Thursday, March 16, 2017

Your New Smile

***Your new smile

About 10 years ago, at the time when our shop was located in Mosman, I went to see a local dentist for a minor 'dental repair'.
“Really a minor problem”, he said, “painful never the less, but while you here, I would like to share some good news”, he said.
Good news in a dental chair? “Have they finally invented a painless drill”, I naively asked.
“Well, the good news is, that in just a week or so, you can leave this practice with a brand new smile!”
It was obvious that I didn't need a new smile but I couldn't resist asking how much that new smile would cost.
“Only $32,000” he said cheerfully. “We will start with the lower jaw then move up, left, right and centre - and you will have the smile of a news presenter!”
Needless to say, I got the tooth fixed for $120 across the road.

You see, there are plenty of idiots out there happy to take advantage of you. Watchmakers are as bad as everyone else, so keep reading. 

About once a week I receive a service report from a subscriber who just submitted their watch to a "reputable" Swiss brand service centre. And most of them appear to be prepared by the “you'll have a new smile” watchmaker: your watch needs a battery replacement, but it is also scratched. We recommend case polishing. While we are polishing the case, we will also do a complete movement overhaul (your watch is due for one!). We also noticed that your dial is oxidised, as well as hands, so we will replace them. The total repair cost is $1,100.

So you took the watch for battery replacement only to find out that your watch is a piece of crap which can be brought to former glory for a mere $1,100.

Before I go any further: please do not send me your service report estimates! All of them come with a disclaimer clearly stipulating that you are NOT ALLOWED to share this information with anyone. So legally, you are breaking confidentiality law. (Sorry legal people, you know what I mean).
Equally I am not allowed to comment on reports or to mention names. Also, even if your watch does not need any of above, it would take lots of money and time to fight such reports. Now, it goes without saying that since 'the reputable brand' is not going to supply any spare parts to me, in most cases, I won’t be able to help you. This is the beauty of a monopoly: it kicks you in the guts and then robs you of the opportunity to source a service from a non-authorized third party. 

One of the trademarks of sophisticated thieving is the use of scary terms which are not commonly understood. Oxidation is a perfect example. Your apple turns brown in matter of minutes when sliced; steel rusts in rain in a matter of days and a silver watch dial does the same - coated or not, protected or not - over the period of a few years. In other words, oxidation is just a very natural process, and the end result - as on the watch dial and hands - is more of a cosmetic nature than of any functional concern. And here is my punch line: if you magnify any surface enough, you will see that discoloration, so technically and legally, it's there. But if you are happy with your smile and with your micro-oxidized dial, which you cannot even notice with a naked eye, then you should tell your Swiss brand that you don't want them replaced. This is your consumer's RIGHT and don't let it be taken away from you.

The final question is the one in relation to servicing. Does your watch needs a complete overhaul when in reality you just want a battery replacement? Well this one is easy to work out.

If your car runs out of petrol and you take it to the "brand" car maker service (without telling them that you've just run out of petrol!), then you can bet your last dollar that the service report would take the opportunity to list a number of parts which would require immediate replacement: filters, maybe a clutch, surely brake pads, right down to the rubber wipers. They will have no problem claiming that your 10 year old car is no longer performing "as when it was brand new" (which is obviously true) so legally, they are not breaking any law trying to sell you that new smile. The only reason why such reports are rare is because your Government knows that you need your car to get to work (so you can pay your tax) and therefore protects you from predators and monopolists.

But your government could not care less about your fancy watch so your only protection is to stand up and rebel against unwanted and unnecessary watch repairs yourself. Tell them to go to hell and just replace the darn battery or otherwise you'll take it to someone else who will.

Happy collecting,

The Most Boring Job in the World

***The Most Boring Job in the World

Being a rebelde service person has to be the most boring job in the world.
They’re simply not coming back. No broken crystals, no missing winders, not even a torn strap. 542 rebelde watches simply refuse to stop ticking. Which can be a bit disappointing if your only job is to turn up for work, waiting for a broken watch to arrive into the rebelde workshop for servicing. You might think this is a joke, but it’s not. It’s a serious problem we have – if the watches are not breaking how can we improve them?

You too can become a happy watch owner - order your rebelde today.
Available styles:
Delivery time: 4-6 weeks

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Introduction to Quantum Physics and your watch

***Quantum Physics and your watch - by Tyler

Continuing on from our introduction of Michael Biercuk, Professor of Quantum Physics and Quantum Technology at the University of Sydney and our rebelde ambassador, I thought I’d take this chance to introduce you a little more to the incredible field of Quantum Physics.

Why does it matter to you? Why might you, as a watch enthusiast, find it interesting? For one, as I’ve learnt, watch enthusiasts tend to have a constant hunger for learning. Yes, we can be a nostalgic bunch, but we’re often design and technically minded, always interested in what the future holds. The subjective nature of watches creates an inherent understanding amongst us that though perfection isn’t possible we’ll constantly strive for it regardless.

So, if you’re wondering where technology is headed, then you needn’t look any further - the future is Quantum Physics, so powerful are the potential applications of it. Already, your mobile phone, laptop, GPS system and WiFi network all work because of our (still rudimentary) grasp on the quantum world.

But getting a basic grasp on the field may well prove to be humanity's greatest collective individual challenge to date. Whilst concepts like Einstein’s general relativity, Hawking’s light-swallowing black holes and the expansion of our universe at a rate faster than the speed of light, have pushed us to the limits of our comprehension ability, still many concepts in Quantum Physics defy comprehension entirely.

Try quantum entanglement, for example, wherein two particles are ‘entangled’, such that if you touch one, the other one responds instantly - regardless of the distance between them. The length of the universe or one metre, it makes no difference.

I’m sure you can think up all sorts of incredible applications for this, but let’s talk about how this might be useful for timekeeping. As it turns out, the importance of keeping track of time spans far beyond the need for us to stay punctual.

I’ve spoken previously about how sailors of old relied on marine chronometers (such as those made by famed clockmaker John Harrison) to stay on course at sea, and time plays just as big a part today.
Keeping our instruments updated with accurate readings is the job of the vast network of satellites hurtling around our planet. Many of these satellites now carry atomic clocks, the ticks of which are regulated by atoms vibrating billions of times a second. They’re the modern day sea-clocks. While we’ve been lead to believe that quartz watches that use a resonating crystal to regulate time are accurate, they’re not even in the same league as an atomic one. Whilst a quartz watch might only lose five seconds a year, an atomic clock might lose a second every five million years.

In order for these satellites to provide accurate coordinate data, the clocks on them must all be carefully synced. The slightest variance can cause all sorts of problems, and engineers and scientists alike have developed complex systems to try to solve it. But, with quantum entanglement, we may be able to ‘sync’ the atoms in the clocks, effectively making them all tick at exactly the same time.

Here on Earth, quantum timekeeping may help us predict earthquakes and other natural phenomena resulting from shifts in the Earth’s crust.

As you may have heard, the continents are shifting, and Australia, moving towards Indonesia at a rate of 7cm a year (0.1mm a day) is the fastest moving continent of all. As small as this may seem, most movement in the Earth’s crust is many magnitudes smaller, and picking up on these minute shifts requires extremely precise and coordinated timekeeping - a level only a quantum timekeeper could provide.

Detecting these shifts would also help us solve the previous problem I mentioned - that of maintaining an accurate coordinate system. The Geoscience Australia foundation recently stated that Australia’s latitude and longitude coordinates are off by almost 1.5 metres, and being able to detect these shifts doesn’t just help us guard against natural disaster but is also the key to an accurate coordinate system.

In a world where we, and devices small and large, are increasingly dependent on having a perfect coordinate system, quantum timekeeping is the key that’ll allow us to take our technology to the next level.

It’s with this wrestle with time that you begin to notice some similarities between our fields. A mechanical watch can never be completely accurate. No rebelde will ever be a perfect timekeeping instrument. We’re locked in a never-ending improvement of timekeeping by the smallest of fractions. But none of that matters: even if your watch loses 10 seconds a day, it’s still 99.99% accurate. If the few seconds your watch gains/loses a day is the supposed cause of your lack of punctuality, you’ve got bigger problems. We persist, regardless.

And in quantum physics it’s much the same – the scientists need to content themselves that they’ll never really get a hold of time. I’m not sure if ‘perfect’ timekeeping is theoretically possible, but my layman’s guess is that it isn’t due some more fundamental laws of nature such as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (we can never know a particle's momentum AND position at any moment) and the observer effect (we can’t observe certain systems without altering the system itself). Maybe I’m completely wrong and it’s possible, or maybe I’m right but the reasons are very different. Either way, it’s something I’ll be sure to ask Professor Biercuk next time. For now though, it seems that perfect timekeeping is a fiction that we use in our calculations but which can never actually be achieved.

Watchmaking isn’t a science that’ll change the world, but the goals of watchmaking and quantum physics are much the same. Watchmakers spend their days ‘chasing the micron’, quantum physicists chase the...whatever unit of measure a subatomic particle is. I don’t mean to say the two are equally complex, but the goals are the same even though the methodology is completely different.

It’s these parallels that drew Professor Biercuk into watches and it’s what makes me so interested in his work. As I continue to talk about his research and how it relates to timekeeping I’m sure you’ll find it just as interesting too.

Professor Michael Biercuk's rebelde in the midst of ion-trapping hardware, in which Michael and his team at the University of Sydney can trap and manipulate individual atoms.

Until next time,

Monday, March 6, 2017

False Dreams

***False Dreams

Probably the most common question we get asked: is the watch I intend to buy a good investment?

The question is not just a regular reoccurrence but also a very important one. I do my best to address this subject every now and then - yet somehow there are many subscribers who simply struggle with the whole 'investment' concept.

I'll keep it brief, but please try to digest it at your leisure: if busy, save and read later.

The first question you need to answer for yourself (and I can't answer it for you): are you an investor, collector, enthusiast or just a happy watch owner?

Of course, you can be all of the above at the same time, but here is the catch: unless you have an excess amount of cash you are willing to invest, then you are not an investor. Unfortunately we live in a world where many are sold a false dream called "borrow to invest". You can actually call yourself an investor without even having any money! The financial institutions are happy to lend money so you can "invest" in shares or buy your fifth "investment" property. Imagine a world where any 18 year old kid could obtain a law or medical diploma and start his own practice today - just by promising that one day, in 5 or 10 years, he will actually complete the studies. As ridiculous as it sounds, this is precisely what you can do if you wish to enter the speculative world of quasi-investing with money you don't actually have.

So if you are putting a watch on a credit card then you don’t have to worry about its "investment potential" because such a transaction is not an investment. By the time you pay that watch off, any potential investment return will be long gone, your bank will have made a nice profit on their loan and ironically, it won't even send you a thank you email.

Now the reality is that many of my customers actually do have a solid disposal income, including a significant amount of cash which could be potentiality invested. However, watches are not an income-generating asset. You cannot milk it; skin it; the watch cannot employ or educate people; it cannot be lived in, leased or rented out. Your watch will never find a cure for cancer, develop an app or figure out an algorithm to speed up the data flow. Actually, the amount of income they generate over time is precisely zero. So watches are an extremely poor income generating asset and, if anything, you would want to avoid them as an investment all together, at any cost.

If you are bit confused then you are actually paying attention. How come, then, that watches are always sold for more than what they were worth new, a decade ago? Surely, some of them are a great asset?

Unfortunately, based on my lifetime dealing in watches, such phenomenon is a myth. Only a fraction of watches in circulation actually increase in value. The majority don't. And picking a winner is like predicting the future - the outcome is highly unpredictable and often surprising.

There is however a clear pattern: those rare winners which have increased in value over time would tick most of these boxes:
- they are ‘locked in time’ (a unique design, discontinued, or of a certain size or shape)
- they have a GREAT STORY (provenience, past ownership)
- fantastic condition (all original components, good working order, cosmetically near mint)
- well-documented and well-researched pieces (i.e. there is a book or numerous articles about the watch)
- limited production run (only a few pieces made)
- feature a unique horological innovation, or was a trend-changer
- made by a famous, reputable maker

It goes without saying that collectors who have made money on watches have done that for a reason. They invested their time rather than their money doing the research, closely following the market trends and buying at the right time, snatching the pieces that do not often appear on the market. But it is clearly obvious that their motive was not only the monetary gain. They didn’t do it for money but for pleasure.

Someone said that luxury yacht owners are happiest twice in their lifetime: first, on the day they buy the yacht, and then again on the day they sell it. The same goes for most watch owners. But it shouldn’t be like that – you, as a watch owner can be perfectly happy with your choice every day of the week, for the rest of your life. Simply, follow the above guidelines, do plenty of research, take your time and learn how to say ‘no’. Instead of volume, focus on quality. Collect thematically – rather than just stockpiling the watches, build your collection in a meaningful and organized way (for example: focus on a particular brand, style or model – more about that some other time).

Over the years I have had countless opportunities to add more pieces to my modest private collection, but I restrict myself to no more than 2 watches per year. Actually, in 2015 and 2016, I only bought one watch each year and I could not be happier with my choices.

In my next newsletter I will be pleased to tell you which watches I bought and why. And then, I will also tell you which watch I regret selling – and which one is on my ‘to buy’ list for 2017.

To subscribe to Nick's free newsletter click here:

Report from Europe

***The Report from Europe - by Tyler

The watchmaking road trip that Josh and I just went on has come and gone so I thought I’d write a small overview of our little adventure. To keep it brief as I can I’ll just hit on the main parts of the trip.

It only lasted 16 days, but we’d been planning the trip for some time and had a packed schedule. Notwithstanding the struggle to adjust to the time difference, we barely slept for the duration simply because we had so much on our plate.

The first part of the trip involved training at the Citizen Machinery Europe factory in Esslingen, just a few stops from Stuttgart. The factory surpassed all of our expectations; it’s filled with their entire range of lathes, prototype machines and a huge range of old school machinery, much of it still in use today. But the real kicker is that the site of the factory used to belong to Boley, a company established in 1870 who made some of the finest high precision machinery and watchmaking tools ever. I’m not quite sure what happened, but it’s as if Boley never really moved out; Citizen just moved in and decided to keep everything. And why wouldn’t you? Though it’d take a lot of work to make some of the machinery functional again, its educational value can’t be understated. And it looks awesome.
Going into the training I hadn’t a clue what we were in for -  I’ve got zero background in machining and had only started looking into the subject 3 months ago, so it was an almost absurd proposition that I’d turn my first part on a 6-axis CNC machine. I was outwardly confident that I’d be able to keep up with everything but admittedly, I still had some lingering doubts going into it. We’re a small team, and a trip like this is a big investment for us so I wanted to be sure it was worth it. Thankfully, with our trainer Marc’s help and Josh who is well versed in all things machining, I was able digest it all in the end.

The training began with a crash course in the theory of programming the G-code that runs the machine. While neither of us have experience writing G-code, this part wasn’t overly challenging - it all seemed easy - on paper, at least.

This was followed by an entire day simply learning how to navigate the machine’s interface. Despite being a modern machine, the interface on even the most advanced CNC lathe resembles MS-DOS from the 1990’s with only marginally better usability. How naive I was to have expected a touch screen of sorts!

Next, we finally got to get our hands dirty: changing the guide bush, collets and cutting tools.
Our greatest fear (Nick has had many a nightmare about it) with the project was of crashing the machine. It’s not your regular computer - if something goes wrong while cutting a part spinning at 5000rpm there’s no reset button. Damage to the machine can be severe and any repairs would be extremely costly. It probably didn’t help that we’d all been watching youtube videos of CNC machine crashes prior to even purchasing the machine, so Josh and I were initially hesitant to press the start button even with Marc’s assurances.

That said, our fears were somewhat allayed after we saw the machine in action and spoke with our trainer. Whilst old CNC machines had very little crash detection capability, the modern Citizen R04 lathe carries out an extensive range of checks before executing a cut. It’ll automatically detect whether one tool will crash into another tool, the part or the spindle, and won’t run until it’s certain there’ll be no conflict. In fact, it’s so overzealous in its checking that we actually had to turn off the crash detection later on because the machine was being too careful.

As we discovered, the real danger lies in the setup process. The machine doesn’t have a clue where the exact cutting edge of each tool is. It has a default offset, but every single turning tool, milling tool or drilling tool has a different width and length, so you’ve got to manually adjust each one into position, program its offset into the machine and then do a test cut to see if you’ve aligned it correctly. It is so critical to the machines operation that we ended up spending two whole days on the setup process alone.

The final two days of training were spent putting what we’ve learnt to the test: outlining the program, setting up the machine, setting up the material, writing the code, executing the cut and measuring the results.  With Marc’s help, we were able to produce our very first screws and stems. To see months of work finally produce something tangible was a special moment.

After training in Esslingen, we made our way down to Switzerland. The schedule for Switzerland was more relaxed, but we still had plenty to do. We’re in the market for a CNC milling machine and finishing tools, so our main reason for going was to visit a machine dealer in La Chaux-de-Fonds. For those that don’t know, La Chaux-de-Fonds could be called the heart of the entire Swiss watch industry. It’s a small town, but the amount of watchmakers that call it home is staggering - Patek Philippe, Cartier, Breitling, Greubel Forsey, Tag Heuer, Girard Perregaux, Jacquet Droz and many other larger brands all have manufacturing facilities here.

Nick had told me of how huge the dealer’s place was before going but I could never have imagined the true extent of it. Seriously - there’s a football field of space packed with all sorts of machines. You could spend weeks browsing through it and still not get through it all.

The dealer, as it turns out, is a 32 year old Swiss guy that bought the business from his father. He’s a funny guy with an obsession for fast cars and fine drink, and you’d never guess that he’s one of the most knowledgeable guys around when it comes to machinery. Despite having thousands of machines on the premises (all of which are in fantastic condition), he knows the history and how to operate each and every one. Show him a drawing of something you need machined and he’ll light up with suggestions as to how to get it done. We spent almost 5 hours browsing through everything, found all sorts of machinery that’d be perfect for us and learnt a ton whilst doing so.

When we were back in Zurich, Josh ended up doing a last minute trip to Munich to visit KERN Microtechnik, a manufacturer of the most advanced CNC machinery in the world (an experience that he said was one of the most rewarding ever), while I spent a day wandering around the city. I decided to visit the Beyer Clock and Watch museum. The museum is really just one big room, but then again, watches don’t take up much space, and the amount of stuff they managed to pack in is staggering. If you’re a horology fan like I am, you’ll find it fascinating. Most people spend about fifteen minutes there, but I ended up spending two hours looking over everything, relooking, noticing things I hadn’t seen the first time and talking with the passionate museum director.

Nestled amongst the vast assortment of ancient Chinese time measuring instruments, Breguet masterpieces and clock automaton’s are some (relatively) modern masterpieces and watches of extreme significance. The Rolex Explorer worn by Edmund Hillary on the first ever ascent of Everest? Check. Patek Philippe Grand Complication pocket watch? Check. Not one, but two George Daniels pocket watches? And one of his wristwatches to boot? Yep. An astonishing collection, especially when you consider that George Daniels, arguably the greatest watchmaker ever, only ever made 23 pocket watches and 4 wristwatches in his lifetime. I had no idea what I was in for going into the museum, so it’s fair to say I was completely floored by what I saw. It’s a must see if you ever visit Zurich.

I’ll wrap it up here, I couldn’t possibly talk about everything that happened and my hands are tied at the moment - there are things that can’t be discussed yet, but we discovered some very promising machinery that, should things pan out well, I’ll be able to talk about very soon. In the end, the trip didn’t just go well, it went far better than expected and was extremely rewarding for both Josh and I. We can’t wait to put what we’ve learnt to the test as we continue to take the rebelde project to the next level.

Happy collecting,

rebelde 2017 production

***Rebelde 2017 update

Pleased to report that the first 11 rebelde FIFTY watches have been assembled and delivered to their new proud owners. Shortly I will commence the assembly of the Pilots Chocolate dial, V batch. Those on the waiting list should receive their watch by the end of March. The rebelde W Control Tower is now scheduled for April 1. Pretty much as planned with no hiccups or major delays.

We still have some cool serial numbers available for all three models and your orders are welcome. Call Robyn or Laura on 02 9232 0500 for further inquiries.

For more information, go to our rebelde homepage:

Happy collecting,

Friday, February 24, 2017

Nuts and Bolts

I couldn’t wait for Tyler and Josh to return – not that I missed them, but I couldn’t wait for them to bring in the parts they manufactured in Germany. They landed in Sydney on Thursday night and first thing Friday morning I pulled out rebelde N00 prototype. It was the day of reckoning – I really wanted to find out whether the screws and stem they manufactured in Germany would actually fit in the watch.

Well, as you may have guessed, they did. 

For those of you who are probably not familiar with the entire exercise, it was a matter of accurately measuring the original parts, redesigning them in CAD software and then writing the code for the machine to produce them. A huge step for the smallest watch brand in the world.

It won’t be long now until the rebelde watches assembled in the workshop will come with the label –‘warning, your watch contains Australian engineered and manufactured parts’.

The amount of interest this project is generating definitely exceeds our expectations. In the past 48 hours we made another major step which was totally unexpected. Stay tuned for more.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Germany Updates, Part Two

***Josh and Tyler reporting from Europe [part 2]

"If someone had told me 6 months ago that I would be making watch parts, I would have laughed at them" - said Tyler. As excited as only he can be, Tyler is raving about the first batch of screws they've just made. Are we making history here? Two Aussie kids designing, programming and machining on their own CNC lathe?

Maybe. But it is fair to say that things are happening at such a pace that we are constantly focused on just one thing: the next tool, the next attachment, the next piece of equipment and the material we'll need tomorrow.

Josh is bit less cheerful. After disassembling the lathe's main head to change the collet and bushing, the complexity and the level of accuracy required finally hit him. While watching the German engineer doing the fine adjustment, he felt like a student watching a violin maestro playing Stradivarius. It is a steep learning curve. Achieving precision is going to be a true challenge. Amidst all that, he is keeping his head firmly on his shoulders and making the tough decisions, for which he certainly gets my credit.

There will be tears and sleepless nights, but hey - if it was meant to be easy then everyone could call himself a Master.

Below is a link to the video of the first screw being manufactured. The boys sent this video of the machining in action, but be warned: you need an eagle eye to see the action. It takes 28 seconds to make one screw - and they are still taking it easy. The movement of the tools is just amazing. Just watch at 00:13 the screw being ejected into the catcher.

Stay tuned for more!

Happy collecting,

Germany Update, Part One

***Josh and Tyler reporting from Germany: "No snow, beer too cold!"

Well, not quite - but probably not too far off either. Yes, the boys are having fun, and so far, plenty of good news. Our CNC lathe is ready; the official training has commenced and coding is well under way. With a bit of luck, by the end of the week they will be making their first watch components!
Sydney delivery and installation date is now June 1, which is in accordance to the previous estimate. The other good news is that the 316L steel samples obtained from an Australian supplier are within the required tolerances. So at least we won't have to air freight 4 metre long rods from Germany – or at least not for components smaller than 3mm.

The lathe itself is the crucial watch parts making machine, and this particular model is well used by both German and Swiss makers. Anyone from Nomos to Lange has it in operation so we know that machine is capable of producing the finest watch parts. Of course, it will take us many months - if not years - to master it, but we are definitely heading in the right direction.

Another piece of good news is that we should be able to make even more complex parts than we originally anticipated: the 6-axis lathe can accept some special 'attachments' capable of cutting very fine pinions as well as gears. However, we will be limited by the diameter – for components larger than 3mm in diameter (main spring barrel for example) we would need one more CNC lathe...

Exciting days ahead - so stay tuned for more!

Happy collecting,

Thursday, February 16, 2017



In 2014 an Englishman knocked on my door. He introduced himself as a writer, working on a new title called ‘How the World Became Obsessed with Time’. He looked smart and sounded sharp, so I decided to give him a chance. We chatted for about 45 minutes on a subject he found fascinating; a small anonymous watchmaker from Australia taking on the Swiss heavyweights. Quite frankly, I forgot all about him and our conversation before the lift even hit the ground floor. 

Until last week that is, when a customer mentioned that he’d read about the rebelde project in a book. “What book?” I asked. “The one written by Simon Garfield – the best-selling British author”, he replied.

Wasting no time, I went online and lo and behold, I actually found the book. To my shock and horror, not only was I mentioned, but Simon had wasted three and a half pages penning down our conversation. I even got myself on the top of the index: Hacko, followed by Harrison (George, the watchmaker), Hermes, Hillary (Sir Edmund) and Hitler (yeah, that one).

Of course, I could not bring myself to pay the full retail price of GBP 16.99, so I found a ‘used copy in good condition', for just US $4. I’m not going to spoil your enjoyment of what is said, but I would recommend that you do the same. The book is definitely worth a read.

Timekeepers is a vivid exploration of the ways we have perceived, contained and saved time over the last 250 years, narrated in Simon Garfield’s typically inventive and entertaining style. As managing time becomes one of the greatest challenges we face in our lives, this multi-layered history helps us understand it in a sparkling new light.

Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time
 By Simon Garfield
ISBN: 978 178 211 3195

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

new rebelde ambassador

***Brand Ambassador Introduction (by Tyler)

It’s with great pride that I make this announcement. Allow me to elaborate: I have three great passions in life: watchmaking, science and engineering; although it could be said that watchmaking is just a combination of the latter two. But it’s not just I that share these passions - we’re all advocates around here. There are frequent discussions about how we can do our part to give back to the fields from which we reap so very much. Not just for our own benefit, but for society as a whole. 

According to research by Jonathan Haskel, Professor of Economics at the Imperial College London, up to 50% of Australia’s GDP is essentially Research and Development (R&D) based. And that’s just what we can quantify. The true extent of R&D’s contribution to our economy probably runs much deeper. It’s at 50% now, but you can bet that it’ll be at 99% in the near future as every field continues to benefit from cutting edge developments at an ever increasing rate. An incredible return when you consider that only 0.4% (in 2016) of our budget is spent on it; the return on investment yielded simply can’t be matched.

When including private sector contributions, Australia’s percent of GDP spent on R&D jumps from 0.4% to 2.1%, still well below Japan and South Korea at 4.3% and 3.5% respectively (is it any surprise that so much innovation comes from them?) but a sizeable increase nonetheless, showing just how important our contributions are.

So how does this tie in with today’s announcement? We’ve been on the lookout for a new brand ambassador for some time, but we’ve been after a very specific type of person; someone who’s at the top of their field and whose work is helping advance society as a whole. 

We wanted to change the ambassador paradigm. We weren’t looking for someone that would bring us instant recognition. We didn’t want a famous name that we can flog at every opportunity to turn heads, nor did we want someone that would act as a constant advocate for us. On the contrary, we wanted an ambassador that we could contribute to and from whom we could learn from, and Nick was also hoping to continue supporting Sydney University as he’s done with Peter McMinn, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Sydney University, over the last two years. rebelde’s modest donation helped fund critical research in infectious diseases in Timor Leste with great success, an experience that really opened our eyes to the amount of good a small contribution can do.

With that said, our new rebelde ambassador is Michael Biercuk, Professor of Quantum Physics and Quantum Technology, and director of the Quantum Control Laboratory at the University of Sydney.

Professor Biercuk isn’t just incredibly intelligent and friendly, he’s also a real watch guy with a passion for horology and a collection of very nice pieces. As an added bonus, Josh and I are both Sydney University students, so we’re thrilled to have someone from our home team on board.

Nick, Josh and I had the opportunity to visit his lab last Wednesday (something I’ll talk about in more detail soon) and it was an eye opening experience. As many of you might know, Nick rarely dishes out superlatives; a vintage Patek Philippe might elicit a ‘nice’ or a ‘cool’, if you’re lucky, but he described the experience as ‘life changing’.  

Some of the equipment in the Quantum Control Laboratory at the University of Sydney

If you’re not familiar with quantum physics, just know that almost every piece of technology you use - mobile phone, laptop, GPS system, WiFi network - works because of our understanding of quantum physics. But staggeringly, we’re barely off the starting line when it comes to our grasp of the field.
The potential applications of Quantum Physics and Quantum Technologies are too vast to even begin to describe (though I’ll do my best to talk about some of these applications each week).  

And as if that’s not exciting enough, here’s something you, as a watch enthusiast, can really appreciate: the field of Quantum Physics traces back to our research on the measurement of time, and it remains at the core of what Professor Biercuk and his team of researchers are doing today.

A photo of three atoms captured in the Quantum Control Laboratory at the University of Sydney

Yes, without ever having known it, the great watchmakers of the past few centuries have, in their endless toil to properly understand and measure time, all contributed to the field of Quantum Physics that has changed our understanding of the world as we know it.  

The timing for this couldn’t be better; we’re on the cusp of producing our very first watch parts right here in Australia in the next few months.   

We’ll be delivering Professor Biercuk his customised rebelde watch tomorrow. Nick assembled this bespoke piece as per Michael's selection of rebelde movement, dial, case and hands. The watch has no serial number because Nick wanted it to stand out so he decided to leave it unnumbered, as it is a one-off special piece. I can only tell you it is a titanium 44mm case. 

We look forward to speaking in more depth about his work and I'm sure you'll find it fascinating; the parallels between our fields are great. As well, we'll continue to talk about how we can all do our part to support science and engineering as a whole.

It’s easy to get jaded when hearing of the new 100 million dollar machine that some laboratory has acquired, thinking that all is well and that a small contribution would be of little use. In fact, ten thousand dollars is enough to fund a single PhD student for an entire year. A thousand dollars might fund some critical field work for a few weeks. Our future success as a nation hinges on our continued support of these critical areas. 

But your support needn’t only be financial; at a time when many choose to be wilfully ignorant of science and engineering, just giving our researchers our time and understanding can go a long way.

Watch this space, as we plan on auctioning the one and only rebelde50 numbered 50/50 piece, from which all proceeds will go to the University.

Happy collecting,

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How to set a Cartier Chronoflex

The Cartier Chronoflex is a special watch that features a perpetual calendar. For those that don’t know, a perpetual calendar is a watch that automatically adjusts the date at the end of the month to account for the differing number of days in the months.

For example, on your average calendar watch, the watch doesn’t distinguish between months with 28, 29 and 30 days, it simply turns for the full 31 days. At the end of each month, the owner must manually change the date to account for the difference, if need be.

A watch with a perpetual calendar function, however, can account for this difference and advances the date automatically. It even accounts for leap years, so that the appropriate amount of days are ticked over in February.

Setting the perpetual calendar on the Cartier Chronoflex is somewhat tricky, but once it’s set, one needn’t worry about setting the date for as long as the battery lasts. The only thing that need be done is to add or subtract an hour each year to account for daylight savings.

Setting the chronoflex is a six step process (seven, if you also need to reset the chronograph hands). The process may sound daunting, but once it’s set, you’ll get years of enjoyment from your piece, knowing that it’s always right on time. We recommend you let your watchmaker do it for you though (and give him this guide, because he’ll be hard pressed to find anything online about it) as it involves opening up the caseback.

Though the Cartier Chronoflex doesn’t display what month or year it is, the internal memory needs to know these things in order to display the correct date.

Step #1 - entering initialisation mode:

  • Pull the crown into position 2. (i.e. all the way out.) 
  • Adjust the hour and minute hand so that they display a full hour. (i.e. the minute hand at 12, the hour hand on 1, 2, 3 etc.)
  • Press the bottom chronograph pusher 3 times followed by the top pusher 3 times. 
The watch should now be in initialisation mode.

Step #2 - Initialization of the Year:

You needn’t know the exact year for this step, but you need to know whether the current year is a leap year or what year it is in between one. (For example, 2016 is a leap year, 2017 the one after, 2020 being the next leap year.) The dial is divided into four segments divided by the numerals 12, 3, 6 and 9, with 12 being the leap year and 3 the year after, and so on.

  • Press the bottom pusher, which will move the seconds hand ¼ of a turn. 
  • Keep pressing until it’s positioned on the appropriate numeral. 
  • Press the top pusher to commit the year to memory. 
The watch should now be in the month setting phase.

Step #3 - Initialisation of the Month:

The 12 hour numerals represent the 12 months of the year.

  • Press the bottom pusher, which will move the seconds hand 1/12 of a turn. Keep pressing until it’s positioned on the appropriate numeral. 

  • Press the top pusher to commit the month to memory. 

The watch should now be in the date setting phase.

Step #4 - Initialisation of the Date:

The actual date subdial is not used in this step, nor will it change at this point. This step simply commits the correct date to the internal memory - the actual date displayed on the dial is changed at a later step. The first 31 minutes on the dial represent the days of the month. If you move the seconds hand past the 31st minute it’ll automatically return to the 1st minute. Each press of the bottom pusher will move the seconds hand along one minute.

  • Press the bottom pusher until the seconds hand is on the correct date. 
  • Press the top pusher to commit the date to memory. 
The watch should now be in the time setting phase.

Step #5 - Initialisation of the Hour:

In this step, the watch needs to know what hour it is on the date you set in the previous step. The first 23 minutes on the dial (12 o'clock being the 0’th hour) represent the 24 hours in a day.

  • Press the bottom pusher until it’s on the correct minute. 
  • Press the top pusher to commit the hour to memory. 
The initialisation step is now complete.

Step #6 - Correcting the Calendar:

If the date displayed on the dial is already correct, you can skip this step.

  • Open up the case back of the watch. 
  • Turn the small correction screw until the date displayed is correct. Each 90 degree turn advances the date hand one day. 
  • Replace the case back. 

Step #7 - Correcting Alignment of Chronograph Hands:

If the chronograph hands are already aligned ( all at 12 o’clock), you can skip this step. 

  • Pull the crown into the first position. (i.e. not all the way out.) 
  • Press and hold the bottom pusher 
  • While holding the bottom pusher, press the top pusher 3 times in succession. 
  • Press the bottom pusher until the chronograph hand is at 12 o’clock. 
  • Press the top pusher once to exit chronograph correction mode and enter the correction mode for the hour and minute counters. 
  • Press the bottom pusher to advance the counter hands until they’re both at 12 o’clock. (Maintaining pressure on the bottom pusher will cause the hands to advance rapidly.) 
  • Press the top pusher to exit the chronograph setting mode. 
  • Push the crown back in. 
Happy collecting,

The Importance of Servicing

One of the most amazing things about mechanical watches is that they can last forever. They can serve you for life and many owners develop an unbreakable bond with their timepieces. It’s why nothing else is passed down, and appreciated, through generations quite like a watch. Few other mechanical things (or non-mechanical for that matter) have such staying power. It’s part of the reason I love them so much. But to do so, they must be cared for and serviced every 4-6 years.

We thought we’d just quickly show you one of the things that can happen if watches are neglected.

Recently we had an Omega Seamaster GMT in the shop that would stop running after a couple of hours. The watch was keeping perfect time and yet something was draining its power.

When disassembling the piece, Nick noticed that one of the wheels in the gear train was locked tight. It had little to no play in it and was clearly (or at least part of) the reason for the power being drained.

We decided to place the plate with the offending jewel on the optical comparator that’s (still) sitting on our office floor to get a clear picture of what’s causing the wheel to lock up:

What you’re seeing here is the result of oil and dust combining over the years to form a dark thick paste, that has resulted in the third wheel being locked up. A service every 5 years or so is more than enough to stave off this issue.

After a thorough clean, the difference is huge:

Thankfully, this watch will survive unscathed, but a recurrence of this may cause the jewels to wear out which may result in further issues throughout the mechanism.

A mechanical watch is an ongoing investment; it doesn’t just end when you walk out of the boutique. But it’s an investment that’ll bring you much joy. It’s an investment that’ll bring joy to those around you. It’s an investment that brings you into a community of some of the most intelligent and passionate people around from whom you can learn a great deal. It’s worth it.

Happy collecting,

Leading the World

When, in 1986, mechanical engineer Josef Meissner decided that he wouldn’t be outsourcing or relocating the Schlenker business overseas, he was going against the popular trend. Josef was simply unimpressed, convinced his firm should stay in Germany. While countless other German precision engineering businesses went abroad, Schlenker invested and expanded their manufacturing facility and stayed at home.

Sadly, Josef passed away in 1999 but his wife Inge took over the management of the company, continuing Josef's legacy. Inge expanded the business further, and in 2006 their daughter Britta, a graduate engineer, joined the company. Today, thanks to the mother and daughter leadership, Schlenker is leading the world in precision work-holding technology.

"This is to inform you that 3.17 guide bush for your lathe will be supplied by Schlenker spannwerkzeuge."
This brief message was received yesterday from another German company who is building our lathe and who will soon provide training to Josh and Tyler. I didn't ask how much the bush is going to cost, or how many pieces are to be custom manufactured, or what the guide bush is made of. I am simply following instructions, blindly. What an exciting journey!

For those technically-minded subscribers: the guide bush is custom made and will accept a 316L steel bar of 3.17mm diameter. In other words, our lathe will handle 'raw' material which is already prefabricated to a tolerance of 10 microns and consequently, the guide bush has to be precisely of that size. If this bar is any thinner or thicker, or if the guide bush is out of tolerance, then the bar would either jam or will be too loose to turn.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Buy Back

The core message of the Bloomberg article on the Swiss watch industry was hardly news: Swiss export was declining in every month of 2016. However, what caught me by surprise was this bit: according to the Federation of Swiss Watch Industry, watch manufacturers have bought back USD $1.3 billion worth of stock from their authorized dealers! Clearly, the manufacturers would rather buy back the stock and fill in their storerooms than to tempt dealers to discount. This is a surprising new strategy that will prevent a price drop but it will also further reduce production output. Rest assured that whoever decided to scramble serial numbers (and prevent buyers finding out the manufacturing date) is now regarded as a true industry visionary.

On the contrary, readers’ feedback to Bloomberg's article was less amusing. In essence, general wisdom revolves around two points: a) luxury watches don't sell because millionaires are frugal and b) not only do smart millennials no longer need watches to tell the time, but they are averse of showing off their status by wearing expensive watches. As far as I am concerned, both explanations are equally inaccurate.

While some millionaires are indeed misers and penny-pinchers, the majority of them actually do enjoy their life. The overwhelming majority of millionaires travel business and first class, not economy. Many of them live in luxury homes and love their hobbies, and don't mind spending their hard-earned cash on the things that give them pleasure. However, what makes them stay millionaires is the ability to delay the purchase and completely ignore the 'urge for instant gratification'. Millionaires rarely buy goods at the retail price level and would never pay a premium. They are simply waiting for that very special deal - whether it is a house or their favourite stock, a car or a watch - and are ready to close the deal when it suits them. They also have that very special power: the ability to instantly recognize the true (intrinsic) value of a goods or service and know the difference between value and price.

The myth that youngsters are no longer interested in fine timepieces is equally pathetic. I am yet to see a person - of any age for that matter - who is blasé, indifferent or apathetic once they strap on their wrist a 'live' ticking marvel of mechanical engineering and learn about its history. "I LOVE it" is the most common reaction, and often, that very timepiece becomes the first of many in a journey of sophistication and appreciation. The reason why millennials prefer iPhones to Pateks is that most of them simply have no disposal income and have not yet been enlightened and exposed to the wonderful world of horology. Youngsters have their priorities, and rightly so; education, family, mortgages and travel should always have the priority over investing in depreciating (yet so enjoyable!) assets. I say: give them enough time, and most of them will eventually 'get there'.

I for one am waiting for the Swiss watch treasure chests to fill in, flow over, spill out and to reach the grey market, and then to reach us, the ordinary people.
The sooner the better!