Friday, June 26, 2020

There is a cure

This happens about once per year. And it happened last night. But I swear on George Daniels’ grave- it won't ever happen again.

The game is simple: a man in his late thirties calls to make an appointment. To a logical and very servile question "which watch is of interest?" he replies with a vague "I am not sure, what do you have in stock?" My assistant suggests a visit to our website where our entire (fairly modest) range of watches is listed in detail. Unfortunately, the caller refuses to take up the suggestion, determined to make an appointment to "discuss the matter in person" and inspect "whatever it is in stock".

Of course, in most cases that is not a problem, I am happy to help. But when that 'customer' arrives with a bunch of friends who are there to 'help', and when the crowd realizes that I am a small dealer who doesn't have any steel Daytonas, Hulks, or Batmans - or for that matter any watches on display - the buyer and his mates quickly become arrogant, agitated, and verbally abusive.

The mob is always of the same appearance: three white males, aged 30-40, wearing semi-designer clothes and Panerai, Hublot and Rolex watches. Big mouths, always in a pack, trying hard to insert their dominance, while faking disappointment.

Fruitless. Because trying to intimidate and frustrate a 57 year old, chubby, glasses-wearing watchmaker is as cowardly as it gets. It serves no purpose.

Over the decades I have had countless dealings with tens of thousands of men and women, of all ages, status and social backgrounds. From directors of multibillion dollar corporations, politicians, and bankers, to man who wears firearms for a living, and those who can settle any matter with one hit. With men of modest physique, but with great charm, a sense of humour and sense for fashion. Sophisticated alpha males. Great leaders. Decision makers. Tough men and women who work hard to make an honest living doing mundane jobs. Men of integrity and experts in their fields of activity - who all have one thing in common: a love for watches. And that dealing was and is always, without exception, based on mutual trust and mutual respect. Alpha males can achieve whatever they want (which is always a win-win outcome) without resorting to intimidation, abuse, aggression or cheating.

Men who gain pleasure by abusing the weak, who waste time, who get 'upset' over invisible scratches, men who are on a constant quest for perfection - while so painfully obviously imperfect themselves - who start the conversation with 'so what is your best deal' and who send 10 emails to complain about delayed shipping - all those men have one thing in common: they 'act' tough because they are impotent. And there is nothing more pathetic than three impotent, anonymous, ignorant men trying hard to intimidate a watchmaker.

The bad news is that joining a Rolex Forum or visiting local dealers and watchmakers ‘doing rounds’ will not solve the problem. However, the good news is that nowadays, erectile dysfunction can be treated with non-surgical methods. Yes, it may cost a Hublot or two, or even a Hulk, but if this is the price to be paid to sort out frustrations - it would be worth it, for sure.

Until then: take your frustrations elsewhere, visit by appointment only, and if you show up in a group of three or more – sorry, no entry.

Nicholas Hacko,
Master Watchmaker


The world is running out of watch gears!

Or more precisely - our need for small diameter precision gears is diminishing fast. Some of you surely remember tape recorders, turntables, cassette players and video recorders - all the electronic equipment which contained more mechanical moving parts - and especially gears of all kind- than electronic components. Not to mention billions of domestic alarm clocks, small desk clocks, travel clocks, parking meters, water and gas meters, kilowatt hours meters - all gone, replaced with their electronic or digital version which no longer contain any gears whatsoever.

Yes, ironically the only consumer product which still requires high precision small diameter wheels and pinions is a high grade mechanical watch. And consequently, what once was commonly made in high volume and high precision, built to last for hundreds of years - the watch wheel - has become rare and incredibly hard and expensive to manufacture.

Trying to not just restart but to start from scratch a whole industrial precision process of making watch gears in Australia is an enormous challenge. There is not a single Australian business even attempting to setup itself for such a niche task, and to state that our journey is unique would be an understatement.

In today's episode Josh, Andrew and myself are sharing with you the first steps of our quest for 'in-house watch gear making'. We talk about challenges, timelines, production costs and gear making equipment setup in our Brookvale workshop. The reason we talk about this is threefold: we want to keep you informed and excited; it is a diary of a rather special project where the focus on learning grossly overweighs the profit, and finally, we share our know-how with anyone who may one day face the same problems as we face today, so they can learn from our experience.

The video itself is not overly technical and if you love watches, you'll love the story of what makes your watch tick. I am sure you will find it interesting.

As you will find once again, our project is running on 'passion for precision and excitement for horology'. In order to continue further, to continue making and most importantly training young Australian kids, we need your support. Your support is absolutely essential and it could be as simple as clicking the like button on YouTube. Each like counts. And if you do like our video, make sure you subscribe as well. Subscription is just one more click, which will cost you nothing, yet it will mean a lot to keeping our channel active. Liking and subscribing is FREE and takes less than a second. Rolex and Omega don't make videos like we do, nor do they expect your support - nor do they care about Australian manufacturing like you and we do.

To watch the video, go to:

Of course, buying a $9 mug or $35 shirt would be even better. Again, the benefit is purely yours - we sell mugs at cost and we only make a few dollars on shirts. We are not begging you to buy our watch - new or second hand - you'll buy it when you are ready, in your own time. That's fine.                           

Case polishing explained

Last week we published a photo of before and after of a Rolex case polishing job undertaken by Bobby, second year apprentice.
The polishing was done by hand using just various grades of emery paper and a wooden stick, with mirror finish achieved on a rotating buff wheel (cotton disc and polishing medium).
The end result speaks for itself. We posted the photos on Instagram inviting our followers to rate the job anywhere between 6 and 9 out of 10. As we expected, almost all marked the job with top grade.  What we didn't expect: this photo was one of the three most liked posts with over 600 likes.

Yet a couple of watch enthusiasts couldn't help but to offer rather strange opinions on the matter. There were two complaints:
1. Case polishing is bad because it removes patina
2. Hand polishing and especially buffing on the wheel is a 'bad' method. Watch cases should be lapped, not polished.
Yes, for some, case polishing is a controversial issue.  Allow me to defuse it for you and help you understand the fundamentals.
Once you understand those fundamentals then you will be able to make an educated decision.

What is patina?
Patina is a green or brown film on the surface of bronze or similar metals, produced by oxidation over a long period. Patina is also a gloss or sheen on a surface of antique furniture resulting from age or polishing.
Please note: we use same term to describe completely different effects created in different manner on two different surfaces: bronze and wood. Yet in both cases, it is the patina - whether it is the sign of natural ageing, polishing with shellac and oxidation- which gives an object the distinctive 'naturally aged' shine and colour.
It takes no expert to appreciate that a fine bronze sculpture should not be polished (only dusted!), neither should a fine French polished antique table be stripped down to bare wood or attacked with aggressive polishing agents. We leave bronze and wood alone- to age naturally.
Stainless steel which is used in modern watches is a different story altogether. Ideally, stainless steel does not oxidize - so it cannot develop any patina whatsoever. The oxidation process of steel is simply called rust. Pitting is actually worse than surface rust - it is a nasty corrosion which kills the water resistance of watch cases. Since almost all modern watch cases are nowadays made of stainless steel, titanium or precious metal, we don't associate the term 'patina' with watch cases.  To use the term 'patina' on any watch case except bronze, is grossly inappropriate.

Stainless steel cases leave the watch factory with a variety of surfaces: polished, gloss, mirror finish, brushed, sand blasted. General expectations with modern watch servicing are to at least improve the condition of scratched cases, if not to return them to as close to original finish where possible. Again, not to preserve any patina - because there is no patina to be preserved.

"Please don't polish - I like my scratched case!"
Fair enough! If your wish is to have all the bruise marks, dents and scratches 'preserved' than who am I to argue with your choice? Indeed, some watch owners are very particular in this respect. However, it is important to point out the obvious:  a vast majority of MODERN watch owners would prefer polished cases and bracelets, restored it to 'like new condition'.  Scratches are bad and undesirable. Disagree? Would you intentionally scratch your new car? Or a brand-new laptop, mobile phone - or a brand-new watch? Removing scratches is DESIRABLE. It's good. It's fine. Removing scratches is difficult, and we don't do it just for fun or to impress you, so relax and enjoy your new polished surface!
However - there is an exception to this rule: unlike modern watches, rare, high value vintage watches SHOULD NOT BE POLISHED. Not because they are worth more when scratched, but because polishing - and in some cases even cleaning- could significantly reduce chances of assessing the originality of both external and internal parts. All the scratches, dings and dents help us to determinate if the watch is original or a Frankenstein put together from new and old parts, or a watch which has been restored correctly - or not.

Polishing is an inferior alternative to lapping
Yes, it is true that almost all modern stainless-steel watch cases and bracelets are polished with the help of modern multi-million-dollar CNC machinery, fully automated, in a process which no longer involves human touch. The final step of that polishing process is lapping. Lapping is a technique where a liquid polishing medium is applied between the work-piece (watch case) surface and a lapping plate. Due to the nature and geometry of those lapping plates, as well as highly controllable lapping action, this automated process produces very uniform surfaces which retain geometry. In other words, polished ‘edges’ are crisp, defined and 'sharp'. They look like they have been defined and polished by robots - which they are.
In other words, when it comes to case finishing, nothing beats machine lapping. Unfortunately, lapping is highly specialized process and your independent watchmaker is either not set for lapping, or when he is able to offer such service, it is only to a limited number of watch cases / shapes / brands. It is a trade in itself - and quite frankly, has nothing to do with watchmaking. To expect your independent small watchmaker to offer case refurbishment service equal to those of mega-brand is simply unrealistic: the same as expecting everyone to fly first class or drive a Ferrari.

"Oh NO! You've polished my watch and rounded the lug! I am devastated!!"
Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world, and we have to put up with compromise. Watch polishing is ALWAYS a compromise. At the end of the day, you have to answer this question for yourself: which one would I prefer - "before" or "after"? Because this is all we can offer. Polished cases could mean some very minor 'rounding'. This is just a nature of the polishing process, especially when done by hand. However, an experienced polisher is well aware of the process and will do everything possible to keep the wheel buffing action just for the final mirror finish. When we remove scratches, we use a range of abrasive papers and films, in various grades, which takes a majority of polishing time and this is why our results are as per photo.
Not good enough for you? Well, the best polished case is - case replaced. For that, you need to talk to your watch brand service department. We can consistently offer; 6, 7 or 8 out of 10. On a good day - even a solid nine. For perfection see our competition.

There is no such thing as patina on steel cases. Scratches are bad, so take a good care of your watch and you won't need frequent polishing. Polishing is time consuming, requires skills- therefore expensive. Learn to live with small imperfections -life is not perfect. Be happy with the end result - returning the watch case to 'brand new condition' is impossible!

The most abused horological masterpieces

are pocket watches. Butchered, slaughtered, molested then discarded. Being larger than wrist watches, pocket watches are simply a magnet for 'wannabe watchmakers'.
Here is a perfect example of a 1920 pocket watch made by Moser and Cie. Heinrich Moser was a famous watchmaker who set up his shop in St. Petersburg. His clients included Russian princes and members of the Imperial court. Lenin also owned a Moser watch.

The original click (ratchet locking lever) was most likely missing and while the intentions were good, the lack of skills and watchmaking tools is evident.

Yet bizarrely, this crude, oversized click functions - and the watch works!

I happen to have another Moser pocket watch in my collection, so you can see how the original click looks like.

But then again, perhaps, there could be another side of this 'less than perfect' restoration. What if the owner of the watch was positioned on a remote Siberian island? Or even worse - if he was a prisoner in Stalin's gulag, maybe an engineer who understood what the function of the click spring was, but had no tools - other than crude workshop tools - to make a sophisticated replacement?

We should be not too quick to judge and ridicule. And sometimes, trying to 'fix the wrong' could cause even more injustice to our appreciation of humanity and history.

My rule is simple: whatever it is - if you didn’t make it, you have no rights to destroy it. If you really feel compelled to destroy something, then here is a suggestion - start with destroying your own masterpieces.            

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

You are invited

I am a big believer in self promotion.

If you don't tell the world what you stand for or what you are capable of doing, or what specialist service you provide to make customer's life easier and better, then you will die as an old, lonely, poor man.

And if there ever was a self promoting business then it's Rolex. Without doubt, it was Rolex who figured out that even a modest, basic timepiece could be transformed into a luxury item when enough money is poured into advertising. To this day, Rolex advertises and self promotes mercilessly. Yet you will never hear a Rolex owner complaining about Rolex's self-promotion.

On Sunday night Josh, Andrew, Bobby and myself spent a couple of hours in our Brookvale workshop recording a video. The plan was simple: not to advertise, but to share. To invite you to be part of our journey. We want to show you our excitement about what we do. Summed up in one word: watchmaking is hard. It's equally as hard for Swiss, German, American, Chinese and Japanese, as it is hard for a small Australian startup. On Sunday we watched 8 inspiring YouTube videos: Patek, Lange, Greubel Forcey, Leroy and we've felt encouraged to keep pressing on. We also felt compelled to recommend those videos to you, so your appreciation of watchmaking will continue to grow. These videos are not a mere brand advertisement but a journey 'deep down' to a very personal, human level, showing the real people who make real watch parts. You will be impressed with our selection.

Watch it here:

PS if you would like to tip us- just leave a friendly comment, like and subscribe. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Creating your own watch: Three mistakes we made that you should avoid

No script, no editing, raw from the camera. We've tried to answer the most common question asked by enthusiastic watchmakers / brand makers: how do you get your name on a watch dial? Where does one start? And this is a tough question to answer.

Do you start by making a watch George Daniels' way -a million dollar masterpiece- or by kick-starting a campaign selling $100 watches? Or perhaps there is something in-between? Neither Josh nor I are experts, but we've tried to attack the question by sharing some 'behind the scenes' details of our Mark One project. Who is to blame for the 3 major mistakes which resulted in a 12 month delay? What have we learned along the way? Was the project worth the trouble and have we achieved our goals?

If you are a Mark One owner then you will enjoy this video. And if you are considering a Mark One watch then this is a great opportunity to learn more, not just about the watch, but more importantly about the project itself- a project you will be proud to support. Yes, we do mention names but we search for answers- remaining brutally honest. 

Of course, make sure to subscribe, and if you do enjoy it, then please click the like button.

To watch our video click here:

Friday, June 5, 2020

Freedom to Make, Right to Repair

Order received yesterday, thanks. I think that's the fastest delivery during this whole isolation thing, congratulations. 
The loupes are lovely. The gold polishing cloth is magic. The mug is awesome. I have attached a photo of E07 with it. 
Have a great day, 
Stephen from Melbourne

Timascus Update: No. 17

"The insane intensity of Timascus"

Yes, this is the actual nickname of the seventeenth piece in our Timascus series which was snatched up within minutes of being assembled. 

Currently, No. 18 which is predominantly a green plasma pattern, is assembled and I expect it to be completed by the end of June. Right now, the only two Timascus watches in stock and ready for delivery are J013, and J015.