A Message from Our AWCI President – Fred T. White, CMW21, October 2017

October 1st, 2017

It has been my honor and privilege to serve as your president.

Fred T. White, CMW21, AWCI President

As I start to write this, my last message as president, I am listening to reports of Hurricane Irma and wondering if we will have a convention because of the damage that the hurricane is doing to Florida. By the time you read this, you will know what has happened.

It has been my honor and privilege to serve as your president for the last three years. I have attempted to do as much as I could for the independent watchmakers and clockmakers. Have I been successful? Only time will tell. Some things we can look at and say we have set them in motion. We are working with NAWCC in a cooperative effort to offer them some of our benefits as they offer us some of their benefits. Our Education and Standards Committee is moving along quite nicely. With the hiring of Mike Carpenter as Clock Director, I am looking forward to our clockmaker’s education and certification programs to be implemented so that we can offer more education for those who want it. I feel the clockmakers have been overlooked for far too long. One of my goals was, and still is, to improve our lot in our trade, whether you are a clockmaker or a watchmaker. We are on a good path now for the clockmakers, and I hope that it will continue into the future.

Why get certified as a clockmaker? First, to prove to yourself that you are as good a craftsperson as you think you are. Second, it is something you can look upon with pride (like a doctor, lawyer, CPA, or RN) and say to yourself, “I took a difficult test and passed it. There is the certificate on the wall to prove it.” Third, it will improve your income because there is a new level of trust from your prospective customers.

As for the watchmakers, my hope is that in the future there will be more help on the parts issue. I know that some of you feel we are beating a dead horse, but if we don’t continue to push, nothing will happen. I have taught my children that there is one answer to every question, either yes or no; so we need to continue to question. There are good, qualified watchmakers who are having issues with parts, and this should not be so in America. Some clients don’t want to send their watches in and wait for months for them to be returned, when they could have their watches back in a short period of time if they used local repair people. So, my hope is that we will continue to strive to improve our lot as crafts people in our trade.

In closing, I hope what I have written and said over the past three years has helped some of you along your journey here on this earth. Muhammad Ali said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Let’s not forget to support our fellow crafts people who have suffered from the devastation of the last two hurricanes that have hit our shores. My plea to each one of you is to do what you can to help these folks.

Keep on making them tick or tock for the good of us all.

 

Industry News, October 2017

October 1st, 2017

Investigation into Restrictive Spare Part Supply Possible

By Aaron Recksiek, CW21

The independent federal authority in Bern, Switzerland, known as Wettbewerbskommission, or WEKO for short, also referred to as the Competition Commission, or COMCO, indicated that they will investigate complaints from independent watch service centers and consumers about the increasing unavailability of genuine spare parts. Deputy Director Patrik Ducrey, an official from WEKO, shared the news with Reuters in early August.

“We received complaints from independent watch repairers who no longer had access to parts, but also from customers who were unhappy they could not get their watch repaired wherever they wanted,” Ducrey told Reuters. “We are doing preliminary checks at the moment to see if there are indications that watchmakers unlawfully limit the access to parts for independent watch repairers. By this autumn, we should be able to decide whether to open an investigation,” Ducrey said.

WEKO holds the legal authority to impose fines or sanction watch manufacturers that they have found are engaging in anticompetitive practices. This could increase pressure on watch companies to make spare parts more widely available outside of their network of authorized repair locations.

If you would like to notify WEKO personally about any potential anticompetitive practices by Swiss companies, you can fill out a contact form on their website: www.weko.admin.ch/weko/en/home/comco/kontakt.html, write them at: Secretariat, Hallwylstrasse, 4 CH-3003 Bern, or call: +41 58 462 20 40.

 

Sources:
www.weko.admin.ch/weko/en/home.html
www.reuters.com/article/watches-competition-idUSL5N1KW52O

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Aaron Recksiek is an independent watchmaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a graduate of the 2008 WOSTEP class at the Lititz Watch Technicum.

Industry News, September 2017

August 31st, 2017

The Solar Time Clock

By Donna Hardy

British clockmaker George deFossard, FBHI, has created a mechanical clock that can be set for longitude and latitude, allowing it to tell the time virtually anywhere in the world.

deFossard, who spent more than three years building the elaborate clock made of 750 handmade parts, started his career in mechanical engineering and design. He later retrained as a clockmaker, studying the conservation and restoration of antique clocks at West Dean College.

deFossard’s wife, Cornelia, who studied the conservation and restoration of antique furniture at West Dean College, created the clock case, which is made of ebonized pear wood and brushed stainless steel metalwork.

The moon phase indication is driven by an exceptionally accurate, complex, and unusual compound worm mechanism, which was first designed by 18th-century English clockmaker Thomas Mudge. According to deFossard, Mudge’s invention was condemned to history because of its complexity, rather than its mathematical accuracy. deFossard has resurrected it and combined it with his own mechanical invention to create a unique and modern timepiece.

The deFossards said they were inspired to make the clock “by the vibrant and innovative mechanical watch market.”

There will be an official launch at The Clockmakers’ Museum in London in the autumn, as part of the Worshipful Company of Clockmaker’s collection, which includes clocks and watches by horological icons such as Tompion, Harrison, and Daniels. After its time in the museum, the Solar Time Clock will be put up for public sale.

Source:
www.defossard.co.uk/

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Donna Hardy is the managing editor of the Horological Times.

A Message from Our AWCI President – Fred T. White, CMW21, September 2017

August 31st, 2017

The “impossible” only takes a little longer and costs a little more.

Fred T. White, CMW21, AWCI President

Over the last few years, I have tried to instill the desire to succeed by my messages. I hope that some of my thinking has inspired at least one of you to try to improve your lot in life. Most of us watchmakers have had to deal with the parts issue. Some years ago, I heard that if you are dealt lemons, then turn them into lemonade. There are certain problems that we cannot fix, but we can go down another road. So, you have a choice: If you can’t get the parts, then do the “impossible:” It will take a little longer and you charge accordingly. You go searching for the part through our trade journals, and you may find a world of parts that you did not know existed. Recently, I needed a rare pallet fork for a rare Howard pocket watch. I had two choices: I could give the watch back to the customer, or I could go on a search. Because of my makeup, I don’t give up, so I went searching. First, I called the material houses that I deal with, but no luck. However, I was not to be deterred. I turned to our trade journals and guess what? I found the part through the NAWCC mart. I called the gentleman and inquired if he might have this part, and it turned out that he did. We agreed on a price, I bought the part, and my customer is happy.

In the words of Winston Churchill “Never, never, never give up.” I have had the good fortune of knowing many World War II veterans, but none stand out in my mind more than my friend C.W. Smith. He was wounded in the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944 while making an assault on the mountain. He lost a leg and lung, but he lived to age 82 and died with shrapnel still in his back. He had the most positive outlook in life of almost anyone I have ever known. Here was a man who could have given up but chose to go on despite his injuries, and he lived a good, long life, raised a family, and was a successful watchmaker. When you are confronted with a problem, I hope you will look back on these words and keep on working to find your solution.

We are preparing for a great convention in Tampa, Florida, October 4 through 8. It is an opportunity to meet with old friends and make new ones. There is nothing better than sitting down with your fellow craftsperson and building those relationships that may last a lifetime. They could be the very ones to help you overcome that issue you are having on any given day. There are also those classes that can expand your knowledge and give you handy tips that you may bring back to the bench and put to use right away. It was through attending conventions that I got to know Marvin Whitney, Joe Cerrullo, Jordan Ficklin, Henry Fried, and many more. Just think, if I hadn’t attended those conventions, I would not have those great memories, and what a loss that would have been for me. I hope to see you in Tampa. Come—you will not regret it.

Industry News, August 2017

July 31st, 2017

Cousins UK Material House Makes Progress in Swiss Court

A Swiss court in Berne has ruled that a Negative Declaratory Action (NDA) suit filed against Cousins Material House Ltd by the Swatch Group is inadmissible under Swiss Law and the case has been dismissed. The suit was brought against Cousins UK after the parts supplier had sent a legally required “Letter Before Action” to the Swatch Group warning them of a pending anti-competition lawsuit in the English High Court, unless they restored supply of spare parts within three weeks to independent distributors. The legal grounds for the lawsuit against the Swatch Group were stated as a “breach of a range of laws and trade agreements.” The NDA was an attempt by the Swatch Group to receive an early ruling from a Swiss court that their parts restrictions were not violating any British or European laws, ideally keeping the issue out of the English courts.

The conflict originated back in 2015 when the Swatch Group announced that it would cease the supply of spare parts for all subsidiary brands to independent distributors on January 1, 2016. The impact this would have on the independent repair trade prompted Cousins UK to work with the British Watch and Clock Makers Guild to set up an Industry Action Fund to help pay the legal fees of court proceedings against the Swatch Group.

This ruling does not mean that the Swatch Group must reopen the supply of spare parts to independent distributors, only that Cousins has the legal right to file their lawsuit against the Swatch Group in the High Court. The Swatch Group has until the end of August to decide whether they will file an appeal of the court’s decision. If an appeal is not filed or it is denied, Cousins will inevitably file the originally intended lawsuit. Managing Director Anthony Cousins has assured through public statements that they are “staying in this fight until it is won.”

Sources:
www.cousinsuk.com/page/news
www.watchpro.com/breaking-news-swiss-court-rules-swatch-favour-cousins
www.watchpro.com/cousins-versus-swatch-group-dispute-gets-first-hearing-in-swiss-court

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Aaron Recksiek is an independent watchmaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a graduate of the 2008 WOSTEP class at the Lititz Watch Technicum.

A Message from Our AWCI President – Fred T. White, CMW21, August 2017

July 31st, 2017

“It is not how many facts you know;
what’s most important is how you put them together.”

Fred T. White, CMW21, AWCI President

That big, silver bird set down in Austin, Texas, at 4:05 p.m. on June 28, and Shirley and I were met by Dennis Warner. After an hour’s drive, we were at his home, where his wife, Ruth, had dinner waiting. After dinner, Dennis and I set off on a three-hour drive to Arlington, Texas, for the NAWCC Convention. The next morning, we registered and got our AWCI display set up. Dennis brought a TV from home, and Jordan had provided us with a thumb drive with the many things that have gone on in our organization. I brought my computer with a large screen and played an endless loop of a watch that I had repaired. We had a good spread of HTs and other literature promoting AWCI. We talked with many people who were interested in what we, as an organization, are doing. Some people were members of both AWCI and NAWCC, and some were just NAWCC members.

Within the craft competition, some beautiful timepieces were on display, along with some novelty items using watch and clock parts. Pat Holloway exhibited some very interesting Christmas ornaments made with watch cases and watch parts. There were clocks and watches produced by some of the finest horologists; their skills are impeccable. Some very beautiful work was on display. One clock that caught my attention was made by John Thomsen. It was patterned after a tower clock, but stood only about five feet tall. It is the only clock I have ever seen with universal joints. The main drive for the hands came off at an angle from the dial, so the use of universals was necessary to drive the hands. The craft and design made this an absolutely gorgeous piece. Oh, by the way, it kept time to within approximately three minutes a month, which, to me, is pretty doggone good.

One of the most enjoyable parts of being there was the opportunity to visit with people who share my interest in repairing timepieces. One of many we met was a retired doctor, Leonard Steiner, who told us a story about a friend from medical school who had a photographic memory; he could remember everything in the books but was not a good doctor. Dr. Steiner made a statement that really rang true for me. “It is not how many facts you know; what’s most important is how you put them together.” If that is true in the medical profession, it certainly is true in our profession. You can read the books and study how a watch or clock works, but until you take a job in your hands and get the feel of it, you will never become a craftsperson. It is like riding a bicycle for the first time—it probably didn’t go so well. As time goes by, though, you master it, and so it is with what we do. I will never forget how intimidating it was to work on my first chronograph. Keep trying—one day you will master it.

Industry News, July 2017

July 2nd, 2017

The first week of June in Las Vegas has increasingly become a focal point for professionals working in the jewelry industry. The JCK Show is the annual flagship event for Jewelers Circular Keystone, a news outlet and industry trends tracker that dubs itself the “Industry Authority.” The show’s success in drawing over 30,000 industry professionals to Las Vegas has enticed other industry-related shows to run concurrently with the JCK show. Couture, Jewelers International Showcase (JIS), and the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show all happen at the same time or within days of each other. However, the shows differ in who is exhibiting and who is attending.

JCK is open to all with careers in the jewelry industry—exhibitors and show attendees alike. It is designed to foster networking and business transactions between professionals, businesses, and retailers. Couture is open only to representatives of high-end jewelry retailers and the press. Exhibitors must be suppliers of finished goods only. Direct delivery of purchases is against show rules at the JCK and Couture shows. Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show is open to anybody interested in purchasing secondhand jewelry and watches, and many of the exhibitors were representatives from prominent jewelry stores around the country as well as brokers and wholesalers. “Cash and carry” transactions are prominent. JIS is designed to deliver finished new goods directly to retailers with immediate delivery at the show.

Over the past several years, most higher-end watch brands have exited the JCK show system and found their way over to Couture. The atmosphere is more exclusive and many brands require appointments to even view their new products. Jordan Ficklin and I spent time approaching brands to familiarize them with what AWCI has to offer, encourage convention attendance, promote IAB membership, and get their ideas on the needs of the watchmaking industry. Couture didn’t do a very good job in informing attendees which brands were available, and many exhibitors were upset that traffic on the show floor was underwhelming. However, traffic at the JCK show seemed down as well, which may indicate a down year for the jewelry industry overall. Official attendance numbers for the shows are not yet available.

At JCK, Tom Schomaker was available to help fulfill the educational mission of AWCI by offering mini-seminars at the Bergeon Switzerland booth in the Essentials (tools) section of the show. AWCI would like to thank Gérard Meulensteen from Bergeon for the opportunity to be a part of their booth. Due to Bergeon’s generosity, AWCI could help spread the word of continuing education, membership in our organization, subscribing to the magazine, and directing retailers to our “Find A Professional” service. AWCI representation included Executive Director Jordan Ficklin, Instructor Tom Schomaker, Melissa Schomaker, and Board Member Aaron Recksiek. Bergeon was represented by Gérard Meulensteen and Guillaume Böttger, who will take over the North American market from Mr. Meulensteen next year. Witschi was invited to exhibit alongside Bergeon with CEO Daniel Schmitt and CSO Martin Schürch to represent their brand. Also present in the booth were representatives from Jules Borel & Co., Cas-Ker, and Otto Frei to assist in fulfilling orders for Bergeon and Witschi products.

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Aaron Recksiek is an independent watchmaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a graduate of the 2008 WOSTEP class at the Lititz Watch Technicum.

A Message From Our AWCI President, Fred T. White, CMW21, July 2017

June 30th, 2017

We need people who are willing to share what they have learned.

Fred T. White, CMW21, AWCI President

By the time you read this, Independence Day will have come and gone. I hope you paused to give thanks to our forefathers for giving us our freedom and to those brave men and women who have given so much so that we can still walk freely in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

What is independence? It means different things to different people. It could mean having the freedom to practice our religion; or if we do not believe in a higher power, we have that right also. To some, independence is being able to work at a trade unimpeded by an authority telling them what they can and cannot do. We who are independent horologists can apply our craft and serve the public to the best of our ability. We got this way by hard work, training, and using our God-given talents. Some are born with the talent to do what we do. Others who are not so talented have a desire to learn and work hard to become good at what we do.

Several years ago, I was watching a local high school football team work on their drills on a very hot day. The coach called the team together and told them, “Hustle, make up for the lack of talent. Some of you will not make the team. Some who have more talent than others will not make the team. But those of you who are willing to put in the work, the blood, the sweat, and the tears that it takes to be champion will make this team.” They had a winning season.

My point is you may not be the best at what you do now. But if you take classes, practice, and take on a project that taxes your ability, you will grow. We at AWCI are all about education and certification. In Horological Times, we need more well-written articles about how to do a project and tips on better ways to do things. If you have ideas, you should feel free to come forth with your ideas without the fear of ridicule. We need people who are willing to share what they have learned. We all have experiences that should be shared, from the most senior to the beginner.

Ancient watchmaking and clockmaking started in a guild setting, where people learned through apprenticeships. You worked as an apprentice for several years under a master who taught you the trade before you too could become a master. This may or may not have been a good way to learn the trade, depending on the temperament of the master. Today we need to implement the mentoring program. There is a move in our country to implement such programs in the high schools for many of the crafts, such as auto mechanics, carpentry, plumbing, and others. We at AWCI should look into how we can get in on this type of program. The people who go through such a program come out with a trade and are not in debt. I was told when I served my apprenticeship that if you had a trade, there would always be work to do, in the good and the bad times.

A Message from Our AWCI President – Fred T. White, CMW21, June 2017

May 31st, 2017

We are problem solvers.

Fred T. White, CMW21, AWCI President

Today I heard a song that I haven’t heard for some time, “One Day at a Time.” When we think about it, that is all we can do—live one day at a time. We sit at our benches and solve one problem at a time. We are problem solvers. Recently, a client brought me a 16-size pocket watch that had been made into a desk clock. The casing for it had been made from a large gun shell, circa WW1. The clock was not properly attached in the case; the dial feet were broken off and attached with glue; the case did not close properly; and the movement needed servicing. What to do with this basket case? First, get the story behind the watch; really listen to what the client tells you. This client said she wondered about the man who made the case. Was he in his barracks and did he use this to fill his time while waiting to go into the trenches? How many fox holes did he carry it into? Then, determine a price with a guestimate of time spent to do the job and add a few hours more because invariably your first price will be too low. Second, the customer agrees to the price. Now you have the job, so you need to get the dial feet put back on by laser welding; drill and tap the case for screws to hold it together; service the movement and put it in the case with case screw and case strap. This is where your problem-solving skills come into play: there is no going to the parts drawer and pulling out a part. You have to rely on your skill, knowledge of your craft, and your ability to think on your feet to solve these types of problems. For me, this is what makes watchmaking and clockmaking interesting—it’s not the same old thing day after day. You are rewarded with the smiles on your customers’ faces when they pick up their timepieces. By the way, this client also left a major-brand watch for repair, which is extra business.

 

 

Industry News, June 2017

May 31st, 2017

By Aaron Recksiek

Baselworld 2017

Baselworld is always guaranteed to be a spectacle of what the watch industry most wants to showcase for the year. It can be incredibly difficult to sift through all the announcements, news, and events to determine what is relevant to our segment of the industry, specifically, the after-sales service industry. After reviewing much of the information available, here is my take on the most relevant bits from the annual event, now in its 100th year.

The Swiss watch industry is in decline, with the luxury segment of the industry taking the biggest hit. There have been two straight years of negative growth, and forecasters are predicting the decline to last another year or longer. Quite a few Swiss watch brands are now embracing smartwatches, a technology that was once feared or discounted by many of them, with nearly every major brand offering smart technology somewhere in their product line. The most notable Swiss brands to debut smartwatches were Movado, Montblanc, and Tag Heuer with their second smartwatch, the Connected Modular 45.

There was a noticeable push by brands to create more value for their timepieces. For example, employing stainless steel where precious metals would normally be used, or for some brands, just lowering the retail price of existing models. Some brands were even suspected of developing certain models to cater specifically to millennials, as they will be a key demographic in the years to come. Of course, it wasn’t all budget cuts. There were still a few “mechanical marvel” masterpieces announced that are only attainable by the super rich, like the Loving Butterfly Automaton by Jaquet Droz and the Opera by Jacob & Co with a 120-note customizable, mechanical music movement.

Collectors are having a much greater effect on models that brands choose to produce. For example, Longines released a new watch called the Heritage 1945, modeled after a personal watch owned by  Hodinkee founder Benjamin Clymer. Longines re-engineered the 70+-year-old watch to look precisely as Clymer’s looked, even down to the color of the aftermarket strap he had attached.

Vintage-inspired watches were a common theme at the show, another sign of collector influence. Watch journalist Carol Besler dubbed them “nouvelle vintage.” The term refers to the trend among luxury watchmakers to combine iconic vintage design with state-of-the-art materials and movements.

Omega released three new models, the 1957 Trilogy 60th Anniversary Limited Editions, all inspired by their predecessor models. Omega had a busy 1957 by releasing three new watch models in the same year. The vintage-inspired Trilogy reproductions: Seamaster 300, Railmaster, and Speedmaster are all available separately but come with some bonus accessories if you buy the complete set.

Seiko launched a re-creation of their first dive watch, the reference 6217, an almost-exact duplicate of the original model. This new version comes with a high-grade automatic 8L35 movement supplied by sister company Grand Seiko, and a super-hard coating on the stainless-steel case to better protect from scratches.

Rolex is continuing to integrate their newest men’s caliber 3235 into several new models: a new Sea-Dweller reference 126600, widely expanding the movement’s production. They also debuted a Cellini Moonphase model. It’s the first time the brand has used the complication since the 1950s. Rolex subsidiary, Tudor, announced a new in-house chronograph movement, the MT5813, developed in collaboration with Breitling. Tudor will also be manufacturing and supplying an in-house movement to Breitling to be used in their Heritage Superocean models with an automatic caliber MT5613.

Bulgari set a new world record for producing the world’s thinnest automatic winding watch. The Octo Finissimo Automatique houses a 2.23mm thick caliber BVL 138 in a distinctly Italian-designed, sandblasted titanium case.

Favre-Leuba, a small brand known for tool watches, introduced the Bivouac 9000, the first mechanical wristwatch capable of measuring altitude accurately up to 9,000 meters. The highest point on earth is Mount Everest at 8,848 meters.

Zenith updated their iconic El Primero chronograph movement for the 21st century with the introduction of the El Primero 21. This new movement is capable of measuring fractions of seconds as the central chronograph hand completes one revolution per second. It does this with the use of two separate escapements and oscillators equipped with patented Carbon-Matrix Carbon Nanotube balance springs. One escapement runs at 36,000 vibrations per hour (vph) and the other at 360,000 vph. The dial also shows a chronograph power reserve indicator, as the extremely high-beat chronograph can only run for up to 50 minutes on a full wind.

And, finally, shortly after the show ended organizers announced that next year’s fair will shrink from eight days down to six. It’s suspected that this comes from a 13% decline in exhibitors and a 4% drop in buyers. There was news that show organizers turned away some exhibitors due to not meeting the show’s desired “quality standards.” The 2018 edition of Baselworld will be held March 22–27.

www.baselworld.com
www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/fashion/baselworld-luxury-watches-timepieces.html
www.ablogtowatch.com/top-10-watches-baselworld-2017
www.jckonline.com/editorial-article/overheard-at-baselworld-5-watch-execs-sound-off
www.jckonline.com/editorial-article/baselworld-fair-will-shrink-next-year
www.cnn.com/2017/03/29/luxury/baselworld-2017-watch-highlights

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Aaron Recksiek is an independent watchmaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a graduate of the 2008 WOSTEP class at the Lititz Watch Technicum.