Monday, June 28, 2021

TikTok or tick tock?

Watchmaking is a unique trade. There are two fundamental pre-requirements which would ultimately make the difference between an average watchmaker and a master: attention to detail, and willingness to learn.

Unfortunately, most apprentices either lack the attention to detail, or give up learning prematurely. This is often the case with both apprentices, and mature watchmakers who work for big brands, where daily routine revolves about repairing a handful of watch calibres. Same, the same, - and more of it. Where volume is more important than creativity, and repairing really means replacing almost the entire mechanism, there is not much to learn. 

Working on as many different watches as possible - especially during early forming years is absolutely crucial for early development. George Daniels repaired vintage pocket watches for 50 years before developing his own escapement.

Attention to detail is like the ability to sing or paint - it is a gift. A gift which requires constant nourishing in order to blossom. If you are considering watchmaking as a profession, or you are already on the path of becoming a watchmaker, then I strongly recommend adopting habits that will help you laser sharpen your attention to detail.

Disconnect! Facebook, TikTok, online gaming, and all that rubbish is for low IQ time wasters. Something you simply have no time for. But it is not just about time: the fast changing images, accompanied with the fast beat repetitive “music”, will turn you into a brainwashed junkie.

Take notes. Pen and notebook!  Write it down. Draw. Sketch. Note it. Keep a record. Document. Lock it in time. Calculate. All this and more – with just a humble pen and paper. An apprentice without a pen and notebook is not worth investing in.

Keep the workbench tidy. A couple months ago, we employed a mature machinist and toolmaker. He is our highest paid employee, but he is worth every cent. Josh is completely blown away with how clean and tidy his bench is. This is a habit acquired decades ago, paying off well. Not to mention the obvious: excellent results are not a product of chaos or ‘bench anarchy’, but tidiness; you can not chase microns on a messy bench. Like toolmaking, watchmaking is an art form; misplacing and losing parts will quickly lead to frustration.

The devil is in the details. Reading technical manuals and technical books is essential. An apprentice who finds reading (and writing) either too difficult or too boring is like a blunt tool.

Take time to observe. Sit down, slow down and focus. Create an environment that would allow you to focus on detail by showing care for and attention to every feature or aspect, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Look carefully and ask "why" and "what if" and you will see it clearly.                         

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Why has this ‘Girls camera’ from the 90’s come back into trend?

During the 80’s and 90’s, the camera market was flooded with cheap, plastic compact cameras. While these compact cameras proved to be extremely convenient, they were never treated as serious cameras; Contax wanted to do something different. Using the combination of both European-influenced styling and design, as well as Japanese technological ingenuity, Contax wanted to create a luxury compact camera to rule them all. 

The outline for this camera was simple: to be able to fit into a purse or jacket pocket, but be built like a tank, be a no-nonsense automatic camera, and take photos that would rival even the most professional camera set ups. The camera would be known as the Contax T2.

>From a distance, like any other compact camera - it is unassuming; but as soon as you get up close and personal you realise how fantastic this little camera is. For starters, Contax didn’t muck around when it came to its lens. Nestled inside the camera body until you need it is a Zeiss Sonnar 38mm f2.8, and as we know, Zeiss are some of the best lens makers around.
The layout of the camera is super simple: Exposure compensation, Shutter count, Self timer, Focus wheel, Aperture adjustment and Shutter button - but 99% of the time the only thing that you need to touch is the shutter button, being an automatic camera. The design of the camera, unlike many compact cameras from the era, is surprisingly not outdated, and wouldn’t feel out of place amongst your modern tech. In fact, the matte titanium finish of the camera reminds me of the current line up of apple products - maybe they took some styling queues from Contax? 
Even though this camera was released over 30 years ago, over the past few years it has come back into the limelight and is at the centre stage of compact film cameras. With film shooting coming back into fashion, many celebrities have also hopped onto the bandwagon; with two in particular being extremely vocal about their Contax T2’s: Chris Hemsworth and Kendall Jenner - two names I’m sure would be very difficult not to know. 

Chris Hemsworth is seen here posting this artsy shot of him and his brother on his instagram, with a classic tongue-in-cheek aussie caption about shooting on film - the photo taken with his Contax T2. 
Check out this video of Kendall Jenner on The Tonight Show which has 6.8 million views where she talks about shooting on film, and shows Fallon her Contax T2.
With celebrity and influencer backing, an almost ageless European design style, and a Japanese build - it is easy to see why the Contax T2 is back in trend, and a perfect addition to a photographer that loves shooting on film anywhere they go. 

On offer today is a Contax T2 set in fantastic condition - unlike all the other beaten up, heavily used T2's you see on the market, this set would be perfect to give as a gift to a film shooter in your life (if you don't keep it for yourself that is).
K7732 - Contax T2 w/ Zeiss lens  

Contax T2 - Titanium 
35mm compact film camera
Zeiss Sonnar 38mm f2.8 lens
Original case and straps
Original presentation box and manual

Overall condition: 9.8/10

The most anticipated SEIKO of 2021

It's here!

The most complex mechanical Seiko has finally arrived. The Presage 'Sharp Edge', Japanese designed, manufactured and assembled. What a watch! 

The 6R movement features GMT function, power reserve and calendar. Case size: 42.5mm, stainless, ceramic bezel, sapphire crystal, sleek bracelet. We have three dial colours for you: black, navy, and green. The green with gold GMT hand would be my personal pick; the black one with red hand is simply a safe conservative choice, while navy with peach GMT hand is super quirky. 

Why should you invest in a Presage GMT? It is simple: you are getting a great watch at a very fair price. I've searched long and hard, and I don't think there is a Swiss watch out there that offers GMT time, power reserve indication and date calendar for $2,150.

To celebrate the arrival of this first batch of three watches, our 'buy it now' price is $1,850. Plus free delivery and the chance to win a Captain Willard next week. This is the BEST PRICE in Australia, guaranteed, and this price is for newsletter subscribers only.

As always, your satisfaction is guaranteed. If you open the box and find Presage anything but absolutely stunning, I will take it back, cover the returning postage AND send you $100 in cash as a 'sorry for wasting your time'. NO OTHER DEALER has ever made such an offer, but I am no other dealer, I am a dealer you can trust blindly.

Call Gemma on 02 9232 0500 and let's have your 'GMT' shipped this afternoon!
SPB217J - Blue
RRP: $2,150
Your price: $1,850
SPB219J - Green
RRP: $2,150
Your price: $1,850
SPB221J - Black
RRP: $2,150
Your price: $1,850

NH3 project update

The main 'body' of the watch has been assembled last Friday. The components you see on the photo have been manufactured entirely in our workshop - all except the ruby jewels. The 3/4 bridge has been finished with our custom design 'woven guilloche', straight graining, anglage (chamfering), and high gloss black polish. With another 'all time, in house first', the gold plating. Gold plating is a trade in itself, getting an even surface layer that will not interfere with tolerances, neither to thin or too thick, without any blemish is quite a challenge. But we've got it!

The next step in the project is the manufacturing of our crown wheel, ratchet wheel, click and click spring. Stay tuned for more!

At this stage we are not sure about dial and hands, but the movement will be cased in a 45mm titanium case, the same one as with the previous NH1 and NH2 Timascus models. NH3 will contain the most number of Australian made watch parts, in house gold plating and unique finishes. In other words, it will be our "most Australian made" watch ever.

Right now we are not taking orders because the final price is still to be worked out. Our price target is $5,900 for standard dial and hands, and $8,900 for our own in house dial and hands. The total production run will be 25 watches. Expressions of interest are welcome, but no orders yet. Thank you for your ongoing support.
You can find more about NH3 on our Instagram:

Friday, June 18, 2021

Panorama shots with a 1970s Widelux

I am not a photographer. Not even a hobbyist. The last time I played with film was forty years ago. My gear consisted of one Zenith TTL camera, a bunch of plastic containers, some chemicals, and a makeshift dark room.

When I was a teenager, photography was a real profession. Mum and dad would dress up nicely and take us kids to the 'studio' of the best (and only!) photographer in town. A serious family affair. And every Slavic village had its own gospodin Kern, Schmidt or Laszlo; a non-Slavic master photographer from pre-socialist Austro-Hungarian era. In the 50s and 60s you wouldn't see a hobbyist walking around town with a camera around their neck; that was not just too bourgeois, but plainly too dangerous - one could be easily perceived as either a spy or pervert - or both.

Luckily for photography and photographers, the 70s brought the long awaited change. Socialism went out of fashion, replaced by Levi's, trips to Italy and glossy Nikon magazines. Cool kids played basketball and nerds joined photo and radio clubs. 

There are number of reasons why vintage cameras are back in fashion: attraction to fine mechanical engineering, the coolness of capturing photons in a unique, magic way; the artistry of creative expression and investment potential of a historical artefact no longer in production, disappearing fast. To a sophisticated photographer - all of the above and much more.

I got drawn into film thanks to Bobby’s enthusiasm. The idea of creating a 'special place' in our office devoted to fine vintage cameras sounded like an interesting project. After all, the similarities between vintage watches and vintage cameras are too obvious. Making those fine cameras available for sale as well as preserving them for Bobby’s' generation and beyond sounds simply irresistible. 

Taking the Widelux for a stroll to Dee Why beach was my first film camera 'event' in forty years. Widelux is panorama camera - it captures the scene in wide angle. Manufactured in the 1970s, it is a heavy and gutsy camera. A kind of conversation starter that will make strangers walk to you wanting to find out 'what the hell this that?'.

The trick with Widelux is to take it easy. Composition is everything. Zero randomness. A standard film roll would allow you 21 shots, but taking more than 1 photo per hour means that you are rushing. There are a couple of technical 'must get it right' points: keeping the camera absolutely horizontal so watching the spirit levelling 'bubble' is essential. Not easy! Paying attention to light requires some basic understanding of shutter speed and aperture and will make the difference between properly exposed and overexposed shots. And the third thing is to keep your fingers out of the frame - which means holding the camera body literally as far from swinging lens as possible. 

Here are two bad shots: the first one ‘capturing’ the finger and second showing good horizontal alignment, but with undesirable vertical tilt. 
Yet once you take your first shots, Widelux slowly becomes a friendly machine. 

Setting expectations means being prepared that the first role will go to waste. A professional photographer told me once that one printable shot in one hundred is a good result; so this is really what one should aim for.

Like with any panorama camera: be prepared for long beach walks and hill climbs. My first experience with Widelux was definitely 'different than anticipated' in a hard to explain way, but I simply can't wait to take it for another beach trip, hopefully this weekend. Taking a shot or two, then waiting for a few days to see the end result is relaxingly stoic.

Film photography is not a cheap hobby. With a ratio of one in one hundred for a single printable photo, it could end up costing anywhere between $30-$100. However, that does not mean that you should print every single shot taken; and sharing every photo is simply senseless. Time is precious! 

I'll be brave enough to share two 'good' photos from the single Widelux roll of film. Shoot away!
For a Widelux tutorial check YouTube videos. A final word of warning: inserting the film is not very intuitive, and rewinding it back is really hard work.

Have fun.
1976 selfie.

The big deal

Señor Arturo has been supplying spare parts to the watch industry for too many years to count. As with every other dealer, his stock of genuine parts is now dilapidated. To keep his customers in business, he expanded to alternative suppliers. Chinese, for the most.

When dealing with señor Arturo, one has to ask the right questions. Like: "Is this a genuine Swiss part?" More often than not, the answer is a jovial "Yes, like Swiss, but better!"  

"Like Swiss, but better" means take it or leave it. Like Swiss, but better is a profound way of saying that life is complex, and rarely as it seems. And that "better" is an elusive quantity.

NH Mark 1 watch is exactly that: like Swiss, but better. Yet for an Australian watch lover, Mark 1 is not just a better deal, it is a great deal. It is testimony that hard work does pay off, and that 'genuinely Australian' means Australian, genuinely.

To all Mark 1 ambassadors: thank you. 
NH1 Mark 1, steel on leather strap, 40mm case. Automatic, date. $2,800. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A super rare lens just sold at auction for $340,000
When you think iconic and famous camera lenses ones that might come to mind would be the Nikon 50mm f1.4 or the Leica 35mm f2 Summicron - each respected and loved by many, granted none of these lenses break the $5,000 dollar mark let alone over $340,000, but one Zeiss lens just did that at the 38th Leitz Photographic auction, whilst still remaining relatively unknown. 
In the mid 60’s, NASA commissioned Carl Zeiss’s optical facility to develop a ‘super fast’ lens to use on the Apollo missions. For those of you unfamiliar with this terminology, a ‘fast’ lens is one that lets in the most light possible with a wide open aperture

The lens would solve a very specific problem for NASA;  its intended purpose was to counteract the issue of having to take photos of the incredibly dark shadow areas of the moon. It wasn’t as easy as just putting a super high ASA/ISO (light sensitivity) film into the camera, because without enough light passing through to the film, it would just be super grainy blackness even with high sensitivity.  

Zeiss went to extreme lengths to produce the specialised lens for NASA. Zeiss were not unfamiliar with the idea of a lens like this, since 1874 the basic design of the lens (a double-gauss lens) existed. Zeiss themselves began research and development on this type of lens long before WWII but during, they created a lens similar to the one which would be used by NASA for night time weapons guidance.  But they pulled all the stops for NASA (pardon the pun) and they created a lens which would become one of the fastest lenses ever made - the Planar 50mm f0.7. While just looking at the number f0.7 (a measurement of the amount of light passing through the lens) might seem insignificant, to put it in perspective; an f1.4 lens is considered to be a very ‘fast’ lens for night time shooting, the Zeiss 50mm f0.7 lets in an incredible four times the amount of light. Zeiss made 6 lenses for NASA for their Apollo missions, they then made 4 more lenses, one for themself (which can be seen in their museum) and 3 for one of the most prolific filmmakers of the time - Stanley Kubrick. 
In 1974 Stanley Kubrick was facing the same problem that NASA was: he needed more light for the candlelit scenes in ‘Barry Lyndon’, and standard lenses wouldn’t cut it. He researched high and low for the perfect lens; when he discovered that Zeiss had made super fast lenses for NASA, he begged both NASA and Zeiss to let him use the lenses, eventually they budged and sold him three. His problems wouldn’t stop there. Because of the super specialised design of the lens, it needed to be a tiny 4mm away from the film when it was being exposed, which wouldn’t allow any room for the standard rotating shutter mechanism inside the cinema camera. So Kubrick contacted a camera and lens technician to modify the camera to be able to take the lens. They ripped out and redesigned the whole internal shutter mechanism just to fit this specific lens. Without the standard mirror-reflecting shutter for the viewfinder it meant they couldn’t monitor the frame when shooting, so they strapped on a closed circuit tv camera to the cinema camera which would emulate the frame and provide distance measurement for the operators. 
Because of how wide the aperture was at f0.7 the depth of field for the image was razor thin and the actors had to deliver all of their scenes moving perfectly parallel to the camera or they wouldn’t be in focus, which was a very daunting task. Even then, after all that, it still wasn’t bright enough. They brought in three wick candles that burnt much brighter than regular ones and then over-developed the film to brighten the image. The end result is one of the most iconic pieces of cinematography not only for its visuals but technical achievement. Barry Lydon won the Academy Award and the BAFTA for cinematography in 1976 and ever since, the Zeiss Planar 50mm f0.7 has become a thing of legend amongst camera enthusiasts and cinema fans.

It's no wonder when one of the ‘holy grails’ of fast lenses was auctioned off on Saturday it stirred up a lot of interest, selling for an astonishing $340,000 AUD. It might seem like a lot, but even newly manufactured ‘fast’ lenses are some of the most expensive lenses on the market for new cameras, with Leica’s Noctilux f0.95 selling for an eye watering $18,300 at their Sydney boutique.
It's obvious Zeiss make fantastic lenses and are regarded highly, far and wide because of that.

*** On today's offer

A 20th anniversary Contax G1 kit which comes with three Zeiss lenses - a 28mm f2.8 Biogon, a 45mm f2 Planar and a 90mm f2.8 Sonnar, all very beautiful lenses. If you are on the fence whether film photography is for you, this set will make you fall in love with how easy and rewarding it can be. When it was originally released this camera earned its reputation as the 'distinguished man's' luxury travel camera, and it's easy to see why. The finish and build quality for such a compact camera will take you back.
K7649 - Contax G1 20th Anniversary Special Edition 

Contax G series - the only Autofocus rangefinder ever made 

Titanium cladded Contax G1 body
35 mm rangefinder camera
Contax G Mount 
Mechanical shutter - up to 1/2000 
Auto exposure assistance
Automatic winding up to 2fps
Zeiss Biogon 28mm F2.8, Zeiss Sonnar 90mm F2.8, Zeiss Planar 45mm F2 with lens hoods and lens caps
Contax TLA140 Flash
Wooden anniversary presentation box

Comes as a set with original wooden 20th anniversary presentation box and instruction manuals.

Overall condition: 9.8/10