Navitas
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I would love to start this story with an interesting and true tale about a rich history of watchmaking in my family dating back centuries. But I donít have one. The truth is that it all started sometime in 2008 with a humble idea to make a watch.  Just one watch, designed by me, and built by someone else anywhere in the world.  I have an extensive background in machining and product development, but the idea of making a watch by myself did not cross my mind at that time.  I was sure that watchmaking companies all over the world were waiting for me (the customer) to help in the creation of my own watch.  I had a rough idea on how I wanted my watch to look.  I knew it had to be based on a robust, reliable, nicely finished Swiss movement.  However, I had no concept of watchmaking. Any knowledge of materials and surface finishes used in watches was foreign to me.  I had no clue of the complexities of watch design, development, prototyping, and a million other things surrounding the watch creation process.  Everything looked straight forward and fairly simple.  After all, hundreds of companies are making thousands of their own (little that I knew) watch models, right?  How hard and expensive could it be? They already have off-the-shelf mechanical movements, cases, dials, and arms.  So what if my design is a little different?  They have all those precise CNC machines, die making capability, surface finishing facilities and production lines.  All of the processes are robust and have been performed millions of times.

Here is a sequence of events to produce a custom watch according to me in 2008: First, call a watchmaking company and describe what I want, send them a 3D computer rendered image of my watch design with physical dimensions, color scheme and material specs.  My sketch goes back and forth several times with adjustments according to the watchmaking companyís capability. Finally, we would agree on something acceptable to me and doable for them. They will give me a price and - voilŗ, here is my own watch!  If itís not too expensive why not order 20-30 pieces and have my own line of watches! Technical difficulties were the least of my concerns.  After all, they are the experts doing this day in and day out for years.  Itís going to be great!

They say ignorance is bliss. Well, not in the watchmaking world. I learned this quickly.

My first call to an American-owned, Swiss-based watch company put everything in perspective within the first five minutes.  I got lucky and had a chance to talk to the company owner for two hours.  To this day, I have no idea what kept him on the phone with me for so long.  I guess he was fascinated by my monumental ignorance.  In those two hours, I learned a lot about the watchmaking industry and watchmaking in general.  It was a rude awakening and I quickly realized that my approach to this project was wrong on all counts.  Looking back, Iím wondering what kept me from canning the whole idea right then and there. I was pleasantly surprised to find that several American-based watchmaking companies were willing to spend time on the phone with me, providing me with invaluable knowledge and advice.


By the end of 2008, it was clear that I was not going to get my watch built by any watchmakers known to me.  None of the companies I contacted wanted to take on building just one watch.  I did find several companies that were willing to produce basic, one color dials only.  There was a catch; I had to buy 500 pieces minimum. Cost was prohibiting, but the biggest problem was that my design required a complex three layer, machined mother of pearl dial and nobody I spoke with was willing to do it regardless of price.  Hands were another issue. There are many hand designs available for different movements, but I needed a set that I designed. When I inquired suppliers about a quote for a set of hands, the story repeated itself Ė 500 sets or nothing.

At this point, I had to make a decision. Should I compromise on design and change the watch to accommodate what is available or should I stay true to my original design, despite the difficulty?  I could have continued searching for someone who would build it for me and eventually I would find the right watch maker.  However, the approximate price estimates given to me to build one watch seemed to be unrealistically high.  I could not believe that it would cost so much to design and build a watch based on an existing movement. This naÔve thought makes me smile years later.  Weighing all those options, I decided that if Iím going to spend the money, I should invest it in books and tools.

From 2008 to 2010, I was reading everything I could get my hands on that was watch/watchmaking related. Magazines, books, online articles, even scanned old watchmaking books on DVD. Because of my day job and family commitments, things were moving slowly. As my knowledge grew and this process evolved, I started to understand, in theory, why some watches are so expensive.  It took another year of building my first watch to understand this concept in practice. Along with reading everything under the sun, I was buying, learning, designing and building equipment that was needed to get my project going.  I understand now that I was inventing tools and jigs that were invented a long time ago, but I had no guidance or advice to follow. This trial and error approach was very costly and frustrating, but I had no choice.  I was going to make my watch the way I wanted it or not make it at all.  Pretty soon, my creative endeavor had led me to develop my own vacuum dial holder and video positioning fixture for my CNC mill.  Because it was impossible to find, I took a deeper dive and designed and fabricated a heavy duty dial printing machine with a laser guide for precise clichť/dial setup.  That helped me start building dial printers for other watchmakers to offset the cost of the watch development.

To conclude, after building two watch models: Engine Telegraph ô (for men) and Lady Navitasô (for women) I am in the process of building the third, unisex model. It has been a long and arduous journey to get where I am today.  I see no end in sight and I couldnít be happier.


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