Here in Britain, we have Roger W Smith, the only watchmaker in the world who makes everything by hand. He was the principal disciple of George Daniels, a truly legendary watchmaker, who sadly died a few years ago.
Daniels famously taught himself watchmaking by taking apart old clocks, putting them back together and repairing them when he was young. If he had been born in the digital age, he'd have been a hacker comparable to Woz.
He didn't just make his own watches, he also made all the specialised tools needed. These days he is perhaps best known for the Daniels Co-Axial Escapement found in some Omega watches, which for many years was believed to be impossible to make.
If you google Roger Smith, he has lots of interesting videos on Youtube showing various parts of the watchmaking process from raw materials.
There are a few interviews with George Daniels too. Here's one talking about his first complete, from scratch watch:
I hate to be overly pedantic, this is HN after all, but Roger Smith still gets mainsprings, balances, sapphire crystals, and screws from outside sources. This of course does nothing to take away from his timepieces.
I wasn't 100% sure about that and knew someone would point out if I was in error. I also want to be clear that my comment should not detract from the work of Masahiro Kikuno either, which looks incredible. Whether there are one or two people in the world doing this makes little difference to what an achievement it is.
Also Roger Smith now has a fairly large workshop with apprentices doing some of the work for him. He's no longer one man working in his spare room, although that is how he started.
In fact, when he first approached George Daniels about becoming an apprentice, Daniels told him to make a watch by himself and he'd appraise it first. So he did. Daniels told him it wasn't very good and made him do it again. So he did. After that, Daniels gave in.
It seems like the late 90's and 2000's saw somewhat of a renaissance in independent watchmaking. You've had people like Smith, Voutilainen, Dufour, Laurent Ferrier, the Gronefeld brothers, Romain Gauthier, Daniel Roth all become successful to varying degrees. I feel like the internet played a huge role in making this all possible since it allowed them to gain exposure on watch forums and now Instagram without the heavy cost of marketing.
"I took a watch and a drawing and showed them how it worked and they said, "oh well, its complicated, and in any case we don't make pocket watches". So, I went home and got a wristwatch and put the same escapement in the wrist watch, took it back, "oh well we make thinner wristwatches". So, I went home and got a very thin wristwatch ... then there was some reason they couldn't accept it, then they did try to make it and failed, therefore it was no good ... went on like that for 15 years"
If you listen to some of Douglas Engelbart's interviews he says the same things. Let's not do this to the up and coming young people in our field. Yes, lots of dumb ideas (really just learning mistakes) but know when to let them pass.
I don't know if Roger Smith literally makes everything from scratch, but if I recall correctly Philippe Dufour and FP Journe are approximately as "in-house" as he is (though Journe is becoming relatively mainstream these days).
I would say Dufour is approaching the same legendary status Smith has, especially considering the waiting list (and auctions) for Simplicity models.
I would start with books by Fried. If you feel comfortable with 90% of Practical Watch Repair in a year, or two; go for Daniel's book. I guarantee most will not get through Practical Watch Repair, but might come back to the hobby/profession later in life. When time is more cherished?
George Daniels was a brilliant Watchmaker. The book is o.k. There are parts of the book where it seemed rushed. George expects the reader to have a working knowledge of basic watch repair, and know exactly how a mechanical watch function. There's not much on repair, cleaning, or oiling.
I really liked Kikuno's workshop. That is years worth for tooling too. It's not cheap stuff either. My point is don't go out and spend a fortune on tooling until you can clean, oil, and time a 17 jeweled wristwatch with under $500 worth of tools.
It's a really a good feeling resurrecting an older watch, and knowing how to fix it if it breaks down, or runs slow.
That said, I'll get political. Many of the major watch houses will not sell you parts for your watch. You buy a $10 grand Rolex, and can't buy a new crown. They claim it's for quality assurance, but it's a money grab. That's it. The govenemment knows it violates The Sherman Anti-trust Act, but they have bigger fish to fry--I guess? They said it was a rich man's problem? This said while they wearing Rolexes(couldn't be gifts?), with Lobbyists scurrying around in the chambers.
If you do get good at watch repair, you will look at watches, maybe the world, differently?
Since I got into watch repair, I stopped looking at the outside of many mechanical things. It just happened? Maybe because I used to be an auto mechanic, but I believe it was the watch repair that changed me.
On the political side, you might want to keep a close eye on Anthony Cousins' ongoing lawsuit against the Swatch group (ETA). If he wins, it will affect Rolex and others too.
To be fair to Rolex, their big problem is not with QC, but fakes incorporating genuine parts. It's a pretty unique problem that doesn't affect any other brand to the same extent.
It is. I found it a refreshing stylistic quirk
It is, though, a kind of double edged sword. On the one hand they continue centuries-long traditions, on the other hand they get coöpted by hipsterish connoisseurs who work for companies feverishly contributing to the demise of traditional craft in the name of efficiency and doing things better.
In addition, many of these products are not unnecessarily anachronistic (like say making an electronic device with discrete components and hand made pcbs).
Bravo to these people.
 By precision I mean they must follow a meticulous process to achieve near-perfection of result.
Sooner or later he will need to take on an apprentice - it would be nice if he can start a school like that.
You mentioned electronics, and the Japanese tradition of craftsmen making the whole thing brought to mind the slightly eccentric electronics of Susumu Sakuma. He (was?) making retro audio amplifiers on his kitchen table at one point.
Every independent watchmaker has to deal with repairs, but once you pass six figures or so for a single timepiece you don't see them outright returned much anymore (statistically speaking).
Even at high five figures you don't see them returned very often, but you do see a valley of returns at the low five figure mark ($10-$30k), or at least a lot of reselling. This is the ceiling at which a watch is "affordable" for people who aren't wealthy if they are well-paid, have few to no obligations and are fiscally irresponsible, which often results in buyer's remorse. This is one of the reasons why it's comparatively easy to find a mint or near-mint preowned watch at a significant discount less than two years out from original production year for a lot of "entry level" timepieces from the most high end brands (Lange, Vacheron, Patek, etc). You won't find similar discounts at the mid, high or ultra-high tiers within these brands, because they circulate less.
Moreover, buyers who are more likely to regret their purchase typically buy more recognizable brands. Buying from an independent takes a higher commitment to the art of haute horlogerie because virtually no one is going to recognize, even among people who recognize more than just Rolex. The market for reselling an independent-made timepiece is also lower (though in the case of someone like Smith or Dufour, this is probably not a concern).
Source: Watch hobbyist, I own an A. Lange & Söhne and Nomos Glashütte, frequent watch forums and read watch blogs.
Another example is that I build 1:10 scale truck bodies for radio control cars. One takes anything from 2 to 12 months, depending on the amount of detail I'm willing to put into engines, opening doors/hood/trunk, backlit dashboard, and so on. I'm often asked to sell them, or to take commissions. I always refuse, as one (basic) body, counting time and materials, should go for at least $10k to be even marginally profitable.
I've given some away, which is a lot more rewarding than selling one for $500.
I'd imagine a 'return' would be a trip to the chap's house and personal attention until the watch was working properly. My old hand-assembled clockwork camera (a mass produced item compared to the mechanisms in the OA) has worked faultlessly for around 15 years. And I bought it second hand then.
Also, I believe that even amongst the highest echelons of independent watchmakers, few are able to survive on their brand alone and rely heavily on either restoration work, work for larger more established brands, or a combination of the two. Even guys like Dufour and Voutilainen, two of the most respected independents in the watch world, partake in outside work for the big brands like Patek, VC, and AP.
If anyone is interested this is a post on a fairly recent visit to Beat Haldimann's workshop. One of my favorite articles on these kinds of visits is from 2006 and involves a visit to the home/atelier of a former French kickboxing champion turned watchmaker.
I wonder if those huge street 'watches' are actually apprentice pieces? The large scale of the movement making them easier to make and, I presume, less susceptible to small errors in the making of the parts?
There is only one independent watchmaker ever who has become a multimillionaire (approximately CHF125m net worth) and that is Franck Muller. But his business (which he no longer owns) is a vast, mass production enterprise.
"Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably."
But one thing worth pointing out about Jiro is that while the food is very, very good, both in terms of technical execution and taste, the experience is not typical of a high-end restaurant. Jiro the man is extremely severe and focused on his work, while the sushi comes at a very brisk pace. For the boiled octopus for instance, you have to eat it immediately after it is served. If not Jiro will remind you to, once and then a second time more sternly. He expects his clients to respect his craft as much as he does.
An excellent documentary.
Worth watching if only to see that learning to fry a good omelette with Jiro's approach apparently takes a couple of years. Though it probably has more to do with the "never complain" part rather than perfecting the actual cooking skills.
Taking myself as an example, I've learned over the years that I respond to affirmation a lot more than I'd like to admit (always thought that was "shallow", until I realized I'm like that). In turn, if I produce good work that holds me in honorable regard, it creates affirmation that drives me. This is a way for me to hack my personality trait into something good. Of course, there are pitfalls in that failure produces the opposite result and I must not reduce my identity to the result of my work.
That is considering they can even grasp the idea of things like "honor", which itself is a rather unpopular idea because it often gets in the way of making money....
What's funny is that some of them are actually being paid enormous sums of money for very little skill investment.
So in light of that, programming is apparently not a field that expects you to master anything before your salary is maximized.
- 29m30s in Jiro Dreams of Sushi(2011)
So, I assume that this apply only if you like the job. If you don't like the job, how can you actually commit to it?
I remember an old documentary (forget the name, sorry) that show that the government(?) give funds to people like him that still get alive old ways to do stuff. I remember the documentary talk about build samurai swords, pottery and jeans(?). This last one stuck to me because was claimed the jeans will last 100 years or something like that.
Can't say that you can really tell what's on his mind.
Just imagine that the job becomes like a surrogate to the persons' actual identity. They identify with their own job and think it makes their lives meaningful even though they might intensely dislike it. For instance, the people I've met who work in medicine who were very much like that - one of my best friends went through med school. Where I live doctors often work long hours besides having extremely stressful jobs (and so take self-comforting addictions like smoking, caffeine abuse and drinking). It seems as if they're often led into the profession by rather unlofty motives like pay or prestige, but I also know that many give some inherent value to their work because they're helping people. Would they'd be better off in another job? I know it's not up to me to tell, I feel as if many would. Specially the ones very much sensitive about patient loss. Because it's a hard thing to deal with anyway, but it hits them the most.
So yeah, I think that someone might stay in a profession he might not actually personally like for some arbitrarily long periods of time. At least in principle. Don't know how it might apply to other professions though, because I don't see why people would keep programming for ethical reasons - unless they're deathly afraid of the coming machine revolution.
Now, if the question is whether this really is his terminal preference, or whether he misunderstands his own deepest desires and might, under different conditions, have suffered a "mid-life crisis" realizing he hasn't satisfied his true goals after all... I can't really say. You'd have to ask him. Probably after getting him very drunk, because "has your life been a mistake" is not the type of thing you make small-talk about.
I just want to throw out there that Dan Spitz, of Anthrax fame makes watches as well, and has an interesting story too.
I also found that he produces his own benches for watchmakers and other tinkerers. Looks really great: http://danspitz.com/watchmaker_bench/
"It should also be noted that in the middle ages the time of day was usually expressed as the part of the day or night that had passed. That is, sunrise was the beginning of the 1st hour of the day, noon was the end of the 6th hour and sunset was the end of the 12th hour of the day and the beginning of the 1st hour of the night. The length of the hour changed during the year with the amount of change depending on the latitude."
It was the advent of mechanical clocks that regularised the hours. The difference was less the nearer to the equator your city was as well.
Look for ones with mechanical movements prior to 1990 or so (?); they were one of the last (or maybe the last) company making mechanical analog movements (non-quartz) long after every other watch manufacturer switched. Eventually, they had to switch too, but like 30 years later.
There's a story (pretty sure its true) of the czar buying a failing Ohio (?) watch maker, lock stock and barrel; literally, they bought the entire company and employees, and moved the employees to Russia to teach them how to make mechanical movement watches - and that continued on through the Soviet era.
But with glasnost, etc - that came to an end - and quartz took over.
I recently purchased one of these watches - it was fairly inexpensive (about $70.00 USD); it was a Lunokhod commemorative watch - with a 24 hour movement, and an orange face.
In many cases, you can get these watches as "New-Old Stock" - because non-quartz movements fell out of fashion, and the old stock just sat unsold. But now, with collectors learning about these watches, and the want for mechanical movements, they've come back. But because so many exist, they are still fairly inexpensive to find and own (even the really old versions of such watches).
There's far too much to write about these, but this article covers most of it:
For the in-depth engineering details, be sure to follow the watchuseek forum link. The interview with the designers is also good, albeit written in Russian so parts may get lost in translation.
For completeness I'll just mention the Poljot 3133, which is an excellent, low cost mechanical chronograph. It is the most technically advanced Russian movement, while the Amphibia is the most advanced case design. Poljot went out of business a few years ago, but there's still enough stock around that you can find plenty of new watches with this movement from companies like Volmax.
Vostok are still making new, fully in-house mechanical watches, and they are just as good or in some cases better than they were in the 90s. Meranom are their official online retailer. Note that Vostok Europe are a completely different company that no longer use any Russian parts, although they did use Vostok movements in their older models.
I personally would avoid older Russian watches unless you are prepared to spend a lot of time on research, or don't mind buying something that isn't what you were expecting. The vast majority on the open market are frankenwatches (mixed-up parts, often botched internal repairs).
If you want a new watch, I'd start looking at Seiko, Citizen, and Seagull watches in your price range.
Mostly because of the look. They have styles that are different, without being oversized, gaudy, or obvious knockoffs of expensive brands. The thin titanium ones are understated and nice looking to me.
If you decide on this path you'll need to do a bit of research and exploring first. A good starting point is this thread: http://forums.watchuseek.com/f72/buying-parnis-read-first-79...
If you value accuracy as in quartz, can't go wrong with g shock. Basically known for it's toughness.
Costs about $100 on Amazon.
Generally though you would be fine with just sticking to the established brands. While I don't know what style of watch you prefer, for 300EU I don't think you can go wrong in terms of quality with a Seiko.
Many interesting models are sold only in Japan, but you can get them through SeiyaJapan or Higuchi-Inc.
I serious doubt anyone will look back at my code in one hundred years and be amazed by the beauty. Not that it is not beautiful, software just doesn't feel like it has any lasting permanence.
You can create amazing things with software but does any implementation actually have permanence?
Not everything beautiful need be permanent. Some of it can last just one morning. (In Tibetan Buddhism, there is also the Sand Mandala that epitomizes this)
There's a beauty to lasting treasure, but there's a beauty to ephemeral treasure too, I think. Something crafted with ultimate care to be shared and consumed immediately.
Even though I know I am not....
Software hasn't been around long enough to really know if it has "permanence" - but the Sabre Reservation System probably comes pretty close...
I'm not so certain about that; the article mentions his making a wristwatch (and pocket watch) version of a traditional Japanese clock which varies the length of a day by the seasons. Such timepieces (as clocks) fell out after the Meiji restoration (according to the article) when Japan transitioned to western style clocks.
Given that, unless Seiko (or some other company) is also making movements for traditional Japanese timekeeping, I can't imagine your scenario being true, simply because the market for traditional Japanese timekeeping watches would have to be pretty damn small, as they are virtually useless for practical use in the modern world, and only would serve as curiosities and/or art.
Just my opinion based only on the article, though - I could be completely wrong.
I am the author of the original article. Kikuno-san makes all of the watch, except for the hairspring, mainspring, jewels, crystal and leather strap. His dedication to the craft is remarkably complete.
Hackernews' "Eye of Sauron" affect seems to have nobbled the site.
I've only seen the movies (and read the wiki too), so I could be wrong.
A better metaphor would be "the HN LOIC".
I'm slowly starting to fantasize about having a job where I can create actual objects myself and my work has a tangible effect rather than some zero-sum value shuffling.
Double kudos for the Pentax and the truly amazing 100mm f2.8 macro lens he uses. I have it and it's fantastic.
> A reader emailed to complain about how this and other HN discussions often become derailed by off-topic carping about blog design. I agree completely. Could there be a more classic form of bikeshedding? It would seem parodic if it weren't sadly real. This has become more of a thing on HN lately. It needs to become less of a thing.
> I don't mean to pick on you personally, or just on this one comment. (Your second sentence alone, by the way, would have been a helpful contribution.) The problem is the tedious stampedes such comments spawn.
The ongoing destruction of the Web is something which all of us, particularly the start-up community, should fight.