Archive for the ‘News’ Category
Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
Jordan and I visited four REC schools in April, and I want you to know that watchmaking and the allied crafts that are being taught are alive and well in the US, at least at the schools we visited. What a tiring—but exciting, uplifting, and inspiring—time these four days were! We started at Gem City College in Quincy, Illinois, where we met with Russell H. Hagenah, president; Ryan R. Hagenah, director of finance; and instructor, Jim Hush. We were told that we were the first to visit their school in many years. We assured them that we were there to assist and to help build up their program in any way we could. After a good discussion, we offered them some things that we could do right away, such as help promote their school at the Maker Faire Austin in Texas, if they would provide us with brochures. We could also help them by lending them movements if they send their instructor to a REC training (date to be determined). We were made to feel most welcome and came away with a good feeling after our visit, and we look forward to working with them.
After our Gem City visit, we got back in the car for a two-hour-plus drive to St. Louis for a plane ride of another two hours or so to Dallas, Texas. Then, we had another two-hour ride to Paris, Texas. After a night of rest, we met with Frank Pope of Paris Junior College. We toured the classrooms and shops, which were well equipped with plenty of space to work and grow. We gave PowerPoint presentations to roughly 50 students. Jordan gave a good presentation on what AWCI has to offer to the watchmaker and clockmaker, and what we can do for the student and the school. My PowerPoint presentation was from the perspective of the independent watchmaker, and I talked about what exciting jobs you may encounter as you go about doing your daily business. I also gave them some tips on selling the job, for this is important as an independent watchmaker, clockmaker, or jeweler. There was a lively question-and-answer period. Then we met with Frank Poye and discussed the school’s needs and how we may help meet them. One thing we could do if he would attend the REC training was to loan them movements for training purposes. We also let him know that students could receive one-year free membership to AWCI. We were told that Jordan was the first executive director to visit their school, and I was the second president. The other one was Fred S. Burckhardt. Everyone was very friendly, and we were made to feel most welcome.
Then we were back in the car for another two-hour drive to Dallas, Texas, to visit with North American Institute of Swiss Watchmaking (NAIOSW) where John Sokol welcomed us and invited us into his office. After a short visit, he called in Stan McMahan, Russ Peddy, Michal Blaszczyk, and Houston Clarke. Also visiting was Terry Irby of Tourneau. After exchanging ideas about the watch industry and getting a report on their operation, we were invited to tour their facility, which has the most modern equipment. We met with the students and gave them information about AWCI and watchmaking in the real world. NAIOSW committed to supplying us with two instructors for our convention, Stan McMahan and Russ Peddy, and are going to send their students to the convention. We were treated royally by them, topped off with a great meal at a Texas steak house. There was good socialization and, for me, time to reminisce with Stan about people we have known in this business. Then we went back to the hotel; we had to get up at 4:15 a.m. to catch a plane to Pensacola, Florida.
After landing in Pensacola, we were in the car for a one-hour-plus ride to Mobile, Alabama, to visit Bishop State Community College. Along the way we found we had the time to go on the Battleship USS Alabama, which was a much-decorated battleship before it was retired. After a nice lunch, it was on to our appointment with Stephen Lange at Bishop State Community College where we met with the president, the vice president, dean, and the director of recruiting. We were made to feel most welcome. After some discussion, they were seeking ideas on how to improve their enrollment. Jordan and I shared our thoughts, which, I hope, will be helpful. We met with both the watchmaking and jewelry students and discussed what AWCI could do for them, and shared some of our work experiences. We also offered them the same program, free membership for first-year students, and invited them to attend our convention.
I strongly feel we need to visit the schools, and the affiliate chapters, putting the name of AWCI and what we have to offer in front of students and members. There is so much that they don’t understand, because we, for whatever reason, have not reached out to the horological community. Let’s correct that in the future. My hope is that what we did will better the community. We look forward to seeing those students and instructors at the convention this year.
My hope is that
what we did
Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
The New Ronda Automatic R150
By Aaron Recksiek, CW21
Hidden within all the hype and fanfare of Baselworld 2016 was a little nugget of news that has the potential to change the industry in more ways than any other release or announcement.
RONDA AG, of Lausen, Switzerland, released details of their first in-house, Swiss-made mechanical movement in nearly 30 years. Ronda produced their first mechanical caliber in 1961, but didn’t stick to it very long. In the 1970s Ronda started dedicating resources to the new quartz technology that was sweeping the industry. They eventually discontinued all mechanical movement manufacturing in the late 1980s. This new movement has been in development for the last four years.
The Ronda caliber R150 was designed to be a replacement to the size and dimensions of the ETA 2824-2, 11.5 ligne (25.6mm diameter) and 4.4mm thick. It is a high-beat, 28,800-vph, three-hand with date, ball-bearing automatic. The movement contains 25 jewels, Incabloc anti-shock settings, Swiss lever escapement, and a micro-regulator adjustment system. It is capable of a 40-hour power reserve, bi-directional automatic and hand winding, and hacking seconds. However, the performance leaves a little to be desired. The average rate can vary by ±12 seconds/day, and the maximum variance in all positions (delta) is 30 seconds/day. With an estimated final price of about 66 CHF or $68.30, the movement performs and prices out to be very comparable to the Japanese-made Miyota 9015 automatic. The Miyota 9015 has been a well-performing mechanical movement for many years. However, it still poses a problem for any brand chasing that elusive “Swiss made” label—a label that requires over 50% of the watch parts (by value) to be manufactured in Switzerland with final assembly and inspection also done in Switzerland. This “Swissness” requirement is set to increase to 60% on January 1, 2017.
The new Ronda R150 is part of a new line of movements named Mecano. This new line of movements is planned to expand beyond basic automatics and become an entire family of mechanical calibers that are so desperately needed by the Swiss watch industry. There has been no word on which types of calibers are the next closest to being announced, but we can be assured that at each Baselworld from now until then, microbrands will be expecting something more out of Ronda.
Some of the best news about this announcement is Ronda’s projected production goal: 100,000 units per year. Early delivery is set to begin in 2017. It is speculated that most, if not all, of the initial production is already spoken for. Ronda hopes to be at their production goal before December 31, 2019, when ETA has announced they will not be supplying movements or movement parts outside of the Swatch Group umbrella.
There has been a slew of new “Swiss made” movements being developed in recent years to help replace the void that will soon be left by the ETA SA movement manufacture. This was the original vision of Nicolas G. Hayek, to eventually wean the highly dependent watch industry off the movements and components produced by the Swatch Group. Some see it as trying to force other brands out of business, but let’s remember it was Nicolas G. Hayek who was brought in to help save the spiraling Swiss watch industry in the 1980s. When you first look at the surface of the problems that might come from a stoppage in distribution, things may seem a little scary, but there is always fear of the unknown. There has not been this amount of independent research and development dedicated to providing the industry with different options since the 1970s. This continued competition for market share will only increase the quality and keep prices reasonable, which helps the small, independent watch brands.
Aaron Recksiek is an independent watchmaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was a graduate of the 2008 WOSTEP class at the Lititz Watch Technicum.
Saturday, April 2nd, 2016
Eterna Movement SA and AWCI Collaborate to Educate Watchmakers
The American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute is pleased to be a part of a collaboration with Eterna Movement SA to help develop young watchmaking talent. Eterna Movement SA is partnering with several watchmaking schools in Switzerland and with AWCI in the United States. AWCI will be the only training center for Eterna Movement SA within the United States. In the coming months Tom Schomaker, CMW21, will receive training from Eterna Movement SA in Grenchen, Switzerland, and will receive a selection of sample movements to be used in training in our classroom in Harrison, Ohio.
The mission of AWCI is setting service standards and educating the horological community. This collaboration allows us to expand our training opportunities in an exciting way. After Mr. Schomaker receives training, we will add new classes to our schedule. These classes will be available to members of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute and to representatives of American-based brands using Eterna movements in their products.
Eterna Movement SA is a supporter of the rebirth of the American watch industry. They showcased their products at the 2015 AWCI American Showcase in Kansas City and are working in collaboration with Niall Luxury and other American brands. Their Caliber 39 is a highly versatile movement that can be configured through the addition of modules to form more than 88 different standard combinations.
About Eterna Movement SA
Emerging in 2012 from Eterna SA, Eterna Movement SA is an independent movement manufacturer that crafts high-quality mechanical calibers in Grenchen, in the Swiss Canton of Solothurn. The Eterna manufacturers have been in business for 160 years and have produced some impressive developments. When the brand revolutionized automatic movements in 1948 with the invention of the ball-bearing mounted rotor system, it set a standard that still applies today. But the latest innovations from the company also demonstrate its consistent pursuit of continuous enhancement as well as its desire to master the challenges of the watchmaker’s craft. For example, the Spherodrive ball-bearing mounted barrel system established unprecedented standards for quality and longevity in mechanical movements.
Saturday, April 2nd, 2016
We have just finished our midyear board meeting, and I want you, the members, to know that the Board of Directors is a hard working group. Not only are they hard working, but they are trying to do what is best for AWCI. We had two very busy days, sometimes working through lunch, reviewing a report, hammering out a motion, or debating an issue. It is hard to put into words all the hard work these volunteers do, giving of their own money and time away from their benches to make AWCI work for you. It’s not only the Board of Directors who are putting in many hours, but many committees are doing good work too. One example is the Horological Times Committee. They review every article that is published in HT. They review technical articles for accuracy of the technical information, and they review the articles that keep us abreast of the latest and greatest new thing on the horizon. First, the writer submits the article to the managing editor, and then it goes before the HT Committee, who discusses and decides if it is accurate and worthy to be published. The article then comes back to our editorial staff, who edits, fact-checks, does graphic work, and lays out the magazine. Then off to the presses. I recently visited the NAWCC Board of Directors, and they were very impressed with the quality of our product. I have shown it to people outside of our trade, and they ask, “You do this every month?” and the answer is yes, always. So, you see we have every reason to be proud of what we do. However, we do need more writers to join our ranks.
Education and certification is our main objective. We have a state-of-the art classroom, which is home base to one of the most talented teachers I have ever known, Tom Schomaker, CMW21. We are keeping an average of eight students in every class, which is small enough to give students one-on-one time with the instructor. If you are truly interested in an excellent education or you want to hone your skills as a craftsperson, then AWCI is where you want to be. Whether you take classes for certification or you want to give your best to your clients, AWCI’s classes can help you. I have never sat in one of Tom’s classes without coming away with an idea or point of view that helps me at the bench. IT IS WHAT YOU LEARN AFTER YOU KNOW IT ALL THAT COUNTS.
One of the most common types of certification in modern society is professional certification, where a person is certified as being able to complete a job or task, usually by passing an examination and/or the completion of a program of study. The certification team held their annual review of the certification process. It was three very busy days of meetings covering all aspects of the certification process, involving some 14 people who are part of the certification team, either as administrators, assessors, or preparing the watches. To make it easier to take the exam, we have broken it into modules. For instance, you can take the 7750 component of the exam or the quartz component only, or any other part you wish. Or you can take the entire exam at one time. Certification should be something we all strive for—just as CPAs sit for their board to show they are the best at keeping us straight as to accounting and tax laws. Certification is a banner we can wear that says we are among the very best horologists in the world. Are you wearing that banner?
Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
As Uncle Sam says, “We’re looking for a few good men and women.” AWCI needs your help. We are asking that you volunteer to give a small amount of your time to serve on a committee or any other task that may be asked of you.
AWCI is primarily run by volunteers. However, when you look around you see that only a small number of members are giving of their time. Have you heard of the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule? Here’s an example: 80% of all sales are made by 20% of the sales force. You might see another example in action at your church or your civic club—80% of the work is done by 20% of the volunteers. And so it appears to be true for AWCI. Our membership is at 1,500+, so by applying this 80/20 rule we should have around 300 people volunteering. Unfortunately, we are not close to that number.
Only YOU can help to change this situation. We need you to step up and take part in a committee or to help do other jobs for our organization. Volunteers are not paid, but not because they are worthless . . . but because they are priceless. I can assure that if you answer this call, you will receive much more than you give. Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Are you willing to lose yourself for the betterment of our profession, to give a little time and see what reward you will receive?
As a young man, I came out of the mountains of West
Virginia having grown up in poverty. I was presented with the opportunity to learn watchmaking. One thing I always remember that Theodore White (cousin and master watchmaker) drilled into me was that you get in proportion to what you give. That started me on a path of sharing with others. Over the years I have developed friendships with watchmakers and clockmakers, some dead and some living, who have been willing to share and who have kindred minds. I am referring to networking. It is important to watchmakers and clockmakers of the future—and of the present—because it will help us to survive. So, by volunteering you can start to develop those friendships.
Volunteering is giving of your time, your energy, and yourself with no thought of what you will receive in return. “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” to quote Winston Churchill. My challenge to you is to give of yourself. Don’t be a part of the 80% who says let someone else do it; I don’t have the time; or my ax is dull (that is as good of an excuse as any). Be a part of the 20% who says I have a solution to that problem; I can do that; let’s try this—it might work.
In closing, let me quote Helen Keller: “I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
I hope you will take the time to fill out the volunteer form you’ll find on page 21 in this copy of Horological Times.
Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
First 3D Printed Mechanical Tourbillon Watch
By Aaron Recksiek, CW21
For those of us watchmakers and clockmakers who have been salivating at the idea of being able to 3D print our own obsolete replacement parts, the 3D printing and horological worlds took a huge leap forward towards that ideal with the unveiling of Christoph Laimer’s Tourbillon watch. It’s a fully functional, complete tourbillon watch with all the components (except for some steel screws, pins, and washers) made of 3D-printed plastics: polylactic acid (PLA) or polyethylene terephthalate (PETG). That’s right, the hairspring, escapement, and mainspring are all made of common 3D-printed materials and a Ultimaker 2 printer that can be obtained for around $2,500.
Employing an incredibly unique design, the watch layout is mostly vertical, which makes it almost as thick as it is wide—98mm in diameter by 93mm thick. Instead of wheels and pinions attached to arbors with pivots rotating within jewels or bushings, the pinions and wheels rotate independently on steel pins that are fixed to the framework of the movement. This overcomes a common problem that has manifested itself and become troublesome in the past: How do you provide enough power to the escapement and balance while dealing with a material like plastic with a relatively low strength level? If you use the traditional method, the wheels and pinions need to be larger for added strength, making them heavier. This requires more power from the mainspring, and it becomes too powerful for the plastic to be a viable material. This also solves a spacing issue by allowing several wheels to be co-axial (sharing the same axis). For example, the escape wheel, balance, and another movement wheel share the same steel pin axis. The time is displayed around the outside of the dial with a triangle indicating the minutes and a circle indicating the hours.
Christoph Laimer is not a watchmaker (well, not in the traditional sense of the word, although some might argue for that title now). He is a Swiss engineer with a background in electrical engineering and computer science. The Tourbillon watch is his second horological passion project since taking some time away from his regular profession. In 2014, Laimer produced a wall clock also with a recoil anchor escapement, hairspring, and balance wheel. Instead of being hand wound with a mainspring, it is driven by a 1.2kg weight.
According to most standards the horological community is used to, the Laimer Tourbillon is by no means a precision instrument. I don’t need to tell you that by having a plastic hairspring the timekeeping will be marginal at best. The plastic mainspring will leave you with around 30 minutes of inconsistent power reserve. However, this watch still represents a significant feat in the ability to take an emerging modern technology and combine it with 200+-year-old traditions. With the technological improvements to 3D printers capable of printing in steel, brass, and other metals, 3D-printed parts that are traditionally recognized in the clock and watch industries seem to be just around the corner. The continued experimentation and refinement of this technology and processes would not be possible without pioneers like Laimer.
All of Laimer’s projects are open source, and the plans are free and available to download to produce a Tourbillon at home with your own 3D printer. They can be viewed on www.thingiverse.com/thing:1249221. If you don’t have your own 3D printer but would love one of his Tourbillon watches, he is currently taking customized pre-orders on his website www.laimer.ch/. The price is available only upon request.
Aaron Recksiek is an independent watchmaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was a graduate of the 2008 WOSTEP class at the Lititz Watch Technicum.
Thursday, February 4th, 2016
DARPA Calls for More Accurate Independent Timekeepers
By Aaron Recksiek, CW21
In our modern world, much of how we communicate and navigate is dependent upon perfectly accurate timekeeping, accurate to the atomic level. So far, much of this is done by synchronization and calibration with a reference signal received by GPS, radio frequency, or cell towers. Even in the clock and watch industry, more and more timepieces are produced each year that receive synchronization with a master clock, especially with the growth and popularity of smartwatches.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a division of the United States Department of Defense, is looking for more accurate and stable independent timekeeping devices. There has already been a lot of research and development of Chip-Scale Atomic Clocks (CSAC) since their first introduction in 2004. The current standard of timekeeping in a CSAC is +/- .00000000001 second in a stable, controlled environment. Over the last 10 years, however, there have been constant limitations with these clocks, sometimes the size of a grain of rice. Cost has always been a factor as well as differences in frequency with temperature fluctuations and loss or reduction of power—some of the exact same problems we encounter with
mechanical and quartz timepieces.
In December, 2015, DARPA announced the plans for the program Atomic Clocks with Enhanced Stability (ACES). The goal is to essentially duplicate what the famous British clockmaker John Harrison did nearly 300 years ago when he unveiled the H1, a marine clock capable of allowing ships to navigate more precisely. This earned Harrison £20,000, or £2.81 million in today’s equivalent. DARPA has designated at least $50 million to initially fund ACES, with the hopes that a more reliable atomic clock can be created. The requirements of the program are to create portable clocks that perform 1,000 times better than the current generation. They must be shock resistant and capable of withstanding extremes in environments and temperatures. The final product must also fit completely within an enclosure not exceeding three cubic inches, including all associated electronics, and run on .25 watt of power or less.
The need for these devices is multifaceted. The reliance solely on GPS synchronization has become too much of a problem. In the cases of an aircraft, ship, or soldier veering out of GPS signal, the uncertainty of location or orientation becomes exponentially compounded the more time spent out of range. The need for these clocks would become even more critical in the case of a complete loss of the GPS system. Every division of the Defense Department would benefit from the advance of this technology, not to mention the hundreds of industries that could also benefit from its use.
DARPA is hosting a Proposers Day at their headquarters in Virginia on February 1, 2016, where all interested parties can come together to have questions answered, present ideas, and network with other professionals leading into the beginning of this project. Registration for the event ended on January 25.
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.
Thursday, February 4th, 2016
Last month my message was “You Hold in Your Hands the Tools to Shape Your Own Destiny.” I would like to explore that concept a little farther. There is a young man here in Clinton, Maryland, who has an interesting story to tell. His name is Brian Pappas and he owns Mama Stella’s Ristorante Italiano. As a young man of 14, he went to work at the restaurant as a bus boy—cleaning the tables, vacuuming the floors, and doing any odd jobs that the owner asked him to do. While doing this job he said to me, “One day I will be a waiter here.” Time passed, and one day we were in the restaurant, and guess who our waiter was—Brian. He worked at this job for a year or two, and then he said, “My next job will be maître d’.” Not too long after he said this, he became the maître d’, and then he went on to be the manager. After several years as manager, he had the opportunity to buy the restaurant, and to this day he operates this fine restaurant.
So you see, you can be in control of your own destiny; it is entirely up to you. You can believe that good things will happen to you, and they will. It’s not enough just to believe, but you must work at it. There is no such thing as a free lunch. It takes a positive attitude, lots of study, and hard work to make good things happen. There are many opportunities for us to improve ourselves, by attending seminars, conventions, and classes at AWCI. One thing we should all strive for is learning more about our profession, whether we are a clockmaker or watchmaker—“It’s what we learn after we know it all that counts.”
We can attend an affiliate chapter convention or AWCI’s convention; there are plenty of chances to get an education. We should strive to learn something new each day. If we challenge ourselves each day, doing something on the lathe or working on a complicated timepiece, then we are improving. I cannot think of anything that is more boring than doing the same job day after day. If all parts were readily available and we could go to the magic wall and just pick them up, then where is the challenge? Such is not the case for most independent watchmakers and clockmakers. We have to track them down or alter the part or make it or have it made. We should continue to study micromechanics because that is going to be the way of the future of horology. As parts become more difficult to obtain, we must rely on our own skills.
Author David L. Olpin says, “Success is doing something you enjoy doing, doing it well, and having people appreciate you for doing it.” So it should be with us who work at the bench. A recent customer wrote me referring to his watch, “Reunited with my old friend Friday. Everything seems to be working fine.” Another customer states, “Have had it on since it arrived, keeping perfect time. Better than ever and looks great.” That is what makes it all worthwhile, doing a job that your customers appreciate. Because CUSTOMERS are the most important part of our business. Without them we have nothing. I believe that we do have in our control THE TOOLS TO SHAPE OUR OWN DESTINY. It is up to you what you do.
Thursday, January 7th, 2016
You hold in your hands the tools to shape your own destiny.
Wow, it’s 2016 and by now you have been to the parties and toasted the New Year and have made those resolutions that sometimes are so hard to keep. Some of us give our shop a thorough cleaning with the hope and belief that this is going to be a great year. We sharpen our screwdrivers, point up our tweezers, and, in general, check all of our tools to make sure they are in good working order. We might even buy something that we feel will help us to do a better job. What is the most important tool in our tool box? Perhaps you would say my tweezers or my screwdrivers or that tool that you very seldom use.
All of these are important but not the most important. The most important is you, because without you those tweezers, screwdrivers, and all the other tools cannot repair a clock or watch or service that customer that just came through the door. We hold in our hands the tools to shape our own destiny. It’s up to you to do what you wish with your life. You are in control. You are the driving force behind whatever you do. With a positive attitude you can change your world or possibly change the world one person at a time. Have you ever been in a room where everything was negative? Where one person felt everything was doom and gloom and they influenced the attitude of the entire room? You probably left feeling low and didn’t understand why. My wife recently went to lunch with a lady, and the whole time they were at lunch this person talked about members of her church in a negative way. Shirley said, “I will not go out with this person again because of her negative attitude.” On another occasion, she was with a former co-worker for a luncheon, and they talked about how well this person or that former employee was doing: one had gotten a promotion, and the other one had bought a new house. She came away with a good, positive feeling and looks forward to another visit with this person.
Have you ever been around someone who feels that the world is not treating them fairly or that they are owed something they did not earn? They usually get what they think about all the time, because thoughts become things. The best helping hand is at the end of your own wrist. Whatever you think about all the time will come to pass. Basketball players who are good at what they do visualize making that basket; that outstanding running back knows he is going to score. So it should be with horologists. Do you see yourself being at the top of your game? Do you see yourself working on complicated timepieces? Do you see yourself asking for a higher price for your work and getting it? Do you see yourself taking that test to become a certified watchmaker or certified clockmaker and passing it? Certification should be something that you do for yourself to see how darn good you are or can be—not to get a parts account. Remember: You hold in your hands the tools to shape your own destiny.
HAPPY NEW YEAR. MAY YOU BE BLESSED WITH GOOD HEALTH, PLENTY OF GOOD WORK, AND MAY YOU FIND ALL THE PARTS THAT YOU NEED TO DO THOSE JOBS.
Wednesday, January 6th, 2016
Business School Students Research American Manufacturing for Watches
“The Two-Week Experts”
By Elizabeth Graves
A group of MBA students at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business were tasked with researching the possibilities for manufacturing watches, or watch components, in the United States. Since Detroit’s Shinola is not far from the Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, Michigan, they had some involvement in the project. In the report below, one student reveals the findings of her team.
The term “fire hose” has been used by students at Ross to describe the onslaught of intense experiences—trips, guest lectures, case competitions—students may encounter during our MBA program. Our first fire hose experience was the limited amount of time my team had to complete a case competition dealing with the watchmaking industry.
The objective of the case competition was to develop a strategy to bring more manufacturing back to the United States, specifically in the watchmaking industry. This competition required participants to identify a component of a watch that was best suited to meet this objective. As we sat through a day of presentations, all the teams seemed to come to the same conclusion: Let’s try to source the metal cases. Leather and cloth for watch straps seemed to be already sourced in the United States. Movements seemed to be a profitable secret the Swiss would never be willing to share. So watch cases were the most obvious choice.
Our Google search led us to a group of watchmaking experts, the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute. For the next 30 minutes, the Executive Director, Jordan Ficklin, answered every watch-sourcing question we could think of. By the end of the conversation we were well on our way to becoming experts.
Our perspective on the watch industry is that it is steeped in tradition, which leads to cautious evolution, and this instinct is well founded and necessary. It’s a source of pride and the glue that binds a community of makers and wearers.
In that vein, the craftsmanship of the curious has been the key to moving the industry forward. From the adventurers who wanted clocks to cross the high seas, deep ocean, or outer space to those who experimented with quartz and solar panels, the watch industry, like time itself, is always moving forward. In that same spirit, we think the solution to sourcing cases in America is additive manufacturing technology (also known as 3D printing).
From our perspective, there are two types of additive manufacturing—the everyman printers and the printers that cost $500,000. They are truly worlds apart. We feel the top-of-the-line printing technology best suited to this cause is Binder Jetting. Binder Jetting is superior in both speed and versatility. Whereas regular additive printers print single layers at a time, Binder Jetting prints multiple layers at a time. You can think of it as a laser-jet printer laying down multiple drops of ink per swipe across a piece of paper. Where regular 3D printing is done in plastic, with Binder Jetting you can choose between plastic, glass, metal, and wax. After printing you then “bake” the layers in place for added stability. Many Binder Jetting projects are even produced like a shell, baked and then gone back and “filled” with a different material to suit its specific purpose (weight, durability, etc.) Unlike the everyman printer, this is not something that melts in the sun or cannot withstand pressure. This is a technology that is employed to make aircraft parts and fracking equipment. Binder Jetting shares the ability to create complex designs and can be finished in practically any material you can dream up.
The company best suited to the challenge for this case competition is called Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing (rp+m) in Avon Lake, Ohio. We were very impressed with its CEO and founder, Matt Hlavin, who was not only kind enough to lend samples of Binder Jetting (to show off to the judges), but also impressed us with the fact that he is one of the leading experts in the field and has worked extensively with the equipment manufacturer to pioneer new materials that can be used to print. The big downside: during the course of our two weeks we did not get the chance to actually print a watch case and so we cannot say beyond a theoretically educated guess what these cases would turn out to look like.*
The big benefit we see as far as watchmaking is the ability for this technology to be so versatile, and once the process is refined 5 to 10 years down the road, 3D printing will absolutely be capable of making new watch movements for both a specialized watch and an old watch whose movements are relics of the past. It will be perfect for embedding your personally designed watch case with designs impossible to duplicate by conventional method(effectively making it copy-proof) or barcodes to scan with your smartphone to find information on where to take the watch for repairs or replacement.
So how did our competition go? We came in second place.
If you would like to learn more about Michigan’s part-time MBA or to follow our adventures online please check us out on Facebook and on Michigan’s website at: www.michiganross.umich.edu/programs/weekend-mba.
To learn more about the company we profiled in this article, Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing, please see their website: www.rpplusm.com/index.html.
Elizabeth Graves is a graduate student at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. When she graduates, she hopes to work with businesses that are environmentally conscious.
*Editor’s note: Vortic Watch Co., (www.vorticwatches.com) based in Loveland, Colorado, uses 3D printing to produce their All American Artisan Series cases using 316 stainless steel. The cases are finished with one of three patinas (Nickel Plated, Antique Bronze, or Medieval Pewter). The cases are also available polished and without a patina. See photos.