Field Ops — RECON, Day 4 of 4: Meet Your Makers. Assembly & Horween

| Estimated read time: 4 minutes

COURGcrew —

TL;DR

  • Meet the assemblers
  • Horween straps inspected and immediately en route
  • Operator’s Manual / Mission Log on the presses
  • TiGr5 pushing for pre-Christmas shipping

Welcome to assembly. This is the last station before deployment to the crew.

For those of you who’ve been following along, you’ll notice this facility is “slightly” different from the case manufacturer in RECON day 3. I dig the contrast between the gritty monster machines and then the ultra-detail work of a dust-free environment with workers armed with miniature tools and delicate instruments.

Everyone that enters the assembly room throws on a dust containment outfit and then walks through a tight chamber with air nozzles scattered throughout.

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There’s at least 25 steps to the assembly process, and some more obvious than others. I’ll start with one of my favorite stations. This here’s the torture chamber where the watches endure pressure tests to confirm the cases can resist 15-20 ATM on the TiGr2 and 20-25 ATM on the TiGr5. Those that fail go to QC and inspected for failure points.

Ever see those movies where a villain walks in with various torture devices to test the hero? Here’s the COURG equivalents:

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One thing I hadn’t considered before was how the crown gets assembled. And I was fascinated by this exacting worker with this purposeful machine. First, the worker places each crown in the sweet spot.

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Next, he selects a movement stem and the machine grabs it, automatically dabs a precise amount of epoxy and then applies just the right amount of torque to screw the stem into the crown. Too much pressure and the fragile stem snaps.

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Elsewhere in the hangar, workers install hands — one at a time on a custom-made brass movement holder. The worker can not hammer the hands in or push too hard or risk damaging the balance wheel, which could spell disaster down the road.

If you’re like me and you’ve never installed hands on a watch before, it’s difficult to appreciate how exacting this process is. The movement must be stopped at the right time window to make sure the hands are properly aligned for date transition.

Our dials are ultra matte, so any stray movement of their metal implements could easily scratch or mar the surface finish. On top of that, the mount for the second-hand is smaller than the width of a human hair. I cringe every time I have to do this myself.

The director of this facility told me they are experimenting with automated hand installation.

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“I’m watchin’ you.” As mentioned, Seiko sent one of their lead technical engineers for the NHxx and NExx movements to inspect and oversee assembly practices.

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This guy’s superpower is Seiko movement quality assurance. He can assemble an NH35 in 25 minutes. There’s so many precise details that I never even thought to consider. Case in point:

[Update: 11Dec] Some wanted to learn more about his role. He’s also the technical expert that consulted our with our hands makers to verify and refine the hand shapes so that the weight of the hands — not just individually but all together — were at their optimal weight distribution to ensure the movement is not strained day in and day out. For example, if one hand gets larger, that means the others need to be adjusted.

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After the workers install the hands, the unit moves over to the timing workstation. It’s a neat little machine whose sole purpose in life is to listen to the “heartbeat” of the movement and gauge accuracy. It even has a nifty little function where you can turn on the speaker and listen to the escapement tick tick tick away.

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I had planned to regulate every movement, but the Seiko engineer strongly urged us not to do that because he said the movements leave Seiko already regulated. I was skeptical.

But as we witnessed the movements in action, we found most humming along quite accurately. Take a look in the top left of the screen. That’s -2 seconds. The engineer told me that he’d seen many movements damaged for short-term improvement at the cost of long-term health.

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The regulating operation risks messing with the finely tuned “Balance Complete”, which is the heart of the NH35 movement. In this diagram it’s roughly in the middle of the image with red letters just in case (most likely) we don’t know what part we should focus on.

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After the movement and QC, the worker installs the movement in its case. This machine spins the case back shut in the threads.

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Worn & Wound x Redux Straps!

Can’t tell you all how much I’ve been looking forward to seeing our hardware on the Horween Chromexcel. Particularly  with the Color 8. I’m enthralled with the Color 8. It looks almost black in some light, and kind of brown in other light, and then the deep burgundy at other angles.

Then there’s the natural, which is amazing as well. Because the oil they use doesn’t actually color the leather (darkens it slightly), you can see all the fine grain detail in the leather. Each piece is different and unique.

When W&W told me the straps had arrived, I sped over there to: 1. Check out the goods. 2. Ship them out to our fulfillment team ASAP.

WW RDX strap hardware detail

The team at Worn & Wound designed a nice custom die for our collab, and I think they came out sweet:

WW RDX strap tail

Worn & Wound provided the QA and went through all the straps. I am so impressed with how quickly this maker was able to make these straps for us. W&W told me this is the largest order they’ve ever made!

That’s roughly 700 straps, weighing some 25 pounds. With this order, we just about wiped out their entire inventory on the natural leather.

The lag time on Horween can push out to something like 5 months now, so it’s a good thing we stepped in and moved quickly to get this order done.

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Regular vs XL.

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Really digging the thread colors on these.

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Mission Log

Here’s a sneak peek of the Operator’s manual / Mission Log that we’ll include with each COURG. I’ve tried many different pocket-sized notebooks and hadn’t found one that fit my back pocket just right. So, you know me. We made it and printed instructions, warranty info, etc inside. Hope you guys like them.

This is a test stamp of the die, called a blind deboss.

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There were various weights and colors of craft paper we could choose from, and we went dark and grainy on a 85 gram weight stock.

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Tackle your missions and Godspeed. elbert, over and out.

Plans?

Speaking of which. I’ve started using a 5-minute journal and a productivity planner. I’ve never been much of a planner because by nature I prefer to go with the flow. However, as you can imagine, this project has forced me to really (start to) learn how to plan and actually enjoy the process. I’m curious what you guys use to plan?

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  • Ted Hewlett

    Thanks, Elbert. Awesome update, as usual. I’m really going to miss coming here, and to Kickstarter, to continue reading about this fascinating process, and to interact with the community that’s built up around your vision. Looking forward to wearing my COURG, and very excited to watch your company evolve.

    Best,

    Ted

    • Ted, appreciate the kind words. It’s backers like you that help motivate me and keep me going. I’m really enjoying this adventure together as stressful and tiring as it can be sometimes. I think we’ve learned so much this time and it’s exhilarating to see the COURGcrew come together, help one another, and accomplish something special.

  • Ted Hewlett

    P.S. Only recently got an iPhone (which I love, but don’t use anywhere close to its capabilities) … still prefer a paper organizer and colored pens. Moleskine Professional Action Planner is my favorite.

    • Thanks for this, Ted. I didn’t even know Moleskine had one — I’ll have to check it out!

  • Another awesome update. Those straps look amazing! Thanks for keeping us updated. I’ll be anxiously waiting here in Japan for my watch to arrive Iike a kid on Christmas morning! 🙂 Cheers!

  • William Powell

    The closer you get to shipping, Elbert, the more excited I am getting about getting a new COURG on my wrist! You have done a fine job with the production of the watch and with keeping your backers updated. Keep up the good work!

  • Becks

    Elbert,
    This has and remains one of the most interesting, entertaining and informational journey’s in the world of watch making that I have experienced. Your enthusiasm, dedication and willingness to share has been invaluable. Each update is like reading the best squeal to an already fantastic story, When my piece arrives it will have the accompaniment of a scrape book created from all your field op blogs.

    It was great to see the straps today. My concern about the color my piece will wear has been for nought.

    Thank You,

    Becks

  • Rishi

    Man, what a fantastic update ! I feel as I if I am with you looking at these thnings getting made. this watch is not just a watch anymore. Its like giving birth and being part of the conception as well !

  • Ron W

    Once again, we are shown all the great people that are included when creating these watches. From the very start, seeing the cases get forged with high temp and high pressure, all the machine work to get it looking just right, then on to the internals. Many craftsman putting together a fine timepiece that will no doubt give a lifetime of great service. I know that I have already set aside a space for the Courg in my cigar box o’ watches. Not too sure it will see too much time in the box, at least until the crew puts together the next watch. Thanks guys for all the transparency, and keeping us informed. I know I really appreciate it. Semper Fi.

  • Krishna

    Excellent update! Thanks!

  • Elbert,
    Your updates make the waiting-for-a-COURG a sweet journey. Its always a pleasure to read your updates. While I eagerly wait to have a COURG on my wrist, I think I’ll miss this journey.

    Thank you & All the best.
    Rajeev B.

  • Hi,

    I just wanted to thank you for pretty much *the best* kickstarter experience I’ve had as a backer. The quality of the updates makes me confident you’re delivering on your promises (and then some). I’ve funded a fair amount of kickstarters (at least two other watches), and I’m continually impressed.

    Just wanted to register this with HQ.

    Over and out,

    Alex

  • These Redux updates have literally become the highlight of checking my email over the past months, and I too will be slightly sad when the journey is complete…although thrilled to finally have a daily reminder on my wrist. Seeing the latest W&W pictures definitely makes me happy that I added a natural strap at the last minute. I love the titanium vs natural brown contrast. Thanks for all the hard work!

  • Baja

    I initially fell in love with the overall ‘look’ of this watch. I was super glad to get in early on the bidding, and will admit that (initially) my purchase was a bit of an impulse one.

    Having watched the journey from design through creation, though, I truly can’t wait for mine to arrive. This special work of art will be on my wrist for years to come!

  • Kevin

    Will we be notified when our order ships? If it makes any difference I’m in the U.S.

    • Yes! We began shipping this week and tracking will be sent soon!

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