Friday, April 29, 2022

The Kern Micro HD - An update from the NH workshop

For those that have been following along with our Manufactured in Australia journey, about 14 months ago we placed an order for the most precise 5 axis milling machine on earth - the Kern Micro HD. Now we are home to the most accurate milling machine in Australia, again.

This machine would give us a capability boost - with it, we will be able to bring the manufacturing of our cases in-house! Our current milling machine - the Kern Pyramid Nano - was able to prototype cases quite well, although serial production of those parts would be a challenge with that machine. On top of cases, the new machine is still able to manufacture many of the internal/movement components of our watches.

Undoubtedly, cases do not need to be the most precisely made parts of the watch, so why purchase one of the most precise milling machines available? Well, during the last four years we have been approached by many parallel precision industries; including but not limited to the medical, space, optics, and high end science/research fields to name a few, to manufacture parts for them. About 1 year ago, the work we were receiving from these external industries grew to a point where we had to formalise a distinct business arm to cater specifically to "contract manufacturing". The skills we have in manufacturing watches, and making complex, tightly toleranced parts filled a gap in the market. Very few people in Australia manufacture things precisely. Undoubtedly within these industries, there is a need for things to be made precisely.

All this ultimately led to the establishment of "NH Micro" ( with the mission statement - "Ultra precision manufacturing in Sydney, Australia"

The start of our year revolved around preparations for this new machine from Kern Microtechnik. We had to renovate our electrical, compressed air, and air conditioning systems, as well as completely change the layout of the factory! We also had to do some major structural reconfiguration of our factory. Cutting open our mezzanine and strengthening the second floor. Many of the displaced machines and equipment would need to be moved upstairs. Thank you Peter!

The first quarter of this year involved a period of constant moving, packing, shifting and reshuffling. The new Kern has a fairly large foot print (about 1.7m wide and 3m long) and weighs around 6 tonnes. Shifting it into place is a one-time project that requires precision and planning, albeit on a very different scale than we are used to!

By mid March, our new machine arrived in Brookvale. This marked the beginning of the last chapter of a 14 month long project. 9 months of building this special machine, and then a long journey across the world.... From "Upper Bavaria" to Bremerhaven, through the English Channel, down to Durban, then across to Perth (where port congestion delayed the vessel which had so far been spot on time, by 10 days), past Melbourne and finally into Port Kembla. From Port Kembla the ship was unloaded, and the individual crates were trucked up to Brookvale.

Above: Precious cargo arriving at Brookvale
Below: The precision machine placement equipment
Below: Andrew next to the main body of the machine

The "install day" started at 0400, when we began taking machines out of our factory into the common area, preparing the final route for the new machine to enter, and waiting for the low-loader truck, the forklift, and the "riggers" - specialised tradesmen who are experts in moving and managing heavy loads.
By 0700 everything was in place - just waiting on the crates to arrive!

0700 to 1700 was a blur. Forklifts moving precious cargo, old machines being skated out of the way, new machines being unboxed, and the wooden crates being disposed of. At one point it also started to rain, which caused a mad rush to protect all the machines that were still sitting outside... but finally by some time around 6pm, the new machine was in place and ready to be properly installed.

Above: Andrew liberating the machine from its box and Jonas making sure nothing is broken.
Below: Jonas assisting the precision forklift driver in lowering the machine onto its three feet
Above: All hands on deck to push the machine into place.
Below: The Eagle has landed!

Our Kern install technician - Jonas - flown in from Germany, would for the next two weeks complete the install, calibration, and commissioning of the Micro HD. After the commissioning, Andrew, James, and I, had a week of training and applications support on the machine. This involved learning how to do basic maintenance (as well as some higher level stuff because we are so far away) and programming. Most importantly, Jonas shared some tips, tricks, and general advice on how to chase the micron from his years of experience - he actually did his apprenticeship at Kern!
We all knew the capabilities of the machine on paper, but seeing it hit and surpass those specs in our workshop, was truly mind blowing. The mis-alignment of the spindle to the rotating c-axis was measured to be 0.08 micron (yes you read that right) over 1 metre. To put that into perspective, that is 80 micron (a human hair) over 1 kilometre. Just one of the many points of alignment and positional accuracy.

Above: Jonas installing the machine (no, we didn't squash him)
Below: Left to right - James, Jonas, Andrew, and Josh, after finishing the training.
So if you've been wondering why Brookvale has been a little silent, the controlled chaos of importing the most precise milling machine into Australia was the reason!

We can't wait to show you what we've been working on. Within a month of the machine being in our factory, we have the first prototype of a new NH watch case in our hands.. exciting!

Once again, a big thanks to everyone who was involved in the process from start to finish. We could not have done it alone.


Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Supercars are back


One of the more surprising and exciting partnerships to come from Seiko, was the one they made last year with the Supercars. A distinctly Australian motorsport, famous for mechanical ingenuity and sending machines to the nth degree - it was an obvious partnership with Seiko who have a common philosophy. 

To commemorate the 2022 Season, and the continued Seiko x Supercars partnership, Seiko have released a limited edition 'bitumen black and victory gold' Seiko 5 with only 2022 pieces available. It also comes with a silicon mesh strap with a gold supercars insignia. 

Seiko have also released three special edition Seiko 5 with a carbon fibre pattern dial, coloured inner chapter ring and seconds hand, on a black silicon strap. They come in either red, blue, or yellow, each having their own distinct look, in a 42.5mm case. We have no idea how long these ones will be out for, but being special editions, I don't think we will be seeing too many. 

Show your true Supercar spirit with one of these Seiko 5, or just get it for the super cool race inspired designs. 
Model reference: SRPJ01K

Price: $699
Special Edition - Red
Model reference: SRPJ03K

Price: $599
Special Edition - Blue
Model reference: SRPJ05K

Price: $599
Special Edition - Yellow
Model reference: SRPJ07K

Price: $599

Every preacher's favourite quote

If you've grown up as a Christian, then you have surely heard "every preacher's favourite quote":

"When we arrive to heaven, we will be surprised by three things. First, that some saints who we've believed should be in heaven didn't actually make it. Second, that many of those who we've called sinners are there. And the biggest surprise of all: that we, ourselves, made it too."

I like to call this a prediction paradox: the less we know about the subject, the bolder we are about making predictions.

Scientists are no different from believers. Most of their predictions completely miss the mark, or, are placed so far in the future that as such, make little or no relevance to us. Somehow, it is much more difficult to predict what will happen in ten years from now, than in a thousand years. Apparently, the problem with the future is that we cling onto the past so hard, all those great novel ideas simply have no chance to develop and blossom. In other words, humans are terrible risk takers.

Here is my problem: in order to stay in the watch business, I should be able to predict the future with at least some degree of accuracy.
The absolutely crucial question is this one: would we in one hundred years from now still wear watches that display the time in a direct, analogue way? Meaning: are we going to wear watches with hands or digital watches, which display time with numbers?                         
Before we go any further, here is my original prediction on a completely different subject. I predict that in one hundred years from now, all men's pants will still have a zipper. And that zipper is going to be in exactly the same place that it is today. I also predict that humans will still use screwdrivers and hammers, and both tools will look exactly as they look today.

In other words, some devices are simply perfected by our rigid human anatomy, while others are perfected by necessity and functionality.

To extrapolate to watches: there is no better place to place a wrist watch, then to strap it to your wrist. And there is no easier way to tell the time but to 'read it' from the relative position of hour and minute hands. We've tried digital readouts, but digitalization never took off. For two simple reasons: firstly, we've been reading analogue time for at least 800 years, so we are used to it. Secondly, and more importantly, 13:06:15 can not be processed subconsciously because digital format requires mental effort.

There are numerous advantages to a watch with hands: for example, we can tell time fairly accurately even with the hour hand alone (digital watches displaying hours only are terribly inaccurate). The analogue works because it make sense: the hour hand follows the rotation of earth around it's axis (and especially so with watches with a 24 hours format). On the other hand, digital watches merely reinterpret analogue time in different format.

Which brings us to the final conclusion - and a prediction. The time itself, as we can see it and experience it, is an analogue phenomenon. And as long as earth continues to turn around it's axis, it would only make sense to display it in a same way.

The future is bright; let's invest in a hands making machine!                          

Chaos, calamity, and havoc


In the five hundred year long history of watches, there has never been anything quite like the release of ‘the watch that broke the internet’ - the Omega x Swatch MoonSwatch. It seemed every man, woman, child and dog, was lining up for the watch. But this wasn’t just Sydney or Melbourne; every single Swatch boutique in the world managed to attract hundreds, if not thousands of people all desperately trying to buy a Speedmaster for only $260 USD / $380 AUD.

One of the one hundred and fifty or so people in Sydney lucky enough to buy a MoonSwatch when they were released on Saturday was Apprentice Bobby; here’s how he managed to get the watch you all want: 

It’s Thursday, I’m scrolling through Instagram and forums, all I can see are posts about the new MoonSwatch. Having had the opportunity to see and touch most of the coolest Speedmasters ever produced, being a massive fan of almost all of them, seeing this gets me over the moon with excitement. A quirky bio-ceramic quartz Speedmaster for less than the price of a leather strap for the real thing - I just know people are going to go insane for this. I plan to get to the swatch boutique at 4am, knowing how crazy some people can be for releases. 6 hours early should be enough. Right?

4:30pm Friday (T-16hrs), I walk past Swatch on my way back from the post office and my heart sinks, two camp chairs already been placed eagerly at the corner of the main entrance to Swatch - the business day not even over yet. Panic sets in, I realise if I am to have even a slim chance of getting the watch the day of its release, I would have to bump that 4am arrival back until as soon as I can make it back to the city. After finishing up, rushing home, and grabbing any supplies I have at my disposal, I jump back onto the train and eventually arrive back at Swatch.

I arrive at 6:40pm, about 20 people have already formed a queue, it is very orderly and everyone is lined up single file along the Microsoft store. That is when I am greeted by a slender man with tattoos and a beard, wearing some cool shoes and speaking with authority - let’s call him ‘John’.
“Hey man, what’s your name? I’m going to put you down on the list and we are doing roll call at 9pm” says John.
At first I assumed that Swatch had hired him to organise the chaos that was brewing, but then I realised that, no, this man was part of the ‘drop’ community who Pitt st regulars will recognise as those usually wait outside shoe shops for Nike and Yeezy releases. At this moment it dawns on me like a cold moon-rise.
I have unknowingly made one giant leap into the world of scalpers and flippers. 
At 8:30pm the general vibe is orderly and calm, lots of people have arrived, some disappointed that they’re arriving to a long queue, others just happy to be there. There are lots of genuine enthusiasts there and we all chat to each other about all things watch related. We are obviously disappointed that the event has been taken over by scalpers, but none of us surprised. 

At 11:30pm chaos ensues. There are now people filtering in from outside, sitting adjacent to the line, saying ‘hello’ to their friends earlier up in the line while setting up camp next to them. Other people are noticing and getting angry. A large group forms inside the entrance all trying to figure out how we’re going to regulate the position of everyone in the queue. 
Everyone is shouting and arguing with John, tensions are running high, the scalpers and low-lives that have been filtering in and pushing up the line are getting annoyed that they’re being called out. John is now caught between trying to keep his mates happy who are there for a quick buck, and the growing number of people who are getting sick of their position being pushed back seemingly every minute.
I suggest writing down numbers on the legal pad I brought with me, and handing them out to people in the respective position in the line. Many people are happy with this idea as it is the fairest and cannot be faked. But knowing that they would then not be able to let their mates in queue later, the scalpers earlier up the line begin to get annoyed with the idea. This goes on for about half an hour, people arguing their side, people getting angry that the scalpers refuse to play by the gentleman’s rule of ‘first in, best dressed’ and at one point it all starts to boil over.
After telling everyone we all need to calm down otherwise we might get kicked out by police for disturbance and loitering I am shoved and told to come around the corner and ‘arc up’ (fight) by a kid not old enough to get his learners license, I just laugh at him. At this point everyone starts to yell at the obvious over reaction and the kid is pulled back by some of his mates and told to go and calm down. Realising if this situation is not dealt this would just turn into ‘Lord of the flies’, I call down Westfield security to at least manage some of what’s going on.

Security comes down and lays down the law “if anyone rushes, pushes, threatens, or causes any disturbance to anyone else or Westfield property, everyone will be sent home and you might even be banned from Westfield for 3 years - we will also not hesitate to call the police to hand out move on orders.” Everything begins to calm down and everyone begins returning to their places, bar the few scalpers who have already set up camp and jumped queue.
It is now 2:30am - 8 hours down. It begins raining. More scalpers have filtered up to the front, saying hello to their friends and then swiftly setting up camp and joining them. John tries his best to tell them to move to the back but they are staying put. Shortly after, the scalpers begin to group together and two of them starting pushing each other and seemingly begin to fight. Security call - round 2. Security comes down and calms the chaos once again, people are split up and we are told to form a line with two people next to each other. Everyone gets in there positions. 

7:30am. The taste in the air of sweet, sweet plastic Speedmasters is palpable. We are so close now to finding out whether this wait has been worth it. We can see a crowd gathering behind us, some there confused why everyone is so eager to get into Westfield, others there to try and sneak up the line. We receive word that the line has now reached past Rolex and Tag, past Breitling, past Grand Seiko, all the way on to Gucci at the other side of the block.
The Westfield service entry opens and everyone perks up. The order remains, bar one person who tries to push into the front. A myriad of shouting and calling out begins “HEY HEY HEY, LADY IN THE HAT”. She swiftly walks out of the line and bows her head in shame. We begin to be let in, 10 at a time. We had now been waiting for 13 hours, no biggie. We get let inside to the civilised queue that has been set up by Westfield security. To our surprise a group of about 6 people that no one had seen the entire night were standing in the line in front of us. We all begin to yell for security, annoyed that anyone would try to cut in after the wait and torment we had all suffered.
“We came in a different entrance”, “I paid someone for this spot” they exclaimed. What they didn’t count for was that spending over 13 hours with a group of people gives you a pretty good idea of who is in front of you and behind you. Everyone pushes past them and shames them, letting them know that they won’t be getting a watch today. Some walk off, some are removed by security later on.
A short chat with security a few minutes later confirmed that several people had snuck in somehow and have now been banned from entering Westfields.
10am, I am now 10 meters from the door. The store opened about two hours ago. We can see all the people in front of us walking off with their Swatch bags. Some even bristly walking down the line to sell them to desperate would be customers, unsure as to how many watches would be left. Word is that there was around 15 of each model, so we all begin doing the math seeing if we are going to get the ones we want. I’m after Mercury, it seems to be the most popular, I’m nervous. Westfield has now opened to the regular shoppers and there is around 1000 people all pushing against each other, some in line with their ticket, some arguing with security, police, and staff saying that they don’t want to wait, others looking on in confusion as to why anyone would want a Swatch watch. I feel like I’m in a zoo and we’re the main attraction.
Finally, the rope is opened for me and I am ushered in.
“What model?”
“Mercury please”
“Here you go, lucky last”.
A sigh of relief, the wait has been worth it. I walk out feeling proud that I got the watch I wanted, and took away the opportunity to flip it from a potential scalper. I rip off the protective sticker, and slap the watch on my wrist.
A group of boys see me with the Swatch bag.
“Which one did you get?!”
“I got the last Mercury”, I flash my wrist.
“Are you gonna flip it?”
“Definitely not, scalping is for losers”.
One of them hugs me. “Thank you bro, you’re doing God’s work”. 

So for those wondering what it takes to get the MoonSwatch on the day of release; a camp chair, a jumper and a jacket, 3 energy drinks, 24 chicken nuggets, 2 bathroom breaks, arriving almost 16 hours early, no sleep for 29 hours, 2 calls to security for chaos prevention, a loss of a lot of self respect, oh and of course, $380.
Was it worth? Probably not. Was it fun? Definitely. Would I do it again? Not. A. Chance.   


Seiko's modern take on three classics


Here's a Seiko deal to brighten up your Friday...

On offer is three of Seiko's best selling models of all time, the '025', the (ex) Djokovic, and the Captain Willard. They have been turned into a matching set of limited edition watches, in black PVD coated steel cases, with a dark brown Nylon strap (and extra silicon strap), crème coloured markers, and a bold, bright orange minute hand and dive indicator on the bezel.

These watches are yet another example of Seiko pushing their creative limits to produce super cool watches. I'm sure they will sell on their own, but to sweeten the deal, these watches will also come with free delivery, 5 years guarantee, $100 off the Boutique price, and a carbon fibre Seiko pen. Take your pick.
Model reference: SPB253J
40.5mm case size

Boutique price: $1,895
Model reference: SPB255J
42mm case size.

Boutique price: $1,895
Model reference: SPB257J
42.7mm case size

Boutique price: $1,995