Monday, September 28, 2009

The power of HOKKA


At about 12pm yesterday I rang the bell at your rooms in Castlereagh St and someone came to the door, I asked about Omega Watches and was turned away because the person was having lunch.

I am a huge clock fan and I have recently become interested in Omega Watches, Especially the MoonWatch which is what I wanted to look at. I liked the idea that I could start with a pre-owned watch.

I have been thinking about this experience with your business since and I have decided it was a horrible experience for me and I will not be coming back. It was a horrible way to be treated and It seems the business does not need money.

I was prepared to spend what a lot of people will consider to be a lot of money, especially for a watch, but I cannot give my money to a business that treats me this way. It is a shame because I liked the idea of dealing with someone who was independent and not a large corporation.

Sorry about the negative feedback but first impressions count and you may like to consider how you manage this going forward.


Dear Darren,

thank you for your feedback.

Please allow me to explain what happened on that dreadful Friday: the person who opened the door at 12pm yesterday was me, so I am solely accepting responsibility for the horror you've went through.

However - and I beg you to accept this as a fact - I had absolutely no intention to hurt your feelings. The blame must be put on to that very strange establishment
located in the basement of MLC centre called HOKKA. The said HOKKA (or more precisely the young Rachel who works there) makes the best stir fry noodles in Sydney CBD. To my embarrassment I have to admit I am totally addicted to their noodles and a few times per week, I can be seen salivating and drooling in front of their noodle bar.

My standard choice is this: vegetables, tofu, bok choy, mushrooms, capsicum and extra tofu with thick rice noodles, chilly sauce and no oil. (This last no-oil bit is crucial!). For just $10 I get the most succulent, chilly-rich, hot melting-in-your mouth experience money can buy!

So dear Darren, when I am having my stir fry noodles (which again, for some strange reason is always at 12pm) I am experiencing something that can be only described as a hedonistic ecstasy. And if you ring my door bell at 12pm unannounced, you will either have to wait for 15 minutes (as I've kindly ask you to do, which for some reason you conveniently forgot to mention) or you would be asked to enter, sit quietly and watch me eating my noodles.

Now when I opened my doors yesterday, I had no idea that you were loaded with cash. What I saw was a tall, well-built, grumpy man and the last thing I wanted was to have you next to me when I eat my noodles.

Please rest assured that no amount of cash in your pocket would make any difference - even if you were George Clooney or James Packer, or Nicole Kidman's sister, I would still ask you to come back in 15 minutes. Such is the power of HOKKA!

Such addiction to noodles is very shameful indeed and could lead to a horrible experience for both parties. But if you want to deal with someone independent, not a large corporation (your words, not mine) then here is a piece of advice: when ringing at someone's door without appointment or announcement at lunch time, do the following: introduce yourself, smile a lot, speak quietly and if asked to leave and return in 15 minutes, DO EXACTLY AS TOLD BECAUSE YOU MAY BE INTERRUPTING SOMEONE'S LUNCH YOU WOMBAT!

The power of HOKKA

George Clooney and Omega
Aussie Slang : If someone calls you a wombat it means you are slightly thick in the head. This is not a terrible insult because Aussies like their wombats and generally it means being slightly exasperated with your behaviour. There are far worse insults than this - like "May all you chooks turn into emus and kick your dunny down".

THIS POST WAS FEATURED IN watchmaker's newsletter.
Here are some of the comments received from subscribers:




I like that story very much.
You may have “lost” a watch customer (with a “lot” money), though won a noodle customer for HOKKA – how ironic - next time I am in Sydney, I am up for some!



Dear Dr Nick,

My friends and I love your newsletters and marketing circulars. Great story about that potential client ringing your bell unannounced during lunch.

I guess because most of us are so obsessed about the power of money and finance nowadays, it probably gives many of us the mistaken impression we own everyone merely because we have cash in our pockets.

I remember my days working part-time as a room service waiter in 5 star hotels when I was studying at university. Although the vast majority of the guests I struck were reasonable and polite, staying in a luxury hotel seemed to turn some people into ruthless fascist dictators.

I learned an enormous number of valuable life skills working in hotels & hospitality ie: politeness, self-restraint, co-operation, a results orientation, an excellent telephone and speaking manner, how to upsell and inspire consumption, as well as lots about liquor, wine and cuisine.

The most important thing I learned however, is that in customer service (and in work, marriage, friendships and life in general), we must set ourselves personal boundaries. These boundaries protect us from exhausting ourselves completely of energy, generosity, humour and self-esteem.

I loved your response to that guy’s complaint because I empathise completely. Out of a 8-10 hour productive working day, requesting clients arrange viewing appointments and that little 15 minute escape to enjoy something private and special like some Hokka noodles are probably your only boundaries.

Keep up the good work Mr Clockmaker.

Maybe you can buy my planet ocean so I can fly from London to Australia to try the Hokka noodles! :-)
Those noodles look pretty good, pretty veggies, I’d would not have answered the door…
Kindest regards,

Hi Nick,
I am addicted to two things. 1 watches and 2 Asian cooking. I can relate to you 100%.
Well said my man. I'll be sure to respect your 15 minutes of time out when I visit you.
Best regards,

The best email I've seen in years, and I get a lot of the buggers, especially at around lunch time on a friday..

all the best Nick

Dear Nick
Great noodle story. It is not the watch you wear -its the time you waste... The wombat at the door person always talks about the huge purchase they are going to make, But were interrupted by a limp noodle. Most times this person has mental problems and perhaps has never eaten "The oil free version" of her noodles. Buy a box of the same style you like and send it to the person 3rd class mail.

Nick, you've blown it with the last of the big spenders now mate. Cancel that order on your new Lear Jet, get your deposit back on the villa in Tuscany, send the Veyron back.
On the other hand, enjoy your noodles, you spotted a time waster and made the right choice.

Dear Nick,

I'm glad to see (and read) a man who treats all his clients professionally yet maintains standards and above all a SENSE OF HUMOUR. I enjoy your blog, your weekly emails and respect your knowledge and work.
Keep up the good work and keep smiling. Remember that it's only Monday so the week can only get better!


Thanks for this note,
We in the office were looking for a new place to get our lunch...
Very helpful article, like all you notes.
Kind regards


Business is business
“lunch is for wimps!”
Now that's what I call customer service!!

Dear Nick,

I am not 100% sure about the pre-requisites, but I feel your email to Darren should qualify you for an Order Of Australia Medal.
It looks like someone never had to tidy their room up when they were little...
Enjoying your posts immensely,


love this Nick!
you made me smile
I am not yet a customer, but drool over your watches regularly.
I am now drooling over your lunch and the related habit indulged in
hoorah to you i say!
and i reckon the wombat doesn't deserve a nice watch!

Laughing My Fat Ass Off :-)
On the floor rolling around in stitches…..damn they look good those Hokka noodles.
Dear Nick,

Reading your emails, and drooling over your watches (possibly much the same as you drool over the thought of your noodles) is my little bit of 'happy time' - in a usually otherwise chaotically hectic day.

I have to confess that, earlier this year, also loaded with a fair bit of cash, I was also in the market for an exceptional timepiece.

I live in the country. I rarely get to Sydney. On those few times that I was in Sydney and actually able to look at watches, I did not approach your establishment specifically because I felt a bit intimidated by the whole 'make an appointment thing'. I'm sure that this is not your intention.

Incidentally, I was almost unceremoniously bundled out of the xxxxx shop in Sydney having indicated my initial price range - then up to $2,500.00. Actually, had they been a bit nicer and more patient, they would have been rewarded, as I was, by my budget increasing to about $4,000.00 - cash.

I ended up with a Tag Link Chronograph, ordered in from the factory, via xxxxx . Whilst I am extremely happy with my watch (after years of wishing and wanting, hoping and praying), I still wish that I had dealt with someone like you - actually, very much like you - in terms of your passion for timepieces. It is difficult to explain to those around me why this particular watch should be so valuable, and to my mind, worth every cent.

So, please keep sending out your wonderful newsletter. I still keep looking, and am particularly interested by your 'bargain basement' articles. Also, if ever I am in Sydney, and actually have the time, I will make a point of trying some Hokka noodles - 'the ones recommended by Nick from upstairs' - just to see what reaction I get.

Oh my gosh, this is SO funny. And advice well received. Thanks for sharing a good story.
Hi Nick,
What a wonderful reply. It makes me a/want to eat noodles b/visit your shop.
Thanks for making me smile today,
Kindest Regards,
Well put
Well done Nick!! no one should get in the way of your noodles!!! I haven't stopped laughing, that was an awesome response!,

I will try some Hokka noodles when next in Sydney, Cheers,
well done nick i was impressed with your comeback to that ignorant customer, everyone needs to eat enjoy your noodles

you little ripper! made my morning reading that - is there any chance Darren comes from generation Y - why arent' you treating me like the centre of the universe (mummy & daddy always have), why don't you have a whole team on hand to serve me? why don't you realise it's all about me, me, me. Right - o - best I put my string of hobby horses back in the stable. Must plan to go to hokka for lunch one day. all the best,
Well said, we are turning into pushy xxxx type people. Yes it is not uncommon for many businesses to shut for lunch and yes some of us will put down our lunch but only for special clients that have earned that level of service. I would suspect it was a sale you did not need, I can only imagine the issues with a purchase by such an attitude when dealing in second hand watches. I suspect if it was not like Brand new all hell would be paid.
Funniest Letter Ever! Well done Nick.
Hi Nick, what I want to know is who is breeding all of these turkeys? I
don't know how some people manage to get thro' their day when horrible
tragedies such as that occur!
Well done Nick. Hopefully the guy will learn some manners. In the meantime, enjoy your addiction.
Well Nick,i agree with you,every time i've needed your expertise i have been very happy.I am yet to visit in person,but when i do it'll be at 12 o'clock,i'll shout lunch,you have to eat,take TIME to do it the best you can,thank's again for your exellent service,best wishes
Being turned away because someone is having lunch does not seem to warrant 'horrible experience' to me. Just wait and come back!
Dear Nick

What I relief…….. I thought I was the only one hooked on noodles! Prior to 12 noon, like you, my mouth starts to water and the thought of noodles is almost excruciating. I switch my phone to silent and hold all calls so I can enjoy a moment of bliss. In my busy day it is the only time that is mine. Just me and the noodle.
Like you, all business stops and part from a major disaster, nothing interrupts this time.I am surprised that you even opened the door. Next time put your sign up – back in 15 mins.
It is pleasing to know that you have well placed priorities.

Restoration of a 1945. Rolex Oyster watch

This family heirloom was in need of major repair and was taken to Rolex Service Centre for a quote. Unfortunately, the watch was rendered as beyond repair because allegedly, Rolex does no longer have spare parts for their vintage models.

Restoration of a 1945. Rolex Oyster watch

Restoration of a 1945. Rolex Oyster watch

Restoration of a 1945. Rolex Oyster watch

Restoration of a 1945. Rolex Oyster watch

Restoration of a 1945. Rolex Oyster watch

The entire restoration project took over 4 hours where most of the time was spent on realignment of the hair spring which was badly damaged by previous repairers.

The end result was rewarding. The watch now ticks at a rate of +1 second a day and ha a healthy amplitude of over 300 degrees. Not bad for a 64 years old watch!

Restoration of a 1945. Rolex Oyster watch

The features of the watch are its original "quarter hatch" dial and its early screw lock crown.

Restoration of a 1945. Rolex Oyster watch

Restoration of a 1945. Rolex Oyster watch

Restoration of a 1945. Rolex Oyster watch

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another filthy Rolex bracelet

One would think that a watch owner who just spent $6,000 on a Rolex Submariner would at least make a modest effort to keep his valuable and fine timepiece in decent condition. Unfortunately, some watch owners could not care less.

Here are a couple of photos of a Rolex Submariner that came in for overhaul.

Rolex Submariner - Overhaul

Rolex Submariner - Overhaul

Rolex Submariner - Overhaul

The amount of dirt and filth built underneath the clasp is just unbelievable. Not only that sand and dust will eat away the metal links in no time, especially when the bracelet is worn loose (embedded particles of sand act like grinding paste), but such filth (and I really don't have a better word to describe it) can cause a serious health problem.

All this can be avoided with just a bit of common sense. A stainless steel bracelet of a waterproof watch should be cleaned regularly. A toothbrush and soapy water (e.g. dishwashing detergent) will do a marvelous job.

Rolex Submariner - Overhaul

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Small restoration project: Panerai case polishing

This Panerai Daylight belongs to a fellow watch collector and was brought in last Friday.

As you can see it had a nasty dent right on the edge of middle case.

I made a promise to publish photos of the watch before and after polishing, so here they are, for your enjoyment.

Panerai Polishing
Panerai Polishing

The entire polishing of the middle case (body) was done by hand using a metal file and various grades of sand paper and took less than 15 minutes, including bezel polishing.
Panerai watches are made of quality steel and respond well to both machine and hand polish.

Panerai Polishing

Watch case half way through polishing

Panerai Polishing

Final touch: photo of bezel after polishing on a buff wheel.

Panerai Polishing

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

$ 500,000.00 clock

The beauty of dealing online is that you never know when the next crackpot will hit your inbox.
I just have to quote the email received last night which is a fine illustration of how grandiose those crackpots can be:

SUBJECT: An oldest & excellent wall clock for sale

I want to sale an oldest and excellent wall clock. It was made on those days when trade-mark was not necessary. There is no trade-mark on this clock. No confirmation where it was made. Yet the condition is good. It has English & Roman numerals, alarm & bell. Size of clock is 19 x 10 x 4 inch with wooden box.
It costs US$ 500,000.00 ( Five hundred thousand US Dollar ). If you are interested to buy it, please contact me. Image enclosed. Thanks.

Obviously, there is some entertainment value to this email. However, I've yet to find out any other reason to waste my time explaining to the "seller" that his clock is neither rare nor fine: as a matter of fact, one can buy truckloads of common American kitchen clocks on Ebay for $10 at any given day of the year.
If I really had to send a reply to this "seller", it would look like this:

I want to sale an oldest and excellent wall clock (It is really a mantel clock). It was made on those days when trade-mark was not necessary (no, it was not. It was made in 1880s). There is no trade-mark on this clock (yes there is - it is located on back plate of the clock movement). No confirmation where it was made (somewhere on the East coast of US, most likely NY). Yet the condition is good (unfortunately the condition is way below average). It has English & Roman numerals (no, it has Arabic numerals), alarm & bell. Size of clock is 19 x 10 x 4 inch with wooden box (the wooden box IS the clock).
It costs US$ 500,000.00 ( Five hundred thousand US Dollar ) (it is really worth $20). If you are interested to buy it, please contact me (no I won't). Image enclosed. Thanks.

Can anyone recommend a good junk mail filter please?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Zenith El Primero - the king of watch movements

My regular buyers are well aware of how passionate I am about Zenith watches.

I often say that a $5,000 Zenith El Primero is internally as good as any $50,000 Patek! When Rolex wanted the best chronograph movement money could buy, they went to Zenith - and until year 2000, the modified Zenith El Primero was powering hundreds of thousands of Rolex Daytona watches worldwide.

Zenith "El Primero" Chronomaster 02.0240.410

Monday, August 3, 2009

1968 Breitling Big Navitimer Ref. 816 First Edition

The very first Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 was manufactured on May 2, 1952. It was a revolutionary watch, providing pilots with a circular slide rule with a logarithmic scale which enabled them to perform all calculations linked to airborne navigation. Pilots were impressed with its functionality and reliability and the NAVITIMER (NAVIgation TIMER) soon became a must-have flying instrument they can rely on for calculation of ascent and descent rates, fuel consumption, average speed and distance conversion.

The watch was powered with one of the most tested and tried chronograph movements: a sparkling copper-red manual wind Venus Cal. 178. There was only one choice of dial colour: all-black.

Navitimer Ref. 806 was one of the best selling Breitling models and stayed in production until the mid 70s. Ref. 806 was fitted with other movements like Valjoux 72 and Valjoux 7736. The first Navitimer was an impressive watch - its 40mm case size stood out impressively in comparison with other pilots’ watches from the 1950s.

In 1967, Breitling introduced a new bold design: The BIG Navitimer, Ref. 816. This stunning, modern-looking watch was a daring step forward. Its 48mm case was very impressive - even for today's standard! Ref 816 was in production for only ten years and today, it is regarded as a sought-after model amongst watch collectors.

Case dimensions
Bezel diameter: 47.8mm
Case diameter: 49mm
Case including crown: 50mm
Case from lug to lug tip: 55mm
Lug spacing: 22mm

The dial diameter is 33mm.

It has a black dial with 3 white sundials and a unique styled hour and minute 'split hands' and red square-shaped hour and minute chrono counters.

The first edition of Ref. 816 had white markers on the dial and a red alignment marker on the rotating bezel.

The turning bezel was flat with rectangular notches on the octagonal stainless steel case. Despite being 48mm in size, the overall appearance is surpassingly 'low profile' – its overall thickness is just over 12mm. Also, the winding crown with chrono pushers are finely integrated for comfortable wear.

Navitimer Ref. 816 case back provides us with the following information:
Brevet Swiss Patent Number, DDE.BR Swiss Cross 11525 and Patent Year of 1967.
The patent was granted for Breitling's design of inner rotating bezel with ratched pinion.

The next line is 0816 which is the Model Reference number 816. The serial number of the watch is barely visible because it was only lightly etched, not engraved. This particular Big Navitimer bears the serial number 1244648 and according to Breitling production data, 1968 yearly production numbers are from 1204582 to 1262904. Hence, this watch was manufactured during that year, which makes it a very early production run of Reference 816.

Like the old Navitimer, the first Big Navitimer was fitted with the Venus 178 movement with a column wheel. The column wheel chronographs are regarded as the true "chronograph movements".

The Big Navitimer Ref. 816 was also issued as "left wound watch" so the case was drilled to allow positioning of the winding crown at both 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock positions. The second hole (in this particular case the one located at 9 o'clock) is used to accommodate the bezel rotating pinion. The hole is closed from outside and often mistaken as the "setting pusher".

Watchmakers repair markings often provide valuable information in regards to authenticity and servicing history. Unfortunately each watchmaker has his own dating code method. In the case of this particular Big Navitimer, at least two repair marks can be identified:

GH O/H 9/84 stands for: Completely overhauled (O/H) in September 1984 (9/84) by watchmaker G.H.
The signature above it is even more straight forward: serviced on 24 February, 1987.

Unfortunately the third signature P.195423N is impossible to translate.

As all timeless classic watches, forty years later the Big Navitimer looks and feels as attractive as ever. Its unique style has survived (and outlasted) the grotesque 70s, the pathetic 'slim line' of the 80s and the identity crisis of the Swiss manufacturing during the early 90s.

I am not a typical watch collector - I don't pile them for either pleasure or profit, but this one is definitely a keeper.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A repair job that could have been avoided

Rolex Datejust
An ‘unbreakable mechanical watch’ has yet to be invented.

Unfortunately, bad things happen to good watches.

Accidentally dropping a watch on a hard surface (tiled floor for example) is bad but in some cases even more damage is done after the watch has hit the floor.

For some reason, the watch owner, recovering from a state of shock, will pull the winding crown and try to turn the hands. By the time he realizes that the hands are ‘stuck’, it will be too late – the dial (and hands) would have already been scratched by floating debris of the watch crystal.

While crystal replacement is a relatively straight-forward and not terribly expensive job, a dial and hand replacement is, on the opposite, always a complex and pricey repair. A job that in most cases, could have been avoided.

So, if you are unlucky enough to have dropped your watch, do not make it worse. Here are a few tips to avoid further disaster:

  • shattered crystal is not the end of the world – it is reparable, so do not panic.
  • unscrew the winding crown and pull it straight out to stop the watch.
  • if the glass is only chipped or cracked, but not shattered (and the watch appears to be keeping time), DO NOT WEAR IT.

    Small crystal particles could still float inside the watch mechanism and will definitely cause further damage. Take it to an authorised Service Centre or an independent watch expert.
  • if you accidentally dropped your watch, but cannot see any sign of external damage: I would strongly recommend to observe its timekeeping for the next 24 hours. Make sure to carefully examine the watch case, crystal, bezel, pushers and winding crown.

    If you notice anything unusual or find that 'something does not feel right’, do the right thing: take it to a watchmaker for an expert assessment.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sixty-three Golden Years of IWC Caliber 89

The year was 1946. The economies of Europe and Japan were in ruins, and people around the world struggled to recover from the deadliest war in human history. Quietly and seemingly unaffected from issues pressing the rest of world, Swiss watchmaker Ing. Pellaton was working on his new project. The International Watch Company needed a new movement: a rugged and reliable, yet finely finished and refined movement to be fitted in modern, post-war watch.

Calibre 89 was a success - it was a simple, robust and time only movement with "an air of elegance" in its design and execution that makes it stand out from the more common movements of its time.

Sixty-three years later, many IWC watches fitted with Calibre 89 not only continue to keep accurate time, but their accuracy is better than many other modern Swiss watches manufactured today! I have no doubt that in the years to come, appreciation for this little mechanical miracle will continue to grow.

Yesterday, I had the privilege to overhaul yet another Cal 89. The gold-cased IWC watch was worn constantly for nearly 40 years, then it was put to rest in the late 1980s.

Today it is the pride and joy of its new guardian.

IWC Caliber 89

IWC Caliber 89

The last photo shows performance after the final adjustment:
timekeeping error of 0.00 seconds/day and beat error of 0.0 m/s while effortlessly maintaining healthy amplitude of 325 degrees.

IWC Caliber 89

To put things in perspective, only 3% of brand new Swiss watches manufactured today are capable of keeping time within a daily rate of minus 4 to plus 6 seconds a day!