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.

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

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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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