The Devil Is In The Details
One of the many things that sets microbrands apart from larger mass-market brands is personality. Microbrands (the successful ones at least) almost always have a real person behind the brand. The brand owners stand behind their work. Those close to us know that one brand we have admired for a long time is Mk II. When someone buys a Mk II, they know that Bill Yao has personally inspected it.
In the early stages of discussing our business model, we knew that we had to 1) narrow down our target market and 2) offer a really compelling value proposition. Finding our target market was easy because, well, we were essentially catering to people just like ourselves. Once we identified our target market, it made it easier to figure out our value proposition.
Design is always paramount. A watch can be built like a tank, but if it is ugly, no one will buy it. To some people, Submariner homages have been beaten to death. I would tend to disagree but that is a discussion for another time. The point here is that a great design can make you really like a watch, but great build quality and attention to detail can put it over the edge, making that watch a permanent fixture in your collection instead of a flipper. That is our goal.
Ever since I’ve met him, Cullen has always had an eye for details. He would see flaws and in the minutiae of the imperfect products in our imperfect world. When he couldn’t find a solution, he would fix it himself. His obsessive tendencies coupled with his penchant for getting his hands dirty led him to modding and building his own watches. It is only fitting that he serves as the gatekeeper between our workshop and your wrist.
Disclaimer: our QC procedure is still evolving. We are always sourcing new suppliers and better equipment to consistently give our customers better watches.
1- Case + Bezel
For the Trieste, our QC process starts with an aesthetic overview of the case. We look for any imperfections on the brushed finishes and light scratches on the polished finishes. Then we make sure the bezel insert is printed properly, fits into the bezel, and is not damaged or chipped. On our NH35A-equipped models, the movement isn’t screwed into the movement holder, which allows for free rotation of the dial/movement assembly when it is not installed in the case. Consequently, the dial might be misaligned in the case if not carefully installed, and this is sometimes virtually impossible to see with the naked eye. This misalignment can lead to the misalignment of the bezel with the case, depending on the order in which the watch is put together. We check for this misalignment and correct it as necessary.
2- Dial + hands
The dial is then examined for any dust, scratches, or specs. Most of the time it is extremely difficult to see, especially once it is in the case. The hands and indices may also be scratched or slightly bent. Hand alignment is also tested, especially for the date options, to make sure that the date turns over at the right time. This is especially obvious for the STP1-11 movements, with the quick date change. Once the hands and dial are set, they are cased with the movement and go on to regulation.
3- Movement regulation
Our movement regulation differs from movement to movement. For the NH35A, we aim for a +/- 10s/day. Just for reference, the factory accuracy standard for the NH35A is -20~+40s/day. The NH35A is unadjusted, which leads to inconsistent timekeeping in different positions. We’ve had few NH35As that performed to COSC standards out of the box, and a lot that were as erratic and unreliable as an overbooked United flight. As such, we take the average of each position and regulate as best we can. If we can’t regulate a movement to our accuracy standards, we simply don’t use them. For our STP1-11s, we regulate to +/- 5s/day, which has proven to be easily attainable, which the exception of just a few, which are discarded.
4- Crown/Caseback + Gaskets
The gaskets are checked and lubricated before the caseback is screwed on. We test every single piece to ensure that the caseback and crown gaskets are in full contact and no water leakage occurs.
5- Final visual check + clean/polish + Packaging
Finally, we do a final visual check, clean and polish of the watches before wrapping them in protective film, packaging them, and storing them in our inventory.
Assembling our pieces in Los Angeles enables us to pay attention to the granular details of each piece, ensuring that all the pieces that go out are as close to perfect as possible. We are always striving to improve our end-to-end process, from the design stage, all the way to post-purchase customer support. From the very beginning, we knew that we had an ambitious plan. We knew that for the next year, we would have to excessively obsess over the tiny details.
Sometimes it comes down to just you and your watch. As strange as it may sound to some people, there is a bond between you and your watch that can make you feel safe when you’re traversing a strange new city, conjure long-lost memories from years ago, or simply put a smile on your face so wide that you forgot to look at the time in the first place. Knowing the amount of care and attention that went into your watch strengthens these bonds and gives the wearer a peace of mind, which is something that design and brand name alone cannot achieve.