Enthusiast Maker: The Baughblabs Spring Bar Tool

Architect Robert Isaac sat down at his desk to change the bracelet on one of his Seiko SKX007 divers. He grabbed for, what he called, his “crappy” spring bar tool. He hated it. It didn’t sit well in his hand and the tips didn’t work well. But what could he do?

Well, he did what anyone with access to metal shaping machines and decades worth of design experience would do: he made one himself. And now he’s selling them to other enthusiasts.On a metal lathe, Isaac makes the spring bar tool by hand. The 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum rod is tapered on the ends to make bracelet and strap swaps easy and comfortable. Mil-spec rubber O-rings are semi-recessed into the tool to allow for good grip. The tool—which is made from American-made materials—uses Burgeon 6767-xx replaceable tips.

The development and manufacturing of the spring bar tool came out of necessity. It’s a theme that runs through much of the Chicago-native’s career.

Robert at work.

As part of his interior architecture business, Isaac designed custom pieces of furniture and accessories for clients. After he designed them, he would often have to rely on overseas prototyping and production, and that’s where the problems began to mount. Prototyping overseas slowed the process down to a crawl. He would also have little oversight in the manufacturing process, and implementing design changes took forever.

Then, in 2016 he purchased a metal lathe and a mill to make things himself. He now controlled the design, prototyping, and manufacturing process. “I really liked the fact that I could design something, and then make it,” Isaac says.

Aside from making items for his clients, Isaac began creating things for himself. One of his first projects—iterations of which he continues to work to get just right—was a watch stand. Then, after seeing a design flaw in one of his favorite pens, Isaac began designing, crafting, and selling a handcrafted, all-aluminum pen in early-2017 on his website.

Then came the light bulb moment while changing the bracelet on his Seiko. He built a prototype in December 2017, and he loved it.Isaac says he started swapping bracelets on and off just so he could use the tool again. That’s how much he liked it. He thought others would the like tool as much as he did, so he made a couple more and sent them out to watch collectors to test drive. After receiving a lot of positive feedback, he began making small batches of 25 to sell online.

And because it’s made of aluminum the tool is incredibly light, but it has enough mass to feel nice in-hand, too. Also, in addition to aiding in grip, the O-rings keep the tool off the surface when you put it down so it doesn’t get banged up or slide around.

Some might be asking, “Why would I spend $50 on a spring bar tool when I can pick one up for $5 off of eBay?” The same argument could be made about owning a $3,500 watch as opposed to a $10 watch. They technically do the same thing, don’t they?

“It’s all about good design. Watch enthusiasts enjoy good design,” Isaac says. “To choose a watch, to choose a band, to choose a bracelet is a personal style choice. It’s a design choice.”

Isaac adds, “I designed this tool for me and I know there are a lot of people out there like me. There are people who are going to look at this tool and think, ‘Yes. I need that.’”

Isaac has already received a lot of positive feedback on the spring bar tool. In the future, he may sell versions of the tool that are anodized black or different colors. But he’s not planning on making massive changes or selling tons of new product. What matters most to him is quality, and that can only be achieved by handcrafting the tools himself and doing them in small batches.

“I’m not going to sacrifice quality,” Isaac says. “I’m going to build them and produce them to the quality I want. I’m not going to ramp up to handle numbers. I don’t want to put a product out that’s not perfect.”

To learn more or to purchase, visit baughblabs.

Photos provided by Robert Isaac.

Related Posts
Christian discovered his love for watches around the same time he discovered he could make a living as a writer. An award-winning journalist, Christian has covered everything from presidential campaigns to princess tea parties. Now, he's combining his passion for vintage watches with his passion for writing. Christian lives and works out of central Pennsylvania.