Clink Street, London, 28th April 2010
A lot of pioneering science gets done with peculiar bits of equipment. Suitable shiny lab equipment simply might not exist to do leading-edge work. You have to make it yourself. In fact that's how I learned most of my electronics - out of necessity, making equipment for nonlinear optics experiments while doing my PhD. And oftentimes, off-the-shelf stuff is worth checking out because it can get the job done just as effectively as purpose-built equipment, and more quickly and cheaply.
My favourite example of such is the discovery of graphene - the atomically monolayer films of carbon atoms, neatly ordered in hexagonal arrays, with exceptional physical and electrical properties. Discovered using sticky tape and a pencil. And winning the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010.
It gets more intriguing. The best solution to problem of leveraging this up to an industrial scale, according to the latest edition of Nature Materials, is a food mixer and washing up liquid.
It's true with us, too. Should we buy or build expensive temperature controlling equipment for crystal calibration? Neither. A picnic oven/freezer works just as well. The best tool we've found for doing the final clean-up of a dial before putting the movement in a case? A toothpick. And meet Lazy Susan, the latest addition to the collection and previously a cake decorating turntable (carefully selected for its glass and aluminum composition), which, to us, is a magnetometer calibration table.
So forgive us if parts of our workshops look like a kitchen. We simply see these things as the perfect tools for designing watches. We're cooking up good stuff here.