Thursday, October 14, 2021

Did you know that only 7% of Grand Seiko watches are sold outside Japan?

 

Japanese are orderly, polite, sophisticated and proudly nationalistic. In a way, the society is still feudal, with strict stratification, customs and regulations. With a population of 125 million, huge buying power and strong nationalistic support for "Made in Japan", Japan's domestic market is a perfect example of a rather unique phenomenon: it is a great environment for a strong, sophisticated brand to thrive. If it was much bigger and more open, there would be far more competition and less profit to be made; and on a smaller market, there will be not enough support for growth and longevity.

For the Japanese, tradition is the way of living. Once a brand or a product reaches that status of being a truly national icon, support - and longevity - is guaranteed. A perfect example is Seiko: a company which managed to establish itself first as a domestic behemoth, then as a true global brand. Again, this success story would not be possible to replicate anywhere else in the world – only in Japan.

Over the weekend, an email arrived in my inbox:

"Hello Master Watchmaker, Mr. Hacko.

I'm a fan of your YouTube video, especially restoration videos of iconic vintage watches around the world. I'm sending this email because I've come across an interesting YouTube video showing how real-life JNR drivers are using their SEIKO watches. Thought you might like it.


https://youtu.be/jMSsZFuI060

Unfortunately, the video doesn't have any English subtitles, so I'll explain what the video is so that you may be able to, at least, guess what's going on. It's a 2013 documentary showing what a JNR Shinkansen driver's life is like. This particular route at the time achieved the top speed of 320km/h. As a part of his driving "tools", he carries a Seiko pocket watch. His schedule is specified in up to 15 seconds increments on the chart (not 15 minutes). The Shinkansen even has a special spot on the instrument panel for the watch so that the driver can keep track of exact departure/arrival time on every station on the route. The highlight of the video, I think, is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMSsZFuI060&t=819s

The train is supposed to arrive at Tokyo station at 18:08, 00 sec flat. The video shows if he was able to make it by showing another JNR pocket watch. It's quite amazing.

Hope you'll like the video.
Masayuki N"


Whether you are Seiko fan or not, you should watch this video. The core message is simple: there are still watch brands out there which put technology, product development, precision and timekeeping ahead of 'artificial branding'. Unlike Swiss megabrands, Seiko does not need to invent their history, nor to worry about the future - as long as Japanese society remains as is.

Enjoy it.
Bugs on Shinkansen bonnet, photo taken by Michael during his 2019 Japan trip.                         
                   

Friday, October 8, 2021

NH3 Project update

A very productive week! As I type this, the seventh NH3 mechanism is just to be assembled. Eighteen to go! 
My role is assembly; as individual parts arrive from the workshop, movements are assembled and adjusted. The main problem is that I am handling components which take days to manufacture and hours to hand finish, so there is no other way but to go slowly and carefully. A slip of a screwdriver could turn a perfect part into a write-off, which does happen occasionally. Hand finished parts are quite different to handle than mass produced, mass finished parts. The other problem is deteriorating eyesight. But what really drives me crazy is that constant pursuit for perfection: under the eyeglass even the smallest imperfection is impossible to ignore. No customer would ever see such a minute imperfection, but I know it's there. Think of it as one bad pixel on a screen: invisible, until pointed out; and once seen, it becomes something that can not be unseen ever again. To be perfectly honest with you, not one evening I went home feeling completely happy and overly satisfied with my daily performance.

Yet this is precisely how every honest singer, painter and sculptor must have felt about their own work. Many artists sabotaged, ruined or destroyed their artworks as a result of displeasure. Claude Monet allegedly slashed at least 30 of his water lily canvases. 

On the other hand, if watchmaking was easy, then everyone would do it. There is a limit to scrutiny. No one in his right mind would go over a model's face with 10 times magnification. That would be inappropriate, disrespectful and intrusive. Even the most beautiful faces on the cover of Vogue magazine have tiny wrinkles, facial hair and pimples hidden by layers of makeup, photoshopped away. 

Settling for imperfection is not just s sign of maturity. In the real world, this is the only possible outcome because perfection simply doesn't exist.
Yet, we have nothing to hide. It is all here: https://www.instagram.com/nicholashackowatch/
Under magnification, open to public scrutiny and for your enjoyment.  

Gear polishing - The final frontier, Part 1

By Josh Hacko
With the NH3 project, and all future watch developments, there are some unknowns that keep me up at night. Things that worry me and that are seemingly beyond reach. But the night is darkest before the dawn, and routinely in hindsight I can say that I worried too much.

Not the case with gear polishing.

Gear manufacture at the best of times is an extremely complex process with multiple variables and great expense associated with it. All of the complexity and cost is driven by the requirements of the "form" of the teeth. They need to be accurately machined to comply within the strict mathematical limits of the theoretical tooth engagement. Too much clearance, and the gears will have too much backlash, and will lose efficiency. Too little clearance between the gear pair, and there will be excessive wear, a loss of efficiency and in the worst case, no power transmission at all (read - it don't work)!

Watchmaking has even higher requests for this already complex procedure. The concentricity of the teeth to the centre of rotation, the form of the epicycloid profile, the taper and helix angle of the form as it progresses axially - all of these things need to measured, and kept within a very precise tolerance.

The process up until this point for these NH3 ratchet wheels has been as follows: design, material selection, material and tool procurement, fixture design and manufacture, gear blank generation, inspection, lapping, inspection, gear cutting, inspection, hardening, tempering, inspection, lapping... and now - gear polishing.
One of the most important requirements in the list of demands that watchmaking imposes on it's gears is low friction. This means in practical terms that the teeth of the gear need to polished to an incredibly high level to reduce the friction during operation. This is very much "form follows function". Recently I've been seeing many collectors commenting on how "well" gear teeth are being polished, as if it were a cosmetic affair. Sorry to say, for the discerning horologist, the most important and driving reason for gear polishing is either a quest for chronometric accuracy or smooth auxiliary operation (think winding and setting, etc)

So, why did gear polishing keep me up at night?

The technical reason: Well, polishing is a material removal process - you are removing the "high spots" of a surface in the hopes that you will even out the surface and be left with something that is much smoother. Polishing without changing the form so much that it throws you out of the tolerance zone, or being able to polish the whole profile of the tooth evenly, or polishing to a high enough grade, are all difficult challenges that need to be addressed individually, but also in the context of the previous and future operations the gear will undergo.

The personal reason: It's scary.

Our initial thought was to head over to Switzerland to talk to the experts. The people that make the machine to polish the teeth of gears, wheels, and pinions. Throughout our journey we have learned that talking to the experts, paying them top dollar and humbling yourself in their presence is actually the cheapest way to move forward. We did the same with Kern, with Citizen, Affolter and Makino, to make and refine all the other parts of the watch.

While COVID was a large contributor, it was not the biggest obstacle to the pursuit of this knowledge. The biggest obstacle was simply that this company, the keeper of the knowledge behind this tricky science of gear polishing.... didn't exist.

Elevated from a well-defined, scientific process that could be traded for some hard-earned cash - gear polishing became black magic, art, mysticism and a maybe even religion.

Our next step? We needed to become the people that built the machine.

To be continued.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The mighty pen of Aussie horological journalism: Pulitzer spinning in his grave

 This weekend, a number of subscribers alerted me about the latest video on the right to repair movement in the US. In essence, the video shares some good news and buzz with optimism. The right to repair is something we stand for firmly and it is one of the most important issues of horology which directly and equally impacts both independent watchmakers and watch owners alike. Meaning: we are into it together, for the common good and common benefit.


The video to watch is this one: Apple Store vs Repair Shop. It explains in detail, in simple terms, what the issue is all about. You can literally replace Apple with any $wi$$ megabrand, and computer with watch - and the story would ring the same. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NCjoUx-KLI


After being involved in this issue for almost a decade, there are a couple of details in this puzzle you should be aware of. Both legislators and big brands use some of these quasi arguments to muddy the waters.


1. "The issue is complex". No, it is not. You've watched the video, you've got it. There is nothing complex about an argument which can be summed up in one sentence; you bought the watch, it's yours, and you can do whatever you want with it. This is a very fundamental consumer right. Any fine print to this covenant between you, as the watch owner, and the manufacturer, is simply forced onto you by the manufacturer so he can squeeze as much money out of further repair as possible, or to deem your watch irreparable, forcing you to buy a new one.


2. The role of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is to promote competition and fair trading, and protect consumer’s rights. This is in theory. Practically, the ACCC will only be kicked into action if a sufficient number of consumers (watch owners) seek arbitration and protection. In reality, this is almost impossible. It takes many rowers rowing in unison to overcome a mighty wave. Writing a random letter or two to the ACCC will produce no result. The matter has to be presented with the help of professional lobbyists.


3. Even when the ACCC is notified of monopolist bastardry, there is no urgency to act because the number of 'affected' consumers is pitiful. I have been told to my face, by the ACCC that the Commission is not interested in protecting the rights of a handful of rich people wearing expensive Rolex watches. Not exact words obviously, but that was the bottom line. Case closed. This is why the right to repair movement will only stand a chance if the issue is large enough and affects your ordinary consumer and his widely used gadget - a regular Johnny Appleseed with a broken iPhone.


4. The tsunami wave which constantly and relentlessly pushes our small rowing boat back to shore is generated by $wi$$ corporate mafia. With an unlimited budget to spend on advertising, armed with an army of nasty lawyers, even a National Government body like the ACCC stands no chance. The ACCC is a toothless paper tiger. Every Rolex you buy, every Cartier, Breitling or Panerai you 'invest in' lessens the chances that that brand will ever supply a spare part to you, or your favourite independent watchmaker.


5. The right to repair movement is without a doubt depicted in mainstream media as 'leftist' or at the kindest, as a 'green' or 'environmentalists' type movement. This false rhetoric makes it unsellable to people with a disposable income large enough to afford a luxury $wi$$ watch. The idea of paying less for a watch repair does sound attractive to a Rolex owner, but at the end of the day, paying more for the privilege of dealing with the status symbol brand directly is worth the price and easily justifiable. Especially when Rolex tells you, the owner, that your independent watchmaker is simply too old, too dumb and unwilling to invest, incapable of repairing your 'precious investment'. Right to repair is like that strange cousin who wasted his entire life fighting for justice, clever enough to keep their job, but not clever enough to buy a house overlooking the harbour; one who never gets an invite to the family barbeque because they make everyone around them uncomfortable.


6. I should really stop here - because there is no good news. The right to repair case has been lost in the 1950s at the rise of mega corporations, and today, our fight is purely symbolic in nature. Yes, we will continue to print freedom mugs and produce YouTube videos, write and keep you informed - if for no other reason than to annoy bottom feeders: the "horological journalists" of mainstream media who are going beyond their commercial duty in promoting $wi$$ megabrands. Those ass-licking self-serving poltrons who continue to write and publish horological vomit. To them: go to hell, you mongrels.


7. And then again... you never know. Maybe one day, in the far future, our fight for what is just and fair may give a birth to some horological ‘friendlyjordies’ who will be bold and gutsy enough to move and inspire. We still live in hope.


8. So you ask, how can you be so anti Swiss AND sell Swiss watches in same newsletter? This is easy. Half of the newsletter is a direct product of what you want and expect from me. The other half is what I expect from myself. As Scott Fitzgerald said: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function". Makes sense. 

A Work of Art

A few weeks ago, we invited woodcrafters to join us on our quest for an Australian pocket watch stand. Today, we are in for a very special treat: a watch stand that is out of the ordinary. Handmade from Australian yellow mallee burl, by an Australian woodcraftsman, Manni.

 Manni is a fellow newsletter subscriber and watch enthusiast, but he crafts wood for living.

 Here is his introduction to this exciting one-of-a-kind pocket watch stand.

“What is a Burl?

A burl is a lumpy looking growth that forms on a tree due to abnormal bud cell growth. They are usually found around the base and roots of a tree but can be found on the trunk and branches as well. The cause of these growths is not completely understood but is believed to be due to disease and/or injury caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, external stresses, and physical trauma. This growth results in twisted compacted wood resulting in wild beautiful grain patterns, sought after by woodworkers.

You might say then if burls produce such beautiful patterns “Why don’t you see more Burl Timber products around?” and there are two main reasons for this:

1.    You cannot go to your local Bunnings or timber supplier and order a burl as they are hard to come by and specialised providers are just as hard to come by so woodworkers’ only other option is to go and harvest their own burls.

2.    They are very difficult to work with due to the interwoven twisted grain that results in opposing stresses and tensions in the timber and when machined can crack, twist and warp in unpredictable ways.

To conclude, working with Burls is a time-consuming process. They must first be dried, then machined and rested in multiple stages, sanded, and finally polished which from start to finish may take place over a couple of weeks to several months depending on the size.” 

A burl from the root of a Yellow Mallee
Slice from the above burl
Billet machined into rough shape
 
Two billets yielded from above slice
Machined and sanded to size
At this stage, Manni is happy to produce a few more pocket watch stands. We are not taking orders – once the stand is delivered to our office, it will be offered for sale. A number of subscribers have asked about the possibility of having a stand made for a specific pocket watch. We are not quite there yet, mainly due to the fact that each ‘non-standard’ pocket watch would have to be measured first (diameter, bow, stem length) and suitable piece of burl would need to be sourced. Our priority right now is to satisfy the needs of Seiko railway pocket watch collectors.
 
Once thing is certain: I cannot tell you how exciting it is to turn an “old fashioned” pocket watch into an art exhibit. A watch and stand are the perfect marriage, giving meaning to each other. A pocket watch without a stand to be displayed on is simply a hidden gem; and an empty stand, as beautiful as it is, serves no purpose.
 
A sophisticated synergy of craftsman working together!
 
As for the price: feel free to make an offer, and your offer will be considered.
 
Finally, if you wish to make your own stand, send me an email and I will send the .pdf drawing with all dimensions, for free, of course.

Independent thinking

There are two types of horological journalists: those who sing praises to $wiss MegaBrand$ for a living, and those who actually understand and appreciate watchmaking; who write, blog and podcast for pleasure, like our host Roman:

"In my opinion, 95% of all watches currently produced are NOT INTERESTING or WORTH COLLECTING. They are churned out by huge corporations run by MBA’s who have ZERO interest or love for horology. It is not the way forward for the Swiss watch industry (at least in my mind).

What inspires me are the independent artisans from around the world, who produce INTERESTING, INCREDIBLE, INDIVIDUAL and IRRESISTIBLE pieces (often in small production numbers or by commission). My experience has been that those timepieces show us are where the passion, value and curiosity can combine for a magical journey." 


When Roman and Alex summoned Josh and myself for an interview, we knew that we were up for some fun. The end result: two hours of raw and uncut horology, for your enjoyment. 

https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/fifth-wrist-radio/id1498839718
Of course, you have heard our story more than once, but I strongly recommend that you tune in - you will find Fifth Wrist broadcasts both entertaining and educational. Original local content, produced by fellow Australians.                         

Finding Vivian Maier

We are entertained by movies, but shaped by documentaries. Great documentaries are rare and hard to find, so when you discover one, make sure to share it with those whose lives are ready to be shaped.

After the “Yes chef” and “Long Now”, our third ‘group engagement project’ was on Vivian Maier, a nanny, a strange woman who dressed like a 1950s Russian factory worker and spoke with fake French accent. She lived a double life, kept her secrets, and left a legacy of 100,000 film negatives and hundreds of undeveloped rolls. All to be rediscovered by mere chance.

Finding Vivian Maier is a multilayer documentary which once again proves that life is stranger than fiction. A provocative and intriguing work that will leave a viewer seeking more.

We hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.
Michael
I rarely have the patience or temperament to watch documentaries and will usually  choose a good feature film to burn away the hours instead. I think growing up being forced to watch 60 minutes and ABC specials because we only had one TV ruined my perception of how good a story set in reality can really be. That was until I watched ‘Finding Vivian Maier.’

I am sure many would be aware by now that I have been playing a major role in our current side project ‘Vintage Camera’ and part of that has been getting the opportunity to go out into the streets of Sydney to take photos on film cameras. It is an extremely intimidating thing, but is equally as rewarding. When it comes to shooting out in the open and taking photos of people, knowing how to use the camera is the easiest thing, but knowing when to use it is extremely difficult. When you’re out in the wild you have to hunt down photos, to see opportunity in even the most mundane. You’re telling a story with these images and the world won’t stop for you. It’s impossible to not insert your personality into the images, because unlike a landscape or a standard portrait, you are capturing your unique perspective. You are focusing on what you want to people to see. 

I think what amazes me about Vivian Maier’s work is exactly that; it is her unique and eccentric personality infused into her images that really draws you in. Looking at one or two of her images it is easy to think ‘hey, that’s a pretty cool picture’ but it isn’t until you see the sheer enormity of her work and how extensive it really is that you can truely understand why people connect so well with it. The more you see, the more you feel that you understand her. Watching the documentary and hearing people’s personal accounts on knowing Vivian and her impact on their lives really broadened my understanding of how the relationship she had with other people and herself effected her work. It deepened my appreciation as I was able to see more of her personality coming through when looking at the images.

Many weeks ago Andrew and I were having a somewhat intense discussion about what we believed was the ‘truest’, ‘most difficult’ and even ‘best’ form of photography. Before even seeing the documentary I argued the fact that ‘street photography’, particularly in the style of Vivian Maier was just that; to which he responded ‘all street photography is, is taking a photo of an ugly person and somehow that’s insightful’. While I understand the perspective, especially considering how saturated the form of photography is with mundane, fairly disconnected work, but seeing the documentary and the depth to Maier’s work only strengthened my view. I think the main point of difference with her, is her ability to draw the duality of emotions in the world, both the precious moments as well as the darker more morbid ones (which once watching the documentary you will realise is a reflection of herself). It is for that reason, the raw emotional connection and allusion, that her work carries such significance. Not only is her work probably some of the most thoughtful and unique I have ever and will ever see, I believe that she is one of the greatest artists that will ever live during our lifetime. 

One of the greatest lessons I took away from watching ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ is not to seek recognition or praise but to focus on creating and to take any and all opportunities you can to focus on your purpose. Being a Nanny may not have given her the financial freedom or recognition that many seek, and it’s honestly amazing she was able to afford to shoot so much film throughout her life, especially considering it was much more expensive back then, then it is now. But by doing so it gave her the opportunity to connect with people, to spend her days outside ‘exploring’ and gave her a freedom to create which maybe other professions wouldn’t have allowed.

Just like her photos, you might get something similar or something completely different out of the documentary that I got, but nevertheless, it would be a true disservice to yourself if you never got to experience her story. I couldn’t recommend highly enough.
Josh
Who is selling your art?

Finding Vivian Maier - an exploration of a genius, or an example of an opportunistic "art dealer".

Maier is an obvious artistic marvel. Her talents are plain to see, and this documentary does a fantastic job uncovering and analyzing her art. But. 

And there is always a "but"!

The glaring obvious beyond the genius is the questionable role that John Maloof plays. John, the discoverer of Vivian's art, and her posthumous marketer has a vested interest. The story is not uncommon- an art dealer discovers the next Picasso, buys their art and proceeds to wind up the marketing train in an attempt to raise awareness.... and value. John self describes as being opportunistic, going to flea markets and auctions to try and find lost treasures. There is no doubt that the artist, art dealer and the audience all benefit from such an uncovering- but what happens when the artist no longer exists to reap the benefits? 

Vivian can't (and maybe didn't want to) accept the kickback from a discovery, but Maloof can. The cynic in me points to this as a gaping hole in the story of the uncovering of someone's beautiful work. But, without Maloof, there would be no exhibition, no art gallery, no documentary and maybe no Monday morning newsletter writeup. 

Maloof's role could be discussed to no end, but there is an interesting question that forms from his involvement- "who is selling your art?" which quickly morphs to, "is art to be sold?", which the descends down to the seemingly bottomless exploration of the value that art attains. I wish I could have been Maloof- for the obvious benefits that sitting on many millions of dollars of negatives has, but also for the luxury to sit in on a private exhibition of one of the world's best street photographers, day in- day out. Which one has more value to you?
Andrew
Paradoxical, bold, mysterious, eccentric, private
 
“No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness” – Aristotle
 
Albert Einstein and Michelangelo Buonarroti were apparently incredibly unhygienic. John Nash fully believed he was Emperor of Antarctica. Pablo Ruiz (Picasso) and Vincent Van Gogh battled chronic depression and possible schizophrenia. We can see from the vast array of photos taken, that Ms. Vivian Maier was a genius. The kind like the aforementioned from both the art and scientific universes. Excelling at some understanding to a level ‘normal’ people simply cannot attain, but not without some other part of her person, mental health or otherwise, having its’ strength sacrificed. This much I think is obvious.
 
One thing that I think differs Vivian from the rest is that for whatever reason, she did not share her work. I think it would be foolish to attempt to rationalise that decision. She clearly was not an entirely rational person. On top of this, photography is incredibly personal. For someone who never gave her name and did not actively grow any meaningful relationships, having someone pry through the literal frames of her conscious life probably seemed like the last circle of hell.
 
What were her goals though? So many pictures were not even developed into negatives. They were literally just single frames she saw once in a split second and never again. I don’t think it would be fair to say that she knew they would eventually be developed because she took zero steps to ensure that. A question one of the documentary’s participants asks is why hoard art? If the Last Supper was hung in Da Vinci’s bathroom or if the roof of the Sistine Chapel was instead a mural on the shady side of a Newtown drug den, what value would it hold? The answer is simple. Nothing. When a tree falls in a forest with nobody there to hear it, it doesn’t make a sound.
The fact is, without the effort to make your work known, without at least trying to force people to look at you and see what you’ve done, you are condemning it to the only fate that’s worse than death. Never being alive. This is probably what drove the director of ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ to bring her work to the fore. It is a similar drive that restores old, forgotten timepieces. By finding the history or experiences an object has been through, you pull it from the void into a higher state of being. We can only thank the director for doing the same for Vivian.
 
This documentary really coerced me to look inward and critique how I spend my own time and what mine own goals are in relation to what I can contribute to the world around me. As far as I am concerned, bar replicating to continue the species, finding what we are good at, or getting good at something, and sharing that with those around us is the most important thing we should be doing. Whether that’s on an interplanetary scale like Elon Musk and SpaceX, or becoming a carer for someone because you have too much love and patience to spend.
As a maker of things, there is no greater joy for me than to hear someone appreciates the thing I made them. Something that may have been useful or helpful. Could that be how Vivian saw her photography? Something that could be created and given to someone to enrich their lives. We will never know.
 
There is only one thing I can be sure of. My appreciation for street photography, especially as a way of showing an audience who you are by what you see, has grown monumentally.
James G
"Finding Vivian Maier" was a brilliant film and I was absolutely captivated by the extraordinary photography of its subject.

Vivian Maier's enormous body of work reflects the practice of street photography in the tradition of Alfred Stieglitz, Henri Cartier Bresson, Diane Arbus, and Robert Frank. Her eye for framing, composition, timing, tragedy and humour elevate the seemingly insignificant moments she documents into ephemeral and powerful images. Given her fascination with the down trodden, the poor, the overlooked, and the discarded, it is ironic that Maier was completely unknown as an artist until her enormous body of work was discovered many years after her death, her boxes of negatives being auctioned as junk. The institionalised art world appears to struggle to accept her as an authentic artist, despite being embraced popularly.

This film provokes reflection about the medium of photography, how we legitimise what is and is not art, and the nature of time, with its coincidental junctures that resonate unpredictably. How many other great artists and works of art have gone undetected, disposed of unceremoniously, lacking the surprisingly coincidental bringing to light by someone capable of telling their story like Jeff Maloof? At its conclusion I was left pondering a number of questions- how do we understand what is art or refuse, sacred or profane, confidential or revealed to others, meaningful or trivial, normal or irregular? What is photography but the contrast of darkness and light?
James N
I think I should start off by saying I don’t understand photography as an art form or have any particular attraction to it, nor can I take pictures that are anything beyond blurry, but this documentary really surprised me. I’d heard about this documentary from Mr Hacko when he and Michael really started to get into vintage film cameras and I just shrugged it off as something that I wouldn’t find even remotely interesting, but I’m pretty surprised that I was wrong about that. Despite not having any real appreciation for the art form, the story of Vivien Maier was pretty amazing if not depressing at the same time. All I can really say is that I don’t regret taking the time to watch and absorb what Finding Vivien Maier had to say even though about 50-60 minutes in it got a bit morbid and depressing.                         

Some sort of balancing corrective to the short-sightedness is needed-now!

His name was Companion of Hours, or Iry-Hor. He was one of the earliest rulers of Egypt. Not the first ruler - before him, Scorpion I and Bull ruled the Nile delta. But thanks to the remnants of a clay vessel placed in his tomb 5200 years ago, Iry-Hor is the earliest living historical person known by name, with material evidence of his existence.

The oldest wooden statue known as the Shigir Idol is twice as old as the oldest pyramid. Dating to 9,000 BC - and possibly much older- this is the oldest known sculptural project in the world. Again, not only or the first - it was one of many similar wooden object form Early Mesolithic Urals. But Shigir survived for over 11,000 years by pure luck.  It was made from larch, which is naturally phytoncidic, then preserved in a bog that had an acidic, anaerobic environment, which kills micro-organisms.

Making seems to be much easier than outlasting. For humans, achieving immortality seems almost impossible. We try, we strive, we fail. And then again, mostly by chance, incidentally, the remnants and relicts from the past resurface, only to frustrate us with how little we know about who we truly are. 

Will good intentions, detailed planning and (un)limited resources be enough to preserve us in millennia or beyond, only time will tell. But if anything has a chance, then it would be long-term thinking itself, as a foundation, that would set us on track.

This week our small team of makers, immersed in a topic well beyond our grasp: The Long Now.

https://longnow.org/
James G
The most pressing problems we face as a species such as climate change, epidemics, and wars are of a complexity that are enormously difficult for us to conceive of solutions for. Mitigating these existential risks requires huge amounts of intellectual and physical resources, scientific analysis, creativity, innovation, coordination of billions of people, and a multi generational commitment.

As humans, we do not have the best track record for managing these types of challenges. Despite humanities enormous technological achievements, we still possess brains that have evolved primarily to grapple with the life needs and struggles of a hunter gatherer in the African savannah. While these brains may have served us well in the past, the scale of the challenges of the contemporary era demand a different approach.

The Long Now Foundation is an initiative that is attempting to address these limitations by promoting long term thinking and responsibility. For example their 10000 Year Clock project is an incredible monument born of utopian thinking along the lines of Etienne Louis Boullee's Cenotaph for Isaac Newton. It also brings to mind the long term nuclear waste warning messages discussed in "Into Eternity", the 2010 documentary film. Monuments like this are a powerful tool for transmitting ideas and messages across deep time and forming collective memory.

You could spend countless hours browsing their collection of essays, videos, lectures, and podcasts that deal with a diverse array of fascinating topics that lie at the intersection of philosophy, art, science, architecture, engineering, anthropology, history, and sociology.

I am proud to work for an organisation that is a member of the foundation and is linked to the pursuit of its goals of thinking, understanding, and acting responsibly.
Josh
The Long now project is something that has piqued my interest for a little while now.

Ever since the Ted talk about the Long now clock came to YouTube I've be intrigued with the the extended thinking of the future-
Is it possible to extend our existence beyond our lifetime if we think hard enough?
The seriousness of the project is appealing, it has a certain weight that helps it transcend the short term.

But one part of the "Long now" project that is super intriguing to me, outside of the clock project, is the "long bets" spinoff.

Long Bets is a place where people can make long term predictions in a "gentleman's bet" fashion. The idea is simple- you stake some money at 50/50 odds, against a prediction. There are a few rules, which are outlined clearly on the site- the bet has to be relevant, the minimum term is 2 years, there is no maximum term, you have to use your real name- and all won money goes to charity. you can have a look at all the rules and caveats on their site.
"Matilda will still be married to her cousin, Shane in 2032." .... is not a bet.
"The share price of RMD on the ASX will be above 100 dollars by 30.08.2024" ... is an example of a long bet.

A very interesting aspect is that all the bets are public. Scrolling through the site and looking at all the things that people are betting on shows what people are thinking about! some bets have even been won and lost- indicated by a blue "WIN" symbol.

Some notable bets-  Joe Keane in 2008 bet-  "Large Hadron Collider will destroy Earth."
His stake was 1000 dollars and the period was 10 years.
He was countered by Nick Damiano, who as we all can figure- won.

Christoph M Stahl bet, in 2008 that by 2018 the Euro wouldn't be the legal currency in France Italy and Germany!

And some longer bets-
- By 2030, commercial passengers will routinely fly in pilotless planes (bet in 2002)
- At least one human alive in the year 2000 will still be alive in 2150. (bet in 2002)
- By 2060 the total population of humans on earth will be less than it is today. (bet in 2017).

And my favourite-

"Over a ten-year period commencing on January 1, 2008, and ending on December 31, 2017, the S&P 500 will outperform a portfolio of funds of hedge funds, when performance is measured on a basis net of fees, costs and expenses." (10 years, 2008-2017)

The content isn't that interesting to me, as much as the people behind the bet. Warren Buffet Vs. Protege Partners LLC. The total amount of the bet? $2,222,278 USD.

If anything, Longbets is a mild amusement, but thinking a bit deeper reveals the fragility of all these predictions. All it takes is one bat to transfer it's cold, for all of our bets to fall apart.
Andrew
The Long Now is an organisation which strives to inspire long-term thinking in an attempt to improve the quality of our human existence. Its’ centrepiece, a mechanical clock with a 10,000 year power reserve. They’re gonna want to put an onion crown on that one.

We were all tasked with giving our opinions on this organisation. Without knowing what anyone else would write about, I tried to come up with an original viewpoint. Whilst even the entire weekend was not enough time to delve properly into every sub group of the Long Now (which I highly recommend you do), it was enough time to absorb the bulk of it, and come to this conclusion.
For comparison, some of the oldest institutions known to human history:

Education:
The oldest existing educational institutions on earth include the King’s School, Canterbury, England, founded in 597, the University of Karueein, founded in 859 in Fez, Morocco, as well as the University of Bologna in Italy, founded in 1088. There are many others that would still be here if not for civil unrest, religious war, and systematic genocide.

Business:
The oldest operating business on earth was Kongo Gumi in Japan, founded in 578. It was a construction company that specializes in shrines and temples until it was bought out in 2006 after suffering financially. Certainly, many other long running businesses have ceased operation for the same reasons as above.

Finance:
Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena is the oldest surviving bank in the world, founded in 1472. Sveriges Riksbank is the central bank of Sweden and the world’s oldest central bank, founded in 1668.

Religion:
Judaism is the world's oldest known monotheistic religion, dating back approximately 4,000 years. Hinduism is said to be even older, and there are several religious idols and depictions that have been discovered and dated to before even that (the Dreamtime and Aboriginal Australians – approximately 75,000 years).

Horology - the literal study and measure of the passage of time:
The Antikythera mechanism has been dated (if it is even human) to sometime around 200-100BC. As it stands, it is the oldest mechanically complex horological device, until around the 1300s when the Verge escapement was invented by…someone. It makes me laugh that out of all histories, horological history is so often completely incomplete, or absolutely contested with flimsy thereabout dates. The Horological Society of New York is the oldest still running society, founded in 1866.
All this to say: we (humans) like to think that we are very forward thinking. And we are; actually, out of every animal, we are the best by a country mile. But we still aren’t very good. Thinking 75 years ahead from now, based on a 75,000-year timeline starting with early Aboriginal Australians, is like thinking 86 seconds ahead in a 24-hour period. And we certainly don’t even do that. In fact, I would be very surprised if most countries had a forward planning average longer than whatever their standard government/parliament term is. So, every time you drive across the Sydney Harbour Bridge (in traffic or not), be thankful it was made wide enough to incorporate seven vehicle lanes, a 24-hour bus lane, two train lines, a footpath, and a cycleway, in the 1920s! Oh, the foresight! (Hands up if you remember the M4 having two lanes).

But not only that, we for the most part struggle at making things last. Depending on which historian you talk to, there have been over 70 distinct ‘civilisations’ (ancient Rome, Carthage, South Americas, Babylon, etc.) Their average length? Take a guess. The worst part is, most of the time, these civilisations are not destroyed by natural events, but by mismanagement and war. Not to mention the fact that if any relic is moderately valuable there are always attempts to steal or destroy. The Great Pyramids of Giza were once covered in stark white polished limestone. What a sight that would have been if you didn’t have your eyes toasted from the reflection. The average lifespan is about 349.2 years with a median of 330. Of course, many lasted much longer than that, say a couple thousand years for the biggest and best.
Clearly, you can see the cynic, realist(?), and pessimist, creep to the surface as I type this. 10,000 years is a bloody long time. With a current global average life expectancy of 70 years, that’s about 143 lifetimes. For both the organisation to last and the clock to chime. Please, don’t get me wrong, I am behind this idea 100%. As well as the clock, some sub-organisations include The Rosetta Stone and PanLex, who are documenting, translating, and recording all languages in human history that are currently known. How much more might we know about ourselves if we could only decipher the scribbles of old?
There are also lectures not only on the importance of forward thinking but how to do it better than we have been, and trying to learn from past human failure and success. So many reasons to be a part of it. Come on, a 10,000-year clock that produces a unique chime every day! That’s the coolest thing ever! Watchmaking is all about embedding yourself as a humble character in the passage of time by maintaining its measuring devices, and ensuring that they live longer than yourself. This is that and then some.

But a small part of me struggles not to think that the project is doomed to fail, because humans are too. The smallest example of our impending doom in relation to forward thinking that comes to mind; me wanting to be a part of this organisation and finding out how much it costs to contribute and become a member, only to weigh the cost of membership against private health insurance, with consideration that the average home deposit for pretty much every suburb in Sydney has had a rise in cost of between $40,000 and $120,000…over the last year. More than most yearly salaries. A bigger example: We just can’t stop throwing rubbish into the ocean. Of course, I could just better manage my finances and squeeze the membership in, or protest at Town Hall in the time slot after the ‘Free Julian Assange’ people, but that would be putting brand new rims on a car with no engine.

This might be an exaggeration but it holds true for so many things. The Long Now won’t pay my mortgage or fill my belly. (Please read in David Attenborough voice) For humans to start putting the effort in for each other, en masse, generations into the future, our world must be in a place of absolute peace, prosperity, and progression. Anything less, and the human will default to its primal, knee jerk reaction of self-preservation (End David A.). Seems pretty pointless winding a clock to last thousands of years when our current legacy as viewed from ultra-advanced aliens is – Earth, group of animals who fail to correctly harness natural resources due to greed, fail to care and feed each other due to greed, and fail to preserve the only home they have due to mindless wastefulness, and greed.

I promise this article is mostly a jokingly bleak, light-hearted criticism. It is just the immediate negative reaction I have to most things. I know the purpose of the Long Now is to start the chatter and inspire people which is very noble, and I’m sure it is already succeeding with 11561 members since 01996. If that clock is finished in my lifetime, I will climb that mountain to hear its chime and give it a wind. Of that you can be certain. And you should too. It is being designed in such a way that it can be modified and updated as time and technology rolls on. Made from materials that are of no value (you’d be lucky to get $1.50 per kilo for stainless and would have to get it out of an actual mountain first, but then again, all of that stark white limestone is still gone). Of course, there are instructions in easy-to-understand pictorials on maintenance and usage, so that in the unlikely event of a virus wiping us all out, whoever finds the clock will be able to continue the ticking. But due to the length of time it is expected to run, it will be mostly a manual wind clock.

I give it 4000 years…give or take 349.2.
Michael
When I first heard about the Long Now project at work it came across as just a bunch of super rich people flexing their wallets by building an overpriced elaborate clock to show off, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I think the Long Now project is the perfect response to mainstream modern nihilism that has become far too prevalent and is the first step towards a brighter, more thought out future. 

Currently we are in a very interesting state as humans where we are rejecting the past, eroding culture and consuming meaningless content like never before. It seems that as we have fallen deeper into the grips of technology and consuming, in the effort to become more connected, we have traded true human connection both with each other, and ourselves. We have gotten so caught up in ourselves and the here and now, that our future has become a murky topic where we love to point fingers, but no one is responsible. That’s where the Long Now project comes in.

Started out of necessity, the Long Now project aims to encourage ‘long term thinking’ - to put the next 10,000 years into perspective and work towards preserving what we have, and improving on what we can. While the clock is an incredible feat of engineering, its true purpose is to start the conversation around, and cement the idea of a 10,000 year future. 

I think the idea of Long Now is incredibly unique because it is attempting to create a culture around being thoughtful about what our future will look like; it’s not your typical foundation. But by far my favourite aspect about the project is how they’re utilising technology to preserve culture and information, such as with their iconic ‘Rosetta disk’ - a microscopically etched disk capable of fitting 13,000 pages of information at 400 microns a page. The issue of culture dying out is not a topic that is brought up often, but it is one of extreme importance. With so much new information and content being uploaded and streamed everyday, if we are not careful, the important stuff could become buried and erased forever. Luckily the Long Now project is working towards a ‘10,000 year Library’ which would help to catalog and store all of the important stuff. Incredible.

I believe the Long Now project is the perfect first step we need to make for the future, and it really grounds the idea that we will be around for much much longer. For anyone who is thinking about getting involved, I’d say do it. The future generations will thank you, and it’s a perfect legacy to leave behind to further our species.
Gemma
 The Long Now was established 1996 as a way to raise awareness about the acceleration of technology, the short-horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next-election perspective of democracies, and the distractions of personal multi-tasking. All are on the increase. The concept behind this idea is extremely relatable in today’s world and when thinking about Covid 19. We cannot be short sighted and need to encourage everyone in taking long-term responsibility for Australia to open back up to the rest of the world.
This concept is extremely meaningful to me as I am Scottish and have been unable to travel home in nearly four years.  This is a huge chunk of my life and a long time. And who does not want to go on holiday?
James N 
If the lockdown in Sydney has given me one thing it is time to think. Only now that I’m beginning to write this short essay, I’ve realised that so much of what I’ve been thinking of, and Mr Hacko’s interest in both the “Yes Chef” mentality and The Long Now Foundation, are more intertwined than I first realised. It’s quite simple if not a little depressing: the future and where my place in it is. From everything I’ve experienced since January, I’ve come to understand that everything in watchmaking takes time - pun intended. The 10-year commitment of apprenticeships confirm that and so does the time and effort that has been put into Brookvale’s watchmaking projects. Furthermore, The Long Now Foundation holds this concept of time central to its mission. But what I have also been reminded of this lockdown, is that it’s so easy to become complacent. While it may seem like it will have little impact on a long term goal, in reality, complacency is the real enemy of long term commitments. Thinking small and individualistically is another disease that slowly but surely chips away at the substance of this long journey of watchmaking and learning.

A quick look at its website shows that The Long Now Foundation’s key focus is to establish a long-term initiative and thinking that contradicts the world’s increasingly worrying mindsets of sacrificing quality for quantity. Mr Hacko’s interest and membership in this type of organisation is no coincidence. I don’t think what is being done here in Sydney can be done without the acknowledgement of the necessity of long-term planning - not even massive investments can magically make everything work itself out. Despite this end goal being well known, the lockdown has brought forth more complacency than I’d like to admit. Nothing can remedy being in the city and at the workbench but more can be done at home. This essay is only a small puzzle piece in the wider scheme of mitigating the impacts of this lockdown not only on my learning but also on the long-term goal. The other unfortunate and lurking side effect of being stuck at home and physically disconnected from Sydney Watches is simply forgetting about the unit. Staying inside with only my thoughts has promoted this individualistic thinking that can be detrimental to the importance of working as a collective. 

Finally, the meeting point of the “Yes Chef” philosophy, that of The Long Now Foundation, and watchmaking: perhaps it is a combination of slowing down to speed up and being both in the movement and future. What I mean is that working efficiently with what needs to be done, whether it is an essay or a repair but acknowledging the future and consciously not getting lost in the moment. My mind could just be playing tricks on me as the lockdown eats away at my last brain cells and these ideas could fundamentally oppose each other but Yes Chef and The Long Now Foundation have both contributed to building and broadening my perspective. As my watchmaking journey continues, let time be the judge of it- pun intended.