Thursday, April 30, 2020

Global Revolution (or just a storm in a teacup?)

As I look back on the past eight years since we decided to start our own brand, there is an overwhelming feeling of failure. Sure, we have achieved our own goals, and in many ways we could never have predicted that in just a few short years we would be making our own watch parts and training machinists in Australia, but when it comes to revolution- or educating watch owners and the general public about injustice in watch the industry- our voices are silent.

There are a number of reasons why we have failed to keep the momentum going:

1. Being an activist and standing for something costs money and time. Lobbying is expensive.

2. We lack the very specific legal skills needed to help us shape our voice in the right direction.

3. We failed to see the bigger picture. Whilst the watchmaking industry is a perfect example of mega-brand oppression, there are a number of other industries far more important to the general public and Australian consumers. Being united is an absolute must.

4. We put all our money on one horse. Naively we mistakenly placed all our hopes on the ACCC (the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) and when they reacted impotently and disinterestedly and diluted the issue, overwhelmed- we quit, and we quit too soon.

So, what’s new, and what’s next?

All the pressure from big businesses and mega-brands is constantly increasing and our basic rights have been eroded. Eight years ago we talked about the right to repair, now we are talking about the freedom to make; freedom to advertise, design, and manufacture; and the right to compete fairly.

Even when the issues are not directly affecting us we are shocked with the arrogance of multinational corporations like Google and Facebook that now make open threats to the Australian Government and Australian consumers if they are not left alone to run their business in a way that suits only their needs.

At a time where we are about to lose local and metropolitan newspapers - unable to compete with online media which is practically stealing their content and making a profit from their hard labour - there is serious concern that the ACCC’s efforts to curb those mega enterprises plans will ultimately fail at both Federal Court and High Court. We don’t have to guess what the future will look like anymore. In the United States, Google and Facebook have already devastated print media, leading to the closure of companies across the US after collapsing advertising revenues, rapid circulation declines, dramatically depleting local coverage, and wiping out thousands of media industry jobs.

Eight years ago, no one would have predicted this as even a remote possibility.

For that reason alone, we should not sit tight. Your industry might be next.

The fist of resistance is your fist holding your tool. Your slogan might be different to ours but our goals are the same.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Rebelde Day - YouTube Broadcast

Humbling and encouraging: we now have 89 people who will be tuning in to our YouTube broadcast on ‘rebelde day’ (Sunday 17th May @ 10am Sydney time).

Quite frankly, the original plan was simply to be online and say hello to you, but we have had a few requests to ‘structure’ this broadcast in a slightly more formal way. So here is the plan: we’ll start at 10am sharp outlining the reason why and how the ‘rebellion started’ eight years ago, where we are right now, and what are the plans for the future. Josh will share with us ‘the timascus story’ explaining the challenges – and excitements- which come from working with this crazy alloy. And we will be happy to answer your questions. Above all, I would like to think that our ‘rebelde celebration’ will greatly benefit not just watch enthusiasts but anyone who runs a small business.

I have three practical ‘tips’ to share; tips which I wish I had been given when we started that would save us frustration and disappointment, not to mention money and precious time. Of course, we don’t pretend to be all-knowing experts. On the contrary – our journey has just started but we have a story to share. I am sure that there are many similarities between what your rebellion story and ours, so we can learn from each other. Running a small business is not easy but manufacturing is TOUGH to the extreme.

Keep an eye on upcoming announcements and for the link to the YouTube Live event. Clear your diary – we’ll see you soon!                       

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Can we really compete with China?

When we interview a new candidate for an assistant job, the first thing I point out to them is that we don't do cold calling. If you are in sales, then you know exactly what that means: every day is Christmas! Calling potential customers out of the blue, unannounced, begging for sales is simply the lowest form of prostitution.

On Monday, I asked my young assistant to start harvesting the internet for a very specific term: Australian rubber and silicon extruders. She had absolutely no idea where we were heading with this, but that was good.

If you are wondering what rubber and silicon extrusion has got to do with watchmaking, the answer is: absolutely nothing. Yet it just so happens that one of our high precision CNC machines can do wonders for extrusion manufacturers as we are capable of making a precision die which could transform their product from an Oris to a Patek.

Four hours later, we had the email addresses of 58 Australian rubber and silicone manufacturing companies and it was my pleasure and honour to start cold calling.

Writing an intro email which would pass both computer and human spam filters is not as easy as it may seem. The email must be genuine, honest, to the point, short and above all factual.  "We are so and so and we can save you money" will end up in the rubbish bin instantly. Nobody cares about you anyway, and at a time when the whole of Australia is in lockdown, nobody cares about anything.

Ten minutes later, my cold call was ready for delivery: 

Strangely enough, penning this message down felt liberating. After all, we are not begging for business, we are not desperate, and if you are a fellow Australian maker, you may greatly benefit from our service.
That was on Monday. Twenty four hours later – there wasn’t a single reply. Not even ‘hey, stop your spam’. Nothing. Complete silence.
At 12:50 on Wednesday, finally, an email arrived from an automobile restoration business in Victoria. They make rubber windscreen seals for European vintage cars. They are small. They need just one die. And to my surprise, there was a drawing file attached.
Quite frankly, I was over the moon. One job is better than no job. As tempting as it was to reply promptly, I held my horses. I forwarded the drawing on to Josh and Andrew: can we make this die?

To cut a long story short, the die was completed in less than 2 hours.
Here is the picture, from under the microscope. It was cut from a 6mm thick steel plate, ready for extrusion. 

“Here is your die mate, please email us your delivery address”.
To say that our yet-to-be-customer was impressed, would be a gross understatement. He simply replied “Unbelievable, best service ever. How much please?”
The die was in the mail at 4:30pm, overnight courier.
And because the purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate our machining capabilities, we are doing it free of charge. Give it a go.
The yet-to-be-customer replied promptly. "Please let me know how much would you charge for this job," he insisted. We told him that our current (and only) customer pays $360 for such a job. “I am sorry”, he said, "This is embarrassing, but I can not afford your service. My current supplier charges less.”
And I do believe him. But his current die maker couldn’t make this die because he uses a completely different process and completely different equipment where tolerances are “500microns on a good day”. Our tolerances are under 2 microns, every time, every day.
My team members were disappointed. It took fair bit of explaining to convince them that this project was a success.

We completed the job in no time, shipped the product promptly, and exceeded our customer’s expectation. This is the winning formula – and this is the ONLY formula to establish yourself as a maker.
The last thing we should do is rush to conclusions: when in a day or two our rubber extruder finally makes that windshield seal for that vintage Mercedes, he will realise that what he has to offer to his customer is a completely different, superior product worth charging for. He will be changed in a very special way, and his mind will open to countless new possibilities, that with our help he can venture into a new range of products which could be offered to new customers, and charged accordingly.
Now, if you think that a die maker in China, Japan, Germany or Switzerland can do a better, faster and cheaper job than an Australian die maker, then you are mistaken. Not only we can compete, but if we want to, we can do better.
And whenever you are disheartened, just think of an olive tree: olives begin bearing fruit in the tree's fifth year and have full fruit production seven years after planting. It then takes 65 to 80 years for the olive tree to reach stable yields, but it can produce olives for hundreds of years.
Like olives, manufacturing can not be rushed. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

"I am ready to buy, is there any movement on price?"

This week started with an unusual number of enquiries that can be summed up with one statement: "I am ready to buy, is there any movement on price?"
Clearly, these requests are coming in from buyers who are new to watch collecting or those who are looking for bargains.Without being emotional about the current market demand for bargains, here are the fundamentals:

1. For watch prices to go down, the Australian dollar must appreciate significantly against the Swiss franc and US dollar. The Australian dollar has been heading in the wrong direction for the past eight years and it is going to decline even further.

2. From 2010 til around 2015, we benefited from a somehow better exchange on the Japanese yen, giving us access to Japans' stock of fine watches. That Japanese stock is now completely depleted, having been sucked up by eager Chinese buyers.

3. Global stock levels are low. After the GFC in 2008, almost all Swiss big brand watch manufacturers geared up for a move into vertical integration- meaning full ownership and control -from manufacturing to retail. This has resulted in a low output, exuberant prices, and a no discount policy.

4. Low production means no overstock to supply the grey market. In the past 3 years, the parallel market has collapsed. This is a global phenomenon.

5. Due to the current pandemic, Swiss manufacturers have closed their factories. Supply of new stock = zero. Furthermore, almost all retail outlets are closed so the supply and demand chain is broken. There is a strong possibility that shops will reopen in the near future, but it won't be business as usual. There won’t be any new models, just old ‘pre-pandemic’ stock.

6. The second hand market thrives when 'business is as usual' – a strong dollar, plenty of supply, a strong grey market and big Swiss brands offering discounts. This is when watch collectors are selling used watches to buy or import new ones. On better days, you could stop in Hong Kong on your way back from London, buy a new Submariner, and then sell your two Omegas on arrival to a second hand dealer. This scenario is highly unlikely until at least this time next year.

7. As I’ve said before: there are no distressed local sellers offloading watches in hurry. With the Government printing money and paying employees to sit at home; when almost all retail shops are closed; and when people are still in lock down, we have entered a period of collective hibernation. Of course, this too will change, but not overnight.

8. Watches are a poor investment class, but an asset nevertheless. In times of severe crisis, any asset is worth more than paper money. No watch dealer is going to rush to exchange a real asset for money that is losing its purchasing power. The bottom line is that we have been low on stock since 2015 and there is no logical reason to offer any discount either today, or in the foreseeable future.

The scariest clock in the world

Our brain is an amazingly powerful computer. It is capable of performing countless complex computations in a fraction of a second. And it works best when left alone, while working in 'subconscious mode'.

Here is an example: with a trolley loaded with goods, you are heading towards the checkout registers. Of course there is a queue in front of each register, so for a moment you wonder which one you should join. But in no time at all, you know the answer. Solving a complex mathematical puzzle by scanning the contents of 60 trolleys down to a smallest item; taking into consideration the age of each shopper; and speed of each cashier; time required to scan each item in real time while retrieving millions of terabytes of shopping experience data stored over the years of shopping at Coles. All that in seconds, effortlessly.

However, try this one quickly: what is larger? A quarter of the square root of 16 or a third of the square root of 9? With all due respect, most would struggle to figure this out even with a calculator. Nothing personal, just pointing out the obvious: we suck when trying to work out answers to problems which cannot be solved subconsciously or those that we don't encounter on a daily basis.

Here is another problem with humans: we are not good at handling very large and very small numbers. Actually, anything related to what we see beyond a few meters away or that requires some imagination is hard to fathom, unless translated to a value under 10. A distance of 1230km is translated to a more familiar "1 and a bit hour flight". 80 microns is nothing but "the thickness of a hair". So what is one micron? Clearly, an eightieth of a hair's thickness- but since you haven't seen a hair sliced 80 times, the brain classifies micron into 'too difficult to handle' box and sends a signal to the mouth to create- keep quiet.

For that reason it is almost impossible to impress any watch enthusiast with micron tolerances.

But small numbers are not our problem right now. Try this one: 1 billion dollars. To be honest, brains capable of understanding the size of 1 billion are very few and far between.
Have you ever seen a billion dollars in cash? Don't hold your breath – you won't see it any time soon.
Let me help you to translate this monster into something you have seen, something tangible and very real: $1 billion can buy a modern, state of the art, brand new hospital.
So every time you hear "one billion" think of one super modern hospital with 1000 beds, 300 specialists, 500 nurses and all the supporting admin staff. (The Northern Beaches hospital in Sydney is only half a billion dollar facility, with a 500-bed capacity. Actually, I don't believe we have even one single hospital with a 1000-bed capacity)
Empowered with this mental image, let's crunch some billion dollar numbers.
Australians spend $242 billion on gambling every year. That is 242 hospitals. In the month of March, during self-isolation, the amount spent on online gambling is up by 32%.
Australian Government Stimulus package: $214 billion. That is 214 hospitals worth of money pouring into our economy, right now, as we speak. Money that comes from two sources: either redirected from funding other projects and largely, as a loan yet to be repaid in the future.
Of course, we know that it takes years of planning and budgeting just to build ONE hospital. All of a sudden, we have money to 'buy' 214. Talking about all of us, collectively, getting rich overnight.
But, the only way to repay that loan would be to collect more in taxes in years to come. My prediction, the best case scenario would be: GST increasing to 15%; Personal income tax top bracket to 59%. And this will be good news, because any other alternative would make the 'borrow to grow' musical chair bubble explode even faster.
Of course, if you are an American, then you have even a bigger stimulus number to crunch: FOUR trillion (four thousand hospitals). Good luck with that...
I am sure you've seen this before, but if you haven't here it is... the scariest clock on the planet:


The victimless crime: inflated valuation scam

The glory days of this scam were the 1970's and 80's. The scam is known as ‘inflated jewellery valuations.’ What is fascinating to me is that the scam was pulled off by three parties working in harmony defrauding each other, while each participant in the scheme considered themselves the perfect example of honesty and professionalism.

Participant 1: jewellery owner. A typical profile: mature lady who has never worked a day in her life (doctor's widow).
Participant 2: a 'reputable' jeweller who prepares the insurance valuation.
Participant 3: Insurance company.

The well-off widow takes her ring to a 'family jeweller' for periodic valuation. The relationship between the two is candid and ongoing. "Oh, I still miss Henry, he was such a gentleman."
"Oh yes, such a gentleman. He never forgot an anniversary, and we always had a special piece for him".
"He had such refined taste. This blood red sapphire ring is so special to me that I never leave the house without it"
"Such a rare gem. Worth a fortune!"
"Well last time you valued it at $15,000. I wonder, how much is it worth today?"
"Leave it with us, we'll do a proper valuation, give it a clean and polish and will call you when it's done".

The ring is revalued to $20,000. The jeweller charges Mrs Doctor's Widow a percentage of the freshly inflated value. Of course, the more the ring is 'worth', the more he charges for a valuation. The ring owner is happy: while the valuation is pricey, she can afford it. It's certainly worth the peace of mind:  in case it gets stolen or is lost, she gets a nice pile of cash.

The insurance company is over the moon: a new, higher valuation means an increase in her premium. They love enthusiastic jewellers and widows who look after their rings.

So, have you figured out why this seemingly innocent fraud works so well? It is for one reason only: jewellers charging a percentage of the ring valuation.

Imagine the alternative scenario: a flat charge and honest appraisal. "Your ring is worth the same as it did five years ago. You don't need a new valuation". But what kind of valuer would say that and risk ruining a relationship with the customer, and deprive himself of easy money? He knows too well that if he does not inflate the valuation, the old lady will take the ring to his competition.

Over the years I have seen a piles and piles of over inflated valuations not only on jewellery, but on gold watches as well.  Back in the 1980's they were so prevalent that almost every inquiry that started with “I've found my grandma's gold watch valued at $25,000" required pointing out the obvious: a $25K gold ladies watch is extremely rare. Time to curb your enthusiasm!

And in the majority of cases, those gold ladies watches, as pretty as they are, are due for an overhaul, restoration, or at least polishing before they can be sold. Beautifully crafted, they are never considered of any collectable value. They are what they are: a piece of jewellery, a token of love, a romantic memory, an anniversary present, invaluable to the recipient, but of very little resale value - neither back then, and even less today.

As cruel and heartbreaking as it may sound: a large majority of ladies’ gold watches are worth their weight in gold, at scrap metal value, and a few hundred dollars on top for the mechanism. To a watchmaker, tiny diamonds and precious stones have no value, nor do they have much value to jewellers. Most painfully of all, even with the prettiest gold watches: finding a ladies wrist that would match the size of that of a 1950's gold bracelet is next to impossible - bracelets are always either too large or too tight, too narrow or too wide.

So, if your 'family jeweller' still charges a percentage of the value on an item to be valued, refuse to be a sheep to be sheared. His job is to determine and assign a realistic value, and that piece of expertise has nothing to do with the value of the item itself - it is based on the amount of research work required - that's all.

We do not do jewellery valuations, only watch valuations of two types: a standard one at a fixed price of $100. That would include almost any 'easy to research' watch like a modern Rolex, Omega or Breitling. The second category: vintage watches like 1960's-70 Rolex sports models which may require partial disassembly, additional sets of photos and a water resistance test. Such valuation could take a couple of hours to prepare and we charge $200.                          

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Richest Man in Babylon

The measuring station in the workshop
This morning I got out of bed with three key thoughts on my mind. For a change, all three were good news.

The first one is really an answer for a number of watch enthusiasts who have contacted us recently- these are cashed up buyers who are eager to snatch up ‘super bargains’. Basically, they are looking for desperate sellers under enormous pressure to offload quality stock quickly. The good news here is that there aren’t any distressed sellers on the market as of today. Yes, many people have lost their jobs or been temporarily laid off, but in the past four weeks have we seen no signs of severe desperation.

Now if you think that I am cynical then it’s time to point out something very obvious: second hand watch dealers are no different to any other commodity dealers. The safest time to trade is in equilibrium- in other words, when times are normal and the supply and demand are balanced. When stock is too expensive or too cheap traders and dealers sit on the sideline and watch for any developments. I personally don’t like buying heavily distressed stock. A seller who sells his watch for a fraction of what it is worth is not a happy customer, and you won’t ever see him again. Of course, we don’t know where we are heading from now on but my gut feeling is that the worst is behind us and with a bit of luck we will weather the storm.

The second piece of good news is that our new team member James (we call him Jimmy) is fitting in nicely. We are at the end of the second week of his probation so I asked him last night just two short questions. First, what was the most exciting workshop moment so far? And second, have we met his expectations? I am a little bit embarrassed sharing this with you, but I will anyway:

"After two weeks here at NHW, I have experienced a small range of the processes that it takes to make a watch. It has given me a much greater appreciation for watchmaking and precision manufacturing. The most exciting moment I have had so far has been seeing our Kern Pyramid Nano (5 – Axis Machining centre) running the program I created for it and seeing the parts it produced. It’s an amazing feeling to take a drawing and turn it into reality for the first time with the mind-blowing precision that the Pyramid Nano offers. I look forward to a time when I can produce high precision and high-quality parts efficiently and confidently.

Have my first two weeks on the job met my expectations?

Working at NHW has exceeded my expectations. Honestly, I was not sure what to expect, but when I first met Nick at a Watch Talk Night in Sydney and heard him talk about how one of his most important roles is to be a facilitator of learning and development, I knew that the workshop here in Brookvale would be a great learning environment. In that respect it is exactly what I was expecting.

What I did not expect was how important the ‘precision mindset’ was to the everyday operations here. To manufacture watch movements demands a ‘100% precision 100% of the time approach’. This approach must be in the back of your mind the whole time, from design, to prototyping and through to manufacturing and assembly." 

Of course this is still the honeymoon phase, but I really hope that we will continue to grow together. We will keep you informed.

The third bit of good news I have for you today is a link to a free PDF download of one of the most important books ever written. The title is "The Richest Man in Babylon." I first read it 25 years ago and I read it again almost every year. This book is compulsory reading for all our staff and apprentices. The book was written in 1926 but its content is relevant now more than ever. If you haven't read it, I cannot think of a better time than today.

Link to PDF of "The Richest Man in Babylon":

Thursday, April 16, 2020

NH2 Timascus Update: No. 13

Hyakutake ("The Great Comet") was discovered on 31st January 1996 and its passage near the Earth was one of the closest cometary approaches of the previous 200 years. Hyakutake appeared very bright in the night sky and was widely seen around the world.

This one is 'The Naked Timascus'. Before the timascus pops its colours, this is what it looks like- grey. We were always intrigued as to how the grey movement would look... should we leave this timascus movement raw, as it is? It kind of reminds me of a meteorite. Last night, we assembled the NH2... and Hyakutake is such a cool nickname.

Watch the video here:

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Update from the workshop

The tool pictured here is a spindle probe, the main function of which is to find the location of a bore (hole) in the pictured timascus mainplate. The ruby ball at the end of the probe will touch eight points inside the hole in order to calculate the diameter of the bore and its location in the XY plane to an accuracy of +/- 1.5um (micron/micrometre). 1 Micron is about 1/80th of the width of a human hair!

This tool is currently being used in the workshop to re-machine a timascus mainplate. This is due to the fact that one bore amongst a group of over 50 in the mainplate was slightly too small. Therefore, around 20um on the internal diameter needs to be taken off. So as not to disturb the location of the hole, Josh is probing it to find the true location before making any lasting alterations i.e. cutting it.

The hole is about 2.5mm in diameter, the ruby at the end of the probe is 2mm in diameter, and the endmill being used to cut off the 20um is 0.8mm in diameter which is about 10 human hairs wide! All in all, the hole has been made 0.02mm bigger. This has been a great opportunity for our new recruit James to witness first-hand how sensitive the dimensions are of these fixtures and parts  made by us in house.

We have been re-machining the mainplate to be bigger than the first iterations because the incabloc (the shock protection device for the balance wheel) was being deformed when press-fit into the hole.

A rather technical update for you- but an insight on one element of the manufacturing process that we have been lucky enough to continue with during this time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Making do

We’ve written articles before about doing some watchmaking work at home for the humble hobbyist. Strap and cell replacements, maybe a 7S26 DIY (hint hint for those with nothing to do). Well now it’s time for your humble apprentice to get a slice of the at-home watchmaker pie. It’s easy enough to just tell someone to set up at home and get started. Here are three tips and tricks (without repeating tool selection and so on from previous articles) I have recently discovered that will hopefully make your setup a little smoother. I obviously have it very good in the city and one thing that comes with living a life of luxury is that when you no longer do, it’s easy to see what you’ve taken for granted.

First up. A desk/bench. You may remember from a couple of days ago my quest to acquire a desk (Thursday delivery can’t come soon enough). It is absolutely crucial to have one for the safety of your watch components and your trapezius muscles. My suggestions for a desk; Best case scenario, you’ll get a fully fitted Bergeon, Boley, or Crevoisier. Some can be fitted with a dust extraction hood, fully enclosed, vacuum pump for handling parts without tweezers, lockable drawers, electronic height adjustment, and the list goes on. You can even get an inert gas assembly chamber (obviously so once the watch is sealed, no oxygen is trapped inside which prevents corrosion). Don’t be surprised if you have to sell all the watches you were going to work on just to get it. Sane person’s scenario, IKEA’s Skarsta.

There is a cult following for the Skarsta amongst sit/stand desk forums. Yes such forums exist and they are a plenty. It is one of the best value for money desks and the one that I purchased. Why sit/stand? Well you can use it as a desk normally or raise it up to height for watchmaking (I’d say around 90cm for a human of average height sitting with correct office posture). Unfortunately you may have a hard time getting one. Whilst IKEA is business as usual, I am pretty sure I bought the last one in the state. Soz not soz. Pro tip, I’ve seen people use wide duct tape by putting the tape around the sides and back of the desk half on the edge and half free above the desk. This will stop most parts flying off.
Secondly, I would suggest some proper storage. For parts and for tools. Whatever you get, make sure you can close it well enough so that little pet animals (that includes humans) can’t get their grubby prying fingers all over your birth year red sub dial and hands whilst you aren’t looking. You probably won’t need much so a small arts and crafts type chest of drawers to go under your desk is a good bet. For on top, usually your tools are spread out all over the desk. Personally, I hate that. Only my currently being used screwdrivers, lubricant, and rodico are around me as I work. If I need anything else, it gets used and then promptly put back exactly where it goes, away from me. When parts flick out of tweezers, they’ll be much easier to find. Again, little paintbrush storage type boxes are usually a light, cheap, and organised solution. Having to box up an entire workstation and put it in the second bedroom makes it difficult to find the motivation to unbox everything again tomorrow.
Third, distraction control. Really with these three things you’re good to go. But poor distraction control will negate even the best desk and storage. Lock yourself up, lock everyone else up, or live on your own. Those are your options. You don’t want nefarious, degenerate creatures (that includes humans), to start climbing on things, asking annoying questions, meowing. They will make your life difficult and you risk component damage. By them or indeed by you. However it is nice to have someone to bring you snacks and coffee every now and again. Please in the name of Saint Eligius (patron saint of watchmaking although most believe it should be Breguet and rightfully so), do not eat near your work.


Timsacus: R and D continues

If you have two components that are friction fit together, where the first one is very soft and other very hard and rigid, how do you calculate a tolerance band for that fit? Well, any theoretical calculation is still only a ‘best guess’ – until the components are machined, decorated and finally fitted together.

Practically, what is the ‘correct size hole’ for the incabloc assembly? And most importantly, at what diameter is that hole either too large or too small? This is the kind of information that Swiss watchmakers are not going to tell you, so you have to figure that out by yourself. And even if they would be prepared to disclose their best kept secret, they couldn’t- because none of them use tricomponent Titanium alloy to manufacture watch main plates.

I am very pleased to share some good news: at this point in time we have reached another milestone in our ‘manufactured in Australia’ project. It is based on the following:

-    ability to ‘read’ DNA of this rather delicate assembly
-    measure existing components fast and compare results automatically,
-    design and machine test pieces in Timascus, re-measure them at sub-micron level,
-    then create numerous variations of the same feature in diameter steps of 2 microns,
-    friction assembly of components
-    investigate deformation of ‘soft’ incabloc housing
-    find the tolerance band
-    to manufacture multiple main plates, while keeping the tolerances consistently within the band.                   


A message to makers

If you make things and sign them with your name, then you are a maker. Chocolate maker, or an artist, painter, architect, chair maker, knife maker - a chef or mom who makes the most delicious home made food every day- you have the right to call yourself a maker. You make one of a kind, one at a time, with pride, artistically and passionately.

And here is the punch line: only a maker knows the true value of his work; and it is only the maker who can attach the price tag to his creation.  Makers don't care about market value, to some imaginary 'law of supply and demand '; indeed, what is demand for a sculpture or a painting, or an object skillfully carved out of wood or precious metal?

Makers, don't sell yourself cheap. The general public will never appreciate your 'product' more than you do, and it is your responsibility to stick to your asking price, no matter what. Sure, you may go hungry, but if you believe in yourself and your craft then it's better not to make a sale, then to sell at a discounted rate.

Let me share my six reasons why I cannot afford to discount my watches.

"Hey Nick, love your work but times are tough so how about some discount? I see other Australian watch brands offering fantastic deals. Surely there is room to move in price?"

1. Slim profit margin is a cancer. Businesses which generate cash-flow by discounting products will eventually go out of business.  I cannot afford that!
2. In the past 7 years, over 800 rebelde and NH watches have been sold. The main reason why our customers bought them is because they love the story behind the watch and they want to support our 'Manufactured in Australia' project. They have put their trust and hard-earned cash in me. Not one single watch was sold with a discount, ever. If I were to discount them now - because times are tough - our current owners would rightly feel cheated and betrayed. They will lose a faith in the project. Call me a dreamer, but I am not a cheat.
3. When we take up new apprentices, I promise them years of learning as well as steady wage growth. Watchmaking is a trade worth sacrificing for. But if my watches are sold for less today that what they were sold for last week, apprentices would have every right to call me a liar. I am not a liar.
4. There are many watch brands who happily offer discounts. You land on their website, and before you even start browsing, a pop-up banner comes up with 10% discount. Even 40% on 'all stock' is not uncommon. What does that tell you about the passion for their brand, watchmaking and long-term commitment? I can only think of one thing: cheap junk made in China, sold as "Australian brand" with enormous profit margin to gullible buyers who can't tell the difference between quality and hype. I stand for quality.
5. I am a third generation Master Watchmaker and I am not going to apologize for that. Unlike my competition, I know what makes a watch tick.  I have repaired tens of thousands of watches, the majority of them high grade, before I even considered starting my own brand. Do you seriously believe that a 57-year-old Master Watchmaker should fear 'competition' from another 'brand' run by a clueless online kid? A watch proudly signed 'Assembled in Australia' or 'Manufactured in Australia' has no competition. We have invested millions of dollars of our own money into a high precision manufacturing facility which makes us a leader in our field.  Yes, we are a micro business, but an unchallenged leader in our field. Leaders don't discount.

6. Watches which bear a name of a real maker are never discounted. I would rather not sell a watch that bears my name then to discount it for even a dollar. My family name is not for sale.

And neither is yours, my fellow maker. 

Knifemaker Feature: Part 3

"I meant to write you lot earlier but just got time for it, I hope you are well and having a good Easter. 

My story is back in 2005 as a chef I wanted to use the best tools available to be more efficient at my craft and I soon realized common brand name knives weren't up to the task. 

They were made with "ease of production" in mind rather than the cutting performance, comfort, quality of the steel or the heat treatment; all of which determines the edge and the longevity of the tool. 
After much research I moved from German knives to Japanese and then to custom ones made to my specs by custom knife makers.  
However even with the custom ones I felt like there were a few things missing to make the cutting more enjoyable so I decided to start making my own knives to use in my kitchen in 2013. 
I visited well known makers here in Australia and in the USA to learn how to forge blades, make San Mai and Damascus. One year later I was getting custom orders for knives from all over the world and building a strong reputation for my knives cutting ability. 
After winning best new maker and best kitchen knife at a couple of shows I was getting more and more requests for custom work and was being featured in knife magazines. In April 2018, I hung up my chef jacket to become a full time knife maker.
I am based in East Branxton, Hunter valley, NSW, here are some pictures of my work.
Mert Tansu"

Instagram: tansu_knives

Thursday, April 9, 2020

That's the way the cookie crumbles

This is not a joke.

Superman walks into the George Street Starbucks, in his freshly ironed shirt and crisp red cape.
"Mate, a large Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino please".
The kid goes: "That would be $5. Your name?"
"FIVE DOLLARS? It was $4.50 last time. So, the price went up, huh?"
"No Sir, Mocha Cookie Crumble was always $5."
"I reckon kid, Starbucks is a bit of a rip-off joint, isn't it?"
says Superman while melting the Eftpos machine with his laser eye vision.

“That is a fictional scenario!” you say. “You've just made this up.”

It is 2:24 pm, Wednesday. Almost every single watch repair shop in Sydney is closed, as are almost all other shops - of any kind.

The doorbell rings. "I am a barrister from upstairs. Can you please replace a battery in my divers watch?"

Cheerfully and happily Gemma replies with an overly enthusiastic YES! "We can do it practically straight away; I'll call you when it's done."

She brings the watch to me for a quick assessment. Not a big deal, it is a straight forward Japanese divers watch. A battery replacement, light case clean and water pressure testing- $35.

"Hmm.... that much?" - asks the barrister. "I don't need the water pressure testing, just a battery".

I can feel the sudden rush of blood, time to step in.

"Is $35 too much?"
"Yes, I think it is."
"Then take it elsewhere."
"This is an easy and simple job
" he persists.
"I don't comment on your charges, or how difficult or easy your job is, do I?"
"All I am saying is $35 is bit too much".
"All I am saying is take it elsewhere, close the bloody door and go away".

But he doesn't. Like a pissed Superman, he continues to explain his case to Gemma, who is now confused, unsure of what to do.

The only way to get rid of him - is to give up and give in.

Mark my words - it won't be coronavirus that will wipe us out of business - it will be those stingy barristers from Culwulla Chambers.