Friday, June 21, 2013

Watch crystal: sapphire or mineral glass?

Is there a definitive test for sapphire crystal?

We are often asked how one can tell the difference between sapphire crystal and mineral glass. Various 'internet experts' offer a variety of crystal tests - from tapping, heating, touching - even licking (yuck!)- to what is known as 'the definite' test: scratching the watch crystal with a hard and sharpen nail.

Of course, there is a simple and PROPER way to tell what the crystal is made of: with the help of a diamond tester, the result will be known in a second. A hand-held diamond tester checks the thermal conductivity and the result is displayed on a scale.

Bad news: most likely, you won't have one in your tool box, but the good news is: your local jeweller most likely will. The diamond tester is commonly used in the jewellery trade. If you ask your jeweller to perform a crystal test, he would surely be happy to help. (While there, place an order for a 3Ct diamond ring, that would make his day :)

The test is a straight forward one. Like natural sapphire, a synthetic sapphire watch crystal will 'excite' the LED meter to the very last red bar, just under the "diamond" level. Mineral glass will result in no lit LED lights. And it is as simple as that!

Contrary to commonly held opinion, that even a hard synthetic sapphire crystal like the one fitted on a Rolex watch CAN be scratched. If you are still tempted to go for a sharp nail test, do it in the privacy of your home. There is nothing more embarrassing than scratching your brand new Submariner in front of a dozen of your office mates. Unless you want to be remembered as "the watch guy".

Photos below show the reading on sapphire crystal front and mineral glass case back. The last one is diamond test.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The moment of truth: some things cannot be faked

Enclosing this image here is our way of saying "Thank you" to fellow watchmakers who are also our trustworthy newsletter subscribers.

While most of your (and our) customers don't really care much about what you do, WE KNOW how you feel when you place the watch on a timing machine.

The moment of truth. Some things cannot be faked.

The Great Luhrmann

While I am not a big movie goer, I could not resist watching Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. The movie critics - especially the NY bunch- were a bit unkind to Luhrmann's latest movie accusing him of "(over)size, overstatement and noise" and of the film being "shallow but operatic".

Personally, I just could not have enough of it!

The cast was fantastic, not to mention the decore, the music and the truly interpreted dynamics of Fitzgerald's novel. But above all: the colours! The best of Bollywood meets the roaring 1920s. Quite frankly I would have loved it even more if it was even more grand, louder and theatrical.

In particular, the scene where Gatsby breaks the clock and then makes a clumsy attempt to fix it reminded me of an event from around 2007.

On the other end of the line was a polite voice of a young gentleman:
"Do you repair clocks? I have been asked by my boss to contact you. His clock needs some attention."

The clock arrived in the mail a few days later. It was a rather inexpensive plastic-cased alarm clock. Something you would find in Vinnies, on the bottom shelf, underneath the pile of "How to" books and prints of the Opera House.

I rang back the number and explained to the young man that the clock is simply not worth repairing.
I explained why, in detail. He listened to me patiently and said:
"I appreciate your assessment. Indeed the clock is not worth much, but it does have a huge sentimental value to my employer."
"It will take me 2 days to repair it, which translates to a $500 repair bill, with no guarantee on performance". I was trying very hard not to get the job.
"Please go ahead, and thank you in advance. Do your best, it will be appreciated".

I have to say that overly polite customers were hard to find back then as much as they are hard to find today. So I got into it. To its credit, after a complete re-build, the poor clock kept fairly decent time, and the alarm bell was spot on.

The check arrived in the mail, and the clock was returned the same way.

A few weeks later I got the last piece of correspondence which closed the case. This time, it came directly from the owner. "Thank you for repairing my clock. Yours, Baz Luhrmann".

Where the boy from a small rural town in New South Wales, raised by a farmer and petrol station owner father and dress shop owner mother got his vision, imagination and inspiration, will - at least for me - remain a mystery.

Of one, I am convinced: only great people with attention to the smallest detail can make the greatest movies.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Barbie doll

There is nothing that will make you look more stylish and give you a confidence boost like a nice pair of shoes. What you have on your feet can make or break any look.

A leather watch strap is like a pair of quality leather shoes. It doesn’t matter if you have the most amazing wrist watch in the world - if the leather strap is worn, discolored or dirty, you will be much better off leaving it at home.

With a wrong or worn leather strap, you won't impress anyone.

It is also fair to note that quality leather straps are hard to find, especially in Australia. While the Internet makes the search easy, choosing the right strap could be a challenge. On the other hand, if you do your research thoroughly, finding a perfect match between a strap and the watch is a very rewarding exercise.

Not to mention the obvious: an 'aftermarket' strap is significantly cheaper than the 'original' strap and you will have more flexibility of style, colour, size and length than you can think of!

A couple of weeks ago, I contacted a bunch of strap makers with an offer to supply a strap for 'the most travelled watch in the world'' tour. The idea was simple: show us what you can do for our watch and we'll tell the world about your strap-making skills.

In no time, we got 3 strap makers excited about our project.

The first one to take up the challenge was Mr. Frankie Tso from Banda. Frankie has been in the strap business for at least 30 years. Actually, when we first started our business in Sydney, we stocked Banda straps for a few years. We lost contact when the Australian wholesaler sadly passed away, but we cherished good memories of a quality product.

While I was familiar with the Banda straps, I did not know much about the history of the brand. A quick visit to the company website revealed that Frankie is very proud of his business:

BANDA, with over three decades of watch strap manufacturing experience, has earned a high reputation internationally as a high-grade leather watch strap maker. Established in 1978, the company dedicated itself as the main partner of a strap company in Switzerland. With traditional Swiss leather crafting expertise assisted by revolutionary Swiss machinery, BANDA is committed to being a prime player in the production of leather watch straps that have been appreciated by many prestigious global watch makers and watch strap aficionados ever since.

I shot an email to Frankie asking him to introduce Banda to our subscribers:

Frankie - it is obvious that love got you into the strap making business: the love for leather and the love for watches. While a high degree of technical knowledge, skill and patience, are require to craft an "art form", what is the most difficult process or phase in strap making? What is your ultimate challenge?

The process of developing a custom strap is very time consuming and requires a lot of patience from the leather craftsman due to the many small operations required for each strap. In general, the most important process is to cut the leather strap from the leather/skin so it is the exact size, length and shape specified by the client before other operations such as gluing, polishing/painting of the edges, stitching, adding strap keepers, hole punching etc. can be done.

The internet certainly makes the ordering process easier than ever?, one of the World's first websites for tailor made watchstraps, was first launched in 1996 just after internet access was made available for the general public. Over these years, has been offering watch strap lovers a way to get custom bands built the way they want it. The current renovated site has also been built with an especially creative and straightforward system for watch lovers to create their very own straps.

What is the turnaround time for cutom-made straps?

Turnaround time for a custom watch strap is usually between 14 to 18 days. It is always worthwhile to wait as you will be more than happy ending up with an unique product created with your very own idea.

What is the most expensive watch you've made a strap for?

I have never asked my customers how expensive their watches are but I know I have made straps for many famous brands such as Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Panerai etc.

Your most expensive strap?

Perhaps a XXXL custom strap in hornback alligator leather which was made to fit on an Audemars Piguet!

If you are to pick one strap in your entire production, which one would that be? It is hard to say as every strap is made to fit or match with particular watch models. Therefore, I believe there is no one perfect strap, but rather a perfect strap for every user for every watch. Watch collectors all over the world are fashion-conscious men and women who are very particular about their watches - not just about the timepiece itself but also the watch strap material, color, design, pattern and stitching with every client having his or her own preferences.

This morning, a small parcel arrived on my bench containing six Banda straps custom made for the world travelling watch. Obviously, Frankie is someone you can trust: a reliable and prompt businessman.

I felt like a seven year old girl who just got a new set of fancy dresses for her Barbie doll :-)

The very first strap to fit on the Davosa was the BANDA VINTAGE JACKET. This dark brown vintage looking strap gave the Davosa a cool and casual appearance:

The highly polished buckle was a perfect match to the watch case.

BANDA does not need my endorsement or promotion to continue doing what they do the best. Rest assured: in the next few weeks to come, you will see more of Frankies creations not only on the Davosa but on some of our other watches as well!

Whether you intend to spend money with Frankie or not, is entirely up to you. However, it is important to keep in mind that hard working craftsman who are there to support your hobby are not easy to find.

I for one am grateful to Frankie and his team for providing some very fine straps to both watch enthusiasts and watch professionals.

BANDA's website is or if you prefer even more personal contact, mention my name and email Frankie at

The most travelled watch in the world

One watch. Four rules. 340 coutries.

Human exploration and curiosity knows no limits. We've conquered almost every corner of the planet, been to the moon, and sent our tools and toys to Mars and way beyond! In essence, the quest for the unexplored is what makes us humans. Of course, there will always be a few who happily live by the famous Homer Simpson's maxima: "If something is too difficult, then it's not worth doing!"

What if...?

Would it be possible to send a wrist watch on a journey to visit every corner of the earth? And if it is possible, how long would such a journey take? What are the chances that it would return home safely, still keeping correct time? How can we solve obvious logistic problems? Most importantly, would it be fun to be a part of the story of The-most-travelled-watch-in-the world? In my books, the answer to all of the above is YES!

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