Monday, April 30, 2007

Grande Complication

The Watchmaker With Two First Names

He'll answer to both, but his friends call him Frank. Frank Adam made his first appearance on alt.horology in February 1998, with a reply to a poster's question about purchasing a vintage clock with this pithy, but truthful reply:

"I wish i had a dollar for each time someone tells me that they've had a timepiece for 10+ amount of years and still runs ok. Normally my reply is 'Great when it finally stops don't bring it to me' ;-)"

Since then, Frank has not only provided advice and shared his knowledge and experience; but has provided levity when things get too heavy--to the appreciation and amusement of the newsgroups readers.

Born and raised in Budapest, Hungary, until the age of sixteen, Frank experienced a rebirth when he arrived in Australia at the age of 17. Frank studied watchmaking in Melbourne, Australia, after studying and working at different jobs in Hungary, before finding what would become his occupation, that of watchmaking.

My favorite response to these questions, was Frank's answer to the question:

"How do you feel about the ever increasingly complicated watches we're seeing these days?"

Frank's answer demonstrates the style and knowledge we've come to expect and welcome; and it will intrigue you as usual.

Curious? Then read on and enjoy.

PR: So, let's start off with the basics; how old are you and where were you born and raised?

FA: Forty five. I was born twice. Born in
Budapest, Hungary and raised there to a ripe old age of 16 and a bit then arriving in Australia where I was reborn at the age of 17 and bit as an Aussie.

PR: Where were you trained in watch repair? What was that like?

FA: I did my apprenticeship with an old watchmaker who emigrated here from Yugoslavia in the '50s. It was good, but at times testing. My old boss had a belief that we should be able to repair everything and make anything. Often when I could buy a part for 50 cents, he would make me make one. At the time I hated him for I did for making me do jewellery repairs, which did not interest me at all. Times change though and over the years I've seen his manic ways paying off on the bench. So if I was to ever teach a would be watchmaker, I will make sure he or she will hate me just as much. :-)

I did my schooling in Melbourne, Australia at the RMIT. On what is called a "block release". That meant that I've spent most of my time working with my boss at the shop and would go to school for 3, 2 and 1 weeks per quarter, in each of the 3 years. (ie: 12 weeks all up in year one, 8 weeks in year two, 4 weeks in year three.)

Since I spent one year to brush up on English before starting school, it was a bit boring at times, as far as the benchwork went, but the theory part, which my old boss could not give me at such level, was certainly worth all the time I've spent there.

PR: What was your first professional position and with whom?

FA: I worked for 10 years with my old boss and that was it. By year 10, I was doing some serious amounts of trade work for a number of shops and to be honest, that last year I only completed for the long service pay. :)

PR: How did your childhood education, or experiences effect your decision to enter watchmaking?

FA: Not at all. I was always going to be a motor mechanic, failing that, a welder, like my Dad was. It was a turn of events, with the immigration and having to find a job before arrival here, which landed me in the watch workshop and at the time I thought, "whatever". Got to like it and here we are.

PR: What did you do before becoming a watch repairer?

FA: To understand how this works, you have to understand how the Hungarian school system worked. You've had 8 years of compulsory, which covered our Primary and most of the *basics* of our Secondary schools. After that, you could go on and do 4 years more studies which would expand on those basics before allowing you to go into an academic path, or you could go into a 4 year trade school, which also covered some of that extra 4 years, so it provided a trade and a high school type certificate. Or you could just go into a 2 or 3 year trade and be a straight out trades man, with little additional education.

So, at the age of 14 I went to a 4 year motor engineering school. Done ok, but could not stand the teacher and had lots of words with each other, which one day blew over and some things were I left school near the end of the year (well, was pushed out really, but keep that between us ;-) )

Then I worked for 3-4 months (work was compulsory back there) as a medical courier for a large factory chain, before joining the same factory's 2 year welding apprenticeship course. Did one year, had great teachers and finished with top marks, only to leave the country and never go back to finish that off.

PR: Any idea what your old school friends are doing these days?

FA: My best mate in Hungary is a painter. No, not Picasso, more like cars, houses etc.. :)

From the watch school...there were 6 of us in class. :)

One of them is the local TAG agent's manager (as of last time I've seen him anyway), another has moved to Queensland and runs a successful jewellery chain of his own. Third one's husband was a jeweller and I haven't seen her since, but I'm guessing she would still be working in their shop, as she was when she came to school. Fourth one disappeared. Last time we've heard he was with the city council repairing electric parking meters, for which he got lot of friendly ribbing. Fifth, I've remained good buddies with ever since. Although he has taken a sabbatical from watches in the last two years.

PR: Are you a watch repairer, or a watch maker? Do you see a difference in these two terms, or occupations?

FA: I was a watch maker, but I'm not sure anymore. :)

Being a tradey, I see mostly quartz and simple mechanicals across the bench and as much as I'd like to say otherwise, I can't see the skills not fading away to an extent. There was a time when sitting down to make a balance staff would've been a non event every day thing, but nowadays it's almost a chore, since I only do that once a month or two. If that. This year, I'm yet to make or even alter one.

So yes, the traditional watchmaker is becoming a thing of the past. Some by lack of education, some by lack of doing. Even when I did my schooling, one of the teachers used to tell us that we are not watchmakers, only "watch assemblers". At that time I was forced to make 10 cent stems, clock wheels and such back in the shop, so I wasn't too delighted with his comment. I think after a few years of experience, we all know, or at least have a clue on how to do everything, it's just that we don't do it enough anymore.

PR: What was the first watch you owned? Do you still have it?

FA: It was an East German watch, when I was 12. Can't remember the brand and don't have it anymore.

PR: What was the first watch you ever repaired, either professionally, or before?

FA: BFG 866. I think it was the standard first watch for all apprentices back then. :)

At school, we started with a Unitas pocket watch.

PR: I've noticed on alt.horology, that you really appreciate clocks and you're usually the first to jump in with a response to a clock question. What is it about clocks that you like?

FA: I can still see them. ;-)

Clocks bring back the watch(clock) making element into repairs. The average watch tends to come through the bench looking like new, with little, if any, wear. So it's a generally mundane job, that gives you no challenge at all. Clocks on the other hand, tend to wear quite a bit, by the time we get them. You clean it manually, spin the arbors around in the lathe, replace bushings, make a few bits, bushings etc. So you feel like you have actually repaired it. It is rare that a watch gives you that same satisfaction.

PR: I've also noticed that you don't seem to like "high end" watches that use inexpensive quartz modules; Why is that?

FA: It is not that simple as that. I'm sure other people in other trades would feel likewise if some big name company released a second rate product and still charge as much as if it was the top of the heap. I am in a lucky position to be able to see what is inside a watch and my opinion is based on that. If Brand X made terrific watches for years at three times the price of Brand Y, who didn't have quality stuff then that is fine. But that should not mean that when brand X starts to use cheaper or in many cases the exact same movement as Brand Y, placed in a similar case, they should still charge three times more for basically the same watch. Keeping in mind that all too often, Brand X will also be 2-3 times the price of the service costs every 5 years or so, this is not right on any grounds. In short, I don't believe in buying "names", when I can't be sure about the quality. If im stupid about it and do, like electronic equipment, then it's ok. What I don't know, won't bother me.

PR: Do you prefer mechanical movements over quartz?

FA: For my own use, quartz, because I'm lazy. :-)

Otherwise I don't care. I will wear a watch because of it's looks, not because I need the time.

PR: Any opinion on the decline that mechanical watches and Switzerland in particular, saw during the sixties and seventies?

FA: It was before my time, but I guess the Swiss was simply caught flat footed and remained somewhat anal about their marketing strategy, perhaps thinking that the Japanese push was just a flash in the pan. As we know now, it was a tad more than that. But it's all in hindsight, so I'm not about to blame the Swiss for this.

PR: Was it the fault of the Swiss makers, or the cheap, accurate imports that entered the market? Who is to blame for that downturn?

FA: As above, about the placement of blame. In addition, the cheap imports made a markable difference at first, but in my opinion, a lot of the people who would have bought those cheap watches, would not have paid the high Swiss prices or the service costs anyway.

PR: What do you think fostered the upswing in the eighties?

FA: Possibly the cheap watches. No really. :)

It is not inconceivable that a lot of kids grew up with watches on their arms. Something that would not have happened if the cheap watches did not exist. Once these kids with their 5 dollar Service Station watches entered the workforce and started to make money, they would have looked for more "meaningful" time pieces. If you look at mobile phones at the moment, it is a similar trend. 10 years ago, kids would be lucky to inherit Dad's mobile, without a simm card and a battery. Now, we can afford to buy 12 year olds 0$ phones and by the time they are 14-16, they are looking at the latest in technology as a "must have" and as soon as they are able to, they will buy them.

PR: How did the downturn and upswing affect your business?

FA: It is now getting worse than it was in the late '70s and early '80s. We were still busy back then, but the gap closed between service prices and the cost of reasonable quality watches to such extent that it is now a decision for the customer whether to keep the good old workhorse, or just by a new watch for almost the same money. And we all like to buy new things, don't we? :)

PR: How do you feel about the ever increasingly complicated watches we're seeing these days?

FA: Mostly they are only electronically complicated. It is beyond our capability to repair internal electronic faults, so all in all, it doesn't matter to me. Circuit faulty? New circuit. The few new complicated mechanicals are simple mechanics. If a watchmaker can't figure them out, perhaps he is in the wrong trade or shouldn't touch them. :)

PR: Do you feel these will be a boon to new watchmakers, or a hindrance with their highly technical nature?

FA: It is a bit of a chore to set some of them up after a service, but I don't think it's a problem. It certainly won't be a boom though.

PR: Where do you see the watch repair business heading?

FA: Downwards.

PR: Will you be going along for the ride, or will you go on to other things?

FA: I think my generation will be ok. Maybe the one behind me too, but it will not get easier to survive, apart perhaps at a 9-5 job in a service center.

PR: Are you where you pictured yourself as a young man, work wise?

FA: Not quite. Made mistakes along the way, mainly on a personal level, but overall it's all ok.

PR: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

FA: On alt.horology arguing over nothing. ;-)

Probably where I am. Working away as a tradey.

PR: When not at the bench, how do you spend your time?

FA: Fighting with my Shepherd, Duke. Programming, watching sports, Aussie Rules, motor racing and documentaries, and I guess, as my wife says "on the damn newsgroups !" ;-)

PR: What was your most difficult project, either difficult because it was complicated work, or just plain hard and nasty?

FA: Can't think of one that I could single out. There are always the occasional ones that'll give you a headache, but once fixed, they are out of my hair and mind.

PR: What was your easiest project?

FA: Fitting a battery to a wall clock. :)

PR: Are you a "strap and battery" repairer, or do you turn your nose up at that sort of watch repair work?

FA: I was never one as such, but if it has to be done, as it is part of the job. A person who fits nothing but batteries and straps will probably get it done much quicker than me, so to turn up my nose at that would be somewhat silly. When and if they start talking as if they were watchmakers and trying to teach the trade to me, that will get my back up, but I've only ever met one person like that and we parted company pretty quickly. :)

PR: What is the silliest question a customer ever asked you?

FA: That's a hard one. All of them are right up there. :-)

PR: Are watch repairers a cloistered lot? Are "outsiders" welcomed?

FA: We are a bit like a clique. Being a somewhat obscure profession, there are not too many people who can hold a proper conversation about the job with us. Outsiders are always welcomed by me and I don't mind explaining the ins and outs to anyone who shows a genuine interest, but I know some people in the trade who would not be that way, rather the contrary. In fact, those people can be rather coarse even to those in the trade, while others will be happily sharing their knowledge with each other. I guess, like with every group, you have good ones and bad ones.

PR: What advice do you have for people like me, who wish to make this a new career, or a hobby?

FA: Seek psychiatric treatment? Nah, the customers will make sure you will need that anyway. ;-)

My advice is, to make sure you go at your own speed. If you don't know, or not sure about something, then ask someone before breaking or damaging a part you may not be able to obtain. School is all well to teach the basics, but it's the years of experience that makes us better and just like in any job, we're learning to the end.

PR: What are you working on today?

FA: You mean apart from motivation ? :)

Um...let's see. I've got a grandfather movement on the clock bench to bush and reassemble, a verge pocket watch on the watch bench to fix two pivots on and assemble. That's the easy work, but I also have to fit a Miyota 2035 and a PC21 movement, quote on a Certina quartz. :-)

And whatever else fits into the day after that. Actually I am fairly busy at the moment.

PR: What is your best kept secret, or tip for repair work?

FA: I have too many to mention or maybe don't have any. Not sure Hey ! it's a secret !! :-)

PR: And lastly, when you hit the beach are you wearing swimming trunks, speedos?

FA: Trunks. My speedo days are over and the old boys deserve some freedom down there. :)

Regards, Frank Adam
Melbourne, Australia

Thanks to Frank for participating and sharing not only his opinions, but his ideas and experiences. There is no substitute for experience, save knowledge and hands on work. But none are independent of the others--and Frank exemplifies all three.

For those looking for watchmaking services, please feel free to visit Frank at his website:

Or contact him through his email at:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Seconde Morte

Girard-Perregaux 1966 Full Calendar

Presented at the SIHH, the Girard-Perregaux 1966 Full Calendar is based on a GP classic, made with modern materials and techniques. Its 40mm round, pink gold case and white dial displays a full calendar, with date, the day of the week, the month and moon phase.

The day and month are displayed in windows below the twelve o'clock marker; with the day in the left window and the month in the right window. The date is read by a sub-hand located above the six o'clock marker, with the moonphase inside the date ring.

The movement is the GP033M0 designed and built by Girard-Perregaux and features a 46 hour power reserve and 27 jewels. It is displayed through the sapphire glass back. This watch is one model within the GP 1966 series of homage watches, paying tribute to GP's past creations and innovations.

In 1957, Girard-Perregaux released the Gyromatic movement ushering in a new series of small, self-winding movements with highly accurate rates. In 1965, Girard-Perregaux presented a movement oscillating at a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour; at a time when most houses could only reach 21,800 vibrations per hour. In 1966, Girard-Perregaux was awarded the Centenary Prize of the Observatory of Neuchâtel for their efforts.

Please see
Joel & Kohei's post at Timezone for further information and pics:

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Grande Complication

The watchmaker formally known as D.B.

We all know him as dAz. A watchmaker since finishing high school and a presence on alt.horology since December 15, 1999; dAz has provided watch and clock servicing to customers in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney since 1971 and passed on his knowledge and expertise to readers through alt.horology with over 1500 posts.

His first appearance on alt.horology was in response to a request from a poster for an explanation of a tool called a "torque watch gauge". dAz's reply was simple and to the point:

"dunno!!??, appears to have a jacobs 3 jaw chuck at one end and the dial at the other end, just because it says watch in the name, it may not have anything to do with horology"

And so we've come to appreciate and more importantly, understand watch and clockmaking because of dAz's concise answers and willingness to share what he's learned over the years, without expectation of reward on his part.

Between hobbies such as caring for and driving a 1928 Model A Ford and mountain biking, to dealing with a customer who would wind her quartz powered watch daily; dAz has gone from working with a clockmaker well schooled in the "dunk and dry" method of cleaning, to becoming self-employed watch and clockmaker, while leading a varied and interesting life all in between.

What are dAz's future plans? Let's just say his car's bumper sticker could read:

"From My Cold Dead Hands!"

Curious? Then read on and enjoy.

PR: So, let's start off with the basics; how old are you and where were you born and raised?

dAz: 51, Mudgee, NSW moved with parents at age five to Northern Beaches of Sydney where I still live

PR: Where were you trained in watch repair? What was that like?

dAz: Four year apprenticeship at a local jeweller/watchmaker in Dee Why, not bad, taught me how to work in a shop :) the guy I was indentured to was not a good watchmaker, he could pull down a watch, fit balance staffs but his technique left something to be desired, fortunately I did one day a week for 3 years technical collage in Sydney passed second highest for the final and only pipped for first on a technical question.

Later I worked for a swiss service firm in Sydney, I learned more about watch repair in six months than in 4 years with the shop.

I went straight from high school year 10 (4th form) to an apprenticeship, so I really didn't know any better until I worked for Swiss Watches.

PR: What was your first professional position and with whom?

dAz: 1971. J & HM Begg in Dee Why, Harry Begg had just sold the business to an American watchmaker who not long moved to Australia with his girlfriend and left his wife and 3 kids back in the US.

The resident "clockmaker" was a nice fellow but I didn't fortunately follow in his clock repair technique either, he would take an American movement fully wound and dump it whole in dirty solvent and let it run down and then blow it out with an air compressor..... nuff said.

1975 I worked for the swiss service centre in Sydney for 6-8 months, although I did learn a lot I found the work very repetitive and boring, they had one guy whose job all day was to take the movements out of cases and sorted into divided boxes, then he would clean the cases, fit new crystals etc, the 4-5 watchmakers would take one of the divided boxes which held 5 jobs at a time and then do the service work then fit them into the cleaned cases, same thing day after day, a lot of the time for standard movements like ST 96, ST 69-21 the movements were exchanged, and when they get 50 of the same movement one guy would service them 20 at a time on a special rotating jig complete with electric screwdriver.

1976 I worked in my parents health foods shop for a couple of years, spent some time on a friends farm helping with sheep and fixing tractors, relaxing :)

Since then been working for myself.

PR: How did your childhood education, or experiences effect your decision to enter watchmaking?

dAz: Sort of fell into it, just seemed to be more interested in pulling machines apart to see how they worked, 5 years old I pulled my mum's alarm clock apart and used the movement for a choo choo train because of the whirring noise it would make when pushing the great wheel against the lounge room carpet, Mum was not happy :) got a mechcano set for next birthday!

By high school I could pull a simple wrist watch apart and rebuild it running with screwdrivers I made in metal work.

PR: What did you do before becoming a watch repairer?

dAz: School.

PR: Any idea what your old school friends are doing these days?

dAz: Most moved away, but one close friend is bus driver for Sydney transport, another is a good mechanic and runs a service centre, another is a pilot and flys for Qantas.

PR: Are you a watch repairer, or a watch maker? Do you see a difference in these two terms, or occupations?

dAz: A Watchmaker, I go by the term used in the old english watch trade, the watchmaker was the last guy in the line, after the movement is made from the blank, the wheelmaker, the escapement maker, the springer, the jeweller, the engraver, case maker etc etc etc, his/her job was to do a final service on the complete watch, pulling it down check everything fits properly and get it ready for sale.

I do make parts for watches and clocks, and I think I could build a watch from scratch if I had the equipment, but have no desire to do so, as far as clocks go I have made enough parts over the years to make several complete clocks, and maybe one day I will build a few clocks from the movement up, and not just cases and stick a bought movement in as some so called "clockmakers" do.

PR: What was the first watch you owned? Do you still have it?

dAz: Oris boys watch, cal#611 made when Oris actually made their own movements, given to me first year high school 1967.

Yes I do, hangs on a nail in the workshop and yes it still runs

PR: What was the first watch you ever repaired, either professionally, or before?

dAz: No idea, well the first watch I pulled apart was a open faced pocket watch Dad had, then it was a cheap bfg 866 watch in high school

PR: I've noticed on alt.horology that you really enjoy Seiko, especially the Seiko 5 series. Why is that?

dAz: I just like Seiko, simple but effective automatics, nice layouts, Citizen was bit too agricultural, the swiss watches had standard movements turning up in all sorts of brands much like you find Asian movements turning up in near everything today.

Also the first watch I fully rebuilt was Seiko 7005 auto I rescued out of the shops junk drawer in 1971, and yes I still on occasions wear it.

Simple tough and reliable, that's why I like them.

PR: What do you think of the more complicated Seiko watches we're seeing, such as the Credor line and the Spring Drive?

dAz: I like it, anything that can eliminate batteries and still give quartz accuracy is good in my book, if Seiko were to bring it down to their "5" series prices I think they would sell better than those horrors of the kinetic line.

It can be serviced by a good watchmaker, if not worn for a while there are no batteries to go flat and leak, and no landfill of dead batteries.

So long as the electronics lasts there is no reason the Spring Drive should not last 50-60years, there are 60s electronic watches still running today.

PR: Do you think Seiko is trying to candidly compete with Switzerland, or even Germany--such as Lexus going up against Mercedes--or are Seiko trying to present their own interpretation of high-mech?

dAz: Well they did, but found they didn't really have a market outside of Japan, their Grand Seiko are on a par with anything made in Switzerland.

PR: Any opinion on the decline that mechanical watches and Switzerland in particular, saw during the sixties and seventies?

dAz: [be] Like mobile (cellular) phones, 15 years ago they didn't exist or were very large and chunky, when I started in the trade in 1971 there were no quartz watches, mostly all mechanical, autos etc, the occasional tuning fork or balance drive electric or electronic watches and the odd American Pulsar before Seiko bought the name, by around 1974 I saw my first quartz watch in a dealers showroom, huge heavy thing, lucky to get 12 months from a battery.

But towards the end of the 70s quartz took off, the Japanese latched on and made the things in the millions, when the first LCD watches watches showed they were then amazing things, no hands, no button to press to light the display up, could be read in daylight, cost a bomb then, today the same sort of functions time and date display only can be found on a $2 LCD watch from the service station.

PR: Was it the fault of the Swiss makers, or the cheap, accurate imports that entered the market? Who is to blame for that downturn?

dAz: The swiss were lazy or unaware at the time and it cost them, lot of companies folded or were absorbed by bigger companies, e.g. Omega nearly shot themselves in the foot, in the 60s they still had the nice 500 and 700 series movements in their watches, 70s they started to use dressed up Tissot movements in the Geneva range, made nasty LED quartz watches and then LCD to try and jump on the quartz bandwagon, finally by the 80s the swiss abandoned the digital watch and left to the experts in Japan who could do it better and cheaper.

Now we see a resurgence or mechanical watches, although it will never be like it was prior to the 70s.

PR: What do you think fostered the upswing in the eighties?

dAz: Change in fashions, people had more money to spend.

PR: How did the downturn and upswing affect your business?

dAz: Not a lot, took extra courses in the 80s to learn to service quartz and so on, also did a clock restoration course.

PR: How do you feel about the ever increasingly complicated watches we're seeing these days?

dAz: Nice, I have no problem doing work on some of these, but my main concern would be parts, a lot of manufactures are starting to cut guys like me out getting parts for these just because either I don't do enough of them a year or I wont jump through their hoops the right way.

PR: Do you feel these will be a boon to new watchmakers, or a hindrance with their highly technical nature?

dAz: Well to the battery and movement swappers it would, but there are young trade workers that are quite capable of doing this work, specially the ones that go through courses like WOSTEP.

PR: Where do you see the watch repair business heading?

dAz: Moving to more specialized houses, the cheap end is throw away and buy new, the expensive watches will be done in house, and then you still have people who want their mum/dads grandma/gramps watches restored, hopefully there will be guys like me and Frank and others that can still do them.

PR: Will you be going along for the ride, or will you go on to other things?

dAz: Die with tweezers and screwdriver in my hands :)

PR: Are you where you pictured yourself as a young man, work wise?

dAz: Nope, I don't think many people do live there dreams in the end, but humans learn to adapt to change and make their lives better.

PR: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

dAz: Same more or less.

PR: When not at the bench, how do you spend your time?

dAz: Bit of computers, working on and driving my '28 Ford model A, visiting friends, cooking, riding mountain bikes :)

PR: What was your most difficult project, either difficult because it was complicated work, or just plain hard and nasty?

dAz: A quarter repeating clock pocket watch, with added chronograph functions, this watch struck the quarters full time just like a clock, hence the name, made around mid 1800s, English, and because each screwed down part had custom made screws you could not mix the screws like you can with American and swiss movements, took me all day to do, and refused to be interrupted with anything else until it was finished.

Nasty?! well any of the high grade watches that have come in with serious rust where is has to be carefully taken apart with minimal damage to the plates.

No actually the worst was a Seiko autodate in a square case on a bracelet belonging to a butcher in the arcade where the last jeweller shop I worked in house in, this was in the 80s after my first boss died I did the repairs in house for a couple years until the shop closed down, anyway the Seiko in question is one of those where the movement goes in a one piece back the gasket and inverted plexi is place in top and the case/bezel is snapped over this to seal the watch, result is a cavity between the inner and outer case, the guy was a butcher, wore his watch all the time even when digging inside carcases :P soooo the fat from the meat embedded in this cavity and the bracelet links and it stank!! I took the watch apart with gloves on, no one in the shop bought meat from him again.

PR: What was your easiest project?

dAz: Zenith Neuchatel 8day clock on bell strike, thing went together like a (very)large pocket watch, all the wheels stood straight, the back plate just dropped back into place without me having to jiggle anything, brilliant!

PR: Are you a "strap and battery" repairer, or do you turn your nose up at that sort of watch repair work?

dAz: I service and restore including making parts for vintage watches and clocks, can service quartz but generally cheaper to change movements for new, will not work on crap or fakes, don't like Timex, don't keep or sell bands

PR: What is the silliest question a customer has ever asked you?

dAz: See above ;)

Hmmm, lady whose watch had stopped, to which I fitted a new battery, when I told her what I did, she said "battery? it has a battery?!, why have I been winding the watch for the last two years?"

PR: Are watch repairers a cloistered lot? Are "outsiders" welcomed?

dAz: Hmm a lot don't like the customer looking over their shoulder, especially if something flips out of the tweezers across the room, but if someone is interested in the trade I will try and help where I can, it is not something everyone has an aptitude in doing, being able to concentrate in a small space while working on micro mechanics, not having sweaty or shaky hands and so on.

PR: What advice do you have for people like me, who wish to make this a new career, or a hobby?

dAz: Do your research, do some sort of course or at least get someone to guide you through the steps, you cannot just leap into watch repair, start with something large and work your way down, and do not start something expensive, like the guy a couple of years back didn't want to pay the price to get his Rolex fixed so decided to jump in do it himself, anyone can change the oil and airfilter in a car, but not everyone can pull an engine apart and rebuild it, and a car engine is a lot bigger than a watch movement.

PR: What is your best kept secret, or tip for repair work?

dAz: Clean uncluttered workspace and good lighting, makes it easier to find flicked parts :)

PR: And lastly, boxers, briefs, or commando?

dAz: Leather apron, if you drop your tweezers they usually end up point first in your lap, ouch! :)



A hearty thank you to dAz for taking the time to participate with this, the first interview in the Grande Complication series. I've learned a great deal; not just about watchmaking, but about the man himself, which is just as important.

Seconde Morte

In keeping with the theme of skeletonized watches, this weeks feature is the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionnelle Skeleton Perpetual Calendar.

The platinum or 18k rose gold (my personal fave,) the case measures a respectable 39mm and houses a VC movement calibre 1120 QPSQ. It is a self-winding mechanical, stamped with the Geneva hallmark, has 36 jewels, a balance beating at 19,800 beats per hour, (lower beats, means a slower arc and more chances to watch the escapement,) and a power reserve of 40 hours.

Please visit Timezone to read Jorge Merino's post on this watch and to see more pics:

Butterface Of The Week

Jaeger LeCoultre Master Eight Days Perpetual SQ

As much as I've enjoyed JLC's work over the years, I have to say that this limited edition model--although daring in execution--just misses the mark with regards to a skeletonized movement.

For an example of what JLC can accomplish with the art of skeletonizing, we just have to look at the Reverso in white gold. Not only beautiful in case and dial design, but the gold plates and bridges, set off by the blued screws presents a masterpiece in wrist art.

Housed in the familar Master series case made of 950 platinum, the styling is magnificent, if not a little large at 41.5mm. Having saphire crystals back and front, gives the wearer to oportunity to view the skeleton movement. The matt grey alligator strap sports a white gold deployment clasp.

The watch tells the wearer the hours, minutes, date, day, month, year, moon phases, power reserve, day/night indicator and has a red security zone, although it's function I have no idea.

The movement is a JLC (natch) manually-wound calibre 876SQ, built and decorated by hand, has a balance with a 28,800 vibration per hour beat, an eight day power reserve powered by two barrels, 260 parts, 37 jewels and is a mere 6.60 mm thick.

The watch will be limited to 100 peices to be made over several years to give JLC's watchmakers the time needed to build them and recover from the hysterical blindness this watch will no doubt cause. And then fortunately and compassionately, the watch will put to rest. Unless it gets buried in the Pet Cemetary.

Please visit Timezone and read Mike Dishers post about the Master Eight Days Perpetual SQ:

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Basel Favorites and Unfortunates (Ouch!)

Using Timezone as a launching pad for my critiques, I'm happy to present what I plan to have on my wrist, what I would love to have on my wrist and what I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.

First off, from Jaeger-LeCoultre, a lovely and brilliant new chrono named the Duometre a Chronographe:

Featuring a hand decorated and built mechanical Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 380 movement, this chrono displays a power reserve for the time function, as well as for the chronograph function, both displaying the power in each of the two barrels. Also, the chronograph function features a minute-unit indicator, so you don't have to guess whether the chrono reads 32 minutes, or 33 minutes; it's in there!

Next up, one that's going on the wish list, the Glashutte original "Sixties". A lovely self-winding model using the wonderful GO 39 movement, cased inside steel and precious metal cases and featuring a no-nonsense dial, with alternating Arabic and index hour markers, a domed sapphire crystal, (I'm not too hot for this feature, but I don't hate it either) and an extra-plat case.

From Vianny Halter is a tower clock for your wrist. Designed and crafted in 1788 by Antide Janvier, that clock and this particular watch presents the solar time and lunar cycle in a housing that won't crush you like your name was Wicked Witch of the East. Oh! What a world, what a world! The clock may be sitting in the Musée du Temps in Besançon, but this watch can be sitting on your wrist courtesy of Manufacture Janvier (well...not "courtesy", you have to pay for it.)

From F.P. Journe, comes the Octa Moonphase and Power Reserve. That pretty much sums it all up, natch. Hey, it's from Journe, what else you need to know? What? You writin' a book? Fine. The movement is the Octa 1300-3, with a 120 hour power reserve (woof!) and a new rotor that winds in one direction. Using a ball bearing system, ceramic balls allow the rotor to move in one direction and block it in the other. Apparently, when the wearer is sitting on his, chair, the rotor moves back to it's original position and apparently, "...every infinitesimal movement is maximally exploited for an optimized winding of the watch." Now don't you feel useless? Your watch works harder than you do, you slob.

From another independent maker, the Sea-Gull Tourbillon. Made by a Chinese maker, the case is rose gold, with a hand wind tourbillon movement displaying the time, sub seconds via a dagger on the tourb cage, power reserve, moon phase, date and 24 hour indication. Wow! Even the Asian watches work harder than us shiftless North Americans! Lazy Timex.

Now, Rolex. I won't go into too much detail, except to say that much like Cadillac, Rolex hasn't made a good-looking product since 1996. However, the new Air-Kings with COSC and heavier cases look sharp. I'll let James Dowling tell you about the Yacht-Master II.

From the Omega Museum Collection, we have a rebuild of the famous 1932 divers watch. This case-in-a-case watch was conceived as an elegant designer watch, that was robust enough to withstand the harsh reality of moisture. It flopped. Oh, it worked perfectly, but no one wanted it. Which had the JLC Reverso talking trash about it at all the cool parties. Snap! However, aside from being a snappy little number, it has been updated with modern materials and can be yours. The inner case of rose gold, slides inside the outer case of white gold, living in moisture free sin upon the wearer's wrist. The only unfortunate issue is, Omega decided to enlarge the watch to 33.05 mm wide by 50.50 mm long. I guess size does matter.

Also from Omega, yet another limited series Speedmaster Pro, this time limited to 57 pieces in precious metal and featuring a hand wind Co-Axial movement. A steel version will also be available in 1957 pieces in a handsome wood box, with ugly dial doodads. But it's still going on my wish list. Ugly watches need love too.

And now, the one I'll be shopping for, the Longines Legend Diver. It's a re-issue of a 1960 diving watch and damned pretty. With a self-winding Longines caliber L633--ETA 2824-2--25 jewels, a 28,800 beat, a power reserve of 38 hours all inside a 42mm steel case. Although about 4mm bigger than I like my watch to be, (I'm not a size queen,) it's beauty outweighs it's size.

And lastly, from the bottom of whatever barrel would have them, Paris Hilton has made a punitive foray into watch design. "Paris Hilton timepieces are creative designs with sensual cases and colorful straps." In other words, tarted up timepieces. Much like their "designer", they'll be cheap and easily had for $85-$200 by anyone with more cash than taste. Hey, I'll cut the
lady some slack. She hasn't done anything that all of us haven't done too. The only diff is we don't have video evidence of our debauchery. Most of us don't. Ok, I do. But I didn't know cameras could tape in the dark. Night vision, what the hell is that? What is this, "Mission Impossible"? Mission impossible getting that damn tape back. No copies? Yeah, right. I won't fall for that one a third time.

Baselworld 2007


As we all are well aware, the 90th annual Baselworld fair and watch exposition is taking place in--oddly enough--Basel, Switzerland between April 12 and April 19, 2007.

From 1917 until 1973 (the year and month yours truly was brought forth screaming and wailing from the warm confines on my mother's womb at the tender age of ten,) the fair was known as MUBA, or Schweizer Mustermesse Basel where a special section for watches and jewelry was presented.

In 1973, the fair was renamed EUSM, Europäische Uhren- und Schmuckmesse, the European Jewelry and Watch Show. It wasn't until 1983, that the now familiar Basel was born and Herein began ARRIVING exhibitors from around the world. And in 2003, an icon was established in Baselworld. Sorta like Disney World, minus the rats.

Basel, Switzerland, the place annually besieged by wide eyed seekers of the correct time is itself an lovely little city. From Wikipedia:

"Located in north-west Switzerland on the river Rhine, Basel functions as a major industrial center for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. The city borders both Germany and France. The Basel region, culturally extending into German Baden and French Alsace, reflects the heritage of its three states in the modern Latin name: "Regio TriRhena". It has the oldest university of the Swiss Confederation (1460)."

With a population of 172,120 and an area of only about 22 kilometers, this city has managed to become the nexus of watch collecting, outside of Geneva. It is where two different ideals, watchmaking and watch collecting, merge to form a workable understanding that not only saved the Swiss watch manufacturing dynasty in the 1980's, but has managed to sustain it throughout the years and no doubt well into a future that you, not I will ever live to see.

Please feel free to peruse these links and see what the world of watchmaking has to offer. I will be posting some comments of the various presentations invariably; whatever catches my eye, or makes me question the existence of a creator, whether man or god.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

There's Doins'a'Transpirin'

I thought I'd elucidate on what my intentions are with this here blog. Each week I hope to present a set of features and a set content. My hope is that the What Does Your Watch Say? blog will become a comfortable, familiar place for all of us. Like a McDonald's--no good for ya, but ya know what you're gettin' 8^)

Each week, or semi-weekly, I plan to present several topics:

Grande Complication

As we all know, a complication is
any function other than the indication of hours, minutes and seconds, no matter if the mechanism is hand-wound or self-winding and irregardless of movement height. However, we also know that many in the watch field can be quite complicated themselves.

So, each week I hope to present an interview with an individual from the watch biz, so that both you the reader and I can get to know these people better and hopefully learn something new about ourselves as well.

I hope that they will impart not only their experience and knowledge, but their advice and history, which may be kept as a record for future watch repairers and makers.

Sécurité de la sonnerie

The "all-or-nothing" piece is a system that prevents an insufficiently wound striking mechanism from striking too few hours. For many watchmakers, entering this field was an all, or nothing endeavor. They will build their own watches completely, no other options will be considered.

I hope to occasionally discuss these individuals, their work, their designs and hopefully, their own words, so that we may all benefit from their courage, ingenuity and drive.


Autonomy is the duration which a timepiece can function between windings. This blog has a small autonomy. It can not go for long without input from you, the reader. Invariably, I will present an email, or comment from a reader that I feel presented a salient point, idea, or suggestion to help improve this blog and make it more enjoyable for all of us.

Seconde Morte

Anyone familiar with Breguet, will be familiar with the idea of a "dead second" or , "
seconde d’un coup", where the second hand jumps forward after each elapsed second has passed.

This section will be reserved for those watches that catch my fancy, pique my curiosity, or are so breathtakingly beautiful, time seems to stop for an instant while we admire them.

Watches will come from my own collection and from the collections of this blog's readers. I look forward to this being one of the more eclectic portions of the What Does your Watch Say?, which will match the eclectic tastes of myself and my readers.


Each week I will present a photo of a watch and invite you the readers to rebuild, remake and redesign that watch in any way you see fit. Each week one entry will be selected by a panel of one and the winner will receive the satisfaction of a job well done and my undying respect. (Paul Raposo's undying respect void where prohibited.)

Butterface Of The Week

Each week I'll present and review a watch that, for all it's outside and internal beauty, the dial configuration leaves something to be desired. Although not meant as a slight towards the maker, designer, or manufacturer, it will be a light hearted look at watches with faces only a collector could love.


Usually a second cover inside a hunter case, which protects the movement from dust and damage. But every so often, I will open les cuvettes of a particular book and review it for my readers. These books will be about repair, biographies, watch magazines and even catalogs and advertisements. Since collecting watch paper has been a hobby of mine for a couple of decades, this is something I look forward to sharing with you periodically.


Along with these specialty posts, I will provide a daily, or semi-daily post regarding my studies of the Chicago School of Watchmaking corrspondence course. As well, I will discuss my attempts with the repairing of movements and discuss what I have learned that day.

I hope that as I learn and grow as a watch repairer/maker, that you will not only share your own knowledge, but learn along with me.
The only way we can learn to walk, is to first learn how to fall. All my mistakes, success, discoveries and epiphanies will be presented here for all of us to share and learn from.

The comments section is now open and will not be moderated. However, I will remove vulgar, bigoted, homophobic, sexist, or down right stupid comments. And not only will the commentator be banned, but I will drop a house on them. And not a small house either; a McMansion! So let's leave it cleaner than we found it and play safe.

And always remember:

Welcome to What Does Your Watch Say?

Moe: What does your watch say?
Shemp: It don't say nothing; you've got to look at it.

And thus is born the What Does Your Watch Say? blog. We, or rather I, will use this blog to present watch related topics; discussions of wrist and pocket watches; independent watchmakers; book reviews, whether about repair, history, biography, catalogs, or magazines; my progress in the repair of movements; interviews with those in watch related fields; and a running cliff notes on the Chicago School of Watchmaking correspondence course and eventually, the British Horological Institutes' Distance Learning Program.

Watches reviewed will be watches from my own collection; collections belonging to friends and foes alike, (the watch of my enemy is my watch ¬_¬) unusual watches; independent makers and watches I have--or will--lust after.

I will write about and, (hopefully,) interview those independent watchmakers who carry on the craft of hand making individual watches. Reviews and photos of the work of people like George Daniels, F. P. Journe and lesser known, but renowned and respected makers like Christian Klings. And not to be left out, all those, such as myself, who are working towards becoming a part of a great heritage of future master builders, will be included and are welcomed.

Book reviews will feature repair titles such as, The Watch Repairers manual by Fried; historical books such as, Watch and Clock Makers Handbook Dictionary and Guide by Britton; biographies such as, All In Good Time by Daniels; catalogs, historical and new from my collection; and reviews of any number of the magazines currently available from the past and present.

I will present an online diary as I learn to assess malfunctions, repair movements, replace and eventually make from scratch, new parts and time watch movements; as well fixing the usual maladies that befall watch glasses and cases.

Interviews will feature those in the watch biz that I've come to know over the years, whether in person, or online. Sales people; store owners; repair persons, collectors and hobbyists will all suffer the lash of my harsh line of in-depth questioning and Hearstian critiques!

And lastly, the main feature nee function of this blog will be to follow my study of the Chicago School of Watchmaking correspondence course. As well as my eventual enrollment in the BHI distance learning course. As I learn, you will read--enraptured no doubt--of my progress, quandaries and success. All aided by an intense desire to learn and advice from those experienced souls who provide advice and hints to those just beginning, through their own kindness and compassion.

I look forward to input from readers through comments and emails. Your ideas and suggestions will help to build a blog that will not only hopefully entertain, but enrich our collective knowledge and become a storehouse of information for those seeking either advice, or amusement.

All in all, I hope this blog will provide useful information, interesting takes on the world of watches and a helpful guide for those who seek to either increase their knowledge, or pursue an honourable career centuries old.

And now a word from our Shemp--

Samuel "Shemp" Horwitz
March 17 , 1895 - November 23, 1955

Moe: Hey! Shemp passed out; get him some water!
Shemp: No, champagne...