Is it rude to ask of your watchmaker?

Discussion in 'American Pocket Watches' started by ChuckJones, Aug 22, 2011.

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  1. ChuckJones

    ChuckJones Registered User

    Aug 7, 2011
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    Hi all,

    Just a quick question. I have a couple watches that I need to get looked at for repairs and I have a quick question is it perhaps 'rude' to request that IF any old parts are replaced due to fatigue or failure or what have you that you would like that original old part returned with the watch upon completion of the repair? And if the watchmaker for any reason says he won't do it should you press the matter and possibly find someone else or just go ahead with it anyway?

    I've read conflicting information from various sites some say it is 'common courtesy' for a watchmaker to return the original replaced parts others say it its a lot to expect and if the watchmaker does not want to have to keep track of these broken parts then that is his choice.

    I havn't personally run into this, though a family member did have a watch replaced a few years ago and the original parts were not returned and when asked about it the watchmaker said the parts had already been disposed of and I would like to avoid that happening again since to me even if the parts are broken and no longer useful I would still be much happier if I could get them back and keep them with the watch as part of it's history even if it doesn't actually add anything to the watch.

    So I guess also tell me what your thoughts are? As watch collectors do you like it when old parts are returned to you? Even if you don't intend to keep them do you like at least being offered or having the choice as to what happens to the old parts?
     
  2. doug sinclair

    doug sinclair Registered User

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    The likelihood of such a scenario might be that the owner of the watch doesn't trust the watchmaker? I get asked that periodically, and begrudgingly, I usually do as asked. But under some circumsatnces, I might suggest the owner find someone they trust, to do the job! Depends on how I am asked. And, yes! I consider it rude!
     
  3. ChuckJones

    ChuckJones Registered User

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    Hi Doug,

    It's an interesting coincidence that you replied to my post I believe we were in email contact not too long ago about a watch repair as I will be back in Calgary shortly haha-- Small forum/world, but I appreciate and respect your insight as I know of your fantastic reputation on these boards.

    I suppose for me personally it has nothing to do with trusting the watchmaker and quite frankly I never thought of it that way, it's more that I am a 'completionist' of the worst order I will keep every scrap of paper that pertains to an item I collect including broken and replaced parts. For example if someone boasts they have an item that is '100% entirely complete' I would expect such an item to not only have all it's parts but also have the box, the papers, the box's inserts, any padding etc. (that is just the way I collect) this applies with many of my other collections. Of course finding items that complete is pretty rare especially with older well-used watches but I find it never hurts to try to reunite items with their lost histories

    To me these old watches all have a story to tell, and I guess in my perhaps naive opinion still being a fairly young collector, everything around them helps tell the story including fatigued or broken spare parts that are no longer any good.

    Thanks for your input.

    What does everyone else think?
     
  4. Doug, I'm just curious; Why do you consider it rude?

    Dean
     
  5. ChuckJones

    ChuckJones Registered User

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    #5 ChuckJones, Aug 23, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2011
    I can see what he means by it depends how the person asks. I mean I repair old electronics (specifically old video game consoles from the 1970s and 1980s) and if someone said to me "Now I want any old parts back because I need to be sure you've replaced them properly and I'm not just getting scammed!" I would probably be offended, as opposed to someone saying "I would really like to keep the original parts with it for posterity's sake" as that would be more the approach I would take if I were to make such a request of any repairperson.

    Sorry I guess I shouldn't answer for Doug just couldn't help throwing my two cents in.

    I guess part of what got me thinking about this was after reading this document where 3C is listed and I was wondering how the subject of making such a request with respect to watch repairs should be broached (again as I have run into it in other collectibles and industries) and how others here feel about it.
     
  6. A.F.W.

    A.F.W. Registered User

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    I do not think a watchmaker should get offended by a client asking for old parts back. He owns the watch and any parts that are removed and he pays for the new parts and labor. I do not ask my watchmaker for all of the removed parts back because for many I have no use. Sometimes I do ask for the part because I may want to include it with the watch when I sell it.
    Now, when I used to work as a jeweler and someone asked me to be present and watch me while I set their diamond I would tell them to find someone else to do the job.
     
  7. darrahg

    darrahg Moderator
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    I usually place all replaced parts in a zip lock bag and offer them to the owner. I tape small parts, in particular balance staffs, to index cards to show. It helps them understand the price being charged and the scale of the project when doing the work. Some take them and some just look. It usually eliminates doubt of what was done and what it took to service an item.
     
  8. Tinker Dwight

    Tinker Dwight Registered User

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    Hi
    I would think that it should be normal procedure
    to return the bad parts.
    If asked that question, the response should have
    been "I always do."
    As another mentioned, they still belong to the
    watch owner.
    Tinker Dwight
     
  9. doug sinclair

    doug sinclair Registered User

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    The majority of the repairs that I do are repairs for the trade, but I also do private work. I fail to see what might motivate someone to ask for the parts to be returned, unless it is motivated by lack of trust that a/ the work was necessary, and b/ the parts were actually replaced. How would most people know whether the parts returned had been in their watch? I can often visualize the repaired watch and the old parts being taken somewhere else for verification that the parts were a/ faulty, and b/ were actually from the repaired watch. If they trust the other guy more than they trust me, why not take it to him in the first place?
     
  10. darrahg

    darrahg Moderator
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    There is always some doubt in this type of transaction but if the owner distrusts a repairer then he/she has a few choices: 1. like you mentioned, take the item to someone else, 2. don't get it repaired, 3. learn to do own repairs, or 4. take it to an auto dealership where there is 100% trust in service repairs! I just think that by offering the old part, either giving or just showing, allows the owner to understand better what was involved in the process. It tends to show good faith but still, educates the person a little more.
     
  11. Vic Kuring

    Vic Kuring Registered User

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    I always return with the repaired watch any of the parts that I replaced and like darrahg will tape very small parts to a piece of paper. I also give the client the replacement mainspring envelope along with the set mainspring (if replaced) as well as the crystal tag if I replaced the crystal.

    I also try to give my clients the approximate year of manufacture and a little history on the manufacturer whenever I can.
     
  12. Brian C.

    Brian C. Registered User

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    I don't have any problem at all with someone asking for the old parts, if they ask up front. If they ask, after they get the bill, it depends on how they ask. People still remember the old housewife's tale of a watchmaker removing jewels from their watch. If only they knew how much trouble that would be, and to give them back a running watch.:D
     
  13. Dave Coatsworth

    Dave Coatsworth Forums Administrator
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    I do the same as Vic. I've found that many times people are just interested in seeing parts of their watch that they would not normally see.
     
  14. Kent

    Kent Registered User
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    Its not just an old wives' tale.


    I don't request the replaced parts from my favorite watchmaker (nor do I believe that he would steal the jewels from customers' watches), but I understand that he makes the replaced parts available to other customers (possibly upon prior request, possibly as a standard practice).
     
  15. ChuckJones

    ChuckJones Registered User

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    Hi all,

    Thanks for the varied responses. I'm glad to hear from all of you and appreciate your opinions. I definitely see what Darrahq means about educating people by helping them see what went into the repair. I think for me that (along with just wanting to keep all the parts even worthless ones) is one of the biggest factors being a bit of a 'tinkerer' my self with all sorts of things I find one of the best ways to learn what breaks, how it breaks, how to fix it is by examining old repairs and parts and I simply find it fascinating.

    As mentioned before I repair old electronic video game systems and the most common component failures I run into are little things like bad contacts, worn loading springs, broken plastic parts and I make a habit of offering to return broken parts to the owner and while it's true that 99% of the time they tell me to either keep it or throw it away I find it's just nice to make the offer, after all if I would hope others would do it for me I surely should be willing to do it in return.

    Thanks again for all your input and I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who has thought about this and that it isn't that unreasonable of a request to make as long as it is NOT made in an accusatory or a lack-of-faith/trust fashion.
     
  16. skippp66

    skippp66 Registered User
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    I guess i am old fashioned. i believe trust is something to be earned and not a given. If i use a mechanic or a plumber or a watchmaker for the first time, I have a little bit of apprehension. Most of us have been burned at one time or another. I do not consider it rude at all. In fact, if a watchmaker returns the replaced parts unasked, he has gone a long way to earning my trust and respect. That is life. Without trying to sermonize, I spent my professional career in a service profession and bent over backwards to please my clients. The customer is always right (mostly). After all, he/she is paying the bill. Ask away, Chuck! You will learn a lot about the person you are dealing with by the response you get. Then, based on your reaction, you can proceed or vote with your feet!

    Thanks for reading my two cents worth.
     
  17. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    My favorite clock repairman prepares a multicolor sketch of everything he does on my clock showing the original material and his repairs and returns all parts that were removed. He also charges about twice what most other clock makers charge around here. He also prepares me a copy of his work notes explaining all he has done with the analysis and the plan of repairs.

    I believe he does the same for the Fogg Museum at Harvard and for Winterthur.:D
     
  18. 49stude63

    49stude63 Registered User

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    Essentially it is called “good customer service” and the people that repair my watches return the parts and for me it is interesting since I can look at the part if it is a worn pinion and see why it caused a problem. In some cases I will even ask if they will take some pictures (uncommon watch grade). So in my book it isn’t rude!! Sometimes I get “hood-winked” into fixing a computer or laptop of a friend of my daughter and I will explain what I will be doing or plan to do and explain how to avoid having that same issue occur again and that is even doing it for free.
     
  19. sderek

    sderek Registered User
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    #19 sderek, Aug 23, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 17, 2018

    The "old wives' tale" link you provided has been talked about before. It seems to refer to jewels stolen from the case, not the movement. Still a valid point- not everyone is worthy of our trust!
     
  20. ChuckJones

    ChuckJones Registered User

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    Wow that sounds like quite the full service and honestly when it comes to something as fine a craft as watchmaking (along with any other craft that requires advanced skill and wisdom that only years of practice can teach) I would rather pay more for those extra services, again not so much as a trust issue but it would be such a fantastic resource to put with the piece.

    So often it seems these watches, as well as other collectibles, are passed down with little or no story about what they went through especially if they are sold. I know a few of mine have watchmaker's marks in them suggesting repairs but that's all I have to go on. Having documents, sketches, pictures, notes, spare parts etc. all add so much more to the story so that when it is passed down and/or sold one can say "well in 1974 this watch had this done to it and in 1991 it had to have one of these and in 2010 it had this" etc.

    And Michael I definitely know what you mean-- sadly in ANY trade be it a mechanic or a plumber all the way up to jeweler or watchmaker there are many of them that are honest people who put years of time, effort, care and dedication into their work but there is always that small group that sort of 'ruin the party' so to speak by doing shoddy or questionable work.

    Sometimes you might get that 'bad feeling' when you talk to them and can take that chance to kindly excuse yourself but other times there might not be warning signs and you just get burned by surprise. I have had to deal with a few in my life that seemed to be the perfect craftsman only to be disappointed. The opposite, however, can also be true I have seen people who look like they would fit in more on a pirate ship than a craftsman's shop yet do fine honest work counter to their outward appearance.

    One time when I was much younger my family took in a watch to 'the best in town' to have it looked at as it had stopped and I'm not sure if he was having a bad day or was just a bit out of it but he said "Well it looks like it's got a hidden hinge but is jammed closed I'll have to try and give it a pry open" and we (luckily) said no thanks and we would worry about it at another time. We then took it to another craftsman who realized it was actually a screw case-- I don't know what the first one was thinking but I'm sure glad the watch wasn't left with him.

    You are definitely right in saying that trust is something that has to be earned by both parties, the client expects a job well done while the serviceman expects prompt payment and solid contracting but first time out neither can be sure of the other's habits, and if either doesn't understand that then that can make any business transaction very difficult.

    I didn't expect to get so many replies to my question thank you all it has been great reading everyone's opinions and experiences.
     
  21. QuartzWatchRepair

    QuartzWatchRepair Registered User

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    This is definitely a communication issue. It's not standard practice in the industry to return old parts upon replacement. None of the manufacturers in the watch industry return old parts when they replace them - why should I? In fact, some of them stipulate right on their estimates that all parts are replaced on a trade-in basis just to avoid this type of issue.

    If the customer makes the request upfront, I have no problem returning old parts that I replace. This is especially true if the old parts have intrinsic value, such as an old Rolex bezel insert. It only becomes an issue if the request is made after the fact.

    I recently had the catalytic converter replaced on my car and I let my mechanic know upfront that I wanted the old converter returned to me and made sure that it wouldn't be an issue for him to do so. He agreed and it was no problem. Had I let him keep it, he would have sold it for scrap. He didn't charge me any additional cost to return it, and now I can sell it for scrap.
     
  22. ChuckJones

    ChuckJones Registered User

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    Understandable, and I guess that is what prompted me to ask this question in the first place the fact that there are so many different views to this.

    On one hand well the part originally belonged to the customer and they did pay in full for the new part so aren't they entitled to the old one if they request it? But on the other like you pointed out a manufacturer wouldn't be expected to return to the part why should a repairperson although to be honest that kind of 'I'm the manufacturer' attitude is precisely why I DO NOT take things to the manufacturer for repair I would much rather pay the repairperson where I can have a tad more input (without being obnoxious) or just make the repair myself in the case of electronics and cars haha.

    And for sure in some cases the client might want the part returned just for the intrinsic value or perhaps personal value if the item had been a family heirlook that suffered unfortunate damage they might want to both get it repaired to it's full glory while keeping it's damaged component that has the personal value to it.
     
  23. Tom McIntyre

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    I think it is important to distinguish between utilitarian repairs to commodity items and conservation/restoration of pieces with some historical importance. In the latter case the record of repairs is critical to the documentation of the artifact. That is why museums require a high standard of conservation and detailed records with pictures of what was done.

    When I am getting the staff replaced in a railroad watch, I am not nearly so fussy and I go to a fine young craftsman who does good work at a reasonable price. He does not give me sketches or photos, but he would give me the old parts if I asked ahead of time.

    The record of restorations of important pieces is part of the portfolio that is evaluated for the Pritchard Prize awarded from time to time to outstanding watchmakers by the NAWCC. It is our only cash award. :thumb:
     
  24. crsides

    crsides Registered User

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    #24 crsides, Aug 24, 2011
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