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Repair $$ Differential Between Older and Newer RR Watches?

Girl59

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Loving the wide variety of RR watches. Wondering if, for a person just getting their feet wet, mechanism performance is generally better and repair costs lower on more recently made watches ('40s-'60s?) than on those made decades earlier...or not necessarily? Does the need for repair depend most on original quality, amount of use/wear the timepiece has had, previous care/maintenance, handling, etc.?

I'm looking for a RR timepiece that runs well and I can carry. But I've heard that good vintage watch-repair services are heavily backlogged now, so trying to minimize chances of purchasing a watch that might need upfront work. All insights and recommendations appreciated.
 

musicguy

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I've heard that good vintage watch-repair services are heavily backlogged now,
I haven't heard that, or I'm used to it. I can give you a referral.

Rob
 

Girl59

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I haven't heard that, or I'm used to it. I can give you a referral.

Rob
Thanks, Rob. I might need a referral. I'm going to check with a shop that has a good reputation in my state -- will call them tomorrow -- and see what their status is. I appreciate it.
 

richiec

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Girl59, if any watch you buy is mechanical, the repair costs will be similar. Also make sure you buy a clean, working example rather than a fixer upper. I think the newer watches have slightly better fit, maybe not finish as later watches usually lack the damaskeening the older watches had. Also, talking to a watch maker, he may be able to find you a nice watch as well. Welcome to the disease known as watches.
 

Girl59

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Girl59, if any watch you buy is mechanical, the repair costs will be similar. Also make sure you buy a clean, working example rather than a fixer upper. I think the newer watches have slightly better fit, maybe not finish as later watches usually lack the damaskeening the older watches had. Also, talking to a watch maker, he may be able to find you a nice watch as well. Welcome to the disease known as watches.
Richiec, I'm not sure how I caught this disease so quickly. I was fine and healthy and then....boom. All it took was suddenly inheriting two pocket watches at the same time, and I started thinking about them. As a novice looking over items on eBay and Etsy, etc., my evaluation skills are brand new...would like to avoid winding up with a fixer-upper (I'm also starting to notice watch and time puns a lot more). Talking to a watchmaker is a great idea. I'm afraid of getting sicker and sicker LOL! If I do, I now know where to find friends. Thank you for the advice and good insight.
 
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musicguy

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moving thread to the repair section.


Rob
 
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DeweyC

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Richiec, I'm not sure how I caught this disease so quickly. I was fine and healthy and then....boom. All it took was suddenly inheriting two pocket watches at the same time, and I started thinking about them. As a novice looking over items on eBay and Etsy, etc., my evaluation skills are brand new...would like to avoid winding up with a fixer-upper (I'm also starting to notice watch and time puns a lot more). Talking to a watchmaker is a great idea. I'm afraid of getting sicker and sicker LOL! If I do, I now know where to find friends. Thank you for the advice and good insight.
Yes, every watchmaker I consider a colleague is backed up. Depending on the job it may be a year. These are not wholesale servicers who charge $135. These are people who spent the time and money to get an education and have acquire a wealth of experience.

So it depends on how you define "service". Some people want only the plates to look clean. They assume the watch was properly oiled. You can read a recent post on this board about watch performance difference between a servicer's rate machine and a user's observation over 24 hours.


A relevant thread is:

A true watch service person is applying knowledge and skills which he/she fully mastered. Their cusotmers, expect to pay for that. Look at the cost of lawnmower repair. Non historical importance, parts right off the shelf, simple carbureutor adjustments. $40 an hour.

So any watch servicer who is in business has a choice between lawnmower repair and watch service. It all depends on which provides a better income.

Now, newer vs older RRG watchs? That is a non sequitor. The issue is decent condition vs abused. For an initial service of a "decent condition" watch to be returned to factory specs (6 seconds a day across position and regulatable to 30 seconds per week) it costs between $350 and $500, depending on who is doing the work. This depends upon how busy they are and the shop time depends upon how they fit jobs into the schedule.

AFTER the inital service, the cost should drop to about 1/2 of that assuming it goes back to the same worker and nothing has been altered. Adjustments are permanent.

The reason for the cost difference is the time it takes to do the adjustment to the osochronal rate and positions. If you read the treatis on watch adjustment (https://www.historictimekeepers.com/documents/Watch Adjustment.pdf)

You will learn it takes about 15 minutes to obtain the data on the positional rates of a RRG watch, And since positional adjustment is like zeroing a firearm, it is an iterative process that can take over a dozen cycles. That required time accounts for the vast mjority of the extra cost.

The rest of the cost comes from the time required to properly adjust the escapemnt (locks and safety action are notorious fuel for amateurs following the works of "he who shall not be named").

If the watch is abused (read, balance screws vandalized because author mentioned above said every restaffing REQUIRES static poising) then the cost of parts increases the cost of returning the watch to factory specs. The above referenced article makes it clear why static poising is useless; and to do any poising without first checking the positional rates is destructive.

This is because a donor watch must be purchased in order to move all the screws and the balance spring over to the target watch whose balacne is numbered to the movement.

My advice to anyone to anyone who wants a true RRG watch is to learn the signs of abuse (especially balance screws and rust on the balance spring) and then esablish a relationship with someon who can evaluate the purchase in time for you to meet the return window if the watch is useless for your purposes.

Most of the people I interact with either went to Switzerland for a year or two or graduated form one of the watchmaking schools run bby WOSTEP, or one of the brands, Even Patek ahs a school here in the US. Or they hold a certificate from BHI.

Remember, everyone now carries NIST time on the smart phone. Watches (especially those at $250,000) are at their essence jewelry. So I personally am not concerned about the cost of ownership for someone who has the surpus income to buy jewelry. Adn my customers are all educated, accomplished. They know and want me to be able to afford health care, vacations and to put my kid through college.

I did once have a potential customer who, after hearing my quote for his 12 inch bronze Chelsea ship strike that he "was not going to pay for my house"; which was delivered on 3 trailers. AS he was closing the door on his Lexus (which at the time ws very upscale), I held his door and asked him very nicely "And who paid for yours?". He slammed the door.

For full disclosure, I went to WOSTEP very late (56). Was supposed to go 13 years earlier but LIFE happened. I was invited because of the portfolio on my website. I WENT becasue I felt the shop keeper who could run the store but did not how to read, I knew there were holes n my knowledge.

Regards,

Dewey
 

musicguy

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I will just say there are watchmakers who charge a lot and do a bad
job and there are watchmakers who charge less and do a better job and vice
versa
. I sent a fuzee watch to the UK for repair and even with the shipping
both ways(very expensive) and the watchmaker made me a custom hand and repaired the watch. It was still
less than half as expensive than some of the watchmakers in the US
wanted for the same job. Millions of pocket watches were serviced by
thousands of local watchmakers who never went to college but could
do great work. None of the people who fixed the military Hamiltons
during WW2 went to college in Switzerland for it, they had an army
issued guide book you can still find today. Many people that are well respected
watch repairers on the forum are self taught or had great mentors or took a few
watch repair classes and had some good books as well.

This does not mean I do not respect a finely trained watchmaker like Dewey



Rob
 
Last edited:

Girl59

Registered User
Oct 31, 2021
62
45
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60
Country
Yes, every watchmaker I consider a colleague is backed up. Depending on the job it may be a year. These are not wholesale servicers who charge $135. These are people who spent the time and money to get an education and have acquire a wealth of experience.

So it depends on how you define "service". Some people want only the plates to look clean. They assume the watch was properly oiled. You can read a recent post on this board about watch performance difference between a servicer's rate machine and a user's observation over 24 hours.


A relevant thread is:

A true watch service person is applying knowledge and skills which he/she fully mastered. Their cusotmers, expect to pay for that. Look at the cost of lawnmower repair. Non historical importance, parts right off the shelf, simple carbureutor adjustments. $40 an hour.

So any watch servicer who is in business has a choice between lawnmower repair and watch service. It all depends on which provides a better income.

Now, newer vs older RRG watchs? That is a non sequitor. The issue is decent condition vs abused. For an initial service of a "decent condition" watch to be returned to factory specs (6 seconds a day across position and regulatable to 30 seconds per week) it costs between $350 and $500, depending on who is doing the work. This depends upon how busy they are and the shop time depends upon how they fit jobs into the schedule.

AFTER the inital service, the cost should drop to about 1/2 of that assuming it goes back to the same worker and nothing has been altered. Adjustments are permanent.

The reason for the cost difference is the time it takes to do the adjustment to the osochronal rate and positions. If you read the treatis on watch adjustment (https://www.historictimekeepers.com/documents/Watch Adjustment.pdf)

You will learn it takes about 15 minutes to obtain the data on the positional rates of a RRG watch, And since positional adjustment is like zeroing a firearm, it is an iterative process that can take over a dozen cycles. That required time accounts for the vast mjority of the extra cost.

The rest of the cost comes from the time required to properly adjust the escapemnt (locks and safety action are notorious fuel for amateurs following the works of "he who shall not be named").

If the watch is abused (read, balance screws vandalized because author mentioned above said every restaffing REQUIRES static poising) then the cost of parts increases the cost of returning the watch to factory specs. The above referenced article makes it clear why static poising is useless; and to do any poising without first checking the positional rates is destructive.

This is because a donor watch must be purchased in order to move all the screws and the balance spring over to the target watch whose balacne is numbered to the movement.

My advice to anyone to anyone who wants a true RRG watch is to learn the signs of abuse (especially balance screws and rust on the balance spring) and then esablish a relationship with someon who can evaluate the purchase in time for you to meet the return window if the watch is useless for your purposes.

Most of the people I interact with either went to Switzerland for a year or two or graduated form one of the watchmaking schools run bby WOSTEP, or one of the brands, Even Patek ahs a school here in the US. Or they hold a certificate from BHI.

Remember, everyone now carries NIST time on the smart phone. Watches (especially those at $250,000) are at their essence jewelry. So I personally am not concerned about the cost of ownership for someone who has the surpus income to buy jewelry. Adn my customers are all educated, accomplished. They know and want me to be able to afford health care, vacations and to put my kid through college.

I did once have a potential customer who, after hearing my quote for his 12 inch bronze Chelsea ship strike that he "was not going to pay for my house"; which was delivered on 3 trailers. AS he was closing the door on his Lexus (which at the time ws very upscale), I held his door and asked him very nicely "And who paid for yours?". He slammed the door.

For full disclosure, I went to WOSTEP very late (56). Was supposed to go 13 years earlier but LIFE happened. I was invited because of the portfolio on my website. I WENT becasue I felt the shop keeper who could run the store but did not how to read, I knew there were holes n my knowledge.

Regards,

Dewey
Dewey, I'm on my way to work and want to reply more fully later today. For now, let's just say your post has given me a lot of new insight. I didn't imagine how much a person could learn by meeting people here. For me, the word "watchmaker" denotes someone of broad and deep -- and very valuable -- knowledge and skill. Hope your day is good. Back in several hours.

Rob, your post also helpful. As a novice who is not naturally mechanically inclined or familiar with the landscape, it's pretty challenging to get a handle on how to find a good watch, and on care and repair issues. Again, now that I've found NAWCC, I can count on as much learning as I can handle. Thank you.
 

John Runciman

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Aug 13, 2003
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But I've heard that good vintage watch-repair services are heavily backlogged
The problem isn't just vintage shops the problem is the number of people who can repair watches is slowly declining. Even though there is schools teaching people how to repair watches they are not filling the void. Then typically when these people graduate they run off and go to work for the service centers which doesn't necessarily help with general watch repair as the service centers usually specialize. Plus typically the people coming out of these schools have zero experience with a vintage.

RR watches
What is your definition of railroad watch? The reason I'm pointing this out is railroad watches range from pocket watch all the way to modern quartz watches. Somewhere I can't remember possibly lurking in this group somewhere I've seen an actual article it talked about the various railroad watches that were approved for the various railroads so there are definitions out There.

Then I'm not sure what the technical term is but you also want to be careful of what I'm going to call want a be railroad watches. In other words you'll see a watch that will have a railroad on the back of the case or a clever name on the dial or the main plate hinting railroad does not qualify it as a railroad watch necessarily.

if any watch you buy is mechanical, the repair costs will be similar. Also make sure you buy a clean, working example rather than a fixer upper. I think the newer watches have slightly better fit, maybe not finish as later watches usually lack the damaskeening the older watches had.
Definitely good advice.

If you're purchasing a watch that's running ideally you'd want to get a guarantee that you could send it back if it's not right. Often times on eBay sellers will guarantee or say that it's running they may not actually guarantee and the definition is running at the time they held it in their hands. Or they spray a little wider fluid on it helps loosen things up doesn't guarantee it's going to run well or that long for that matter.

One of the problems with time and watches sort of is there is a heck of a lot of people out there that shouldn't be working on watches or were just having really bad days and you can end up with a lot of really problematic watches. Just make sure if you don't like the watch you can return it.
 
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DeweyC

NAWCC Member
Feb 5, 2007
2,852
1,513
113
Baltimore
www.historictimekeepers.com
Country
I will just say there are watchmakers who charge a lot and do a bad
job and there are watchmakers who charge less and do a better job and vice
versa
. I sent a fuzee watch to the UK for repair and even with the shipping
both ways(very expensive) and the watchmaker made me a custom hand and repaired the watch. It was still
less than half as expensive than some of the watchmakers in the US
wanted for the same job. Millions of pocket watches were serviced by
thousands of local watchmakers who never went to college but could
do great work. None of the people who fixed the military Hamiltons
during WW2 went to college in Switzerland for it, they had an army
issued guide book you can still find today. Many people that are well respected
watch repairers on the forum are self taught or had great mentors or took a few
watch repair classes and had some good books as well.

This does not mean I do not respect a finely trained watchmaker like Dewey



Rob
Rob,

Not quite sure where you get the facts to back up the statement that the watchmakers at the USNO and Ordnance centers where not highly educated.

Max Low for instance, emigrated from Switzerland. Barkus graduated many highly educated watchmakers as did WO Smith and his Dad from the Western Pennsylvania Horological Institute (WPHI). Then there were the schools run by Samelius and Hagan. In this period the Bowman school was also a real school.

Like Max, many of the best US watchmakers prior to WWII emigrated form Europe where they either attended the horoliogical chools (such as Grossman's) or completed a formal apprenticeship.

Of course, just as WOSTEP and the brands have training for differnt levels of service complexity, I am sure the military had a system for slotting people into positions. As a matter if fact , I KNOW the USN did after reading their manuals on training and organization of service centers for instruments and electronic equipement. Even in the 1940s such went to school for over 8 months. And today the schooling is much longer.

Today, going to Switzerland is in fact a high point in the careers of many US watchmakers. But as I said, ther ARE schools in the US from Wostep, Rolex and even Patek. They are in NYC, PA, FL, Wa, and Tx to name a few locations.So no one said it is necessary to go overseas. BHI certificate can even be earned by distance learning.

As I noted, some want their watches to look clean and to tick. Others want their watches to function as intended. It is all a matter of what the user will accept.

But that lies at the feet of the owner. As I said in other posts, owners who merely want the watch to look presentable and tick are doing the world a service by keeping the watch in its current state. And they can beneift from a reliable guy who owns a cleaning machine.

Your post does seem a little churlish when you imply that many US watchmakers are overpriced for your tastes. A business is a business. No one I know makes up their prices out of fantasy. If their work is good and they are swamped, their prices are too low. The market place has spoken. In order to scale back the work, many of us simply raise our prices,. Again, the market place is rewarding those who do top work. THis is the heart of capitalism and free enterprise.

Have you ever refused a raise in salary when someone wanted to reward your work as exceptional?

Should I apologize for being the rates I am after 40 years of experience and education? Is it my fault the market thinks I am worht the cost (which by the way is STILL below the mean and well below the rates charged by the brand service centers).

One of the reasons I went into detail in my response was to outline the difference between someone who provides watch service as a sideline and someone who does it as a business. The business man has operating expenses and the capital costs of education and equipemtn to account for. He has insurance and understands his liability for the pieces he takes in. Among the simple things, he channges his oils and cleaning fluids every week. And he pays to have them disposed of properly. Then, there is the cost of warranty work. I warrant my work for 1 year and like any warranty that is built into my prices. I also often make policy exceptions.

If you are paid correctly, you are HAPPY to correct minor blemishes and do not "close your eyes" to issues you did not quote.

If you are running your business based on price, you need to keep passing things through in volume and you either do not see, or ignore defects. It is all the psychology of business.

For years I have advised young watchmakers: "Do not compete on price. Compete on SERVICE!"

Personally, if I had to work in this business for $40 an hour, I would switch to small engine repair. A lot less hassle, no parts to make and no historical or sentimental value to be concerned about. No safe to lock every night!

While the people who come to me understand this intuitively because they themselves are highly accomplished, it seems that sometimes collectors have funny notions about what a professional watch technician is.

Like your throw off without data that those who service military timepieces were not highly trained. Do you really think the USA threw all those grads from Elgin or the WPHI into the infantry?
 

Girl59

Registered User
Oct 31, 2021
62
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60
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The problem isn't just vintage shops the problem is the number of people who can repair watches is slowly declining. Even though there is schools teaching people how to repair watches they are not filling the void. Then typically when these people graduate they run off and go to work for the service centers which doesn't necessarily help with general watch repair as the service centers usually specialize. Plus typically the people coming out of these schools have zero experience with a vintage.


What is your definition of railroad watch? The reason I'm pointing this out is railroad watches range from pocket watch all the way to modern quartz watches. Somewhere I can't remember possibly lurking in this group somewhere I've seen an actual article it talked about the various railroad watches that were approved for the various railroads so there are definitions out There.

Then I'm not sure what the technical term is but you also want to be careful of what I'm going to call want a be railroad watches. In other words you'll see a watch that will have a railroad on the back of the case or a clever name on the dial or the main plate hinting railroad does not qualify it as a railroad watch necessarily.


Definitely good advice.

If you're purchasing a watch that's running ideally you'd want to get a guarantee that you could send it back if it's not right. Often times on eBay sellers will guarantee or say that it's running they may not actually guarantee and the definition is running at the time they held it in their hands. Or they spray a little wider fluid on it helps loosen things up doesn't guarantee it's going to run well or that long for that matter.

One of the problems with time and watches sort of is there is a heck of a lot of people out there that shouldn't be working on watches or were just having really bad days and you can end up with a lot of really problematic watches. Just make sure if you don't like the watch you can return it.
Good advice. I've noticed that quite a few eBay sellers say specifically that a piece is running when they checked it before sale, but that they do not guarantee its performance once purchased. It seems that sellers of this description wouldn't agree to take back a watch that stopped or began running erratically. I'll need to read through watch descriptions and sellers' terms carefully.

Reading through the responses here, I can see there are many issues related to expert repair that I need to learn about. Building even a very modest "collection" will have to be done with care, or I'll end up with timepieces I love but don't know how to maintain, or who to help me care for them. An initial rush of enthusiasm definitely not enough.

Thanks also for advice about RRG watches. Have been studying up on these. Looking for one that meets the standards originally set for timepieces in use by RR employees (by Ball?), and any other standards added a little later. Am learning to beware of pieces that may only sport "railroad-y" names or with a locomotive engraved on the back. As for era, I'm thinking approximately 1900-1940s?

At least a couple of responses here have referred to declining numbers of highly skilled watchmakers. Is there any effort nationally, internationally, sponsored by the NAWCC or others to try to attract people -- from all walks of life -- to this skill/profession/business? I don't have ideas about how to do that, or how to tackle the myriad challenges such an effort would present. Just wondering.
 
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Girl59

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Oct 31, 2021
62
45
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60
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Yes, every watchmaker I consider a colleague is backed up. Depending on the job it may be a year. These are not wholesale servicers who charge $135. These are people who spent the time and money to get an education and have acquire a wealth of experience.

So it depends on how you define "service". Some people want only the plates to look clean. They assume the watch was properly oiled. You can read a recent post on this board about watch performance difference between a servicer's rate machine and a user's observation over 24 hours.


A relevant thread is:

A true watch service person is applying knowledge and skills which he/she fully mastered. Their cusotmers, expect to pay for that. Look at the cost of lawnmower repair. Non historical importance, parts right off the shelf, simple carbureutor adjustments. $40 an hour.

So any watch servicer who is in business has a choice between lawnmower repair and watch service. It all depends on which provides a better income.

Now, newer vs older RRG watchs? That is a non sequitor. The issue is decent condition vs abused. For an initial service of a "decent condition" watch to be returned to factory specs (6 seconds a day across position and regulatable to 30 seconds per week) it costs between $350 and $500, depending on who is doing the work. This depends upon how busy they are and the shop time depends upon how they fit jobs into the schedule.

AFTER the inital service, the cost should drop to about 1/2 of that assuming it goes back to the same worker and nothing has been altered. Adjustments are permanent.

The reason for the cost difference is the time it takes to do the adjustment to the osochronal rate and positions. If you read the treatis on watch adjustment (https://www.historictimekeepers.com/documents/Watch Adjustment.pdf)

You will learn it takes about 15 minutes to obtain the data on the positional rates of a RRG watch, And since positional adjustment is like zeroing a firearm, it is an iterative process that can take over a dozen cycles. That required time accounts for the vast mjority of the extra cost.

The rest of the cost comes from the time required to properly adjust the escapemnt (locks and safety action are notorious fuel for amateurs following the works of "he who shall not be named").

If the watch is abused (read, balance screws vandalized because author mentioned above said every restaffing REQUIRES static poising) then the cost of parts increases the cost of returning the watch to factory specs. The above referenced article makes it clear why static poising is useless; and to do any poising without first checking the positional rates is destructive.

This is because a donor watch must be purchased in order to move all the screws and the balance spring over to the target watch whose balacne is numbered to the movement.

My advice to anyone to anyone who wants a true RRG watch is to learn the signs of abuse (especially balance screws and rust on the balance spring) and then esablish a relationship with someon who can evaluate the purchase in time for you to meet the return window if the watch is useless for your purposes.

Most of the people I interact with either went to Switzerland for a year or two or graduated form one of the watchmaking schools run bby WOSTEP, or one of the brands, Even Patek ahs a school here in the US. Or they hold a certificate from BHI.

Remember, everyone now carries NIST time on the smart phone. Watches (especially those at $250,000) are at their essence jewelry. So I personally am not concerned about the cost of ownership for someone who has the surpus income to buy jewelry. Adn my customers are all educated, accomplished. They know and want me to be able to afford health care, vacations and to put my kid through college.

I did once have a potential customer who, after hearing my quote for his 12 inch bronze Chelsea ship strike that he "was not going to pay for my house"; which was delivered on 3 trailers. AS he was closing the door on his Lexus (which at the time ws very upscale), I held his door and asked him very nicely "And who paid for yours?". He slammed the door.

For full disclosure, I went to WOSTEP very late (56). Was supposed to go 13 years earlier but LIFE happened. I was invited because of the portfolio on my website. I WENT becasue I felt the shop keeper who could run the store but did not how to read, I knew there were holes n my knowledge.

Regards,

Dewey
Dewey, thanks for your thoughtful response. I got a lot more than I bargained for with my relatively short question...Thank you. For me, starting a small, modest collection would include learning how to properly care for my vintage watches...to learn how to seek and find someone knowledgeable and skilled.

To clarify my original post, I didn't mean to say I'm not willing to pay for good service if a watch needs it. Rather, the frustration might be having bought a vintage timepiece but not being able to carry it for a year or more while awaiting reliable service. THAT would be hard.

I've been warned more than once here, in just a couple of weeks, about the damage a watch can sustain in the hands of a repairer who isn't truly skilled. I hold experts in high esteem. For me, one of the best things ever is a professional who knows his or her craft or product or field up, down, and sideways, in and out, through and through. Such people deserve to be paid fairly. I'm still irritated at "Lexus guy" for not wanting to help pay for your house!

Thank you for the links provided. I visited your website and will explore it some more. And I love the section for young watchmakers. All my professional life, I've longed for a real mentor who could guide and teach me. Recently, I learned of an ancestor who was bound out in the early 18th century to a shoemaker to learn his trade. While I'm sure these arrangements had downsides, I generally like the sound of it.

I found a YouTube video of a film Hamilton made about 1949 to explain how a mechanical watch works. To a novice like me, the hairspring recalls a beating heart. I don't know whether the amazement ever wears off for watchmakers...or whether it intensifies. A mechanical watch is a marvel. And so are the commitment, know-how and steady hands of those who keep them ticking day after day and decade after decade.
 

John Runciman

NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Aug 13, 2003
651
160
43
Seattle, WA
Country
Region
I found a YouTube video of a film Hamilton made about 1949 to explain how a mechanical watch works. To a novice like me, the hairspring recalls a beating heart. I don't know whether the amazement ever wears off for watchmakers...or whether it intensifies. A mechanical watch is a marvel. And so are the commitment, know-how and steady hands of those who keep them ticking day after day and decade after decade.
If you like the Hamilton video showing you how the watch works what about an Elgin video? Doesn't show you how it works but it does show you where the parts came from and how they were made. Then near the end of the video sampling of watches available for the Elgin watch company and their prices. It's a shame we camp by railroad watches of that quality at that price anymore. Although I suppose we should convert the dollars from the year the video to modern dollars and the price would be expensive.

 
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DeweyC

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Dewey, thanks for your thoughtful response. I got a lot more than I bargained for with my relatively short question...Thank you. For me, starting a small, modest collection would include learning how to properly care for my vintage watches...to learn how to seek and find someone knowledgeable and skilled. To clarify my original post, I didn't mean to say I'm not willing to pay for good service if a watch needs it. Rather, the frustration might be having bought a vintage timepiece but not being able to carry it for a year or more while awaiting reliable service. THAT would be hard. I've been warned more than once here, in just a couple of weeks, about the damage a watch can sustain in the hands of a repairer who isn't truly skilled. I hold experts in high esteem. For me, one of the best things ever is a professional who knows his or her craft or product or field up, down, and sideways, in and out, through and through. Such people deserve to be paid fairly. I'm still irritated at "Lexus guy" for not wanting to help pay for your house! Thank you for the links provided. I visited your website and will explore it some more. And I love the section for young watchmakers. All my professional life, I've longed for a real mentor who could guide and teach me. Recently, I learned of an ancestor who was bound out in the early 18th century to a shoemaker to learn his trade. While I'm sure these arrangements had downsides, I generally like the sound of it. I found a YouTube video of a film Hamilton made about 1949 to explain how a mechanical watch works. To a novice like me, the hairspring recalls a beating heart. I don't know whether the amazement ever wears off for watchmakers...or whether it intensifies. A mechanical watch is a marvel. And so are the commitment, know-how and steady hands of those who keep them ticking day after day and decade after decade.
Girl59,

Thanks for understanding what I was outlining. BTW, I never thought you were averse to paying for good service. There are in fact non professionals who are extremely skilled. But since they are pursuing a hobby, they do not accept work from others on a regular basis.

Presuming you are female, I have some understanding about the importance of women finding mentors. My daughter is a structural engineer and she has been very fortunate in first finding a female mentor at college and THEN finding a professional mentor at design firm.

Lexus guy is just one of a number amusing anecdotes that develop in business. I have stories about kited checks and even aircarft restoration hangers that tried to refuse payment. They are amusing because they all thought they could get away with it. I learned in my childhood that you can iehter be pushed over or you can stand up for yourself. Another hint to young watchmakers.

As you noted from my site, I am on this list because I enjoy helping others who are pursuing excellence. Makes no difference to me if they are looking to become professional or want a hobby. It is about attitude.

To be clear, my postings are for "social" reasons. I enjoy the history of watch education, watch technology, techonological history and teaching (which is really simply helping others find a path to learning. I am convinced that "teaching" as generally accepted is impossible. It all depends upon the learner!) In twenty years, I have gotten maybe 10 customers from my posts. So that is obviously not why I do it. It scratches an itch.

I am particularly focused on the development of the Hamilton Watch Company. Most researchers follow the equipment and buildings. But that is not what makes a business. It is the people who make the business. In this case Rood, Cain and Perry. To this day, it is hard to find "history" of Hamilton that focuses on these three. It is like they dropped out of the sky one day in 1891. In FACT, they were together for 20 years and ran two (or 4 depending on how you are counting) other companies. I THINK they grew up together but I need to get to the local historical society. These three were a true partnership where one was the finacial expert, one was the mechanical expert and one was the sales and distribution expert. Any of the two absolutey relied on the other third. This pattern held for their entire careers!

HAMILTON was a product of all they learned from the shortcomings of their previous businesses and what they found in other factories. It was well planned and executed and in fact was revolutionary in the world of watch manufacture and even mass production (predating Henry Ford by 10 years).

They were also fortunate enough to create Hamilton at a time when precision measurement became possible (the micrometer was patented around 1880 and companies like Starret and Brown and Sharp had just formed after doing contract work for Singer Sewing. Each thread leads to another story!)

Waltham was continuously having to reorganize because they built their factory around the model of multiple independent "shops under one roof". There was no systematic integration and they always had excessive parts they had to write down. Plus, until around 1920, they relied on the selective fit approach to assembly.

When you contrast this to Hamilton's model (with which they DOMINATED the RR market within 10 years), you really appreciate the thought process that went into it's creation.

As you can tell, that is the stuff that gets me jazzed.

I do not consider myself an "expert". Many colleagues do consider me a competent mechanic in the the classical use of the term.

When it comes time to finding someone to service your watches to faactory service, you should look at the education and certs (Wostep, BHI, Lititz school, etc), then look at their shop to see if it is clean, organized and properly equipped. Talk to them to find out how they evaluate their work: do they just let it run or do they they provide a final report on amplitudes at 12 and 24 hours and the rates at 5/6 positions. What is their warrany?

A big deal for many is location. I personally get very nervous when I send customer's dial or case out for service. I HATE having to trust others. So I fully understand if someone is nervous about sending out their expensive (relative I know) or sentimentally important piece to someon they never met. I HAVE had customers drive 100 miles to deliver their piece to see if I was real. Plus, they "know where I live".

In other words, there are many personal considerations that a person thinks about when finding someone to service their watches. And cost may well be the lower on the list.

Remember though, certification only means that once upon a time, the technician showed he/she knew the correct procedures and outcomes. And some certification systems are notoriously unreliable. This is why I recommend WOSTEP and BHI which have mechanisms to assure consistency of test procedures over time. But as we age, all of us drift from those standards on some level. FOr me, the objective measures of amplitude and positional rates helps keep me in the lane. This is perhaps THE reason modern brands require a printed record of each watch after it was serviced.

A surgeon may have been the Chief Resident at Johns Hopkins, but he can still decide to become careless and leave the surgery to take lunch and then takes a nap. It happens.

Life is crap shoot. Just don't hold onto the dice!
 
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Girl59

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Girl59,

Thanks for understanding what I was outlining. BTW, I never thought you were averse to paying for good service. There are in fact non professionals who are extremely skilled. But since they are pursuing a hobby, they do not accept work from others on a regular basis.

Presuming you are female, I have some understanding about the importance of women finding mentors. My daughter is a structural engineer and she has been very fortunate in first finding a female mentor at college and THEN finding a professional mentor at design firm.

Lexus guy is just one of a number amusing anecdotes that develop in business. I have stories about kited checks and even aircarft restoration hangers that tried to refuse payment. They are amusing because they all thought they could get away with it. I learned in my childhood that you can iehter be pushed over or you can stand up for yourself. Another hint to young watchmakers.

As you noted from my site, I am on this list because I enjoy helping others who are pursuing excellence. Makes no difference to me if they are looking to become professional or want a hobby. It is about attitude.

To be clear, my postings are for "social" reasons. I enjoy the history of watch education, watch technology, techonological history and teaching (which is really simply helping others find a path to learning. I am convinced that "teaching" as generally accepted is impossible. It all depends upon the learner!) In twenty years, I have gotten maybe 10 customers from my posts. So that is obviously not why I do it. It scratches an itch.

I am particularly focused on the development of the Hamilton Watch Company. Most researchers follow the equipment and buildings. But that is not what makes a business. It is the people who make the business. In this case Rood, Cain and Perry. To this day, it is hard to find "history" of Hamilton that focuses on these three. It is like they dropped out of the sky one day in 1891. In FACT, they were together for 20 years and ran two (or 4 depending on how you are counting) other companies. I THINK they grew up together but I need to get to the local historical society. These three were a true partnership where one was the finacial expert, one was the mechanical expert and one was the sales and distribution expert. Any of the two absolutey relied on the other third. This pattern held for their entire careers!

HAMILTON was a product of all they learned from the shortcomings of their previous businesses and what they found in other factories. It was well planned and executed and in fact was revolutionary in the world of watch manufacture and even mass production (predating Henry Ford by 10 years).

They were also fortunate enough to create Hamilton at a time when precision measurement became possible (the micrometer was patented around 1880 and companies like Starret and Brown and Sharp had just formed after doing contract work for Singer Sewing. Each thread leads to another story!)

Waltham was continuously having to reorganize because they built their factory around the model of multiple independent "shops under one roof". There was no systematic integration and they always had excessive parts they had to write down. Plus, until around 1920, they relied on the selective fit approach to assembly.

When you contrast this to Hamilton's model (with which they DOMINATED the RR market within 10 years), you really appreciate the thought process that went into it's creation.

As you can tell, that is the stuff that gets me jazzed.

I do not consider myself an "expert". Many colleagues do consider me a competent mechanic in the the classical use of the term.

When it comes time to finding someone to service your watches to faactory service, you should look at the education and certs (Wostep, BHI, Lititz school, etc), then look at their shop to see if it is clean, organized and properly equipped. Talk to them to find out how they evaluate their work: do they just let it run or do they they provide a final report on amplitudes at 12 and 24 hours and the rates at 5/6 positions. What is their warrany?

A big deal for many is location. I personally get very nervous when I send customer's dial or case out for service. I HATE having to trust others. So I fully understand if someone is nervous about sending out their expensive (relative I know) or sentimentally important piece to someon they never met. I HAVE had customers drive 100 miles to deliver their piece to see if I was real. Plus, they "know where I live".

In other words, there are many personal considerations that a person thinks about when finding someone to service their watches. And cost may well be the lower on the list.

Remember though, certification only means that once upon a time, the technician showed he/she knew the correct procedures and outcomes. And some certification systems are notoriously unreliable. This is why I recommend WOSTEP and BHI which have mechanisms to assure consistency of test procedures over time. But as we age, all of us drift from those standards on some level. FOr me, the objective measures of amplitude and positional rates helps keep me in the lane. This is perhaps THE reason modern brands require a printed record of each watch after it was serviced.

A surgeon may have been the Chief Resident at Johns Hopkins, but he can still decide to become careless and leave the surgery to take lunch and then takes a nap. It happens.

Life is crap shoot. Just don't hold onto the dice!
Dewey, so much fascinating stuff to discuss! It's almost overwhelming. And yes...a single post easily leads into both closely related and far-afield areas. It's too easy for me to get down in the weeds, so must be careful about brevity LOL. This is hard when talking about a topic, like timepieces, whose "tentacles" reach into science, technology, art, history, philosophy, business and economics, etc.

First, it's amazing and wonderful that you went to Switzerland after years of needing to defer that dream. Wow. Second, I'm so glad your daughter has the benefit of mentors...And it sounds like, talent-wise, she takes after you? Finally, re: "expert" or competent mechanic, this may be perspective. From where I'm sitting -- an English-major-writer-verbal-don't-use-geometry-terms-with-me kind of person -- it looks like both!

I am just learning about Hamilton. Yesterday, I found the YouTube piece I mentioned. (Then this morning, I stumbled on two about Elgin and Waltham). I didn't know H. came to dominate the RR-grade market. My interest in H. springs mainly from a beloved grandfather, who raised me: he wore a Hamilton wristwatch for almost his entire adult life. The one I remember had what I think was an iconic Hamilton face and might have been made in the early 1940s? I am eyeing, right now, a 992 to add to my very modest pocket watch collection. Also interested in Hamilton's role in American watchmaking.

Had never thought much about the role of mass-produced watches in our industrial history; Waltham highlighted this in their piece. The business end of watchmaking pulls me in because I've spent the shank of my career as a writer and editor at a big finance company. We didn't produce goods but earned interest, and managed interest-rate risk, on enormous portfolios of securities. I had daily contact with economists who looked at the big picture. While these technicals were beyond complex (for me), and fascinating, it was the people -- and the company's management and leadership -- that riveted me. Like the trio you cited at Hamilton. Unfortunately, it was rare to work under individuals and teams who meshed their strong suits to create an effective, efficient operation that was also people-focused. Am looking so forward to learning about our watch companies.

These videos also made me wonder how long any watchmaking/producing person of any era or method can do that job. One wonders what happened decades and longer ago to men and women who got arthritis, tics, tremors, or cataracts!

Thanks for your advice about seeking a good watchmaker for repairs. I'll admit this is intimidating. Recently, I had a discouraging experience. The watchmaker I consulted was rude and dismissive. Neither of us was at our best that day LOL...he looked busy and harried, and I had eagerly -- though innocently -- barged in without an appointment. The shopkeeper had told me on the phone to come on over; (silently) greeted me when I entered; and failed to warn me what would happen if I approached the watchmaker unannounced. An impatient glare and a shrug of indifference. My bad! Thanks to your and others' good advice, I now know better what info to collect and generally how to proceed.

Of my few pocket watches so far, two are family heirlooms that have great sentimental value, and another is a modestly priced, well-worn Ball Commercial I've fallen in love with (and needs cleaning and service). These are treasures to me, and I want to trust them to good hands, as your customers do. And though none is an investment piece or historically significant, they are wonders to me, who can only wish I were in any way mechanically inclined. Have been looking at photos and online graphics of watch movements, and need to view them over and over again, at a snail's pace, to even remember what the parts are called.

You mentioned Johns Hopkins. My fabulous late husband had two brain surgeries there, by experienced, knowledgeable neurosurgeons. Sadly, his brainstem tumor was mostly inoperable and of a drawn-out, benign-to-malignant profile. You're right that even the best can "take a nap." Often, when the main surgeon has finished his or her highly delicate work, a junior doctor sews up the wound. My hubby's suture, not closed properly, sprang a serious leak after we'd gone home! A harrowing ordeal followed. This taught me to respect specialists known for their superb work, AND to stay aware that nobody's perfect, and to play an active role in finding and utilizing needed services.

This is so long! I'm short on brevity. Not sure how I'm going to learn about pocket watches and watchmaking and collecting while working, doing my chores, and paying attention to my husband and dog LOL...
 
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Girl59

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If you like the Hamilton video showing you how the watch works what about an Elgin video? Doesn't show you how it works but it does show you where the parts came from and how they were made. Then near the end of the video sampling of watches available for the Elgin watch company and their prices. It's a shame we camp by railroad watches of that quality at that price anymore. Although I suppose we should convert the dollars from the year the video to modern dollars and the price would be expensive.

John, I have watched this video and really enjoyed it. Thanks so much for posting. Is Elgin one of your favorite brands? I'm here because of an Elgin, ca 1887, that came to me recently...not railroad-grade. It belonged to my grandfather who raised me, so I cherish it. Happy that this video shows production...Love being able to picture how this was done and found the size of some of the screws unimaginably tiny . If only I could also have been a fly on the wall in a 17th- and 18th-century European watchmaker's shop.
 

DeweyC

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Also interested in Hamilton's role in American watchmaking. Had never thought much about the role of mass-produced watches in our industrial history; Waltham highlighted this in their piece. The business end of watchmaking pulls me in because I've spent the shank of my career as a writer and editor at a big finance company. We didn't produce goods but earned interest, and managed interest-rate risk, on enormous portfolios of securities. I had daily contact with economists who looked at the big picture. While these technicals were beyond complex (for me), and fascinating, it was the people -- and the company's management and leadership -- that riveted me. Like the trio you cited at Hamilton. Unfortunately, it was rare to work under individuals and teams who meshed their strong suits to create an effective, efficient operation that was also people-focused. Am looking so forward to learning about our watch companies. ..

Ok. Now you did it. Should never had told me your background. Try to find a copy of "Timing a Century"; it was one of the case studies published by Harvard in the 1940s. It will give you the lowdown on the Waltham company. Timing a Century — Charles Walden Moore | Harvard University Press

I am trying to dissect fact from fiction about the relationship between Deuber and Rood.Cain and Perry after they sold him the Hampden Watch Company. BTW it is Hampden because it was formed in Springfield, Hampden County, MA. Which should not be surpriseng because New Engalnd was the Silicon Valley of the 19th Century.

Then there is "From the American System to Mass Production" by Hounshell which puts to lie all the Eli Whitney myths. He seems to have been the model for Edison's self promotion.

I even have gone so far as to read a Harvard study of Reed and Barton.

In reading varied histories like these, you acquire a sense of the common issues to manufacturing and some of the things they had to deal with. Until I read the Barton story, I had NO idea that actual cash was very rare in the first quarter of the 19th century and that much business was done by bartering goods or what would today be called accounts receivables. Then today we take for granted communications but in those days you may not hear about a consigned shipment for a year!

I've had my social quota for the weekend. Time to watch football.
 
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John Runciman

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I didn't know H. came to dominate the RR-grade market.
I would be curious about where you found that information?

I am eyeing, right now, a 992 to add to my very modest pocket watch collection.
You might also think about slight variation from above even though it's not really slight at all? Sometimes the watch companies numbering scheme can be interesting like it might seem like a 992B is maybe a slight improvement to an earlier version where it in reality it's an entirely different watch. Hamilton did some really innovative things and that can be found in the be 992B their deck watch and their chronometer all shares some interesting characteristics in common that allowed for mass production and maintaining extremely high timekeeping qualities.

Is Elgin one of your favorite brands?
I'm not sure if I would say Elgin is necessarily my favorite brand. I'm not sure I actually have a particular brand I like lots of watches. But Elgin is definitely special for me. Because of one particular Elgin watch and being curious about its existence Caused a major impact on my life. Which would make for a really long story so simplistically I became very curious with Elgin making an electric watch before Hamilton.
 
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Girl59

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I would be curious about where you found that information?


You might also think about slight variation from above even though it's not really slight at all? Sometimes the watch companies numbering scheme can be interesting like it might seem like a 992B is maybe a slight improvement to an earlier version where it in reality it's an entirely different watch. Hamilton did some really innovative things and that can be found in the be 992B their deck watch and their chronometer all shares some interesting characteristics in common that allowed for mass production and maintaining extremely high timekeeping qualities.


I'm not sure if I would say Elgin is necessarily my favorite brand. I'm not sure I actually have a particular brand I like lots of watches. But Elgin is definitely special for me. Because of one particular Elgin watch and being curious about its existence Caused a major impact on my life. Which would make for a really long story so simplistically I became very curious with Elgin making an electric watch before Hamilton.
John, this was DeweyC's comment in response to an earlier post in this thread by me: When you contrast this to Hamilton's [business] model (with which they DOMINATED the RR market within 10 years), you really appreciate the thought process that went into it's creation. I told him I hadn't known of that market domination.

I've heard that Hamilton's 992B is a popular and collectible watch, and that many appreciate the Elinvar Extra hairspring it featured. But have heard too that the 992B wasn't as pretty.

Mentioned the 992 because Barry S. Goldberg cites it on his website (he has one in his personal collection) as being ..."considered by many as the definitive railroad watch." I'm reading his book, "The New Collector's Guide to Pocket Watches," 4th edition. I'd be interested to hear about 992 features that may lead people to evaluate it as Mr. Goldberg does. I'm learning here that members have very different views of what "best" means, for any timepiece. And "definitive" has yet another meaning.

I saw a nice example of a 992E several days ago at a seemingly good price. The movement is beautiful, and the case on this particular watch is lovely. I think someone is well on their way to snatching it up. This may stay on my long-term list.

I'm new to pocket watches and to collecting, so my beginner's interests, and any purchases, aren't based on in-depth knowledge or understanding. I hope they will be down the road, having learned from good folks here.
 
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DeweyC

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John, this was DeweyC's comment in response to an earlier post in this thread by me: When you contrast this to Hamilton's [business] model (with which they DOMINATED the RR market within 10 years), you really appreciate the thought process that went into it's creation. I told him I hadn't known of that market domination.
Half time.

This is from Mike HArrold's analysis of watch US pocket watch production. AFAIK, no one challenged his work.
 

John Runciman

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I've heard that Hamilton's 992B is a popular and collectible watch, and that many appreciate the Elinvar Extra hairspring it featured. But have heard too that the 992B wasn't as pretty.
Railroad watch collecting? Railroad watches should keep fantastically perfect time. I don't recall the purpose of railroad watches to look beautiful but typically they do. If you look at the pricing of a railroad watch when they existed and looked at the salaries of the person at the railroad who purchase them they looking at of very very expensive purchase it's paid for over quite a few months. So yes typically they are going to be visually very beautiful but a lot of watches can be visually beautiful.

When I was in school we were told the story of a Swiss manufacture decided to save cost. In other words a typical Swiss wristwatch they polished the screws they're all nice and shiny basically everything on backside of the watch isn't as pretty as an American pocket watch but it still looks visually appealing. So to save money they did not polish the screws and did not make things visually appealing. So with the customer be upset that their watch looks horrible definitely not? This is a Swiss watch going in a wristwatch case that typically the customer can't get the back off. But what about the buyers of the watch some company going to buy this movement and put it in their watch and they did not. Because unfortunately even though I understood the watch was nice timekeeper it's assumed that the watch looks like crap visually it's probably going to run that way also.

A lot of people new to pocket watches don't realize something which is the case that the watch is currently in maybe wasn't the case the watch came with. At one time I don't know if all pocket watch manufacturers did this or not the movement came from the watch factory and went to the jewelry store. Often times they were in a shipping case or a display case which has glass on the front and back allowing you to see your watch. This would be another reason why a watch would need to be visually appealing as the customers going to see both sides. Then somewhere else in the store was the watch cases you could pick and choose. Then everything was brought together and you had a complete watch. Then conceivably with time your watch case wears out you can get a new case for your watch. Sometimes if you look at a watch case you can see where the screws were the case itself might a held another watch at one time. The amusing problem with this is you often find a collector very proud that he has an original watch? I'm picking on a particular example here I know a local collector who has a particular watch he perceives that everything is original. The original movement in its original case in its original display box that carried the whole thing. Except the particular movement never came in a case ever there always sold as bear movements. But you don't necessarily tell somebody that's very happy with their beautiful watch those pesky little details that would upset them.

Then you get the Hamilton 992B a very beautiful watch but what is the definition of beauty? This is a very beautiful technologically advanced watch that keeps really good time. It's not necessarily a visually beautiful piece of artistic work. A lot of thought was taken to make a watch that was very easy to manufacture to be manufactured in huge quantities but still maintained a very tight timing. So visually beautiful or not currently one of them is sitting in my pocket.
 
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