Sunday, July 31, 2016

My try at strap making and some lessons learnt

So as some of you may know, I bought a Panerai PAM005 recently and with it came the obsession of straps. I started going through a lot of forums and watch strap websites trying hard not to spend all my money. I liked the look of the handmade straps and started learning more about how they're made. I'm pretty sure I must have watched almost all the videos on this subject on YouTube. I was hooked and I just had to give it a go.

My first hurdle was a limited number of tools I could call from online websites in India. Most of the tools that I required for leather craft were either not available here or were way too overpriced. I managed to find a hole punching tool, a rubber mallet, a cutting mat and knife here. The rest had to be ordered from international sellers which took quite a while to arrive (some still haven't reached after more than a month).

I had most of the tools I needs to start working on a watch strap, except for leather. My first plan was to try my luck online, but no dice. I then realised that Mumbai has a very popular area for leather goods called Dharavi - which is also famous for being one of the largest slums in the world. I took a cab and headed there the other day and as it turned out, I didn't have a great experience. As soon as I reached all the sales guys outside the shops started calling me to have have a look inside. I politely ignored and went to a place I had been to years ago. The guy inside seemed a bit perplexed when I said I was looking for some leather hide. He couldn't figure out why, so I had to tell him and this was a mistake. He found it so funny that someone would try making watch straps at home rather than getting it made from one of them. He kept on joking with his staff and when he saw I was losing my patience, finally said he could get me what I wanted, but I had to buy the whole hide at one go. This  was a problem as I didn't require so much to start with and I had no place in my apartment to store it. So then he said he's got some bits and pieces lying around in his shop and showed it to me. There was one black and one dark brown patch of hide. Both were small enough to be carried in a bag and he wanted Rs.500 ($7.5) for them. Knowing nothing about the price of leather, I agreed and asked him if this leather was suitable for making a watch strap, to which he said, of course! I then went to another couple of places but neither of them had raw hide readily available and instead tried their best to sell me finished products - and yes, they too found this whole strap making thing very amusing.

Fast forward to my place. I had all my tools laid out and couldn't wait to start! As soon as I got the leather out of the bag, I knew something wasn't right. The leather was really thin, almost like cloth. It needed to be thicker if I had to make a strap out of it. I decided to cut more layers of leather and glue them together. So in the end I had 4 layers of leather making a combined thickness of about 3mm.

Hear are some shots I took while working on the strap...

steel tubes for Panerai style screw in straps

There is a process known as edge slicking or burnishing which is done to preserve the edge of leather goods. You wet the edges with water (or some special solution), take a wooden / or bone burnisher and rub it along the edges. Seems pretty easy, but I was having a real hard time doing this. I then realised that the leather was way too soft for this and I ended up fraying the edges instead (had to cut them off later).

the wooden edged burnisher

ready to start stitching

one down, one to go

My end results seems not too bad if I say so myself. I tried the 'saddle stitch' and it came out better than I expected. Here is the finished strap.

Here is what I learned:

  • Know your leather and buy it from a good source - I saw multiple videos on this and I wished I had seen them before. Turns out the stuff I bought was chrome tanned leather and not suitable for strap making. I need to get vegetable tanned leather. I think I have identified another source who seems to have leather of much higher quality.
  • Buy or make a 'pony' - a pony is like a clamp to hold the leather project while you have your hands free to stitch. I thought I could easily do without one, but I was wrong. There was no easy way to hold the strap (I tried holding it between my knees) and I ended up with a slight back ache.
  • An awl is a wonderful tool to have - very useful!
  • Even though the leather sewing needles aren't sharp, they'll still prick you if you're not careful.

It was a great learning experience for me and I look forward to improving my skills. Today I tried the saddle stitch on a piece of a cheap belt and I can already see the improvement :)

Now back to reading the latest Harry Potter book!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Finally got my G-Shock!

My fascination with the G-Shock brand started when I was maybe 12-13 years old and my father decided on a family road trip to Kathmandu, Nepal. The journey was an absolute pain as this was the era before GPS was available in India, which meant we were constantly getting lost…but that’s a topic for another day.

So while in Kathmandu, I managed to get my hands on a ‘D-Shock’. At that time, the only good watch I had was a rather crappy digital watch with a cover on top in the shape of a Lion’s head (it was a birthday gift and didn’t make it on my wrist for more than a few weeks). So when I finally had the D-Shock on my wrist I was awed by all the functions, namely stopwatch, alarm and the best of all - the ‘indiglo’ light. It was the closest thing I could get to a real ‘G-Shock’ and needless to say, I was instantly hooked!

Of course, other than sharing a resemblance, some features and the name with the original, it was just another cheap watch. Something that I soon realised when I jumped into the club pool with my new watch. It lasted for about 5-10 seconds before the pool water destroyed the LED. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken the ‘water-proof’ feature of the watch for granted.

Fast forward almost about 15 years and I was happy with my obsession with mechanical watches. I got close to pulling the trigger on a G-Shock (the real deal) several times, but instead chose to save up and buy something else.

However, a couple of months ago, I had received the following newsletter by Ethos: ‘7 reasons why you should own a Casio G Shock (once in your life)’. It instantly brought back memories of owning something close to an original G-Shock and I decided that it was time to get one.

I had visited an Ethos shop at the Mumbai International Airport and while I purchased a Baby G for the wife, their refusal to match the price of the G-Shock that I liked, to the prices on their website, meant that I had to delay my purchase for a while. A couple of months later, I saw that Flipkart had an discount on the model I had an eye on. Add to that a 2 day cash back offer on my credit card, and just like that I was the proud owner of a genuine G-Shock: GA-1000-9BDR (G543)!

I have been really happy with the watch. The build quality is very impressive and it feels extremely rugged. And of course, being a G-Shock, it has a ton of features. For those that are interested, the complete specifications are as follows:
Mineral Glass / Spherical Glass
Shock Resistant
200-meter water resistance
Case / bezel material: Resin / Stainless steel
Resin Band
Neon Illuminator (Black light LED)
Auto light switch, selectable illumination duration, afterglow
Digital compass (NORTH)
Hand indication of north (20 seconds continuous measurement)
Measures and displays direction as one of 16 points
Measuring range: 0 to 359°
Measuring unit: 1°
Bidirectional calibration
Magnetic declination correction
Bearing memory
Display range: –10 to 60°C (14 to 140°F)
Display unit: 0.1°C (0.2°F)
World time
31 time zones (48 cities + coordinated universal time), city code display, daylight saving on/off
1/100-second stopwatch
Measuring capacity: 23:59'59.99''
Measuring modes: Elapsed time, split time, 1st-2nd place times
Countdown timer
Measuring unit: 1 second
Countdown range: 60 minutes
Countdown start time setting range: 1 to 60 minutes (1-minute increments)
5 daily alarms (with 1 snooze alarm)
Hourly time signal
Full auto-calendar (to year 2099)
12/24-hour format
Low battery warning
Button operation tone on/off
Regular timekeeping
Analog: 3 hands (hour, minute (hand moves every 10 seconds), second)
Digital: Hour, minute, second, pm, month, date, day
Accuracy: ±15 seconds per month
Approx. battery life: 2 years on SR927W × 2
Size of case: 50.8 × 52.1 × 16.6 mm
Total weight: 85 g
LED: Neon Illuminator (Backlight LED)

Lume shot without the backlight

Lume shot with the UV light (tucked behind the 6 o'clock marker

It took a little time to get used to all the functions and settings on this watch, but the manual is pretty easy to follow and once you get the hang of it, it’s really not that difficult to operate. The backlight is a small ultra violet (UV) bulb behind the 6 o'clock marker which lights up the face really well, and at the same time charges the luminous paint on the hands and minute markers.

This has become my go-to workout watch and I frequently wear it to the gym or whenever I can go for a jog (note to self - need to do this more often). It definitely beats using my sweaty fingers to check the time or use the stopwatch on my phone.

The yellow and black combination is definitely something that I love and it goes well with my gym shorts and shoes as they have the same colours in them as well.

I paid Rs. 9,596 ($142.5) - 10% cash back = Rs. 8,636 ($128.2) for it. However,
for the amount of features you get (including 200m water resistance), it’s an absolute deal even if you purchase it for the full retail price of Rs. 11,995 ($178.2).

I’m glad to be part of the G-Shock club and would absolutely recommend it to anyone who’s thinking about adding this to their watch collection.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Some lume shots from the PAM005

Finally managed to take a couple of lume shots while on a short vacation. Both these shots have been taken from a phone camera (my girlfriend's Nexus 6P) and thankfully came out pretty neat :)

I tried to colour correct this one to match the actual lume colour

Friday, July 8, 2016

Incoming - The Panerai PAM005

Finally!! After an extremely long dry spell, 5 years to be exact (and in time for my birthday), I have a new timepiece to add to my collection, the gorgeous PAM005. For people who have read my blog in the past, you'll probably know that the Panerai Luminor Marina was on my wish list. Originally it was the PAM111, but my taste in watches has evolved, I now prefer a solid case back on my diver / tool watches, plus that OP logo is to die for!

The PAM005, like the 000 has been discontinued so I knew it would be a challenge to find it.  The newer models for the 005 and the 000 are the 630 and the 632, but they both come with a snap on case back (reducing the WR to 100) and non screw strap bars, so they didn't excite me too much. Thankfully, I managed to source one through Irfan at Art Of Time in Bandra, Mumbai. It did take over a month to arrive, but the wait was completely worth it! As soon as I heard it had reached the AD, I took my brother (Bio) with me and rushed to store.

Some quick specs:
Model number: PAM00005
Case material: Stainless steel
Case size: 44mm
Case back: Screw down

So far, the watch looks great on my wrist (at least I think so) and the calf skin strap feels soft and very comfortable. I haven't gotten time to test the lume our properly, but will post a pic soon.