What do you expect for a watch Repair?

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What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby Neilywatch » Fri Jun 24, 2016 3:05 pm

Hi all-

There was a previous post re a Howard Service - that prompted me to ask this question - well actually 3 questions in one:

What do you consider to be a "Watch Repair?" What level thoroughness of a repair do you find acceptable?

How much do you consider to a reasonable or fair price for a Service? Do you consider parts to be extra or do you expect them to be part of the service?

How about turnaround time? If you were told it could take as long as 6 months - would you wait?

I will explain my reasons for these questions once I get as many people as I can encourage to answer!
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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby brownsrplm » Fri Jun 24, 2016 3:23 pm

Neil,
For me I apply the same rules as servicing an automobile. Clean, Inspect, and lubricate. This I would expect in a reasonable amount of time, certainly not six months! Now I would expect a call or email stating any problems found that need correcting along with an approximate cost for parts & labor. This may ramp up the amount of time it takes for a "repair" as the watch may have very hard to find parts. This I would expect to be added to the service price. I would NEVER expect to sell a watch for more just because it has been recently serviced as that is something that should be considered ordinary care, just like an automobile, etc...
Raymund L. Brown
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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby Marty101 » Fri Jun 24, 2016 11:31 pm

Ray says it well enough for me. I don't think I have much to add...
Anything problems or extra charges should be reported before being done of course. There is nothing worse than getting a service charge with a list of "extras" tacked on. And I am a cheapskate I suppose...but I don't like paying much more than $75 for service to an American RR pocket watch. By a qualified watch maker. If you have something special or rare,more is understandable up to a point. Six months is too long for me. Barring a scarce part had to be searched for,I can't see six months. I'm a patient man but hey,after that long I'd forget all about it and be a watch short! :lol:
Keep winding things,
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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby MikeM » Sat Jun 25, 2016 12:19 pm

I spent the longest time paying a local guy close to $200 for a COA and waiting 6 months to get it back...most of the time with unpleasant results. Then a few years back Marty B. introduced me to a great guy who charges $75 and I don't think he has ever needed more than two weeks turnaround unless parts were hard to find. He charges around $25 extra for a new mainspring, and in most cases with repairs, he will just add the cost of material. I have been very happy with his service and prices, so I guess that is what I am (now) willing to pay.

I did send him a Howard once that had substantial setting issues. I had to find a donor movement for that one, since parts are rare... thanks to scrappers movements are not :cry: That one ended up taking more time and effort. I don't recall the exact cost, but I know it was still under $200 and he had to take it apart 3 or 4 times. It even had to be taken down while sill in the (hunter!) case the first time since the setting mechanism was so bent up. That would be an example of a repair I am willing to pay extra for.
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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby Stephan » Mon Aug 08, 2016 5:46 am

All I want is for the repairer or any other tradesman for that matter to do what he agrees to do.
Don't tell me 2 weeks and then I wait 6 months and don't say you will do A then do B.
If things don't go to plan tell me about it and we will work it out.
I don't agree to pay a figure and then try to pay half the amount.

Communication is the key. Get that right and everything else falls into place.
Learning all the time.
Stephan Gaal

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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby Neilywatch » Tue Aug 09, 2016 12:52 am

To all who made the time to answer - many thanks!

My reason for asking: My industry is changing to the point where I think I may be going solo in the next few years - I was testing the waters to see what the level of expectation is from fellow watch collectors. Based on the answers I am seeing here and my experiences with doing repairs from fellow members in Chapter 149, I think I may be better off doing something else completely.

Sorry if the explanation is a little harsh, but I've been doing these repairs for 21 plus years, and for me to do a repair for $75-$100 and get it done in a month or so, when most of the time just trying to find these parts would take 6 weeks or longer, Is not a realistic proposition for me.

Thanks Again~
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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby mldenison » Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:45 am

This has been an interesting discussion. I've got a dozen or so clocks that I've managed to keep running for the last 20ish years. In the last year I've picked up a dozen or so pocket watches. Not knowing when the last COA was done on them, I've used a couple of repairmen. Both came recommended by others. The first one did a couple of watches for me, COA's and the occasional new mainspring. They had to go back for a redo since they kept worse time when I got them back. I sent them all to another recommended guy and they all had to go back 2, sometimes 3, times. Some would run slow. Some would run fast. And a couple wouldn't run for 24 hours. Both guys were reasonable $60 - $75 plus $25 for the occasional mainspring. I'd of glady paid more if they were right the first time. The main complaint was with an 1890's 18s Columbus. It ran OK but when winding, back and forth on the crown, the minute hand would jump 5 - 10 minutes. After the third trip I was told that older Columbus watches 'did that'. I sent it to a third repairman to have a look at it. He told me what was wrong with it, but declined to take it on - a missing dial washer, a cracked jewel, a D roller jewel installed backwards and a weak leaf spring which actually caused the winding issue. All apparently missed by the second guy. It runs OK and the winding issue is bypassed by winding in only one direction.

It also appears that adjusted to 6 positions is not too good an indicator of how RR watches run with age on them. I have a 16s pocket watch holder that lets you wear them on your wrist. Most of the ones I have, I've adjusted to within several seconds a day stem up. Unfortunately, when worn on the wrist, the stem is usually down or in the right quadrant. All, except my 23j Waltham Vanguard, lose around 3 - 5 minutes a day even though they're nearly spot on stem up.

So, out of a dozen RR watches, COA'd by two different guys, I have exactly one that keeps RR time. If I'd know this when I started collecting them, I'd probably own two.

That being said, anybody have a nice 1943 Hamilton 992B they'd like to sell? :D
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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby 4brokenow » Tue Aug 09, 2016 11:48 am

There's no way that a $75.00 service can keep todays competent watchmaker paying his mortgage/rent/healthcare/food on table. There's also no such thing as a vintage pocket watch that "Only needs a cleaning and oil" There's also no pocket watch out there that will be restored for 75.00 that will keep railroad time unless its pure chance..good luck.

Personally from the numbers you guys list above I think shop rates have not kept up with today's costs. Shop rates should be atleast 80.00 an hour. A 17jewel pocket watch cleaning only with no timing guarantee might cost 125.00.

I've never ever disassembled a pocket watch and haven't found some issue that requires extra attention.

To service and adjust a 21jewel to keep reasonable time: 175.00
Main spring Additional: 50.00
Basic Staff Additional: 150.00
Any other machine work or custom parts: 80.00/hr

Servicing vintage wrist watches 80.00/hr plus parts.
Phil Rickert
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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby cannon pinion » Tue Aug 09, 2016 5:46 pm

Neil - I think you have to adjust your interpertation of these answers by the demographic you sampled. Watch collectors are more knowledgeable and thus, both more tolerant and more demanding at once.
I agree with Phil. I did a couple of coa jobs for friends charging them 75 bucks and found it was a losing proposition. Even with the proficiency that comes from practice, you can't make it pay. And cheap prices bring problem customers. I would happily pay 200 dollars for somebody to repair a watch - meaning clean, oil, adjust- if I could not work on it myself.
I think in todays world turn around time is all important. People are so impatient that they are unlikely to deal with a six month turnaround.
In an allied area, the few casemakers still working charge very high and nobody quibbles because there is not much competition.
While there are all kinds of watchmakers available - how many will vibirate a hairspring? Or even untangle one?
If I was looking for a living working on vintage PWs, I would try to create a specialized niche for myself rather then compete with a field that includes a lot of amatuer bimbos willing to work for coolie prices.
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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby Neilywatch » Thu Aug 11, 2016 3:12 am

I'm glad Phil and Andy spoke up - because this is where I have trouble getting people to understand the complexities of Vintage Watch repair.

I am in the Metropolitan NJ area - just 60 miles south of NYC. And let me tell you, it is NOT cheap to do business here. My shop labor rate is about $135/hour, and that hasn't changed in about 4 years.

Like Phil and Andy stated it is almost NEVER just a COA - there is always something. But this is why I asked - sometimes it CAN take 6 months to get what I need to complete a restoration.

As far as finding a niche specialty - that comes with its own risks - you dont want to paint yourself into a corner with what you can (or cant) take in. I have been encouraged to go back to my area of expertise which is Hairspring vibrating. I am pretty good at it, and as far as I know there is almost nobody left that does it. But it is VERY labor intensive and excruciatingly tedious. Cleaning Rolexes is far easier and more profitable - and easier on the eyes.

We'll see.
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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby MikeM » Thu Aug 11, 2016 4:35 pm

If you are restoring high end or rare watches, or doing specialist work, I don't see any problem getting those kind of rates. I certainly have a few watches that I would be willing to put that much into.

Unfortunately 90% of my collection is made up of watches that I paid $150 to $450 for. Paying $200 to service a $200 Bunn Special or 992 would be economical suicide, unless I planned to carry it every day. I have to consider that one day I will end up having to sell all or most of what I have collected and as much fun as it has been, I would like to lose as little as possible. So for me, there is of course always some point at which a repair becomes exorbitant. I have always tried not to buy broken watches, but I still ended up with a small drawer full of watches with twisted hairsprings and such, that I consider to be parts donors.

This will probably get me in trouble, but I also think it is a completely different story if you are dealing with early watches, where parts have to be hand made, or you are dealing with industrialized American pocket watches where most parts are readily available to this day and can USUALLY be fitted without too much effort...at least by those who do it every day.

At the end of the day it's the same with all old crafts, They are time consuming. Unfortunately, you only have so many hours a day. You have to carefully choose who you are willing to sell your time to.
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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby veritas » Tue Aug 16, 2016 5:18 pm

I agree with Mike , many watches i own the coa done by a pro would be way more than the worth of the watch. I few favourite watches that i wear and the others i wind to keep them loosened up. My buddy is a amatuer, and he is very good, no one i know will do what he does for his service rates, he has saved many watches for me. Here i find too many so called pros are in it for a quick buck and do shoddy work, dip the whole movement to clean and scratch the hell out of the movements. I do pay for a good job if its something my buddy does not have time for, and i dont mind paying good money for a good job. I got into the hobby and cleaned my watches when i got taken the first time. I hope the good watch repair people stay in business and get paid what they are worth and need to stay in business.
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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby richiec » Sun Aug 21, 2016 12:36 am

Neil, from what I observe, you are better off repairing newer, high end wrist watches. Based on what pocket watches are selling for at marts and on Ebay, servicing them for $1-300.00 is not worth it unless it is a family heirloom. Most pocket watches just sit in drawers, on shelves,in storage boxes, in curio cabinets or under domes and never come out except on special occasions. These days I need a fusee chain repaired on an M I Tobias from 1847 but no one is willing to take it on around here. I paid over $500 to have it restored in 2006 as it had never been serviced in 160 years. The mainspring broke shortly after service so the spring was shortened and it will not run a full day but it is a very clean and pristine watch I would love to have work again but how much will I pay this time? The pocket watch collectors are becoming fewer and fewer so making money repairing them will be getting harder to come by and finding a younger person to put out a lot of money even harder.
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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby richiec » Sun Aug 21, 2016 12:39 am

Just to add a little to what I said, I may sell a lot of watches and get back into the old car thing.
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Re: What do you expect for a watch Repair?

New postby Marty101 » Sun Aug 21, 2016 10:10 pm

Lots of interesting thoughts here on all sides of this.
Rich if you start selling make sure I have you ebay name,OK? You never know. ;)
Keep winding things,
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