Friday, May 31, 2019

Manual work

It is a well-known and recognised fact: manual work makes you happy.  And the more you do of it - the better.  The benefits are wide and deep: from self-appreciation, confidence building, skill development, respect for money, to better mental and physical health - down to just being tired and enjoying your rest.

I don't believe that manual labour is for those who are just not 'bright enough' to succeed academically.  Yes, our society rewards academia (which, ironically, is the case in both capitalism and communism!) but here is a rather peculiar paradox: the more postgraduates and PhDs we create, the value of each freshly minted academic continues to diminish, with more competition resulting in lower-earning prospects. In comparison, the earning capacity of a plumber, machinist or a 'dying trade' watchmaker will only increase in years to come.

After watching a number of TED talks recently about Industry 4.0 and the diminishing role of humans in the next manufacturing revolution here are my findings:

- clearly, robots will continue to make things faster and better than humans but artificial intelligence is not a replacement for intelligence.

- empathy: robots have no feelings. Any manual job which also requires at least some level of empathy may prove to be too difficult for robots.

- arts, crafts and hand-made objects will be recognised and appreciated more. "Made by humans" will be significantly more valuable in years to come.  Conservation, repairs and the restoration of objects which have historical and sentimental value are simply too complex for non-humans.

You may be surprised but fully automated watch manufacturing and watch assembly plants already exist.  Indeed, most likely, the watch you wear today has been made with minimal input of a human - or possibly made without any human involvement at all.

I'll leave you with just one example.  Yesterday a Movado triple calendar wrist watch came in for repair.  It is a calibre 470 which I have not seen before.  Immediately I asked my apprentices to gather around the work bench so we can admire the beauty and uniqueness of the winding mechanism.  And the beauty was in a least expected detail - in two screws which can only be described as a work of art.  Further research of the calibre revealed that the C 470 was designed in 1927 by Frederic Piguet and was in production until 1954.   
Training young apprentices to recognise the beauty of a mechanical timepiece is easy but impossible for robots. 

And here is my question to you (just to make sure that the newsletter is not being read by robots but by humans):

Why are the screws on the two wheels of a different size, with a smaller diameter screw head being placed over the larger wheel and not the other way around?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

In a leather studio in Australia's outback

With 35 MK1 watches already delivered and proudly worn by their new guardians, there are still quite a few watches in our workshop yet to be shipped. They are assembled, awaiting their custom made leather straps, and there is very little we can or want to do about it.  Their uniqueness - that magic fairy dust sprinkled over MK1 - comes from Alice Springs.  And we are very proud of our collaboration with James B. Young; a talented craftsman who turns a kangaroo skin into the most durable, most beautiful, entirely hand-made watch strap that you will find in Australia.

Each strap is worth the wait and I let James weave his magic at his own pace.  Getting it right is not a small task.  From the selection of the leather, thickness, colour, texture, down to cutting the strap to every customer's wrist size, to hand stitching, and shipping them to Sydney.  Strap making is simply an art form or, to put it simply, with MK1 there is no such thing as waiting time.  We call it "crafting time".  


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Christchurch needs you!

Talk is cheap - pack your Tweed jacket, a couple of books and in the company of a loved one head East. Christchurch needs you badly, and needs you now.

There are no queues and no pressure - just a bunch of hard working people doing their absolute best to make your stay a memorable one. And, my goodness, they are working hard. The town is still in the middle of rebuilding and recovery; the main infrastructure works like clockwork, but the wide clean streets are empty.  More than ever, Christchurch needs people, visitors and customers to get their fragile economy back on foot. They need not just your dollar, but even more, they need to see you and hear a kind word.

Facebook messages and smart emails won't help. I suggest leaving Sydney Friday morning and returning late Sunday. Crowne Plaza will offer all the comfort you need - from super clean, new rooms to a crackling fireplace in the lobby.  For the best steak in New Zealand go to the Michelin Hat worthy Jaba. No reservation needed! If your 500gram rump comes with anything but the 'tastiest steak ever', I will personally refund your meal. Quite frankly, that dinner itself would be worth the trip.

Walk slowly, spend, enjoy, and cuddle under the doona. Life is short, enjoy it.     



Monday, May 27, 2019

Kia Ora

I have pledged my alliance to my country 25 years ago - and since then, Australians and Australia have never failed me. Loyalty is a big item on my 'life values' list. But, my goodness, arriving to Christchurch Friday night felt like coming home.

New Zealand is every bit like Australia - just a tiny bit nicer, cleaner, slower, spacious,  spontaneous, down to earth, kinder and greener. 

Having an opportunity to share our story at the Annual Conference of the New Zealand Horological Institute was a true privilege. I haven't seen a more enthusiastic group of watchmakers in a long time. Attention to detail, genuine interest, a sense of humour, a true and immediate connection.  I only hope they will invite me again...

Did they like it? Was it one of the bitter or one of the better ones?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Hey, Kiwis, here we come

Yes, yours truly will be presenting this weekend at The Annual Conference of Watchmakers of New Zealand. My goodness, watch their faces when they realise that the key speaker can barely speak English :-)

Anyhow, the studies on public speaking have shown over and over again that if the presenter fails to win the crowd in the first 30 seconds, the rest of the speech is just a waste of time. Top tips: smile, stretch arms and start with a killer analogy.

Here is mine: "A good presentation is like a mini skirt.  Short enough to retain interest but long enough to cover the topic." 

Am I overestimating the sense of humour of watchmakers? Will let you know on Monday.                         

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Starting from zero - a year and a half later

While Andrew spent the entire last year in the workshop machining parts, for the past six months we have focused on disassembly, reassembly and adjustment of chronographs in the city office - and here is his report card on a freshly overhauled, trustworthy Omega calibre 1863. 

0 seconds a day
300 degrees amplitude
0 millisecond beat error                     


However, don't rush to send him a congratulatory message yet because he managed to break the hour counter wheel (the wheel that holds the small 6 o'clock sub dial counter on a Moonwatch) during disassembly.


The cost of the part:  $105
The cost of the lesson:  Priceless

The point I'm trying to make is this:  The reason why we don't work on Breitling watches or any watches by Richemont Group is for the simple fact that if a part is broken or lost during a service we wouldn't be able to complete the repair.  Nothing personal, but it would be unprofessional to undertake repairs on your watches by makers who don't supply spare parts to independent watchmakers.                       

Monday, May 20, 2019

More ambassadors proudly wearing their rebelde on Rebelde Day

It is about winning

The Manufacturers’ Monthly Endeavour Award is recognised as the premier Award program for the Australian manufacturing industry. The program promotes, recognises and rewards excellence within the industry. Simply, think of it as an Oscar of Aussie manufacturing.

To our surprise,  a couple months ago, we received good news: NH Watchmaker was a finalist in the Outstanding Startup of the Year category! The invitation to attend the Award ceremony in Melbourne followed shortly , and we obliged - sending Josh and Andrew as our representatives.

As you would imagine, the competition was fierce: robotic companies, drones, military and defence contractors. And, as you would imagine, both Josh and Andrew were excited not just for the fact we were finalists, but winning the ultimate prize seemed very realistic.

But not so for me: the fact that our manufacturing capabilities and products itself were nominated was already a major win.  We are a very young team, and our time is yet to come.  Actually, winning too soon would create more problems than good - from an unrealistic sense of self importance to requests for a pay rise.

The kids did made us proud: while the Endeavour Award went to Persistent Aerospace, the mention of the Australian manufactured watch got the loudest, longest and most enthusiastic applause ("we clearly won the audience award").

And, quite frankly, for a small manufacturing business like ours it is the customers’ satisfaction Award that matters the most.  As well the Westpac award for keeping the business account in positive, and the Tax Office award for paying quarterly tax instalments on time.  The apprentice award for training new kids. The 'keep the workbenches clean' award. The timekeeping award for our watch keeping time... as well as a dozen more awards we strive to win every day.  Because, for a small business, every day is simply a new endeavour day.

Other Endeavour finalists in our category: Military spec manufacturer / drones WA Intelligent Software NSW Defence / aerospace rocket manufacturer QLD

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Celebrating May 17 - the rebelde day

The most important day on our calendar.
We were born on May 17, 2012.   On that day, two seemingly unrelated events coincided, creating the cornerstone of what is now known as the 'rebelde movement'.  The first event was the final letter from a major Swiss watch brand denying access to spare parts which simply meant the end of our existence as independent watchmakers.  The second event, which occurred later that day, was the realisation that in order to stay in business and continue our battle for mere survival we have to start our own watch brand.

Have we won?
No, not yet.  However, with each new watch designed and assembled, and with every watch part manufactured in Australia, we are getting stronger, better and more relevant.  Today, over 700 Australians proudly wear our watch, allowing us to invest, learn and grow.

Celebrating? Are you closed on Friday?
Absolutely not - business as usual. The 'rebelde day' is a day of reflection: an opportunity to, once again, remind ourselves of our core brand values: we make robust, reliable and repairable watches. We strive to exceed customers’ expectations.  We believe the 'right to repair' and the 'right to learn and grow' is a fundamental of not just the watchmaking trade but all other trades in Australia.  We sympathise with the struggle of fellow independent repair men - from mechanics in the automotive industry to mobile phone repairers, to farmers in the outback trying to get their tractors going - all of them being oppressed by the restriction of spare parts.  

As a rebelde watch owner, how do I join the celebration?
Simply wear your rebelde on May 17 and share this story with just one person. Tell them that you are our ambassador and that we are proud of you.  And, most importantly: continue to vigorously pursue your dreams.

Happy May 17.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Remember the welder's watch?

A 1969 Moonwatch worn daily till it reached the point of complete disintegration?  The watch that was covered in welder's molten metal balls which, like warts, embedded themselves all over it?  

Well, here are the before and after photos and I will let you be the judge.  

Completely serviced, hand polished - yes, even the pushers were hand polished.  Containing all original parts except for the new bezel but the old bezel has been preserved.  Ready for another 10 years of daily wear.  

Go ahead.  Rate me:

Monday, May 13, 2019

Are you ready for the ride of your life?

This photo was taken exactly 50 years ago - capturing the excitement of my brother and myself fixing our push bike.
Fifty years later, I am as excited as ever. I run a successful watchmaking business, and I am now eager to share and pass on my knowledge. If you are a passionate young person looking for a rewarding career then watchmaking is one of the best hands-on trades you can get your hands on.
I don't ask for much: attention to detail, loyalty and commitment. As a third generation Master Watchmaker, I will teach you everything, from scratch. You will grow and succeed under my wing. You will be respected, reputable, well-known and, one day, you too will be ready to teach and inspire.
If you are ready to join our team and ready for the ride of your life, then
contact me directly.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Can you squeeze two life stories in under 5 minutes?

Last week a young filmmaker knocked on our door. He is working on a mini documentary series titled 'Australian Artisans' and since he looked very polite, industrious and enthusiastic, we decided to 'give it a go'.  His only requirement:  to squeeze it all in under five minutes:  two life stories, two workshops and 700 years of horology.

The actual filming was spread over two days - there was no script, no scenario and no choreography.  Yet, to his credit, Alex managed to pull it all together and made the video available to viewers by Sunday night.

Let me just point out the obvious - this video is not about us.  It is simply Chapter 2 of a book called "Survival of Small Independent Watchmakers in Australia", with many chapters yet to be written.  Written for you.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The finest watchmaking tools money can buy - the largest selection in Australia

Monday tips for students of horology: 3 common 'tweezer mistakes' which prevent you from progressing - but could easily be avoided.

Let’s get straight into it.

 1. Learn how to hold watchmaker’s tweezers properly.

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2. Select the correct tweezers for a particular task

If you've bought a kit tool from us then you have received 3 different tweezers in your set. While the maker or model may vary, the set consists of general, fine and very fine tweezers. 

Make no mistake: even a general work tool ( #1 or #27) is a delicate instrument, not designed or suitable to be used as a spring bar removal tool, prying levers or hole punchers!

By general work we really mean the handling of internal watch movement parts like train gears, bridges and screws.

Long tip, light tweezers like Bergeon #7026-SS is a super fine tool designed for handling the escape wheel and pallets. I also like to use them to handle watch hands.

Of course there are many different models (we stock over 20!)
3. Keep your tweezers separate from all other watchmaking tools. A small wooden box or plastic container is a must. Keep the tip cap on at all times.

Chokamour chocolate wooden boxes make the perfect container for tweezers

"I wish I had more time to practise!"

This is a lame excuse. Practise! Don't let your precious tools remain idle. Here is a simple exercise which requires nothing more than your tweezers and some rice.

The aim is to pick and transfer the lot from one container to another. Not difficult at all, and you can do it while your call is placed on hold, while listening to a boring client, or when the boss is not watching.

Mastered the rice? You are ready for sugar!

Keep your tweezers clean, oil and dust free, don’t drop them and practise daily. This fine manual work will keep your brain sharp for years to come.  Watchmaking sucks as a profession, but makes a wonderful stress-free hobby. 

Next time, I’ll share with you a simple technique on how to polish and maintain tweezer tips.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Watchmaking 2.0 May course

The happy faces say it all: another successfully completed Seiko 7S26 course.  Yes, we invested double the time originally anticipated, but it was worth it - every minute of it.

Once again, here are the 4 reasons why we open our doors for 4 nights per month to teach watchmaking:

1. We want to offer you an experience of a lifetime.  Pulling a mechanical watch apart, learning how the watch works, and putting it back together is simply life changing.  Your appreciation of watches will never be the same again.  You will love it.

2. It's good for our young team of apprentices.  Assisting you to complete your tasks makes them better and more confident watchmakers.  The best way to grow is to share and teach.

3. We worked hard and invested heavily to establish relationships with the best Swiss watch tool makers and bring to Australia the finest watchmakers’ tools money can buy. Running watchmaking classes enables us to continue to do so.  Access to tools is essential to both professional and amateur watchmakers.

4. Independent expert watchmakers like myself are disappearing fast.  Independent horology has been squeezed out of relevance from both sides:  from big brands restricting spare parts causing the slow death of the trade, and from quasi-horology preached online by 'social media' gurus. The typical Australian watchmaker with 30 years’ experience behind the bench is simply unable to find his place in 2019. He is confused. An expert in his field, but feels discarded and irrelevant. Why? Because your average watchmaker is unwilling to share his knowledge, open his workshop, and have some fun. Not us!   We are fighting back, preaching and teaching the real horology: you, behind the bench, with screwdriver in one hand, tweezers in the other, with sweat and tears rolling down your eyeglass, fighting for your life - as has every watchmaker before you, for the past 700 years of this amazing trade.

To book your seat for the next 2.0 course, email us ASAP.

Our motto is simple:  "We raise your expectations high, and then we exceed them". 
"Hi Nick (and Team),

I just wanted to say thank you once again for the amazing experience that was the Watchmaking 2.0 course that you ran over the last 5 weeks. I went into the course not knowing what to expect, but having high expectations nonetheless.

Safe to say that I was not disappointed.

I was blown away by your knowledge and passion, but above all else, your generosity in sharing both of these attributes (and time!) with us budding watchmaker apprentices.

The same can be said for your staff – Andrew, Bobby (Michael) and Gemma whose enthusiasm was infectious and help was invaluable. Please pass on my warm thanks to all three.

Brad Martin"