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Rookie Watch Collector Seeks Advice

fwhiting

Registered User
Apr 26, 2014
12
0
0
Hi all,

I originally posted this to the Wristwatches list and one of the participants suggested I post it here.

I came across your organization on the internet and I'm hoping to learn about horology and the history of watchmaking.

In the present instance, I'm looking for some advice.

I inherited some wristwatches from my father and I'm trying to do two things:

1) determine when they were made and more specific information about the models
2) find someone reliable who can clean and service them

The watches have the following names on the faces.

Le Coultre Memovox
Germinal Voltaire (has stopped)
Ulysses Nardin Chronometer

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I could get more information about these watches? I incline to have them cleaned and repaired by the original manufacturers if possible. Does this seem reasonable? And if the company has gone out of business, how do I determine if an unaffiliated watch repair person is dependable? I live in Tuscaloosa, AL.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions you have.
Fred

UlysseNardin.jpg GerminalVoltaire.jpg LeCoultreMemovox.jpg
 

Dr. Jon

Moderator
NAWCC Member
Dec 14, 2001
6,204
679
113
New Hampshire
Country
Region
A good starting book i s the "Complete Price Guide to Watches" or as we call it Shugart, after its now deceased first author. It is an almanack size book updated, sort of every year. Many public libraries have as recent version. That will give you an idea on age.

You can get information on the specific items by photographing themand posting an inquiry on each of them in the wrist watch section.

Reliable repair is hard matter. If you want fast cheap good well there is old saying, fast, good, cheap, you can have any two out of three.

The vintage wrist watch repair business is a hard one. Many modern makers have stopped suppling parts to the old timers who are still interested in servicing them. They either use old or generic parts which makes them "unreliable" to some. A young repairer who has access to parts can do several modern watches a day and make well over $1000 for this work while it may take several days to properly do a vintage time piece. Thus it cost the business several thousand dollars to do a watch like yours since there is not chance such a repair is worth what it costs a modern certified shop to do it.


There are some outfits that can and will do the work but this is the problem you face.

as to dependability you have to ask around or check out their web sites. There are no hard and reliable rules since anyone can put up anything and steal material from others. Look for realism. Overhaul of watches usually entails a wait time of three months to two years. See if they show examples of similar work. As about their training.

I am working in a shop that does this kind of work so I am ethically prohibited from using this site to solicit the business but I can show what we do and you can look for a similar operation.


1) We are a small shop i small town so we have low overhead
2) The guy in charge has no certifications but he has complete several correspondence courses as in doing all the exercises and has been in business over twenty years
3) We buy and sell parts through an informal network, some are genuine some "generic" and we make a lot of parts when we have to.
4) Our site has lots of examples of work we have done

There are some who are really mad at us because some work has been here a very long time. On the other hand there are a lot of watches we have saved and restored very well. One very famous brand will not sell us parts or certify us but they send people with their older watches, which they can no longer repair, to us.

This is the kind of shop I think you need, run by someone who really loves old watches. They are hard to find
 

fwhiting

Registered User
Apr 26, 2014
12
0
0
Hi Dr. Jon,

Thank you for your thoughtful and substantive reply. I'll check out Shugart. As to fast, good, and cheap: I'm less concerned about fast--all I ask is that the repair person give me a reasonably accurate estimate of turn-around time and stick to it (within reason). Good is non-negotiable--no point having watches like this fixed sloppily. Regarding cheap, I'm more interested in fair than cheap, i.e., I don't want to get gouged, but like any high-end craft (particularly an endangered one) good practitioners should be remunerated for their work. Since posting, I have discovered that both Jaeger LeCoultre and Ulysse Nardin do restoration but the estimates are exorbitant--as you suggested, more than the worth of the watches. Haven't been able to find out anything about Germinal Voltaire, but I'll do as you suggest and post to the repair list. I emailed the president of a local NAWCC chapter to see if he could recommend local repair since I'd hoped to be able to go in and talk with the people about what needs to be done. The Jaeger LeCoultre and Ulysse Nardin keep decent time, but I have to think that, after fifty years, they may need more than an oiling.

I know the site doesn't permit people to solicit business, but am I prohibited from asking you where you work or, at least, what town you work in?

Best,
Fred
 

Dr. Jon

Moderator
NAWCC Member
Dec 14, 2001
6,204
679
113
New Hampshire
Country
Region
I did a google search on vintage watch repair and restoration and fist ten or so I found looked like good candidates (I ignore the top ones who advertise). Our shop is in that group and if you are nearby we'd love to have your business but if someone who is better set up or nearer you, you should go with them.

A few post prices which looked reasonable to me. Your watches are not top end and the best option for you would be to find someone close enough to you to deal with them face to face. mail is Ok but sometimes these watches take several tries to get right (Another dirty little secret).

Closeness can be trumped by specialization. If you find a shop that specialized in a brand and has a cache of parts that is your best option.

The Nardin is interesting but may be less than it appears. During teh 1950's when I think your watch was made Nardin played a bit fast and loose and not all watches marked chronometer were certified. They sometimes labeled their watches Nardin Chronometer Company. The company has had a spectacular recent rise to prominence but there are a lot of old watches they would prefer did not exist. Yours is marked chronometer so its probably one of their better ones but it may be a lesser watch and this could determine how much you want to put into restoring it.

Your Lecoultre Memovax looks like a fine watch. The logo at 12 is JL for Jeager LeCoultre LeCoultre by itslef was handled by an outfit a bit like Nardin in the 1950's and yours seems to have been better than the usual US market product.

The Germinal Voltaire is probably aprovate label but is likely to be a common movement or calibre. It a shop has these parts it's an easy fix, otherwise it's a parts chase which can cost more than the item is worth.

You should also ask about turn around time. We advise customers that it is 90 days but that is usually optimistic.

Certifications are good. We have almost none. I am the most certified and the least capable in our shop. My point is that certifications and memberships in outfits like NAWCC and AWCI are generally good as are certification but they are not absolute guarantees. If you can't get feel form contacts and one is certified and one not; go with the certified shop. Getting those certs is a lot of effort and investment and those who have put it up deserve consideration.