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How clockmakers make the money?

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Hi Clockmakers and Watchmakers,

Originally I wanted to update one of my post (clock i got today part 4) then I realized that the topic is different so I started a new one.

So now I got a number of clocks I am afraid of touch and I am probably in the same situation as many others. This is my hobby and I spend money on this and that and now I have exhausted my budget better to say I don't want to spend much more money without feeling terrible considering that I have a family and things in the house needs spending money on it. Now I could sell things I have, but what to sell? If I sell something what is not serviced yet, I miss the opportunity to learn how it works and how to service it. If it is already serviced successfully (you cannot consider to sell something you ruined) i am so proud and I love how the watch/clock looks like and I don't want to give it away. Even if i decide to sell what the shall the asking price would be? The only thing I rely on is ebay so i could look up if there is a similar item, but some of the things are just not there. I don't understand how clock/watchmakers make the money generally speaking. I was thinking that if i could go back in time I would start to learn the watch/clockmaking business and get a job as a clockmaker. But how to make the money? I spend many many hours on simple things and i understand that as you gain experience you are speeding up just like with anything else in life. But still a massive brass clock must take days to clean / repair / service. Am I right? I guess the business part also has its learning curve and you will learn how not to burn your time after a while? It would be interesting to see your thought on this topic? Not sure if this side of this clockmaking was discussed before. 

My best regards,




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That's a pretty broad question!


Without writing a book, pretty much if you are a professional you have the training and experience to do work in a timely manner, charge a fair price for both you and your client, and have a good life. Every situation is different, there are killer pros who work from home almost entirely by post, others with storefronts who also buy and sell, some like me who do a mix of repair as well as prototyping work for industry (that aspect would probably be limited to folks here in Switzerland). The investment in equipment can add up quickly, though not everyone needs a 15k buck Greiner cleaning machine, nor does everyone need jig boring and CNC equipment. If you're doing lots of watches the Greiner will pay for itself pretty quickly. If you do lots of clocks a Rollimat pivot polisher pays for itself in a month or two (and makes life sooooo nice).


There are sort of limits to what one can charge, you can't expect people to send you a 7750 based watch for a general service if you charge 1500 bucks, there are too many good options. But if you can make a staff and vibrate a new overcoil hairspring for a rare vintage piece you are in special territory. Prices go up- but often not actual profit... this is a realm where often the few who do it do it because they love it.

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In my experience, clock restoration takes a lot of time, and from what I can tell, people don't seem to keen on spending a lot on them. Perhaps it's a reflection of the current value of clocks. I tend to do it as a personal hobby.

Watch restoration is also time consuming, but there is potential to be quite fast through experience. What I disagree with is people who describe work as "servicing" when in fact all they do is dip it in lighter fuel, clean the bridges/cocks, and swap the crystal.

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I've watched several new watch and clock service and repair businesses open up over the last 3 years in a commercial premises and they are all doing well, plus a number of others working from home just doing the odd job after their 'day job' finishes, to another that works from home, does not have a shop front and specializes in only servicing and restoring high end value watches and he has more work than he can deal with coming in from all over the world.

So you can definitely still make a living doing it, it is amazing how many people I still meet on the street that tell me they have their parents or grandparents watch or clock that is very special to them that they would love to get fixed but they don't know where they can take it. When I tell them where to take the watch or clock to get it repaired they get very excited. I think the biggest issue is there is a general perception from the public that good watch or clock repairers don't exist any more, atleast where I live.

I'm the secretary of my local watch and clock association and this is something we are actively trying to fix, as despite are school having produced a number of graduates over the last few years any of those that want to are finding work in the industry are managing to find enough work.

This Saturday I will be assisting staffing my associations stand at the biggest antique market where I live that happens every 3 months to promote our association and our members and our watch and clock school.

We have been doing this long enough now that we actually have people bringing their watches and clocks to the market now for us to service, not to mention the odd few that get bought at the market and then left with us to service.

The industry will never go back to the size it was in the 1950s, but I'm pretty confident it will continue for some time yet.

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