Thursday, October 24, 2019

One tooth at a time

"I am a retired mechanical engineer. I worked for 50 years in a university workshop. I'm jealous of you." Instagram

Feedback like this on our latest watch component, designed and machined in Australia, is what keeps up going. There is an enormous amount of satisfaction and pride in being recognised as relevant by very special people: mechanical engineers, machinists and tool makers who make high precision components themselves. Most of them are not involved in the watchmaking industry, so when they see a component scaled down to watch part size, they are genuinely excited. 
The ratchet wheel is our first Australian made gear. The inspiration for the spokes' shape comes from the shape of the topping tool, a traditional watchmaker's tool used to cut the profile of the teeth of the wheels.

Our ratchet wheel is the largest wheel in the watch, yet it is less than 9 mm in diameter with a module of 0.2. It is made out of surgical grade steel and polished by hand. 
The process starts with a hole being drilled into a solid cylinder which is then enlarged and shaped into a square. The next phase is shaping the gear profile which is done on an EDM wire cutting machine using an electrically charged wire to erode the metal.
The cylinder has to be rotated during the operation and re-positioned into the exact spot, which is a challenge in itself. And for that reason, we have to cut the "reverse profile holder" that mesh with the teethed cylinder in a tolerance of a couple microns.
Profile inspection.
After the gear profile is machined, the cylinder is sliced to the thickness of the gear, which is 0.5 mm. The toothed disc is then clamped and undergoes milling and chamfering of the spokes, as well as the milling of the recess for the screw which holds the ratchet wheel on the barrel arbour.
Another under the microscope check of meshing and chamfered finishes. 
The final operation on the mill is engraving. AUS JH AB NHW 2019 which simply means fecit. 
I wish I could show you the photos of what comes next, but unfortunately the process of turning a dull wheel into a shiny highly polished watch part will have to remain our own little secret. What I can tell you is that the entire process of making a single part takes over three hours and combines the employment of most modern CNC equipment and very traditional hand finishing techniques.

So what's in it for you?

If you are the proud owner of a Rebelde watch, one of over 700 assembled over the past 5 years, then for the first time since we started the project you too have an opportunity to have a piece of 'Made in Australia' engineering built into your watch. We are very happy to offer you the opportunity to have a ratchet wheel made for your Rebelde watch, our Australian fecit, and engraved with your initials. Yes you will need a loupe to see those initials, but my goodness, wouldn't you have a story to tell and a watch to be proud of. As we say, one gear at a time.

Here are the examples of the Rebelde Fifty, Control Tower and Titanium, as well as Timascus, retro-fitted with the new ratchet wheel.
The cost: A handmade, custom engraved ratchet wheel installed in your Rebelde would cost you only $150 with around a 2 week turn around. Up to 3 initials can be engraved in a single position. If you are interstate, you can ship your watch to us, but if you are in Sydney, you can pre-order your gear and have it installed while you wait.

PS just received a message from the boys in Brookvale: "Make sure you let subscribers know that we polish each ratchet wheel by hand and they're as good as Patek or Lange. We're ready to receive orders!" 

PPS Please do go on Instagram to check the images because the photos in this newsletter are highly compressed and really do no justice:

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