Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Manufactured in Australia

The first H batch of 25 watches is here.

I have been writing this announcement in my head for the past 12 months - from the moment our small team first realised that one day we will be able to machine and manufacture crucial watch components in Australia, in our own humble workshop. Yet today, after assembling H00/25, the very first watch proudly signed "Manufactured in Australia" I simply feel tired, struggling to even pull myself together to make the announcement. There is no adrenaline, no euphoria, no celebration; no self-congratulation.

As they say: the reward is not the destination but the journey itself.  And while we have reached an important milestone, our journey has really just begun.

Make no mistake: while claiming the right to this prestigious title, we recognise that there are probably dozens or more well-equipped machining workshops in Australia which could have the capabilities of making a wrist watch. Cochlear, Resmed, Rhode, ANCA, scientists from CSIRO - they could all have done it. But they didn't think a watch project was worth the trouble, the investment in time and money. And - above all - unlike us, they didn't have a point to make or a race to run.

Is every component in H made in Australia? Of course not. That was simply not our goal. The main objective of the project was to answer just three questions: What does it take to understand, clone and then genetically modify the watch 'DNA'? Could that be done in total insulation, on a remote island, with limited watchmaking expertise and no watchmaking tradition? And would such a watch be affordable to Australian watch enthusiasts?  The answer to the first two crucial questions is ticking quietly on my workbench. The third question will be answered in coming weeks.

In essence, the H is all about engineering, manufacturing and integration. We proved that our in-house design main plates and bridges, winding stems to dial fasteners, can be perfectly 'synchronised' with Swiss-made components - creating a complex, robust, reliable and accurate timepiece. And I am not just throwing in that adjective 'perfectly' lightly, casually and disrespectfully: on the contrary; reaching sub-micron precision is only something a fellow engineer would understand and appreciate.

To sum it up: H is an engineer's watch, designed for an engineer looking for a timepiece with a unique story and origin.

I bow down to Josh who, in just 12 months, mastered both Kern and R04 and who spent countless nights designing and machining tools, fixtures and finally our parts; and to Andrew, who was a reliable team member responsible for design, drawings and measuring while mastering Makino EDM. Without the two of them I would have no role to play.

And the price is ...?

Impossible to calculate. We tried to base it on investment costs, on the cost of tooling and material, on the cost of labour ranging from an engineer’s hourly rate down to humble workshop labourer's minimum wages - and any price we came up with simply didn't made sense. For the lack of better judgement, my guess is that $5,000 + GST for a priceless watch may not be an accurate reflection of our commitment to you - but at least fair and reasonable, taking into account that our time is yet to come.

Where do we go from here?

Right now, the first H number 00 is ready for your inspection. All components – including dials and hands – are in stock, and we are awaiting gold plating on about half of the bridges. The gold plating is still our biggest nightmare, but the decision has been made to accept whatever result we can get right now, complete the assembly, and make the watch available to the public. We are also developing our own ‘in house’ gold-plating capabilities which will allow us to re-plate (if needed) all components when the watch is due for its first service.

Yes, we are taking your orders now. However, there is no time for fake modesty: to call yourself a proud owner of the first ever ‘Manufactured in Australia’ wristwatch is a privilege. We are looking for partners who appreciate our efforts, supporters who clearly understand the importance of this project, and ambassadors who are proud to be associated with us. If this is you, you are welcome to contact us promptly to secure your watch. Priority will be given to existing orders, and we are also opening the waitlist for the next batch of 25 pieces to be available in July/August.

The H manufactured in Australia mechanism is fitted in Titanium 45mm case with Australian hand-made leather strap.  The photos provided are just quick shots taken with mobile phone camera, with no intention to impress you.  The only way to appreciate the workmanship will be once you inspect the watch in person.  You are welcome to make an appointment.   


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