rebelde 50".  Rob kindly requested to have his mother's birthday engraved on the back of the watch movement.  
To say that we were overcome after reading Rob's email is an understatement.  It was a huge compliment to us that someone could think of us so highly.  There was really no greater honour.  The problem was that we were not set up for engraving.  So we took the watch to the best hand engraver in Sydney who was reluctant to even answer the door to Karin and merely said to read the sign, he was not taking any new orders until 2019.  Then Karin did some more walking around town and found the second best hand engraver in Sydney who point blank said he wouldn’t touch it because of the delicacy of the components.
We then tried to solve the problem in a more elegant way by offering engraving on the outside of the case, which would be much easier to do, but Rob politely declined the offer.  We then realised we actually had no choice but to do it ourselves. 
Clearly the first step would be to disassemble the watch.  The second step would be to make the special jig (part holder) so that the bridge could be placed into the Kern milling machine.  The third step was to find the location on the bridge where engraving would be clearly visible, yet fit into the existing pattern.  We decided that the engraving will follow the contours of the centre wheel. The fourth step was to write a CAM program which will turn a 5-axis milling machine into an engraving machine.  The next step was to program the machine to actually do the cutting and do the necessary calibration in relation to the height of the tool and the depth of engraving. 
It was clear that there was no room for mistake, nor was there a second chance.  The rebelde 50 bridge was manufactured in Switzerland and finished as per our specification, plus rose gold plated.  This was a one-off order and ruining a bridge would mean the replacement of an entire mechanism.
Josh and I spent a few evenings just contemplating the challenge.  More than once I suggested that we should really pull out and refund the purchase rather than make the mistake of ruining a perfect mechanism.  To his credit, Josh said, “I’m going to do it”, and he did…all by himself…including the final step of reassembling the watch movement.
So why am I bragging about this? 
Two reasons.  First: if you are loyal to us, we will remain loyal to you.
Second: this is a message to Swiss brands with service centres in Australia. I know for a fact that almost all of you read this newsletter.  I also know that you continue to ridicule Australian independent watchmakers, telling customers that it is in their interest to avoid us because only you can provide adequate service. You arrogantly continue to perpetuate this lie, knowing so well that the reason we cannot repair your brand watch is not lack of skills but your ban on supply of watch parts. You are taking advantage of our Government’s disinterest in forcing you to respect the Australian consumer rights law. But customers are not dumb. They know what you stand for and what we stand for. A few years ago you won a battle but the war hasn't even started. I promise a bloodbath - we are training a new generation of young Australian watchmakers who will kick your bottom so hard that you will never dare to badmouth us again.
Empty words? Well, here is one more example of where we are heading.
The young man in the photo is Josh Shapiro, an independent watchmaker from California. He hand makes his own watches using 19th century machines. His speciality is engine turned dial engraving – or as commonly known – guilloche.

A couple of weeks ago, Josh from California contacted Josh in Sydney with a rather strange request.  Shapiro follows our Instagram account and saw what our workshop is capable of. He wanted a tool made for his 100 year old Swiss guilloche machine. He explained the purpose of the part – to provide drawings - and he stated that he is a bit desperate because no-one else in the US could help him.
Our Josh programmed the part on our EDM machine, hardened the steel in our own oven, quenched it, machined the part and had it shipped the next morning.  Unfortunately, I cannot show you that Australian made part – it is a trade secret – but here is the feedback:
“Josh the tool is amazing. It solved the problem I have had for the last 5 years. Image machining with a dull cutter that doesn’t get worse or better, and you learn to make extremely good cuts but it’s a lot of work and takes a lot more time. Then one day someone hands you a sharp cutter.... That’s what this was.” 
Watchmaker Shapiro is now ordering 3 more parts from us, even more complex,  and he says that ‘want us to remain his best kept secret’. 
Yes, our time is yet to come - but the goal is set firmly: we are simply going to be known as ‘one sharp cutter’.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Cool kids


Imagine you were the only kid in the entire suburb with a PlayStation! There would be no quiet moment, no shortage of friends - and every day would be just pure fun.
The word about our machining capabilities is spreading fast and our watchmaking workshop in Brookvale is attracting all sorts of cool kids who want to play with our toys.  Here is just one of a few of the most recent cases: 
Andrew: "A car builder knocked on our door with an aluminium part that he had sub-contracted out to a machine shop all the way down in Campbelltown. An issue occurred during the manufacturing process rendering the part an oversized paperweight. Either the mechanic in question could drive down to Campbelltown and have the machine shop fix the error, then drive back the next day to pick it up, or dip his toe in the waters and ask us if we could help. Sure enough, after a rapid design brief and outline, we set to work designing and programming the solution whilst not changing the structural integrity or important features of the aluminium strut. We asked him "When do you need this done by?" "Yesterday" he replied. "Best I can do is tomorrow" we said. He was ok with that as it did not involve him participating in northern, central, western, and southern Sydney traffic.
The component was promptly modified and finished in the Makino EDM wire cutting machine within three hours. Under promise and over deliver, I always say. The coolest part about the whole experience is knowing that we contributed to their project. A 1960's matte black Mustang body with an Australian made v12 engine squeezed in. An interesting fact, the cast for the engine block is 3D printed, and then the actual cast is made for the molten metal to be poured into. That is cutting edge technology in the performance automotive industry. This car, once finished, will truly be a testament to Australian craftsmanship. Come to think of it, we should have used a 0.1 engraving tool in the Kern to write sneakily beneath the part: Andrew n Josh was 'ere. An opportunity missed but definitely noted for next time."
The second 'can we play with you guys' request came from a silicon extruder with a challenging part geometry. The part is 12mm thick steel disc requiring a perfect slot just 0.75 mm wide, 80m long. The slot is so thin that it would barely accept a paper business card. Yet, the inside walls of the slot would have to be perfectly finished to almost mirror finish. This is a serious challenge and a big ask - drilling the starter 0.5mm x 12mm hole was a nightmare. Again, Makino wire cutter did the rest of the job perfectly, and the part was completed same day. I am not using the term 'perfect' lightly - think of this 'fit' as what you would expect to see on a Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso case.  


Clearly, there are many engineering businesses out there who are more than happy to pay handsomely for machining services and machining capabilities provided by a watchmaker. Indeed, one of our challenges in the months to come will be to ignore 'easy money' doing third party services and remain firmly focused on our watch manufacturing project. As we say, you cannot run before you learn how to walk. 

Up, adjust, down

If you're a new subscriber then you will soon learn we are passionate about one thing: Made in Australia. Both our own Aussie made story, and that of other Aussie pioneers.  
One such unsung story is that of a stubborn Queenslander named Llew Ashdown. With a leather goods machine maintenance background, he found himself disillusioned by leather presses on the market.  So he went straight to the drawing board.  He had one goal in mind: to not only build his own press but to make it world class.
After plenty of experimenting and hard work, exactly 25 years ago he boldly stepped on a plane and took his Aussie press straight to Geneva.  Llew exhibited at a Trade Fair with just one product - his Aussie made hand press. The press was simple, yet it provided an elegant solution.  The press won the Fair prize, and interested distributors, from the US and Europe were lining up to sign him up as supplier.  But Llew had only one condition: no consignment.  If you want to do business with Llew you have to come up with the cash. Distributors walked away, wishing him good luck.  All except one; a Canadian who placed an order for 12 presses and happily paid up front.  
In 25 years Llew's business has grown in sales and volume, but quite remarkably the business still employs just one person - its only employee is Llew himself; a man who is stubbornly doing it 'his own way'.  Today, this one man leather press shop is exporting Aussie-made presses to Canada, USA, UK, Germany, France, South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand. The Queensland clickers sell exceptionally well in Japan for one reason: they do the job better.
My Lucris press arrived last week.  I'm yet to cut my first piece of leather with it but I'm already impressed.  I spoke with Llew, thanked him for being in business for so many decades and congratulated him on his stubbornness.
Designed, assembled and manufactured in Australia?  Yes, of course.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The "hair" milling tool


This one is for fellow machinists and engineers: a newly arrived Dixi 0.1mm end mill. The cutting blade is 100 x 100 microns or as thick as human hair.
To put it in perspective, I took a photo of it next to the finest Japanese 0.25mm pen tip, with regular ballpoint pen above them.
But this is not the scary bit: due to its size, our endmill will have to spin at 50,000 RPM at the bottom of a 700 kg spindle column travelling at the speed of 1G with sub-micron positional accuracy and to start, stop and reverse instantaneously.  That spindle movement action draws 60 Amp of peak current per phase. 
The equivalent of your car going from 0 to 100kms in 2.47 seconds.

A simple message

Once again - this December-  we are going out in public ready to spread the 'good news': a full page advert in Company Director followed by Qantas in-flight Magazine in January.
A print ad is a major project for any small business: we've spent 2 months in preparation, stretching our resources to the limit. Today, the ad is ready for print and we can finally relax. Our message is simple: we design and assemble watches in Sydney; out of 649 sold, every single watch is fully functional; and, for the first time in the history of our country,  complex watch parts are manufactured in Australia. Investing in a NH watch is an investment in the future of a small independent Aussie watchmaker.
While the advert features our flagship model 'the fifty', it will be for watch enthusiasts to discover the story about this piece by themselves. Sophisticated readers will love it - it is a simple yet powerful story about ordinary people trying hard. 
To all of our supporters: thank you. We wish you a happy 5th rebellious anniversary. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

This could be you


A. Borriero, 24

Joined us on January 3 as a watchmaker apprentice and machinist. In less than a year he has become:

- proficient in CAM and CAD software
- trained to independently operate EDM at micron level
- undergoing training on Kern CNC Pyramid Nano world class 5 axis mill
- capable of assembling/disassembling mechanical manual wind watch movement, including jewelling
- proficient in hand finishing/perlage
- directly involved in manufacturing of the first Australian watch
- will this month attend JIMTOF Tokyo machining fair, and tour the Makino factory, Japan
- wears a rebelde watch
- will receive a pay rise of $13,000 as of January next year

This could have been you. This still could be you if you have Andrew's determination and attention to detail.

We are interested in smart, hard-working, loyal and driven people to join our small team. We will train you and we will reward your efforts.
Email nick@clockmaker.com.au today to get ready for a new start in 2019.
Nick

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Put your sunscreen on Australia


As Master George Daniels famously said, watchmaking is all about finishes. Even in his case, this statement is more a cry of desperation than proclamation of victory. Attractive and artistic metal finishes are simply hard to master, which is why you will never see a Rolex with a transparent case back, and why you should respect every bit of a new Omega movement.

Last night we dipped our toes into the murky waters of engraving. We began by creating sunburst patterns, and some well-hidden text on the reverse side of the main plate, underneath the watch dial. We are even contemplating signing our watch in a hidden location where only fellow watchmakers can find it. It's probably a catastrophic marketing move, but it's also a clever way of saying 'we don't care'.  The sunburst is here to stay, and maybe the stars of Southern Cross. Only time will tell.

So far, consider this another small victory for the smallest watch brand in the world.



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Machined in Australia




Watch main plates, bridges and balance cocks slowly coming out of 'production line' with first movements being completely assembled and adjusted. The plan is to assemble 20 prototype-batch mechanisms, test them for a few months, then pull them apart, decorate, engrave and gold plate.

Nick



Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Like no other


First things first: the (still unnamed) Australian made watch survived its first week . Very pleased to report that its daily error is less than 3 seconds per day. As you would imagine, I am wearing it myself with a great sense of achievement and pride. It’s a conversational piece to say the least.  Encouraged by prototype production, we are cautiously steaming ahead. One more set of plates was machined, jewelled and assembled over the weekend and today I am assembling the first numbered mechanism.
The plan is simple: to machine and assemble 20 mechanisms by Christmas, have them running, test them, and learn as much as possible about the repeatability of the manufacturing process.  This process cannot be rushed. There are countless unknowns yet to be figured out. For example: how many parts can we machine with one cutting tool? To answer that question you need to know acceptable part tolerances.  Which in itself is a critical piece of information no-one can tell you. There is no such a thing as a book titled "How To Make A Watch?" You can spend your entire life working for Rolex or Patek and you would be good in making one component while being practically clueless about the big picture. And, quite frankly, no-one in Switzerland will want to share their best guarded secrets with you.
That means we have to rely on ourselves. It also means taking countless measurements, gathering data, comparing and analysing. For example, my rule is to reject any parts coming from Brookvale which are not accompanied with a drawing and critical measurements.  Here is just one example of the escapement section of the main plate. The first column is design values, the second the actual machining result. The difference is 1 to 4 microns. The distance between the centre wheel and pallets bridge pin is 11535 microns and we are just 3 microns off.  You don't have to be an engineer to appreciate this level of precision.

So one day, the NH watch will not only come with the marking on the dial “Machined in Australia" but you, the owner and guardian, will have a technical drawing and measurements of its heart. Each component we make in our workshop will be individually numbered and signed, hand finished and fine-tuned. Your watch will be truly unique, with a story you will be proud to share. A story like no other.

Possible?  Sure it is - I am wearing such a watch right now.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Australian made watch project update


A major milestone. Happy to report that the first Australian-made CNC watch mechanism has been mounted into a case and, as of today, we have a fully working prototype.
So what is the big deal? Three points: 
- We have understood and mapped the 'watch genome'. We know what makes the watch tick from both a physical, functional and engineering point. 
- We are capable of manipulating and cloning the 'watch DNA'. Not just replicating the existing design but designing and manufacturing original components.
- First in Australia: milestone achieved by kids who are born in Australia, working in Brookvale, using materials sourced in Brookvale. 
If you wonder what percentage of the mechanism was manufactured in-house: the main plate, top bridge, balance cock, winding stem and screws. The main plate and bridges are core 'unifying' components which combine and house all other parts. Assigning a single percentage number would be impossible, but if we are to try: we reached 80% of the overall design and well over 50% of machining operations with 95% of integration, accuracy and performance. 
At this stage we made no effort to 'beautify' the mechanism so the main plates are straight out of the mill. No plating, hardening or engraving of any kind. 
What's next? More testing, refining, more machining. Our next milestone is to produce a batch of 20 movements and have them up and running, hopefully by Christmas.
A big 'congrats and thank you' goes to Josh and Andrew who spent the past 6 months making tooling, fixtures, learning how to operate machinery and making individual watch components. Without them we wouldn't be where we are now. Long hours and hard work are paying off and, quite frankly, this is a major achievement by two young kids who jumped into the project with no previous experience in CNC machining. Two of them are still on a $35,000 annual salary - but will be from now known as the first true Australian watchmakers. 
Right now, we have no name for this prototype movement but we believe that it deserves an indigenous name. Happy to take suggestions. The movement is cased in a Titanium 45mm case - a leftover of Ti A production batch, marked Ti M 1/1.
Some of you may ask - would it be possible to have an Australian-made watch case? The answer is simple: yes. The case itself is far less demanding than the mechanism. It can be produced on a single CNC mill/lathe machine. Taking into account already gained know-how, it would take 12 months of prototyping. The Swiss machine itself cost $800,000. Unfortunately, the case making is not going to be our priority until the new workshop is built in 2020. In one word: possible, will happen, but not just now. 
To all existing rebelde owners: this is a day you should be proud of yourselves too - without your trust and investment in our project, we wouldn't make it. Thank you.
Nick Hacko (Watchmaker - finally!)

Friday, August 24, 2018

The cutting edge of manufacturing

Today was an incredibly exciting day. 

Earlier this year I went to the Louis Belet factory in Switzerland. At the risk of succumbing to cliches, I would like to say that it was life altering. 


The organisation of the factory, the workplace culture, the care and commitment for on-time delivery, the massive investment into RnD, the pursuit for perfection in every day tasks and the seeming laser focus of every single machine operator, sales manager, design team member etc. Etc. It blew me away. If you ever have the opportunity to tour, please - do it.

On my tour I asked about something that I had seen at a trade fair the previous year, solid ceramic cutting tools. The response I got was interesting, a mixture of technical explanation and sales pitch, but surprisingly, very very little sales pitch. 


There was almost hesitation in Arnaud's voice when talking about these tools (Arnaud - the 3rd generation CEO of the family owned company) 


These tools were the venture into uncharted territory in this field. Ceramic tools have been made before, usually in the form of turning inserts for hard metals, but this was different. This was micro tooling specifically for high efficiency cutting in brass. Almost exclusively used in the watchmaking industry. The problem being that watch manufacturers usually aren't too willing to buy into new forms of tooling, and, therefore, very few people are willing to test these tools. We were.

The benefits? Almost no wear. The claim is that these tools last orders of magnitude longer than brass. Further, the surface finish should not degrade as quickly. 


This is due to the almost magical edge retention of the cutting surfaces.

The drawbacks? You need an extremely rigid and dynamic machine to use these tools. They don't withstand vibrations or shocks - think of how brittle your fine China dining set is. Yep. That's what we are cutting with. (Thank you Kern Pyramid Nano for the ability to use these tools!) I ordered these tools on Monday afternoon, they travelled around the world and arrived in Brookvale, in Sydney's northern beaches, on Friday morning. Amazing! 


The white is ceramic, grey- carbide.

Josh






Wednesday, August 15, 2018

From the workshop

We didn't make a single watch part in the entire month of August. Instead, the focus was on tool making and a work piece holding solution. Precisely: the main plate holder 2.0.


Happy to report that the new tool has been designed, coded and manufactured in our own workshop using our own machinery, without any external help or support. The tolerances are as per expectations, precision has been improved, the tool is lighter without sacrificing rigidity, and there is a substantial saving in raw material used in watch main plate production. I can't wait to see the new parts coming out this week. 
Time invested in this project: over 120 hours. 
Another important detail: we are able to do the CNC equipment maintenance ourselves! Thanks to video support from Germany, and local support from Japanese makers, the down time is minimal. This was something that was worrying me from day one, and knowing that we can do almost all maintenance ourselves is certainly making the project less stressful and more enjoyable.

Friday, August 10, 2018

So do you still do repairs?

The short answer is - yes - and no. There are a number of watches and brands we wouldn't even touch: all Rolex watches manufactured after 2010; all  modern IWC, JLC, Cartier, Panerai- the Richemont Group brands. Why? Because they refuse to supply parts so we are not interested in those watches - even when a repair is possible or an easy job to do.  We also stay away from Breitling for the same reason. 
However, we love jobs rejected by Rolex. If they reject your watch, or quote a ridiculous amount, or bundle one repair with another - trying to upsell - then you should contact us and we will be happy to see what can be done. Especially so with any vintage sports models. 
We also do plenty repairs of vintage Omega watches - because we can still source parts for older models. Again, in most cases, the cutoff year is 2010. 
The third group of repairs are lesser-known vintage pieces and pocket watches. The success rate is 80% or better. In general, our customers are serious collectors or watch owners who have their reasons why they would prefer to deal with independent watchmakers rather than Swiss brand services. Our charges are reasonable, but for those whose main concern is price, we suggest they take their business to our competitors. 
Recent repairs:
A gold water damaged 18k Rolex rejected by Rolex due to custom diamond bezel. The restoration included movement, case and bezel restoration. Similar project on a 1980s Cartier, also rejected by Cartier. A water damaged Speedmaster. A number of vintage GMT Masters and Submariners from 1960-1980. A vintage Stowa and Cyma.  And a Nomos with a winding issue which we managed to repair for just $150. 
All repair quotes are free of charge. 
For watch repairs in Sydney email nick@clockmaker.com.au if you have any questions, call (02) 9232-0500, or visit our workshop in the Sydney CBD:
Nicholas Hacko Fine Watches:  Suite 403, Level 4, 67 Castlereagh Street Sydney Monday to Thursday 11am-5pm, Friday 10am to 4pm.

Friday, July 13, 2018

MK1 winding crown problem solved

It was clear: the 6mm crown was simply too small. And a number of you jumped in saying the 9mm crown on our current models was simply too large for your wrist, literally begging us not to go XL. I agree.  Well, it's either going to be 7mm or 8mm. And, then, after putting our thoughts on paper, it became obvious that there was no way for us to figure out which size is going to be perfect. Solution: we are now commissioning both sizes - 7mm AND 8mm - so MK1 owners will have the option to select the perfect size for their wrist. The overall cost increase to the project is $24 per watch which I believe is a small price to pay for such a brilliant solution.
We ask, we share, and, most importantly of all, we listen - and we do what you want us to do. And this is precisely what micro watch brands are all about.
And while we are still on the Mark1, I would like to share a photo of the calendar wheel cover plate just to demonstrate a simple point.  The mechanism that we will be fitting in Mark1 is custom-finished in Switzerland by one of the top movement manufacturers.  While the rotor side is as finely decorated as the movement that IWC uses in their watches, it is the reverse side that shows the attention to detail and the overall quality.  Our calendar wheel cover plate is hand-decorated with a perlage finish.  A small, but not unimportant, detail and certainly not something that anyone will ever see except the watchmaker who will assemble your watch.  And here is another detail which is actually very important.  Our movement is fitted with 25 jewels while IWC count is 21.  Plus our movement is adjusted to pass Swiss chronometer certification but the fact that the watch is going to be assembled in Australia, it won't come with a piece of paper saying so.  But you do know that and that is the only thing that matters.
Nevertheless, as an owner of an MK1 you can be proud of the fact that no-one can say that your watch is inferior to an IWC. In fact, the contrary. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

What a night


A mixed crowd of watchmakers, machinists and watch enthusiasts gathered together once again, this time in Brookvale, for a night of horological fun last night. And what fun it was! We started at 6:30 with dinner, then proceeded with 3 presentations - then mingled together, and finally enjoyed a CNC mill demonstration, with the last guests leaving close to midnight!  Actually we were so busy that none of us even thought of taking a photo or two. In one word: a success!
Since our intention is to keep our workshop doors open and continue with horological gatherings on a monthly basis, our next gathering will take place on a Sunday, at 11am (date to be confirmed, most likely the end of August).  Switching from Wednesday to Sunday will allow us to be more flexible with time. Obviously, we are proud of the fact that we can offer such a unique opportunity to colleagues and collectors - so if you are interested to join us next time, RSVP early. Email us directly for programme details and to RSVP your spot.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

New financial year - same goals


A small business is like a living organism: constantly changing, evolving, growing - or at times stagnating or shrinking.  For us, the past few months stretched our limited resources to maximum – and it was all about just two things: setting up the workshop and learning how to use machinery. The good news is that we are entering a new financial year feeling relieved, knowing that the workshop is (almost) completed.
On the other hand, the side of the business which suffered was the assembly of rebelde watches. Only 20 watches have been assembled in the past 6 months.  In some cases, the waiting time was 3 months rather than the 3 weeks promised, but rebelde owners were very sympathetic and supportive so delivery time was not an issue.
However, my intention is to spend more time behind the bench and increase output to at least 10 watches per month. As far as range is concerned: I am running low on cases for classic Pilots (ribbed bezel, $2,500) steel model so when the current batch is completed there will be at least a year before new cases will be manufactured and delivered. The time to order one is - now.
Our flagship model F ('fifty' $5,000) has been almost sold out. This piece is the only watch in the world guaranteed for 50 years where all servicing, labour and parts are included in the purchase price. Less than 10 pieces are still available and there are no immediate plans to offer another batch any time soon.
The situation is bit more 'comfortable' with W batch (steel, smooth bezel, $2,500). The latest Titanium batch is the only Titanium model D in production. It comes with black dial and red seconds hand at 9 o'clock. It is fitted with a 'premium Swiss movement, swan neck regulator and gold balance wheel - same as in the fifty model  - with a price tag of $3,500. There are plenty of available serial numbers! 
Finally, I am yet to assemble the last couple of 18K gold pieces. I’m definitely not in a hurry to get rid of them! When sold, there will be no more 18K gold watches any time soon: the minimum batch run is 20 watches which would require an investment of $148,000 in gold alone!   Price: $13,980 and your pick: rose or yellow gold.
To say that we are very proud of our rebelde project would be an understatement. Over 600 rebelde watches have been assembled in the past 4 years, and to my knowledge, each and every one is in good working order. As we proudly say: there is no such thing as a broken rebelde! So if you decide to invest in a masculine, robust, reliable and fully reparable watch, designed and assembled in Australia, then I can't think of any other watch that would fit your requirement than - rebelde. 
It has been 2 years since we've stopped selling Panerai watches. Today, we made one final, symbolic gesture: we have removed the Panerai category from our website. Instead, you will find in its place a permanent listing of 7 rebelde models we have on offer. While our watch is no substitute for Panerai, it has stood the test of time and deserves every right to stand on its own.
Click the link below to be taken directly to our Nicholas Hacko watches:




Perlage - the art of hand finishing


Perlage - a traditional watch part decorating technique - consists of small, overlapping circles, achieved with a rotating, grinding tip.
Yesterday, Josh designed and made a jig, and then had a first attempt at perlage on our own main plate. I say not a bad job - actually, much better than one found on mass-produced Swiss plates. There is something special going on here: a CNC machined part receiving the final touches by hand, in the old, traditional manner. Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Andrew's tool holder video receives 5000 views on Instagram


An ugly looking, hardened piece of steel transformed into a beautifully finished tool. The cut can only be described as black mirror finish. Cutting time: 5 hours. Andrew designed it, drew it, programmed it and then cut it on EDM. 
And this is exactly what we are trying to create here in Sydney: an opportunity for smart kids to express themselves in an amazing way. Make no mistake: no University workshop would offer such an opportunity, and no commercial enterprise would 'waste' thousands of dollars just for the sake of learning. But we have no choice but to invest in kids, to allow them to fully develop, so that one day they will be making some amazing timepieces.
Check out the video on our Instagram below:
https://www.instagram.com/nicholashackowatch/

Monday, June 25, 2018

It's all about workmanship


So what is the big deal with watchmaking and clockmaking, you may ask? In one word: it’s all about workmanship.  For hundreds of years makers not only made timepieces but worked insanely hard to 'outdo' each other. Finishes, shapes, metal work, design, functionality all intertwined together with one goal: to impress and showcase the maker’s genius.

My approach is less pompous - but there is no room for improvisation and cutting corners. Here is just one example.

Yesterday the plan was to turn four brass pillars for regulator mainplates. Since this is still a prototype the focus was on construction rather than beauty. However, it soon became obvious that the inexpensive Chinese die for thread forming was outputting a rather inferior thread. Surely, once the nut is fastened, no-one would see it - except, of course, me. And that would bug me. So I pulled out a German die - and what a difference!  Judge it for yourself: The first 5 turns were formed by a quality precision die, and the last 5 with an inferior one.


If you now wonder why I didn’t use 'the proper' die in the first place the answer is - Hahnreiter dies are expensive and should not be used on prototyping – and, further, the die holder for our Schaublin has not arrived yet. So I made one myself - which turned the 20 minute pillar job into a whole afternoon tool making project.  Time wasted? Absolutely not.
And while we are on Hahnreiter: the German precision  toolmaking company dates back to the mid 1800's. After the second World War the factory was flattened to dust but in 1947 the firm restarted its tool manufacturing business with just one employee.  Today, Hahnreiter is the leader in German tap and die engineering.  They have 2600 different die sizes  in stock  and an order placed by 3:30pm is shipped the same day. Talk about the power of one!


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Major Milestone

Major milestone: we've planted the watch winding stem! 0.6 mm drill travelling 20mm down to create 1.2mm deep hole. The action is at half speed and quite frankly nerve wracking. Next step: dial feet fasteners then some fine tuning. Yes, out of all places- watch made in Australia!



Friday, June 8, 2018

Watchmaker's regulator update


On Sunday, six hours were spent behind the Schaublin turning the barrel. The end result: about half done. I needed the grooving insert and boring bar to continue further, and, quite frankly, after standing for six hours my legs were just killing me. Josh quickly placed an order for tools and on Thursday a small packet arrived from Sumitomo, Japan.
Sumitomo was founded in 1907 and today is one of the fine-tuned, multi-industry corporations which span from automotive to energy, electronics, semi-conductors to toolmaking.  The cutting tools division was founded in 1927 with the development of cement carbide inserts. To say that they know how to make an excellent cutter would be an understatement. As expected, the small parcel on the bench was every bit you would expect from the land of the rising sun: a piece of art itself.
There is no guesswork figuring out the cutting speed or misunderstanding the other important parameters. Each insert is individually bar coded and traceable - indicating that a tool like this is used to make components that will later fit into devices of the most importance - think of airplanes and submarines, satellites and super fast trains - where mistake is not an option. Certainly an overkill for a humble Australian handmade clock – but, to be perfectly honest, being exposed to perfection is not a bad thing.
One thing is certain - if you can't turn a 17th century clock part on a Swiss Schaublin using the most advanced Japanese cutter then you have no-one to blame but yourself.