In 2011 Independent watch repair in Australia ceased to exist. Large Swiss brands restricted the supply of spare parts to Australian watchmakers which, nearly overnight, destroyed the livelihood of many independent watchmakers. Imagine if Ford were to stop supplying spare parts for their engines to all Australian mechanics.
Nicholas contacted a large Swiss company and asked what it would take to gain access to spare parts, in short they told him he was too old, too dumb and unwilling to invest in the right equipment. Even if he sent his son, Josh, to Switzerland to complete in-house training, the access to spare parts would never be granted.
The obvious problem was that you, the consumer, were instantly adversely affected. You no longer had a choice in where your watch was to be repaired. The Swiss had created a monopoly on the servicing of their watches. The second and longer term issue was that independent watchmaking in Australia was on the road towards extinction. Without spare parts, the skills, knowledge, and brick and mortar business would be lost forever.
In an act of rebellion against this, Nick decided that he would prove to the Large Swiss brands that Australian watchmakers were smart, young and willing to invest. He decided to build his own watch.
This watch, called the "0/9" in it's infancy, was a statement- "you say we can't repair watches, well here- we built one". the 0/9 was a put-together watch, utilising off-the-shelf components limited to nine pieces. He posted this first watch series on his email newsletter, and that afternoon received more than 100 orders. Overwhelmed with the response, a re-assessment of the project was required. The 0/9 was completely redesigned. Custom components were to be made: improving the robustness, reliability, and repairability. and so, after a few months of backwards and forwards with 12 different overseas suppliers, the "rebelde" series was born.
The next step
The rebelde project was a resounding success. The 44mm california dial watch, split between the "Pilot's" and the "Control Tower" styles was well received, with over 700 watches sold in 6 years.
Tangents off of the Pilot's and Control tower styles included the the solid rose and yellow gold watches, limited to 10 pieces of each. A 45mm Titanium case edition, and the "rebelde50".
The "fifty" was another statement, but this time about the commitment to our brand. Released in mid 2017, the "fifty" was guaranteed for 50 years, all strap replacements, all services, all overhauls, all broken crystals, for the next 50 years.
All the profits from the rebelde50 were to go the next phase of the project- Manufacturing in Australia. Up until 2016, all the parts for the rebelde series watches were produced overseas. 12 different manufacturers were selected, the parts imported and assembled and prepared for final adjustment. Our mantra was "Designed, assembled and Adjusted in Australia". Our next step was to change that to: "Manufactured In Australia"
Manufactured in Australia
"Let's make a watch!"
It's easy to say, right? Manufacturing a watch is possibly one of the most difficult things to do in the field of mechanical engineering. The precision, the techniques, the knowledge, the marrying of art and engineering and the secrecy in the industry means that, holistically, to create an environment where a brand can actually manufacture, independently, It's own watch is next to impossible.
Yet, in 2016 we started that project- to be the first people in Australia to claim that a wristwatch is "Manufactured in Australia" To this day, the NH series is the first and only wrist watch manufactured in Australia.
The process began with building a workshop, from a technical perspective, from the ground up. Importing machinery, purchasing tools, finding and sourcing the correct materials etc. Nearly everything had to be imported from either Japan, Germany or Switzerland. Everything from an ultra-precise 5 axis milling machine, to kilometres of extremely specific tool steel for making screws smaller than fingernails.
By late 2017 NHW had put itself in a position where it could manufacture a small portion of parts in a watch movement. Stems, screws, locating pins, and some basic levers.
The next step was to begin the design and prototyping of an in-house calibre. We decided our calibre would be based off of the existing ETA/UNITAS 6498. The going-train and oscillator remained part of the NHW calibre, but the mainplate, bridges and other auxiliary components were designed and manufactured in Australia. Again, this was a statement, except now, a statement to ourselves as well as the entire world, that yes- a watch could be manufactured in Australia. As a team, we learned how to make these parts from raw materials. To make a watch you need to have the skill, expertise and knowledge of both a watchmaker, as well as a machinist. This symbiotic relationship is the foundation of a correctly functioning and performing watch.
The NH1 was released in early 2019, in a series of 25 pieces. All those pieces were pre-sold to proud owners of the first and only watch manufactured in Australia.
Satisfied with our ability to manufacture the basic components of a wristwatch, we decided to flex our muscles and attempt something that had never been done before in the watchmaking world, using Timascus® for the internal components in a watch.
A first order of three bars was placed with Chuck Bybee. Before we could attempt actual machining we had to replace brass cutting tools and processes to ones suitable for titanium, and then Timascus®.
The next step was to develop new fixtures for holding the raw material. In order to minimise Timascus® waste and maximise the pattern structure, original bars were sliced ('veneered') into 3.5mm plates. Machined bridges were hand finished in perlage, hand polished, then etched and anodised. On 16 July 2019 the first fully-functional Timascus® watch movement NH2 was successfully assembled and tested.
Encouraged by our first success, an order was placed for more Timascus® and more cutting tools. The next step was to optimise the machining process and to improve the post machining treatment of Timascus®, bringing out the most vibrant colours. Even with the most careful planning of Timascus® 'usage ', 75% of this unique and expensive material in watchmaking applications is wasted during the manufacturing process.
Compared to brass watch parts, Timascus® parts are 20 times more expensive to manufacture and take four times longer to make.
However the mechanics, aesthetics and artistry of unique NH2 timepiece will surely impress watch enthusiasts looking for one-of-a-kind watch. Timascus® is a true high tech watch material: corrosion resistant, antimagnetic and super light.
The NH2 Timascus® watches are made as a special order only, one watch at the time, fitted in 45mm titanium case and with "Made in Australia" dial, same as NH1.