Monday, November 11, 2013

Making my own watch

Designed, assembled, adjusted, and guaranteed in Australia.

Well, that is as much as we can do right now. Which is, quite frankly, ambitious and plenty
for a small watchmaker working on a "from-scratch" watch project, mainly in my spare time.

The design is almost over, with just a few small issues to be ironed out.

Yes, it took longer than I originally anticipated (but isn't that the nature of any mechanical project?), but I really have no other option than to try to get it right in the first go.

While I am mentored by a case maker who is actually going to machine the case
out of a solid piece of steel, I am doing my best to incorporate all
the important features which will (hopefully) make the watch
both durable and serviceable.

I am not going to bore you with details (this email would be 60 pages long),
but the bottom line is: we are making some serious progress!

If all goes well, the CNC machining will start next week.
And that will be the moment of truth, when the bezel and case back will meet the main case body,
hopefully nicely aligned and perfectly water-tight.

The image below is a drawing of the cross section of the bezel (1930's pilot style).
The bit circled in red is further enlarged, provided here to illustrate the complexity.

As always, your feedback is much appreciated.
If you have a special design request, then you better hurry up before the
ink dries :-)

Happy collecting,
Nick Hacko

PS. No, I am *NOT* taking any orders yet, so please don't ask. Thank you.
I know some of you are very excited, but talking about orders just distracts me from the work.
No money will be taken until the entire batch is assembled, adjusted, and tested on my bench.
No, I don't have a firm price either, but my intention is to keep the price below $1,500.
Equally unknown is the number of pieces in the first production batch,
but at this stage it looks like 75 pieces.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

$1 Rolex follow-up

We received an email from the lucky purchaser of our $1 Rolex, Tomas Price, detailing his experience through the contest. You can read his story below:

"Hi Nick and the team,

The smoke is also starting to settle over on my side of the fence after the fantastic events of Thursday. First of all I would like to thank you again for the opportunity. The collimating events of having the privilege to wear the Rolex that sold for a dollar are quite astounding and I still can't really believe it happening at all. There is a real story behind this watch already and now it becomes an even greater vessel of history.

Since my son was born almost a year ago to the day I have started to really reflect on my family as I guess most people do in such events. One of the great narratives and symbols of love in my family is an Omega Seamaster that my Grandmother bought my Pop when one of my uncles was born. They were living in the country near Moree at the time. Out in the drought stricken outback, a Swiss watch was a real piece of majesty and a marvel for the district. A mechanical wonder that didn't need any batteries! When my Pop passed his watch into my uncle I became aware of just how special a gift a watch was for a father to give his son. My uncle treasures that watch today and all of us in the family think of our pop when we see it.

Anyway, my whole life I had a vague interest in watches due to my Pop's watch but never really became a fan or devotee (I didn't even know there were forums or books etc not been into blogs or anything like that). However, I have always been really into the magic that makes a watch. I am an electrician and have always had a strong respect for mechanical inventions that don't require any electricity at all. For me an automatic Swiss watch is almost magical in the way it can stay alive purely through the movement of the owner - actually working and almost alive from the energy of the owner. Even a manually wound watch only really stays alive through the care of the owner to keep it wound.

When my wife and I started to think about a family, I really started to think hard about getting a watch for my child so it was the same age as them. I started to really look on the internet and eventually settled on Nick's blog and web page as one of my foremost pages of interest. I could really tell Nick felt the same way I did about the magic of a mechanical watch (obviously he felt it on a much larger scale and held a more vast knowledge). So after a year or so of looking and think about what I would like to buy I settled on the Rolex Explorer ii. My closest friend was a Rolex devotee and I always admired his watches and the enthusiasm he took them into his life story (a watch as a reward for his hard work in his career and one to celebrate his love for his partner).

Subsequently, my beautiful son was born and I got lost in his story well and truly. However, the desire to get a watch to mark the occasion grew stronger and more profound. Although I do very well in my career and love what I do, my circumstances meant that I couldn't justify that kind of expense. One again I started to trawl through Nicks blog and subscriber emails. I started to think that I would get an IWC Mark VI as a second hand option to a new Rolex but even that became out of reach when I decided to buy a place with a backyard for my son and family to grow in.

I couldn't believe it when Nick's competition came up. I mean, my exact dream watch potentially mine for a dollar! My whole dream was suddenly realistic again (not that I thought I had a chance of wining as my busy job hardly leaves time to respond quickly to an email- I guess everyone feels that way). It was a great excuse to sign up to a worthwhile premium email subscription anyway so I did it. The rest is history.

It was unbelievable to get the email back from Nick. I told my wife and she was convinced I was been lured into an email scam to be mugged and taken for my money! I assured her of Nick's reputation and of course it worked out. So now I sit here writing this email with an amazing timepiece packed full of a fantastic history of being the first Rolex to be sold for a $1. To me the competition and the price don't matter. I now wear a watch that I am ultimately looking after for my son. The fact that I won it from a true devotee of a fine timepiece is an even better and magic story than simply purchasing a new Rolex in my opinion. I even discovered that the watch was originally purchased in Harrods in London which is even cooler. I can't wait to tell this story to my son and it is already another grand tail in my family to rival my Pop's famous watch. He already likes listening to it.

Thanks again Nick and the team for this opportunity and I wish you all the best. Thanks to everyone else in the competition and I will treasure the watch as you would have if chance had of gone the other way.

I have attached a dodgey photo of my Pop's Omega Seamaster."

Ruined enjoyment

Below is a message that I received from one of my subscribers:

"Dear N,

A few months ago I emailed you for a repair quote on (a new) Longines watch.
You advised me to send it back to Longines for warranty repair.
However they've sent it back to me telling me there was no problem with the watch.
I wonder if you can help me.

The problem I have with it is that the moon-shaped date indicator is slightly out of alignment,
as you can see in the examples below. The fault is minor but is definitely there.
I had the watch for 2 days before I noticed it.

Another fault with the watch is with the 24-hour hand, which is perfectly aligned when set to
3pm, but becomes gradually off alignment, until it is quite visibly misalign when set to 3am.
This is probably a printing issue on the dial, and I wonder if you can correct it so that it
at least touches the dot at both times, even if the alignment will be slightly off at 3pm.
Please see the attached picture.

These 2 minor faults are ruining my enjoyment of this watch, and I'd be glad if you could
provide me with a quote. Tuesday is my day off work so I can bring it in today if you like.

Sincerely, E."

Dear E,
You sound like a nice guy so I'll try to answer your question to the best of my ability.
You may not like my suggestion, but at least this will give you some insight.

I think your problem is small but complex, so let's try to simplify it by taking it
one step at a time.

1. Is there a problem with misalignment?

Yes! Without any doubt, your watch is not perfect.
Anyone - an especially a manufacturer- who denies imperfection is
not doing you a service. Actually, denial is a sign of very poor customer service.

2. What is causing the misalignment?

This one will take bit of time, so please bear with me.

Suppose you and your girlfriend arrange to meet at 7:00pm for dinner.
You arrive at 7:00pm to a second. She is 5 minutes late, arriving at 7:05pm.

Not a big deal, you've only had to wait for 5 minutes.
However, both of you agree that in future, arriving within 5 minutes of set time is most
either of you would tolerate.

Next time, you arrive at 6:55pm, and she is again there at 7:05pm.

While both of you have honoured the deal by arriving within 5 minutes from the set time,
you now had to wait 10 minutes! Figure that one out...

Like people, watch gears follow their own paths and arrive at certain points in their
own time, within certain tolerance. The calendar wheels, GMT wheels, and hour & minute
wheels are notorious as culprits for misalignment.
The reason is simple: those wheels are designed so they can be set and turned by the owner.
Which mean they are fairly large to withstand external force required for date or GMT setting.
The trade-off is a fair bit of inevitable 'play'.
Of course, watch manufacturers can design more precise setting wheels, but
they will have much smaller teeth and as such would be prone to breaking.

Large wheels come with larger tolerance.

And when you have two or more wheels working together, the total
tolerance is compounded.

In other words, while each individual wheel is within its own set tolerance,
the total error could be larger -- which in your case is the reason that the date pointer
aligns perfectly in some positions, and less perfectly in others.

3. How to fix the problem?

Unfortunately, there is no easy fix because misalignment it not caused by a single imperfect
wheel, but a number of good wheels which are within or just slightly out of tolerance.

Replacement of one wheel will not fix the problem, even if you
are somehow able to pinpoint the wheel with the worst tolerance.

4. Is it worth trying to fix it?

No. Instead of wasting your time and a watchmakers time, it is easier to
learn to live with a small imperfection.
Of course, in some cases, misalignment can be easily rectified. For example, if the
pointer is slightly off on ALL days, but that is unfortunately not your case.

5. So is my Longines is a bad watch?

No, it is not. Misalignment due to compound tolerance error is
something one can expect in any mechanical device, by any maker.
Of course, manufacturers of high grade watches are well aware of this problem and
selection of individual components during the build phase is a very important step.

The bottom line is this: watchmaking is not about reaching perfection.
Rather, it is a quest of reducing imperfection.

All watches are imperfect to some degree.
This is just the nature of mechanical micro engineering.

Don't let such small imperfections ruin your enjoyment of an otherwise lovely watch.

Thank you for allowing me to share your email and images with fellow subscribers.

Tower clock. Altes Rathaus, Marienplatz, Munich

Ink and watercolour by Tanya H.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Walking the walk - Large wrists? No problem! Extra long straps in stock

A couple years ago I wrote an article in which, in fairly strong terms,
I questioned some economic fundamentals.

Here is one such example:
Since when does two pairs of Italian leather shoes cost less than an Italian leather watch strap?

And more importantly, why are we all so gullible to accept and put up with such craziness?

The answer to both questions is the same:
there is just not enough competition in the watch strap market!

Oh yes, I am always happy to be whinging about something -- but talk is cheap.

When the zero/nine project came along, it was obvious that
I would be in need of some decent, hand-made, hand-stitched Italian leather straps.

One thing lead to another, and a few months later
I'd found a manufacturer who is willing to support our project.

The first batch of straps is now sitting on my desk.

Of course, this baby step is just that - a small attempt to offer you something
I am proud of. A watch strap I can sign with my own name.

If you are blessed with a 'normal' size wrist then there are hundreds of
watches already fitted with a strap that will easily fit your wrist.
Finding a spare or replacement strap is easy.
What you are unaware of is an even larger group of Australian men
who simply can not find a strap to fit their large wrists!

This is the second reason why I wanted my own straps:
each and every colour and width would also come as an XL version.
"I like it, but do you have an XL size?" Yes, I do. In stock.

I am not going to bore you with all the stuff you already know about leather straps.
That a good strap is as important as a watch itself. That ladies may have never heard
of Panerai or Breitling, yet they can spot straight away without any mistake,
exotic leather, quality of stitching, and the unique charm of a vintage and robust look.

The bottom line is this: right now, I can offer you only two styles of straps in two sizes and with two
different lengths. I welcome your order. If you have a Panerai, Breitling, Omega, or any other watch
which is fitted with either 22mm or 24mm, give me a call. Or even better, visit me in person.

I am new to straps but I am convinced that the NH strap will meet your expectations.
I am also happy to offer a 1 year guarantee, just in case. Peace of mind.

Price: $88 regardless of style or size. Buy two or more and receive a free shipping.

Style A
Chocolate brown calf with croco pattern
22mm standard
22mm XL
24mm standard
24mm XL
$88 each

Style B
Pilots Vintage Jacket Raw Sienna Natural, calf
22mm standard
22mm XL
24mm standard
24mm XL
$88 each

More styles coming soon!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Top 6 most ridiculous closing lines

Luckily this does not happen all the time, but it does every now and then.
When it does happen, it is so painfully predictable that you can set your time by it.

A brief introduction-

You call for an appointment because there is a watch you are interested in.
Of course, before making a final decision, you would like to see and try a few more.
And that is all fine; exactly how it should be.

You arrive on time. The stock is on the table, and I am all yours - to assist you, answer your every question, clarify, guide, advise, and help in the decision making process.
Exactly what you should expect. Exactly what I am trained to do.

After 20 minutes, it becomes obvious that you are not ready to make a decision, here and now today. And that is just fine. Buying an expensive watch takes time, and sometimes it takes more than one visit to close a deal. If you are not ready to part with your cash right here and now, you are not going to break my heart.
Nor hurt my feelings, nor disappoint me. I am just a salesman, and quite frankly, I don't need to close each and every deal right here and now. If I don't have the right watch or if the right watch does not fit you, or does not meet your expectation, or the price is too high, then there is really nothing I can do for you - except to shake your hand and hopefully see you again soon.

But for some strange, unexplainable reason, 30 minutes later you are still sitting in my chair, unable to walk away from the deal which is not going to happen.

You know you are not going to buy it.
I know you are not going to buy it.
Even the next buyer who is patiently sitting in a corner waiting for his turn knows you are not going to buy it.

Yet instead of shaking my hand and saying thank you and see you next time, you have an urge to conclude the rendezvous with a silly, inappropriate, and painfully predictable sentence. A sentence, which in your mind, would perfectly explain WHY you have decided not to buy right here and now. A sentence which is totally unnecessary and equally inappropriate.

Here is my list of "The Top 6 most ridiculous closing lines":

6. "I would take it, but only if you take my Amex card with no surcharge".

I seem to recall that I have told you that I am not setup to take Amex. Three times.

Many years ago I made that business decision and I will never regret it.
Even if I could take your Amex, I cannot pay Amex a 2.8 % provision just for the sake of selling you a watch. I am not in a partnership with Amex. Amex is not in the watch business. I am not paying for your reward points. If Amex has promised you that you can use their piece of plastic in my shop to get a bunch of silly points, then you'd better call them and tell them that you can't.
But they already know that.
Once Amex brings their surcharge fee to the same level as Visa or Master Card then I may reconsider.
Until then - no food, no pets, and no Amex on my premises.

5. "I would take it, but only if you were open on Saturday/Sunday".

Another version of this excuse is, 'can you stay open until 10 pm on Monday or open at 6:30am Tuesday because that may be a better time for me.'

Business hours are called business hours because they are the time of day set apart to do business.
Otherwise you will show up at 2am like I am some crazy Seven Eleven.

Yes, I start late and finish early, but as clearly stated, we operate by appointment.
The reason is simple: our stock is secured in a safe deposit box in one of the banks and if the bank is closed, we are closed. Nothing personal, but this is just one rule I cannot change, even if I want to. Government organizations, banks, city professionals, AND many retailers are closed over the weekend. After all, you don't expect me to ring your bell at 4 am Sunday and I don't expect you to ring mine either.

4. "I would take it, but I am still not sure if the watch is original".

While all other excuses on this list are just lame excuses, this comment is plainly an insult.
You've been on my website hundreds of times, you've seen the watch, and know that watch comes with TWO legal documents to verify that the watch is genuine (tax invoice and insurance valuation). You are even a subscriber to this newsletter, but if you still feel an urge to insult me by questioning both my expertise and integrity, then you are just an idiot.

3. "I would take it, if it comes with box and papers".

This excuse makes me cry.

You are happy to be intimate with a total stranger just after 2 drinks, happy to take unmarked pills that can kill you, happy to smoke, drink, risk your life by riding a bike like a maniac on busy Sydney streets, holiday in Bali, eat in filthy, cockroach infested restaurants, yet you are so bloody determined to pass on a PERFECT watch at a fantastic price just because it does not come with a $2 cardboard box. The same cardboard box which you will store in cabinet and never see again, then lose in the next house move.

2. "I would take it, but there is a small scratch here, can you see it?".

No, I can't. That scratch exists only in your imagination.
If it was there, I would see it and remove it.
And even if there was one almost minuscule imperfection, so what?
You will scuff or scratch that watch by Friday anyway.
And guess what Mr Perfect: even brand new watches often come with small scuff marks or light discoloration.
This is just the nature of the MATERIAL world we live in.

If you can't accept reality then you don't really need a watch.
Or a car. Or a pet, partner, neighbor.
What you need is a trip to Bangladesh or Pakistan and a good dose of hard, unapologetic, uncoated reality.

1. "I would take it, but I can't until I first talk to my wife"

You are supposed to be in Paris. But you hope that a 800 Euros detour to Cannes charged to the company Amex will most likely be overlooked.

La Palme d'Or, the two Michelin star restaurant, overlooking the Riviera, is all as per your expectation -cuisine délicate et raffinée. Oysters with local the local ballet. Two tables away, an Angelina Jolie look-alike.

A minute later, she waves, signalling that she would like you to join her table.

"Are you...?"

Yes she is. Brad and the kids are still in LA, arriving late tomorrow.

"Why me...?" you want to ask, but your lips are not moving.

Slowly and patiently, she reveals the reason for this sudden invitation.

She could not help but to notice your TAG Carrera.
A sign of sophistication, good taste, and strong character - the three ultimate virtues she regards so highly.

But she is in a need of help and she hopes that you may be the right person to get her out of trouble. With bit of sadness, and a shadow of embarrassment for having to ask a favor form a stranger, she opens her heart.

Just few hours ago, a dozen of Patek watches were delivered to her and she now needs to choose one to wear at tomorrow's premiere. A watch aficionado and gentleman like yourself should be able to easily recommending the right one, but there is a small problem. Instead of delivery to hotel, there was a bit of mix up, and the watches are now on her yacht, anchored 3 kilometers south. Of course, it is only a five minutes flight by helicopter over the indigo blue Mediterranean sea (you can now hear the roar of the helicopter). But the weather is getting worse and she is worried that she may have to ask you to stay the night on her yacht. Or at least until breakfast. If this is not too much of an inconvenience, of course.

Now, you are left with a few choices.

For the rest of your life, you will either be remembered in horological circles as the jerk who refused to help poor Angelina, or the jerk who said, "Sure - I'll be happy to help, but let me just call my wife first and ask for her approval".

The truth is simple. At 4:30AM Sydney time, your wife just does not care about you, or about the Pateks or even about Angelina, so don't use her as a lame excuse.

And the painful truth is that Angelina does not care either.

So you better put on your best smile and crack an Aussie joke while running to the helipad, or you will be remembered as the time-wasting embarrassment to all men down under and every single watch owner on the planet.

And on that 18 hours flight home, you can only kid yourself that Carl from accounting will not pick up on those 800 Euros on next statement.

C'est la vie mon amie.

I am not Angelina. And you should not make excuses.
But if you foolishly insist, then pick the least embarrassing: tell the truth.

Introducing the DivorceMaker 3.0

There is no other watch winder out there that would test your relationship
like the DivorceMaker. Apart from a written approval from your wife,
you would also need a Council permit to install such a powerful piece of equipment.

It is big. It is heavy. It glows in the dark. It is 100% silent.
And yes, it will leave your watch mates speechless.

Of course, once you bring it home, you will sleep on the couch until Christmas.
But it is worth it. The most salivated-over 9 unit watch winder we have ever dared to display.

Built for the bravest of all, and priced accordingly. $1,800.

We also carry a range of smaller winders for the newlyweds.
See them at

Friday, November 1, 2013

Prague Astronomical clock

Installed in 1411 this is the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and the only one still in perfect working order.

Drawing by Tanya H.