Watchmaking on the Nomad

Thank you

Thank you to the team at Carbide 3D for designing and building a great desktop 3-axis CNC! The Nomad 883 Pro is a great machine.

My 2-year endeavor is finally complete, and the final video is now available on YouTube. Enjoy!

I should note: this is my first -completely from scratch- watch.

Introduction

This video captures 1,440 hours of work in six minutes, detailing the process from CAD design to manufacturing from scratch, including the case, band, dial, hands, movement, every gear, every screw, even the spring bars for the band and buckle … a total of 122 parts made from scratch! Some parts are smaller than Lincolns nose on a penny! While the Nomad is a great and very capable machine, fewer than 20% of the parts were made on the Nomad CNC, the rest were done by hand using traditional watchmaking methods because the Nomad is not precise enough for watchmaking (watchmaking parts require 0.001mm precision!).

Very few people in the world make the entire watch from scratch, particularly the movement. This is because making gears (called wheels) from scratch, requires such precision that an error of 0.002 mm will result in a fancy paperweight, instead of a watch that maintains chronograph performance of -4/+6 seconds per day. It is difficult to appreciate how hard this is, especially when you know that nearly 1000 hours were spent working under a microscope with 20-30x magnification to make the wheels, pinions, screws, etc. The international roster of “Independent Watchmakers” lists fewer than 200 names. I hope to someday add my name to that list.

Tools

With the exception of Guilloche, all associated jigs and fixtures were designed using Fusion360 for CAD design and CAM tool-paths. The CNC work was performed on a Nomad 883 Pro 3-axis CNC mill, while all other operations were performed using a variety of manual machines and tools, e.g. a 1940’s Boley F1 lathe, and various tools from Levin, Bergeon, Leica, K&D, etc. To build and assemble this timepiece, over 3,000 tools were purchased and +50 jigs and fixtures were made from scratch.

Materials for the Case, Dial and Movement

The case and crown are made in a brilliant platinum (Rhodium), for long wear and scratch protection. The case is water resistant to 10 meters. The front features a double-domed sapphire crystal to resist scratches and accentuate the beauty of the dial, while the case back uses a flat sapphire crystal to display the beautiful movement.

The dial is also made in platinum with 18k gold hour indices and chapter rings. The hands are hand-made from high carbon steel, heat treated to a deep blue, and mirror polished tip and boss.

The movement is made in platinum, with high carbon steel pinions, 24k gold wheels, and ruby jewels. In the tradition of high horology, each hand-made screw features a chamferred and polished slot, and mirror polished screw head. All steel parts in the watch are mirror polished, the most visible component (aside from the screws) is the escape wheel.

Leather Strap

Havana leather, the king of patina, picks up marks and scratches which quickly blend gracefully into the subsurface.

Every strap is saddle stitched by hand as shown in the video. Unlike lock stitch created by machines, a saddle stitch is more durable as it is made of two independent stitches that form a knot at every stitch. Linen thread in 0.35mm thickness was selected for a fine and natural weave.

The edges are finished with multiple layers of edge paint to seal the raw edges. To achieve the desired finish, the edges are repeatedly sanded and edge paint is applied.

The strap is lined with silky smooth Nubuck leather, specially developed for use as a lining material. It is soft to the touch and comfortable even after hours of wear. The leather is water- and sweat-resistant and works well even in hot and humid climate.

The straps comes fitted with a brilliant platinum (Rhodium) hand made buckle, straight grained surfaces with mirror polished chamfers, engraved with my family name. It brings about a sophisticated yet durable look to the strap. Even spring bars are hand made on the Boley F1 lathe!

Select CNC photos

Bottom side of the watch case.

Guilloche dial (I had to write my own CAD and CAM software to do the math and geometry for this pattern)

Prototype hands and hour markers for the dial

Movement bridges

Movement main-plate

Wheel blanks (prior to cutting the teeth)

Guilloche Notes

These are the Guilloche dial tool paths. To do Guilloche, I first created the math and geometry algorithms, then wrote the software for the CAD and CAM from scratch in Matlab. Therefore I can generate plots (like the ones shown) as well as a simulation and the g-code. The simulation can be viewed from any angle and zoom in real-time, just like you would in something like Fusion360.

The code is quite flexible. Here are other pattern examples (that I didn’t use)

Selection of jigs, fixtures & tools made on the Nomad

Flip jig to precisely align material for 2-sided machining

Branding iron for the leather strap (for scale, the text is 2.5mm tall)

3-axis fixture for pearlage and Geneva stripes

Fixtures to hold the bridges while mirror polishing the chamfers

Mandrels to hold the wheel blanks while cutting the teeth

58 Likes

I’m blown away. I wish I had that kind of patience.

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Dr. Roysdon - That’s incredible.

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Unbelievable, it’s truly such an achievement of both precision, but even more so patience and commitment. You would have had to have moments, when you thought that this was too hard and you really should have picked something easier to construct.

My question: What is your next project?

When coding up the guilloché patterns how did you preview them?

Wow! Just… Wow! :smiley:

Modifying the Nomad to hold micron tolerances???

Yeah, what he said.

Very cool, well done.

Thank you Rob. Any chance I could work with Carbide3D to make a special 0.001mm precision version of the Nomad for my next project? :slight_smile:

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I have already started the next project, a sport watch with a chronograph. I just hope it doesn’t take 2 years. :slight_smile:

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To do the Guilloche, I wrote the software for the CAD and CAM from scratch in Matlab. Therefore I can generate plots (like the ones above) as well as a simulation and the g-code. The simulation can be viewed from any angle and zoom in real-time, just like you would in something like Fusion360.

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I have already started the next project, a sport watch with a chronograph. I just hope it doesn’t take 2 years. :slight_smile:

Yes, this project taught me patience. There were many occasions when I was not sure I could do everything from scratch, and there were periods when I paused the project for several weeks until I could work out a problem, or design a jig, or fixture, so that I could press on.

If you watched the video you see at the end that I made 20 complete movements before I had everything correct. Most of this came down to manufacturing tolerances with the Nomad. But once this was resolved I built several movements back-to-back without error, and each keep good time.

6 Likes

This is so cool! And absolutely beautiful work. I cant believe the quality of this finish and fit! And the gears and hands?!?!
I bought my Nomad to start a project making my own watch. But not to this epic level. This has inspired me!
I think i need a lathe and a few more things to begin making all the parts… But as for now i have some off-the-shelf movements, some brass, and no experience.

Thank you. To do everything from scratch you will need nearly 3000 tools, some of which you will have to make yourself. So be patient. This will take time to acquire, build, and master the techniques. I am confident that you can do this, just don’t give up! :slight_smile:

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Really nice work :clap:t2::clap:t2::ok_hand:t3:

Incredible. I am excited to see what you do next.

Add me to the ‘impressed’ list, I have a few mechanical watches from the cheap Seiko 5s up to some German and Swiss, one day I will buy myself a Grand Seiko or a Spring Drive, but not today.

I would certainly not attempt to make one myself, good work and great post.

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One word- OMG HOLEY MOLEY WOW! Amazing

Thank you. I think anyone can do this. I am self-taught and followed George Daniels book “Watchmaking”, and this was my first watch completely from scratch. It took 2 years to complete. You just can’t give up, though there will be many times when you want to.

If I can do it, so can you. :slight_smile:

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This is a fabulous book — picked up a copy when my daughter was considering going into watch repair:

Similarly, for guilloché I found:

fascinating.

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