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TexasDon

An eye opening conversation with my watchmaker

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I've been considering whether to repair my 1997 Seiko SKX007, mod it with an upgraded movement (NH36A) or dispose of it. I dropped by a local jeweler that I've used for a number of projects in the past. He took a look at my watch and IF it needs nothing more than cleaning, oiling and adjusting, he will have one of his in-house watchmakers perform the service for $275. I'm sure the look of total disbelief and shock on my face said it all. He quickly pointed out that he deals in Seikos, but his money makers are his high end Swiss Watches. He's an authorized dealer for Rolex watches among others. Performing the service requested on my watch will take him the same amount of time that it takes to service a low end Rolex, whatever that is. His charge for that starts at $475 and goes up. It's a matter of economics. There are only so many hours in the day and why spend them working for $275 when you can bill out $475 for that same hour? I get it! My watch wouldn't be ready for a minimum of close to 3 weeks. He's that loaded with work ahead of me. 

No matter how intriguing or interesting, mechanical watches are pretty much totally obsolete. A modestly priced quartz really will keep better time as a rule and displaying the correct time really is the main reason that I wear a watch. Were I to mod my old Seiko, all I would really be doing is deferring this maintenance cost until later when it's bound to be even more expensive. Sadly, this watch is going to be retired, placed in a protected environment and left for my heirs to deal with. Hopefully, a number of years in the future yet. I have some nice Swiss quartz watches as well as some very nice Japanese quartz watches. Welcome to one version of the future.

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Yeah, It's quite expensive to meet the certification requirements to service Rolex, Omegas, Breitlings, etc. as well which drives up the cost of watch repair.  Toss in the fact that there are a lot less watch repairmen (and women) today than there were in the past and you can see how we got here.

Seikos are great watches though- you could probably toss the old on on eBay and get a nice return which can be used to subsidize a new replacement (which are quite economical).  Or you can take the next step and get a luxury watch like a Rolex that has a good chance of appreciating in value over your lifetime- of course that one would need to be serviced periodically.

Mechanical watches are a bit pointless today but I do love winding mine up every morning.

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For that matter is a watch even necessary at all ? the time is embedded on everything we use today.A watch serves the same purpose it did 100 years ago, It gives you the time a a glance.How much you want to pay for that  convenience is a matter of debate. As far as mechanical watches go, you could argue that they are obsolete.The hairspring cannot compete with a quartz oscillator, no way no how, But unlike the quartz watch it never needs a battery, so you could also argue that the mechanical watch is "green"no batteries going into the landfill.I guess That is what I like the best about them, not that they are "green" but that they are not battery dependent,they can go for decades with just a little service. But these days unless you want to get whacked with a bill that looks like a telephone number, you have to do it yourself.

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I think your post misses a few salient points, people who have worked their way to this site may well have done so out of economy and wish to learn to service the watches that they have acquired over the years, and by learning to do so have more money to spend on their hobby.

There is no doubt that a quartz watch is more accurate than a mechanical watch but do you really need to time your life to the second ? do you need to time it to the exact minute ? you only need a reasonable amount of accuracy in life and certainly in most cases not to the second, the mechanical watch is in no way totally obsolete, it will always exist as long as people use sites like this and enjoy taking them apart, repairing and learning about them. What I do think will happen is that there will be a resurgence in mechanical watches and it wont be led by the high priced major players in Switzerland.

 

 

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All the above is true. The quartz watch is more accurate, cheaper to buy, and possibly less troublesome, but beauty trounces functionality in my book. I don't care my watches are not as accurate as a £30.00 Casio. I don't only tell the time with them I get a certain amount of pleasure looking at something made by a machanical genius, made beautifully inside and out. To trade that off for +or- 3 seconds a day ??? No way. 

 

 

 

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WLS...you are absolutely correct.There were many salient points I missed.You may be right that there will be a mechanical watches resurgence.I think it may have already started.What has happened in my opinion to the quartz watches has been a race to the bottom in quality.I am old enough to remember when they started..people bought them because they were new and improved.I have several older citizens that are fine well made pieces.but I think now the perception is that they are cheap and disposable,much like the old pin levers of pre quartz days.I see no reason why with improved machining assembly and lubrication mechanical watches could not approach very closely quartz accuracy.while greatly extending service intervals to the point where they are not needed except in cases of damage or extreme abuse.People will buy them because it is to their advantage to.

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1 hour ago, yankeedog said:

WLS...you are absolutely correct.There were many salient points I missed.

I should of perhaps have said but my comments where directed at the original post, I think most people on this site will at one time or another been in the situation he describes going into a jewelers and been shocked at a estimate, but that's the whole point of a site like this, have fun and learn and in the process your hobby become more affordable.

As for mechanical watches being obsolete as anyone here knows no way not by a long shot and I do think as you have said mechanical watches could still be developed even further, be affordable and appealing to the mass market.

 

 

Edited by wls1971

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When I started working for myself. The first thing I did was to contact the high-grade watch companies for their price list. Then I would give the customer the option on what price to go for, I won every time. This was back in the 70’s and 80’s. It was a way of earning good money. In the end I preferred to concentrate on high grade clocks as there was better money in that.

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16 hours ago, TexasDon said:

I've been considering whether to repair my 1997 Seiko SKX007, mod it with an upgraded movement (NH36A) or dispose of it. I dropped by a local jeweler that I've used for a number of projects in the past. He took a look at my watch and IF it needs nothing more than cleaning, oiling and adjusting, he will have one of his in-house watchmakers perform the service for $275. I'm sure the look of total disbelief and shock on my face said it all. He quickly pointed out that he deals in Seikos, but his money makers are his high end Swiss Watches. He's an authorized dealer for Rolex watches among others. Performing the service requested on my watch will take him the same amount of time that it takes to service a low end Rolex, whatever that is. His charge for that starts at $475 and goes up. It's a matter of economics. There are only so many hours in the day and why spend them working for $275 when you can bill out $475 for that same hour? I get it! My watch wouldn't be ready for a minimum of close to 3 weeks. He's that loaded with work ahead of me. 

No matter how intriguing or interesting, mechanical watches are pretty much totally obsolete. A modestly priced quartz really will keep better time as a rule and displaying the correct time really is the main reason that I wear a watch. Were I to mod my old Seiko, all I would really be doing is deferring this maintenance cost until later when it's bound to be even more expensive. Sadly, this watch is going to be retired, placed in a protected environment and left for my heirs to deal with. Hopefully, a number of years in the future yet. I have some nice Swiss quartz watches as well as some very nice Japanese quartz watches. Welcome to one version of the future.

The problem your local watch repairer is raising is very valid. With Rolex for an example the spares are incredibly difficult to find and the prices are excessive and with one slip of a screwdriver his profit has gone. Also not like most of us who are keen amateurs he has overheads such as rent, wages etc. To service a Rolex correctly will take a pro a good four hours + to service a Seiko the same amount of time but he still has the same overheads to pay. 

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Quartz watches are a nightmare because what can you do when they go wrong, or it gets left and the battery leaks, after someone starts using hearing aid batteries to save on cost. My neighbour had an Omega Seamaster he bought in the 60s, and he never had it serviced in 40 years, and wore it every day. It looked very worn to say the least! I wasn't so into mechanical watches then so didn't question him much. Maybe the oil life is preserved by continual movement? I don't know. Perhaps synthetics provide better life over 10 years, then drop off significantly? I was at Basel World and spoke to a Miyota Rep, they were selling mechanical movements (large orders) for much less than a Swiss jeweler charges for a battery swap! ETA were not displaying any mechanical movements! I am a quartz fan BTW and bought my first Swiss Quartz watch last week (after looking for one at a good price for ages), a Beta 21 Omega!

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It is amazing the prices people get quoted for a service, I know there are overheads wages etc, I had a job on my bench for a work colleague, a service and battery change on a quartz. I was sent away with work and was late in ordering from cousins for the battery, anyway I popped into town to visit an independent watch repairer that works in a department store ( he was the only place open that in trusted to supply. The charge for the battery without fitting.............£9.50 !!!! This was sold to me by his assitant as he wasn't there, even though I explained that I was waiting on my order from cousins to arrive, sadly to no avail.

Anyway I took it and by good fortune by the time I got home the postie had been and there were my batteries all 10 of them for £2.50. Guess what, I took that battery back and got my money back on the Monday explaining why, That was some mark up.

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I certainly didn't intend to gore anyone's sacred ox by my post. Neither was I attempting to sway anyone's opinion. I would sooner attempt nailing Jell-o to a wall. 

Any hobby has start-up expenses whether it be golf, scuba diving or horology. I have tools and I do alter bracelets to fit me, change crystals and a whole host of other tasks that are within my capabilities. Tearing down a mechanical movement, cleaning it and correctly reassembling it isn't on that list of "can dos" though. For me, the answer was to retire my Seiko and purchase an Invicta 7044 at a steep seasonal discount. I paid roughly  25% of the quoted cost of the repair to the Seiko for a new, in the box, watch with a full guarantee. It has the SII NH36A movement, a 40mm body size and a host of other features that worked for me. I can't feature being without one mechanical watch in my modest collection.

I too am old enough to recall the introduction of quartz watches. Actually, I'm old enough to recall the introduction of Seiko watches to the US. For anyone interested, Jerry Della Femina, a NY advertising executive wrote a book about being the ad agency chosen to make the market introduction for Seiko. The title of his book is "From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front-Line Dispatches from the Advertising War. You can imagine the issues facing the introduction of a consumer product from a former enemy in a world war. Further, much like today's Chinese reputation for quality, Japanese products were considered inferior and disposable. We may have been down this particular road before, eh?

I found this forum via Mark's YouTube videos. Aren't they something else? I do repair my quartz watches btw, as I've had extensive training in electronics and they pose no mysteries for me whatsoever. I'll post about my experience with a Ronda 715 movement repair in another post at another time. 

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