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Kingston: Prep for Assembly

Here is what we do for each batch of components going out for assembly. It’s far from just shoving a bunch of components into a different box and shipping them out to Switzerland. I apologize in advance for the picture quality. These were quick and dirty shots I took during different stages of the process.

Each component is individually inspected; the dials, hands, cases, movements, and case backs.

Each of the hands and dials are carefully and individually packaged for safe transport:

For security reasons I am not going to post the pics of the final packaging used

For this first batch I did the work on the movements personally. I removed the day/date wheels and other parts to make the watches operate as non-date movements. The spare parts have already been packed and are ready for inclusion with the parts kits when the watches return from Switzerland.

The following is the work done on the cases…First we have to attach the crowns to the case body. As you will see in the other post that is also going up today the case supplier, like much of the rest of the industry, is under a lot of production capacity stress. During the process the case supplier actually lost 400 of the specially made Kingston crowns in October 2010. This is a rare occurrence, especially for a case supplier of this caliber. Basically it comes down to the fact that many manufacturers (like in the US) are short staffed but in the case of the watch industry they can’t train up enough people fast enough to fill the void left by the fallout from the Lehman Brothers collapse in Sept. 2008. The box shown below is all that we had (about 200 pieces)

After 2 weeks of urgent communication the crowns were confirmed to have been lost and I reached out to the crown supplier to find out the turnaround time. I was preparing for the worst, that is to say a lead time of about 3-6 months because Christmas is fast approaching and as I noted above anyone worth working with is now jammed with work.

Here the cases are being laid out on a workbench so that I can begin applying a protective coating to the casebodies before their trip to Switzerland.

Here half of the cases are covered with protective paint. I have to start turning over the case bodies so that I can apply coating to the mirror finished case backs. The case manufacturer didn’t use stickers to protect the case backs as the stickers can leave a residue. On polished case backs trying to remove the residue would guarantee the customer would end up scratching their brand new case back.

Now the cases are ready to be packed up with the rest of the parts for shipment to Switzerland. The protective blue coating you see here you won’t see when you receive your watches. We remove the coating with a special process so that we can do one final inspection before shipment.

About the crowns…We got exceptionally good news, almost too good to be true in fact. The crown supplier had made a lot of extras when they made the original order so the lead time was in fact only 6 weeks rather than months. I didn’t want to say anything until I actually had the crowns in hand because frankly I just couldn’t believe it. However here they are….we just got them in last week…

As you can see the label notes 400 pieces, invoiced on November 8, 2010. The order was actually 11 days early.

Sorry to keep everyone in the dark but one of the reasons this update was delayed was because of the crown issue. This isn’t the kind of news that I wanted you guys to worry about until I had a better answer than “may be it will be okay”. November 19th was going to be the date we either new everything was okay or we were f**ked. Fortunately it worked out…well except for the cost of the new crowns.

The first batch of C3 parts arrived at the assemblers late last week. We will be putting together the parts kit ordering pages over the next two weeks and e-mailing the Plankowners and the others that are eligible to order the spare parts kit at that time. Thanks for everyone’s patience. Everything is going as fast as it can be done, which is to say with the requisite amount of care. My apologies for the lack of updates but updates take time. I am not saying you aren’t entitled to them but I do have to balance the priorities. This update and the updates from the last few days have take more than 12 hours solid hours of work to put together and post. But that is also the reason we have put together a new strategy that will be put into practice at the end of January 2011.

Customer Service improvements

Similar to my stabilizing health the strides that we have made in improving customer service are only beginning to have an impact. Over the summer the time and effort that we made to improve our customer service infrastructure made the situation noticeably worse while we spent time and energy to integrate the software and built the new web site. Given that my health was quite a drag on productivity at the time I had to make a lot of hard choices about our short-term priorities versus long-term improvements.

CRM
Over the summer we installed a new Customer Relationship Management system (“CRM”). There are substantial benefits to the system, which I hope has become apparent to many that have had experience with it. The system allows us to better organize and prioritize service requests. Within each “ticket” all of our correspondence with each client is aggregated and has a more personal feel. I will admit that the idea of “ticket” and the way that the system randomly picks the ticket IDs can give everyone more of a deli counter, take-a-number feel but there were limits to what we could change. The most significant benefit of the system is that we are finally free of the side effects of SPAM filters blocking our e-mails.

There is also a lot more that the CRM system is capable of that we will begin to take advantage of over the next 18 months. Eventually the system will be accessible through your login on the main site. There are still some technical hurdles that we have to overcome before we can make that a reality. The system will also begin to handle our general inquiries in the future as well by having the system automatically generate tickets for customers through our e-mail system. We haven’t begun to use this capability yet because I still have to understand the system and its inner workings better. There is also a knowledge base function that I have started filling in with information that I will continue working on after the holidays that will make answers frequently asked questions more easily accessible.

New Web Site
As many of you have noticed we have launched an updated version of our web site. I hope that you have found it easier to navigate and to use. We made the navigation simpler and have divided our watch collection into two easier to reference groups. The Specialist Series which is our sub-$1,000 watches and The Professional Series which is our higher end line. The differences between the collections will be more evident over the next year as we make adjusts to the offerings. The biggest improvement to the system is one that will likely go un-noticed by anyone that doesn’t build web pages for a living but represents a significant improvement in efficiency. The web site is now almost entirely “dynamic”, which means that I can update the site with a click of a mouse, finally fixing the mistakes of our original web developer. The old site was entirely “static”, requiring a lot of software coding to make the smallest change to anything. This improvement represents an exponential reduction in the time required to update our web site. That may not sound impressive but when you are literally drowning in work every day counts.

The new web site took significantly longer to launch than originally advertised. The site had originally been slated to go live in July and after substantial delays I had to take a much more active role in the finishing the site in September and October. The new site is a critical part of our long-term strategy to stabilize the operational portion of the company thereby improving customer service and the overall Mk II experience.

In short with playing catch-up on the production, sending out the Kingston parts to assembly, and making improvements to our systems left me with a choice. I could A) keep up with the demands for updates, B) work on watches and the system or C) maintain my health but only choose 2 of the 3. I chose B and C and have relied on Winnie and used the blog to keep the communication lines open. However in the last few months I have come to a conclusion. I have had to make these kinds of choices one too many times and that prompted me to take a hard look at Mk II.

I have some pics to post of the process for the Kingston that I prepped but will have to post later this Monday. There is a significant quantity watches out for assembly and I am in the process of preparing more. I have a few e-mails out the assembler looking for updates but no word yet. This is the busiest time of the year for assemblers. In the mean time, in addition to continuing to prepare more watches for assembly, I am doing my best to clear the backlog in preparation for the return of the Kingstons.

Survey sent!

I have just sent out the e-mail update for the Project 300. If you have a deposit for the Project 300 please keep an eye out for it and take the survey that is included in the e-mail.

If you do not receive the e-mail please check your SPAM folder first. If you still do not see the e-mail please contact us at info@mkiiwatches.com so that we can try to re-send the update.

The update includes the new specifications and price for the project.

Kingston Update

The second batch of parts is almost ready to go to Switzerland. I am currently working on the C3 non-date Kingstons and getting them ready for assembly.

I still have to post the pics I took from the BG W9 preparation which will give you a better idea of the scope of the process. In a nut shell though the process takes about 30 minutes per watch.

Kingston Test Assembly: Part 3B

A look at the inside of the Kingston and the final stages of assembly. In this first pic you see the under-appreciated movement ring. The Kingston movement ring is clamped into the case body rather than using a metal or plastic ring that relies on the case back to hold the movement in place. This more complicated case construction method is more secure and lasts longer than the compression type movement rings normally found at this price range. This caseing method also leads to better time keeping.

A picture of the front of the watch. The installation of the bezel comes next. I always do the bezel installation last so that I can line the bezel up with the dial more precisely.

Now the final regulation of the movement.

Here is a peak at my notes from the regulation. I don’t normally publish this information as the accuracy on the bench always varies a little with the timing experienced in the real world due to factors such as how much the watch is worn and temperature. After a number of years of experience it seems that +5 seconds a day, averaged across the positions, seems to be ideal for a new movement of this grade. The positional deltas are also particularly good on this movement. If you look back to the first post where I did the first QC of the movement you will see that the timing has changed after the movement has been cased. The movements always perform differently after they are cased.

Now getting ready for the bezel installation. The key components below: bezel inlay, water proof double sided tape, and the bezel itself.

After some tweaks to the retention spring and the click spring the bezel is mounted using a crystal press.

And now a final cleaning of the inside of the case body and a final check of the screws to make sure everything is tight before we close up the case back.

The watch easily passed its final water resistance tests and the bracelet can finally be attached. It took a few days to finalize spare parts kit with the cusomer and get it together before shipment.

When it was finally ready to go it was a little too late in the day and I wanted to get the watch in the mail. As a result I forgot to snap a final picture of the whole package.

Kingston Update

The first Kingston shipped earlier today. Part 3B of the test assembly post will be posted later today. I got the photos edited but didn’t have a chance to write the post.