Friday, August 26, 2016

Tool of the Week: Moebius FIXODROP

***From Apprentice Corner

Today, I’d like to share with you a short story of one Hermann Moebius. Haven’t heard of him? That’s okay – few have. But despite his relative obscurity, he’s a man whose lifetime pursuits helped solve one of the greatest issues faced by watchmakers. These innovations have proved to be of use in a wide range of micromechanical and electronic applications.

His story ties in to this week’s ‘tool’ of the week. It isn’t really a tool at all, but rather something you use to help ward off the devilish force that plagues all things mechanical – friction.

Watchmakers knew of the importance of lubrication early on, but none had the time nor the necessary background to solve the problems associated with the oils used. The first oils used were a mixture of animal, vegetable and mineral oils. Such oils have very good lubrication properties but suffer from poor oxidisation stability. That is, they tend to thicken and gum up in a short period of time. Stabilisers were developed to help prolong the decay process but not enough to be sufficient to be used in a watch.

In large mechanisms, parts tend to operate at a relatively slow speed and high pressures prevail throughout.  The parts are usually bathed in oil which is replaced at regular intervals. The spread of oil isn’t usually a problem.

Watches have almost the exact opposite properties: they operate at extremely fast speeds; low pressures prevail throughout; oil spread is a problem; they’re serviced at long, irregular intervals.

A watchmaker himself, Hermann Moebius was acutely aware of the need for a lubricant specific to micro-mechanisms. In 1855 he founded his company ‘Moebius’ and set about developing the perfect oil, systematically testing oils with a multitude of different properties and selling them on to other watchmakers.

His efforts didn’t go unnoticed and he quickly acquired a strong following. The product of his research solved many of the problems of classic oils and remains in use to this day. From a chemical point of view, the ‘oil’ he developed doesn’t have anything in common with classic oils – it’s a type of synthetic oil.

Today’s ‘tool’ helps solve the problem of spread. Getting oil to stay put when the surface area is small or geometrically awkward can be a real challenge. Developed by the company Hermann Moebius founded over 150 years ago, this liquid is a surface coating, a type of liquid plastic that acts as a glue for oil.

We use it on parts which “work hard”:  pallets jewels, auto rotor wheels and rotor bearings.
Its use is simple: the part need only be dipped in the solution, leaving an invisible film over the part which helps retain oil at these critical points.

And every time we use Fixodrop, we honour the legacy of Hermann Mobeius, the man who solved one of the most challenging problems of modern horology.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Monday Lessons

***A quick Monday afternoon exercise turned out to be more of a challenge than originally anticipated.

While I was working on Valjoux 7750 I asked Tyler to quickly work out how many times the chronograph hand ticks per second. He recorded the motion then slowed down the video and quickly pronounced the chrono seconds hand ticks 4 times a second. I then asked him to figure out how many teeth the chrono wheel has.

He quickly concluded that the count is 240, "give or take 1 or 2", and this made perfect sense because if you divide the frequency of the oscillator by the number of ticks per second then 240 would be the right number.  But for some reason I really wanted him to physically count the number of teeth exactly. After all Valjoux 7750 is the movement he will be working on at the TAFE in his third year and we don’t want him embarrassing us.

As enthusiastic about watchmaking as he is, he found the task of counting a bit trivial and assigned the job to Laura, who to her credit, without being burdened by estimation did the proper count. To our surprise the centre wheel has not 240 but 200 teeth. Which means that the seconds hand actually ticks 3.333 times a second, not 4. The point is you can be deceived by what you see, and even what you recorded. Once again, watchmaking is all about being overly pedantic, even when you are “100%” sure that you are right.

The question remains, how are we going to cut a 200 teeth on a 7.2mm diameter wheel one day in our workshop? We have no idea yet, but we will do it. 

Happy collecting,

A special THANK YOU to comrade rebelde

***Once again, I was humbled by your support for the rebelde project. The entire batch of R series was snatched up in less than two hours. 
For those who were not quick enough: unfortunately I don’t have an estimate as to when the next batch of watches will be released. Right now, the focus is purely on rebelde50 as well as a number of other exciting projects of which I will tell you more in due course.

The good news is that I am completing last few pieces of rebelde Titanium B batch and two watches will be available by the end of the week. We’ve had tons of good feedback on titanium: you love the feel (super light) and you love the size (45mm). I wear one myself on our Puerto Rico black croco strap which gives the watch a cool, almost "dress look". See the pic below. The price of TiB is $3,000 and the watch includes our 5 years guarantee on parts and labour.

For our overseas subscribers: the reddish wood (watchmaker’s bench) is Queensland maple and the little block is Tasmanian oak. One day, when I have nothing to do, I intend to hand-make a couple of simple watch boxes using some exotic Australian wood. I am getting better at finger-joinery but this is an art form in itself yet to be mastered.

The past 3 months have been just crazy. My mind is completely consumed by watchmaking. We are learning so much about machining, measuring and CAD. We are spending great deal of time and money setting ourselves for the next phase of 'Australian Horology'. In few weeks time Josh and I will be travelling to Germany and Switzerland and I cannot tell you how excited I am about this trip. Again, all we do here is purely result of your continuing support. 

Thank you kindly and stay tuned for more!

rebelde TiB 65/75, assembled and available for immediate delivery.

Happy collecting,

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Announcing rebelde R

***The biggest product announcement cliché of all time has to be the one starting with "Good news! - Our new gadget is here!" And I have to admit, I've used this opening line myself more than once.

However, for a few people out there, today's announcement will not only be good, long awaited news, but a total surprise! After almost two years, the Control Tower is back in stock, ready for immediate delivery.

Yes, this is the one you've been waiting for: the stainless steel maxi dial rebelde.

The entire production re-run is 10 pieces because right now I could only source 10 'gold-signed' 6497 movements. Also, the dial supplier could only provide 10 maxi dials. And finally, only 10 steel cases with plain bezels could be manufactured and engraved on such short notice. Limitations galore.
What we have for you is therefore a limited re-run of rebelde R batch, with each piece signed R01 to R10. The red seconds hand is not just an icing on the case, but a very distinct detail that makes the R batch stand out from the original issue.

It goes without saying that rebelde R will find their new owners in a heartbeat. However I am happy to make you even more special and even more appreciated by including two more goodies:
- a sterling silver rebelde Mark pen to accompany your new watch
- a very special 5 years + 1 day guarantee [5Y1D]

Now, you may rightly wonder what the 5Y1D guarantee is all about? It's simple: your rebelde R is fully covered for 5 years, parts and labour, so you won't have to spend a cent to keep it going. 
However, if you bring your watch to us one day after the guarantee expires, we will extend it for one more day. And that one day extension is priceless to you, because on that day we will completely strip your watch down, do a complete overhaul, polish your case and fit a brand new strap. And we won't charge you a cent for your first major overhaul - we'll treat it as an 'under guarantee' job.

Your rebelde will be then ready for another 5 years of faithful performance.

It has been almost 3 years since we started the rebelde project and the beauty of it is that we are now 'richer' by over 400 happy watch owners. We measure our success not by the number or value of watches sold, but by the number of happy rebelde comrades. And I have no doubt that if you join our club today you will be more than happy with your rebelde R and our commitment to you, as a valuable partner who is helping us to write yet another humble chapter in the history of Australian attempts to produce an Australian watch.

Thank you for your support.
Rebelde R, total production 10 pieces, 8 pieces available for sale (numbers R02/10 - R09/10).

Happy collecting,


Monday, August 15, 2016

Book Review: Timepieces - Masterpieces of Chronometry, by David Christianson

***From Apprentice Corner

No book review last week - I was too busy snowboarding! Anyway, straight back to it.
This week I read through Timepieces by David Christianson, a renowned horological historian, certified master watchmaker of 25 years and a past president of the American Watchmakers and Clockmakers Institute. Timepieces chronicles the various developments - across different cultures over thousands of years - that produced watches and clocks as we know them today.

Interestingly, most of the critical developments were not concerned with time at all. The incredible hydro-mechanical astronomical clock tower built by Chinese polymath Su Song (1020-1101 AD) was not built to tell the time, but rather to track celestial bodies as they hurtled through space - crucial for calculating dates in the Chinese calendar and for interpreting astrological signs. The most important technical development related to mechanical watches - the marine chronometer built by John Harrison - did not tell the time per se, but rather used differing times and spherical trigonometry to allow sailor’s to calculate their longitude while at sea.

Indeed, in its early years, mankind was mostly content with letting time flow by. It was only with the onset of prayer requirements from religions such as Christianity and Islam that man began to require more fine-grained structure in their lives, facilitated by clock bells ringing out across the town.

These events are carefully related in Timepieces along with many, many others. Whilst the first half of the book details pre-modern developments, the second half focuses on those that have occurred in more modern times. The fall of the American industry and rise of the Swiss are touched on, the author detailing the conflicting forces that shaped the landscape. Technical advancements such as the coaxial escapement and the electronic watch are weaved into a narrative that helps the reader understand the interplay of factors that led to each one’s development.

The selection of photographs, paintings and diagrams chosen for display in the book are excellent; the author’s encyclopedic knowledge of the field enabling him to select the perfect photos required to properly illustrate the topic at hand.

The photos used in the section on some of the earliest watches are but one example of this. Early watches were hugely expensive, fragile and terribly inaccurate - losing minutes or even hours each day. They were objects reserved only for the particularly well-to-do. Owing to this, they were often extravagantly crafted - engraved, enameled, jewel encrusted, oddly shaped (sometimes made to resemble religious symbols) and built to reflect fashion trends.

Sure, watches are still made this way today, but it’s worth noting that the earliest watches were not really made to be worn. They were seen as objects used to decorate, and so were much more delicate, better resembling an ornament you might place on the mantle than wear on one’s person.

Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a watch exquisitely painted in the manner found on this French necklace watch from the 16th century:

Timepieces is not just a book for horology nerds. The story of how modern timepieces came to be is a fascinating one and should be of great interest to anyone with an interest in science, engineering or fine craftsmanship.

Understanding the history behind that faithful mechanical wonder on your wrist will leave you in awe at the sheer audacity of it. Shock, corrosion, friction, magnetic/electrical fields, temperature, gravity - every phenomenon imaginable is pitted against it, willing it to stop ticking.

The defiance it displays to function in spite of it all is the result of an unbroken chain of toil stretching back hundreds of years. Reading Timepieces gives you some insight into that process. You'll smile each time you glance at your watch – though I’m sure you do that already.

The graves Astronomical watch by Patek Philippe. It remained the most complicated watch from its creation in 1933 until 1989.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

rebelde50 dial design

***Work in Progress

We bring you today the update on rebelde50, and exciting photos of the dial being designed:

Josh working hard on the new software designing the new dials for rebelde50

Here is a snapshot of an unfinished dial design – a work in progress and nothing has been decided as yet.
As much as we love the Californian dial, many of our customers prefer the straight Arabic numerals. At this stage due to the amount of requests we've had, it looks like rebelde50 will the first non-Californian style dial featuring straight numerals.

Exciting times at rebelde HQ!

Happy collecting,

Friday, August 5, 2016

Tool of the Week - Dumont 14A Watch and Clock Hands Holder and Remover

***From Apprentice Corner

This week’s tool is an odd one. I had no idea what it was used for when I first saw it. The locking system told me that it’s made to hold something (as opposed to just picking and placing, as with tweezers), but I was still none the wiser.

Unable to deduce exactly what it’s used for, a demonstration was in order. Nick walked over to his bench, grabbed a container of seconds hands and placed one directly into the tool, locking the hand in place by its inner tubing.

The tool is primarily made for removing and holding watch and clock hands, but its odd shape and circular cut-outs along its length make it useful in a whole range of unforeseen circumstances.

Picture of the tool from the Dumont manual

The 14A is used daily in our workshop for holding parts in place whilst drilling seconds hands for rebelde watches.

The 14A is no longer available from Dumont. Like watches themselves, watchmaking tools can be discontinued, making them even more special and desirable.

Until next time,

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Rare Breitling Memorabilia

***A rare piece of memorabilia

Here we have a set of 6 pack of Breitling postcards, exclusively available from Breitling themselves.

Photographer: Kazuyuki Takahashi

Happy collecting,

Monday, August 1, 2016

Tool of the Week: Bergeon 5700

***Apprentice Corner

Tool of the Week

Case-back openers. More of them! Seriously, we can't get enough of these things. Despite having so many different shapes and sizes, we still routinely encounter watches that don't quite fit any of our templates.

Sure, some might 'almost' fit, but it's not worth the risk. If the part that locks around the case back was to slip whilst turning the handle of the bezel press it could well result in serious damage to your watch.

Nick has even resorted to turning parts on his lathe at home just to fit certain models. There's no one-size-fits-all tool.

Here is more of a tip: if you’ve just started setting up your watch repair shop then invest in Bergeon 5700, which is industry standard and will accept a wide range of attachments.