Weiss Watch Company is restoring prestige to American watchmaking. They design and build timepieces with mechanical movements by hand in Los Angeles, California. Each timepiece is individually assembled in America. Their practices merge historical techniques and modern technological advances, with every process perfected by a Swiss-trained and certified American watchmaker. Weiss Watch Company strives to increase the percentage of domestic sourcing with each edition, and is the only company resurrecting industry practices that have not been active in the United States for decades.
Grant Hughson is a Manufacturing Engineer at Weiss Watch Company. Grant “lives and breathes” manufacturing, currently working in his spare time as a Manufacturing Instructor at Saddleback College. We spoke to Grant for this latest featured customer blog about the watch-making process, his experiences in the industry, and his thoughts on the state of American manufacturing.
What made you get into machining?
I grew up with a love for finely machined products, like watches, guns, and fishing gear. I also loved car racing, and a lot of the modifications on the cars are machined from various materials. So, from a young age, I was obsessed with the work that went into these products, and knew I wanted to be a part of the manufacturing industry.
What is your favorite part of this profession?
I love the entire manufacturing process. It always starts with a dream, or an idea. Then you take that idea and turn it into a drawing, and soon after, you’ll be modeling it. The best part is when you go to actually machine the part, and watch your original idea turn into a tangible part or product.
What is the most challenging part of the watch-making process?
There are a few challenging parts of the watch-making process, starting with the super-tight tolerances. Surface finish is also extremely important, and can be difficult to nail. Many surface finishes in watchmaking are visual, so roughness can be deceiving. We also were forced to design all of our workholding from scratch, as nothing currently existed in the market that would work for our machining process.
You mentioned your tight tolerances. What tolerances do you typically work in?
My tolerances are in the tenths. The holes that hold the jewels (watch bearings) are +0.0002, -0.
What sort of machines do you have in your shop?
We have a 3 axis vertical milling machine and a 9 axis Swiss style lathe in the shop.
What type of materials do you work in?
We work in steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass, and titanium every day. It is a wide variety, but it keeps things interesting!
How have Harvey Tool products impacted your overall shop performance?
Harvey Tools have been great tools for me. I do a lot of prototype work, and constantly need odd sized tools or specialty profiles to finish a job. Thankfully, the Harvey Tool selection is HUGE. Somehow you guys always have what I need!
Tell us about your favorite project that Harvey Tools helped to create.
I love what I do everyday, so my favorite project is an ongoing one; making watches!
Why is high quality tool performance important to you?
It’s a must! Tool to tool accuracy and performance is vital in this business, especially with our extremely tight tolerances. High quality tools make sure that we get the same performance time after time without needing to scrap parts. This saves us valuable time and money.
What is your favorite process to work on as a machinist?
I really enjoy fixture design. Holding small parts for fixture design is an art! If it’s too tight, they’re smashed. If it’s too loose, see you later; your part is gone!
As a manufacturing engineer, I also enjoy the programming aspect of CNC machining. Being able to program the toolpaths and turn my programming skills into tangible parts is why I got into this business.
If you were stranded on a desert island with only one Harvey Tool or Helical tool, which would it be, and why?
It would have to be the Harvey 1/4″ 30° engraving tool. I could mount it to the end of a stick. It would make for a hell of a spear!
Why is manufacturing products in America important to you?
Manufacturing products in America is a crucial part of the success and security of our business. When someone else makes your parts, its not hard for them to make a competing product. Making everything on-site keeps our proprietary information safe.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?
Ask a lot of questions and never stop learning. It’s not easy but it’s worth it. If you consider yourself a maker or inventor, it’s the only place to be! Manufacturing is awesome, and anyone who tells you different is on the way out. Keep up the good work, and keep manufacturing your products in America!
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Photos courtesy of Weiss Watch Company.