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So, it's not escaped my friends and colleagues that I am working on watches and up to now I have managed to escape the "oh I have an old Rolex in my draw at home you could fix..." conversations, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to come up with excuses as to why I cannot work on their treasured family heirlooms. I was just wondering if anyone out there had any 'pearls of wisdom' on how they handle this situation. My issues are that:

  1. If I junk the watch, am I on the hook to replace it? Even if I'm not on the hook financially it could sour the friendship if I junk a watch with sentimental value, and it would just feel weird getting a friend to sign some kind of financial waver?? 
  2. It takes time to service a watch, I would feel bad charging a friend the going rate, but then is it fair for them to expect me to devote hours of my time for free and risk the above
    1. Of course lifelong 'give you my kidney' close friends and family are another matter, I'm talking more about the guy who sits 3 desks down from me or friends of friends etc.
  3. Could/should I charge them for my time, I don't think many people outside the watch maker world understand the time it takes to service a watch, most are used to dropping a watch into the local jeweler for a 5 min battery change, so are expecting a pint to cover my time (or a fancy Starbucks coffee at work).

Don't, get me wrong, I would actually like to work on their watches, but the baggage (see above) that comes with it really puts me off the idea, but it's getting harder and harder to come up with excuses. I think it would be easier if it was a complete stranger, as they would be expecting to pay the going rate without 'mates rates' or free so this would cover the occasional junked watch and no friendship to sour etc.

The reason I post this is I have a work colleague who WhatsApp-ed my last night saying that he is bringing two Tag's home from Australia for me to fix for him - no mention of cost or anything, so I assume he is expecting me to fix them for fun (ie free) or at best a coffee and muffin on our coffee break ☕ 🧁

I am sure all of you have come across this issue, so any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Edited by Waggy
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I will do jobs for friends, neighbours, colleagues etc. on the understanding that "I'll have a look at it, but if I decide against it, I'll hand it back in a day or two, no charge. If anything needs replacing, then even if I can get the parts, they could be very expensive. If I encounter anything I don't feel ready to tackle, I'll put things back as they were, no harm done." That broaches the subject of cost, and you can start to have a conversation about the amount of time and effort actually involved. Most people don't have the faintest idea.

Regarding liability, I don't tackle anything I'm not confident about (e.g. recently rejected the chance to work on an Accutron), and I try to be extra careful with other people's property, so no problem so far. If I know I couldn't afford to replace it if I broke it, then I won't touch it.

For reimbursement, I usually work for upmarket alcohol; whisky, Belgian beer, wine, not cash. Something personal, with a bit of prestige, a treat I might not get for myself. Decent people will do the decent thing, if they understand the value of what you are doing for them. A neighbour gave me one of his pocket watches after I'd serviced part of his collection, which was a lovely surprise. If you don't feel sufficiently valued, just reject the next approach. In the end you have to weigh up what it is worth to you in terms of practice, experience, goodwill etc. A newish Rolex might be worth less to you than a Poljot chronograph and carry considerably more risk. If you don't feel comfortable reject it, explain why, and don't be shy about telling them what a professional job is likely cost and how long it will take. We are hobbyists in the end, amateurs, and we don't pay taxes, have liability insurance or guarantee our work. In my opinion, you can't charge, not even "mates rates". If you're anything like me, you have far more jobs lined up than time available, so why take on anything you wouldn't want to do for your own pleasure and satisfaction?

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A very difficult question.  If you will enjoy working on them, then you don't really need paying for your time, parts only, maybe as said before mention a nice bottle of something. Explain what is involved and that you can't guarantee anything, if the relationship was soured, it would be on them not you. I don't get bothered about repairing watches very often but on the occasions I do, the above is how I handle it.  I friend is sending me a watch, little monetary value and not a heirloom, his wife just likes it.  So I explained and he accepted my explanation. 

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Like you, I've been approached to work on upmarket watches. Well, for me, they are upmarket. Bulova, Jaeger Lecoultre, Kronos. I am capable of doing the servicing.  However, thinking  about the aspects has given me the outcome that I will not pursue such. 

I recently watched 'Kalle' on 'Chronoglide' discussing the reasoning for doing private work. Made me realise the pitfalls. Whilst the people who wanted the servicing done on their watches, to me they are watches, to them they are heirlooms, memories, treasures. Not that it would, but what if it did, go wrong. I have their promise that they would be no come back. But a promises is just that. Therefore I asked two of the possible friends if they would sign a memo to the effect that there would be no actions if I did make a mistake. Both said yes. After Kalle's videos I looked into the possibility of litigation. It would appear that even if such were signed, an action could be brought against me. Providing a service, any form of payment is a 'contract'. Therefor I would need insurance liability to be set a £10 million which is standard practice for todays employment. 

I like what I am doing to much

Upmarket. No market for me. Friends and relatives watches, usually under £100 ish value. Fun

Edited by rossjackson01
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A friend showed me their beautiful Jaeger Lecoultre Chronograph from what I assume was the early 60s?  Unfortunately they had left it in a pair of jeans and it had gone through the washing machine about 10 years ago.  I believe at the time they chose not to have it fixed when they were told the price and that it had been living in a box of rice and sawdust for the past 10 years.  Anyway it appeared to work.

I was brutally honest with them about my success rate and told them I wouldn't even be comfortable opening it!

Problem solved!

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what exactly is the question in this discussion?

for instance

4 hours ago, ColinC said:

 I believe at the time they chose not to have it fixed when they were told the price and that it had been living in a box of rice and sawdust for the past 10 years.  Anyway it appeared to work.

I was brutally honest with them about my success rate and told them I wouldn't even be comfortable opening it!

in this example they were told the price obviously they didn't like the price they didn't get the work done. now they're asking you to do the work, why do they think that you're going to give them a better price than the previous price? Is that what this is all about this discussion is cheap watch repair?

19 hours ago, Waggy said:

So, it's not escaped my friends and colleagues that I am working on watches and up to now I have managed to escape the "oh I have an old Rolex in my draw at home you could fix..." conversations, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to come up with excuses as to why I cannot work on their treasured family heirlooms. I was just wondering if anyone out there had any 'pearls of wisdom' on how they handle this situation. My issues are that:

coming up with excuses for what? In other words have you indicated to people that you're running a professional shop and that you're servicing watches? Why do you think people are ask you to work on their watches are they trying to save money do they think you'll do a better job, it's probably the money isn't it that's what thinking what I'm thinking?

 

 

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20 hours ago, Waggy said:

Don't, get me wrong, I would actually like to work on their watches, but the baggage (see above) that comes with it really puts me off the idea, but it's getting harder and harder to come up with excuses

You don’t need excuses. Embrace ‘no’…

I find the dad watch and Rolex in the drawer conversations go quite well when I educate about the costs, risks, and expectations. Sometimes the friends won’t want to bother sometimes it’s ‘do what you can I don’t care it doesn’t run now anyways’…

So far no lost friendships. 

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3 hours ago, JohnR725 said:

coming up with excuses for what? In other words have you indicated to people that you're running a professional shop and that you're servicing watches? Why do you think people are ask you to work on their watches are they trying to save money do they think you'll do a better job, it's probably the money isn't it that's what thinking what I'm thinking?

John, thinking a little deeper on your point above and comments of others, they all know I'm a non-professional doing this as a hobby, but I guess they think they can get something for nothing, or at least at a very reduced price because they think the cost of a professional is too much, and/or it's more convenient to give it to me than take the time and effort to find somewhere to take it. Thinking of it in those terms I suppose it is the same thing every plumber or car mechanic etc. faces, with friends expecting them to work for free or at cost. As @Klassiker points out, this is a hobby, so I have the luxury of picking what I do and when I do it, so as @rehajm says, I'll embrace 'no' unless it is something I want to work on and then point out the risks and cost of new parts and drop hints about the virtues of unblended whisky 🥃 @RichardHarris123.

Thanks to you all for your comments, this has helped me crystalize my thoughts on this issue 👍

9 hours ago, rossjackson01 said:

I like what I am doing to much

Ross, Thanks for your comments, I agree with you that this hobby should be about fun, and getting liability insurance and making your friends sign waivers is the opposite of that.

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11 hours ago, Waggy said:

I'm a non-professional doing this as a hobby, but I guess they think they can get something for nothing, or at least at a very reduced price because they think the cost of a professional is too much, and/or it's more convenient to give it to me than take the time and effort to find somewhere to take it. Thinking of it in those terms I suppose it is the same thing every plumber or car mechanic etc. faces, with friends expecting them to work for free or at cost. As @Klassiker points out, this is a hobby, so I have the luxury of picking what I do and when I do it, so as @rehajm says, I'll embrace 'no' unless it is something I want to work on and then point out the risks and cost of new parts and drop hints about the virtues of unblended whisky 🥃 @RichardHarris123.

in the discussion all of this looks friendly and nice. You point out your hobbyist you cannot perform the same service as a professional does for variety of reasons and you're not going to.

It be really nice the contract approach get them to sign off on a piece of paper that they give up all the rights to their watches ever seeing it again and no guarantee that you can even get it to run anyway. One of the reasons you need to have the they may never see it again is what if somebody breaks into your house now that they know you're servicing watches and they steal the watches I bet your homeowners insurance isn't going to cover that.

On 12/6/2023 at 8:52 AM, Klassiker said:

Regarding liability, I don't tackle anything I'm not confident about (e.g. recently rejected the chance to work on an Accutron), and I try to be extra careful with other people's property, so no problem so far. If I know I couldn't afford to replace it if I broke it, then I won't touch it.

this is perhaps better than the contract approach self liability you are responsible for their product. It's like where I work we taken work we ask the customer what is the item worth. occasionally somebody will ask why were asking we explain it's for insurance purposes. When you take somebody's item in exactly what is describing can you reimburse the person for whatever they perceive it's worth as you are the insurance provider.

 

On 12/5/2023 at 7:34 PM, Waggy said:

Could/should I charge them for my time, I don't think many people outside the watch maker world understand the time it takes to service a watch, most are used to dropping a watch into the local jeweler for a 5 min battery change, so are expecting a pint to cover my time (or a fancy Starbucks coffee at work).

now this is where things get interesting we've already established that your client is cheap they don't want to pay for a real service but do they want a real service? As soon as you start taking money from people is an expectation from them that you're going to actually do something? Then are you going to shortchange yourself and all of this? Like why are you discharging for your time what about the investment of your tools the investment in yourself and learning how to service watches should you get money for that. Replacement costs for tools where the new tools that you would like to purchase what about the money for that. Often times people grossly underestimate how much they should charge and end up shortchanging themselves which is another reason people are happy to find hobbyist watchmakers who don't understand how to charge for what they're doing

oh minor little thing from charging though your now running a business would that be frowned upon in your part of the world? Receiving alcohol conceivably it could be a gift. Although the IRS where I live does actually specify that you cannot receive a gift as a payment for something as a way of getting around paying taxes on that money. So little money occasionally probably know once the care but if you start running a little business on the side depending upon where you live they might care. Plus you are taking and money you should taken a suitable quantity of money to cover which are actually doing as opposed to just paying yourself your wages and even your wages you have to charge more than what you actually get for overhead like for instance?

On 12/5/2023 at 11:48 PM, Knebo said:

I will order two new ones (20 USD/EUR each + 20 for shipping 

here is an example ordered replacements item that broke on the watch so there's $40 of your money now invested in this watch and time and effort to order the part our you to charge for this only a $40 or since you only need one but you had the order to are you only going to charge half that price and keep the other one?

 

On 12/6/2023 at 8:52 AM, Klassiker said:

For reimbursement, I usually work for upmarket alcohol; whisky, Belgian beer, wine, not cash. Something personal, with a bit of prestige, a treat I might not get for myself. Decent people will do the decent thing, if they understand the value of what you are doing for them. A neighbour gave me one of his pocket watches after I'd serviced part of his collection, which was a lovely surprise. If you don't feel sufficiently valued, just reject the next approach. In the end you have to weigh up what it is worth to you in terms of practice, experience, goodwill etc. A newish Rolex might be worth less to you than a Poljot chronograph and carry considerably more risk. If you don't feel comfortable reject it, explain why, and don't be shy about telling them what a professional job is likely cost and how long it will take. We are hobbyists in the end, amateurs, and we don't pay taxes, have liability insurance or guarantee our work. In my opinion, you can't charge, not even "mates rates". If you're anything like me, you have far more jobs lined up than time available, so why take on anything you wouldn't want to do for your own pleasure and satisfaction?

this is a very interesting paragraph I quoted. Needs to be read in its entirety as it's very important. So basically as a hobbyist you're having fun repairing watches you're not running a business and you receive a gift for helping somebody out a win-win for everybody. Although you're unlikely to run into this stay away from people that are running businesses themselves they will not do the decent thing as they will always protect their interests first. I will skip over the lessons I've learned on that one. But I will agree 100% stay away from taking money as soon as you receive money you're running a business are charging for something your customer expects something. With expecting something in paying for something it opens up a whole side of things that you really don't want to get involved with the fun of watch repair will be gone and they will introduce a lot of unpleasant problems.

 

 

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When I graduated from dental school, one of my mentor's parting words, which was taken from Dirty Harry, was, "A man's got to know his limitations."

This advice has stay with me throughout my career. Although I was certified to practice Implantology and Orthodontics, I have always referred my cases to more experienced colleagues.

Just because you have taken a few online courses and watched a lot of YouTube videos, that doesn't make you a watchmaker.

There is so much to learn in watchmaking. The more you learn, the more you realise you don't know.

My advice to budding hobby watchmakers is to start small. Change batteries, watch straps, crystals, polish some cases and bracelets.

Find an experienced watchmaker to be your mentor. In case you mess something up, he's there to bail you out.

When you think you've arrived at a milestone in watchmaking, go get a Mumbai special and fix that. That will bring you back down to Earth.

In the meantime, learn all you can and practice.

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4 hours ago, rehajm said:

To be fair Waggy if I was nearby and had seen some of your posts with before/after results I’d rather take my watch to you instead of most of the ‘professionals’ anyways 😂

Many thanks, thinking about it, I only have myself to answer to if I break my watch, it's a different story when working on someone elses watch for all of the excellent points mentioned above, which is why I am resisting this course. I think I'll stick to my guns and resist the minefield of servicing watches for friends and be content with doing this for fun and selling the odd watch here and there when I feel the need. However, for non-friends and family a more formal agreement and pricing structure should not be an issue and they (and I) would be free to take-it-or-leave-it without any hurt feelings, so may still be an option for the future.

9 hours ago, JohnR725 said:

charging though your now running a business would that be frowned upon in your part of the world?

This is a great point, to sell stuff here you need a license which is relatively easy to get, and you are then regarded as a casual trader if your annual revenue does not exceed 1,000,000 AED ($272,294 USD), i.e. like someone selling at flea markets or home crafts on the web kind of thing. With the exception of 5% VAT (HST?) there are no additional taxes to pay or any paperwork to file if you remain under the 1,000,000 AED revenue cap. There are some other rules like employing staff etc, but basically that is it. I think the government here is trying to encourage people to start businesses instead of relying on the state or oil as the only income stream, so they are making it as easy as possible to get started. I recently obtained a license to sell and service watches just to cover myself for those occasions where I do sell one (I recently sold 2 at a Christmas market), just to ensure that I do not fall outside of the law. It is probably overkill for me to have a license, but it's a bit like selling our car in a private sale, you don't need a license to do that, but if you sell 20 cars then its obviously a business, but where do you draw the line? So like I said, it's easy enough to get a license here, and there is no down side to it other than the time it takes to register and pay the small registration fee (less than $100 USD per year) so I got the license just to cover myself legally.

9 hours ago, JohnR725 said:

are you only going to charge half that price and keep the other one?

In my day job we charge a pass through price to the end customer, usually cost +15%, but most of the stuff related to oil usually has a few 0's added to the real world price so this 15% covers the admin required to bring in the part. Maybe this could be something you could consider in the watch world, then you could be completely transparent with your customers, or is this how it is done in the watch servicing world anyway? We also (sometimes) have a 're-stocking fee', where if the customer doesn't use a part we will take it back into our inventory for 10-20% of the price we sold it to the customer, so say they buy a drill bit for $150k and don't use it, then we will take it back and give them $15k for it. Perhaps a version of this would cover the scenario above?

So in your scenario you are out a total of $60.00 for the two parts and shipping, if you charge a 15% pass through then the cost to your customer (for the one part used plus shipping) is ($20.00+$20.00) x 1.15 = $46.00, if you then have a generous re-stocking fee for the second (unused part) of 20% then you could recoup $20.00 x 0.8 = $16, i.e. you give them 20% of the value back as a re-stocking fee = $4.00, so in total your customer would end up paying $46.00 + $16.00 = $62.00, covering your costs + $2 and you get to keep the spare unused part.

Edited by Waggy
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Good discussion.  I am already getting family members and old schoolmates mentioning that they have a watch they would like to get fixed (nothing upscale yet).  I'll probably be getting more inquiries now that I have fixed my father-in-law's old pocket watch that had belonged to his father.  I do savor a challenge, but there's the risk of souring a relationship if something happens to the watch while in my care or by what work I did on it.  I do like the idea of having a frank discussion with them on the risks, costs, and time and effort involved as well as saying that the first thing that I would do is to open it up and see if it is even something that I think I could fix.

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I've been in business as a joiner and builder for over 35 years,building houses, extensions, roofs, kitchens, bathrooms, windows, house restorations, part and full refurbs just about anything you can imagine on a house, from a six month project to a five minute lock fix. People can be very funny about their homes, i know its value and responsibility on another level. But guvvy or no guvvy as soon as you've laid hands on a piece of work, no matter who's been there before you, you can potentially become their scapegoat for years to come. You are next in line for being responsible for issues. I've been blamed for things completely unrelated in a different part of a building just because i was there, more often a customer trying to lift my leg taking advantage of a situation. Unless you are a professional in business, fully confident of your abilities as Hector points out "a man has to know his limitations  " if you take money as payment then understand the risks on a watch that comes to you in a seemingly working condition.  I've done the odd repair, battery change etc, my first words are " what does this watch mean to you " i then base my next move on their answer,  explain that changing a battery will not always make a watch run again. The gesture for me to help comes with no guarantee and no assurance that i can fix it, if i get the reply " its ok it doesn't work anyway " then i give it my best shot. 

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Haha, so true.  Many years ago I was a plumber.  Let's say I replaced the taps on the basin, next day I would get a phone call stating that the sink taps were dripping and they weren't before I changed the basin taps???? I  do very little watch repair for others but yes, I'll only have a  go if their attitude is "it broken anyway". As said, I have one on the way, running 10 minutes fast per day, it's agree that if I can't fix it he doesn't want it back. If I can fix it, then I will replace/ refurbished the crystal, give it a  polish and send it back. 

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1 hour ago, RichardHarris123 said:

Haha, so true.  Many years ago I was a plumber.  Let's say I replaced the taps on the basin, next day I would get a phone call stating that the sink taps were dripping and they weren't before I changed the basin taps???? I  do very little watch repair for others but yes, I'll only have a  go if their attitude is "it broken anyway". As said, I have one on the way, running 10 minutes fast per day, it's agree that if I can't fix it he doesn't want it back. If I can fix it, then I will replace/ refurbished the crystal, give it a  polish and send it back. 

Haha yep, ive had all of that with customers, i usually grin and say  " oh no you caught me, yeah i broke that on purpose while you were out just so i had another job that i could charge you for, bloody behave ". Customers who needs em eh.

1 hour ago, RichardHarris123 said:

Haha, so true.  Many years ago I was a plumber.  Let's say I replaced the taps on the basin, next day I would get a phone call stating that the sink taps were dripping and they weren't before I changed the basin taps???? I  do very little watch repair for others but yes, I'll only have a  go if their attitude is "it broken anyway". As said, I have one on the way, running 10 minutes fast per day, it's agree that if I can't fix it he doesn't want it back. If I can fix it, then I will replace/ refurbished the crystal, give it a  polish and send it back. 

In life you need to cover your own back, with the mindset  " nobody is coming for you " when you're in trouble. Its not only experience you need that gets you there, there's stuff i did 20 years ago that i wouldn't contemplate doing now. The money is nice, do i want it ? Yes, do i need it ? not especially, do i need the potential headache ? thats a definitely not. The same approach should apply here, you lose a shock spring, you damage a hairspring, you break a pivot. We are only human and we make mistakes. Material can be hard to aquire now, can you get another one ? You have to know you can correct a mistake. 

" Nobody is coming for you ! ".  

Edited by Neverenoughwatches
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My advice and you probably wont like it. Don't touch family or friends watches or clocks. It can cause nothing but trouble not because the items aren't yours, but to save all the bickering and bad feeling that comes with it. Here is an example a member of family is charged £30 for servicing his/her watch, another has a watch serviced and is charged £45 because you had more to do. Word gets around the family,they don't see it that way and it causes ill feeling in the family.   The same goes with friends. 

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21 minutes ago, oldhippy said:

My advice and you probably wont like it. Don't touch family or friends watches or clocks. It can cause nothing but trouble not because the items aren't yours, but to save all the bickering and bad feeling that comes with it. Here is an example a member of family is charged £30 for servicing his/her watch, another has a watch serviced and is charged £45 because you had more to do. Word gets around the family,they don't see it that way and it causes ill feeling in the family.   The same goes with friends. 

Haha i would say that is known as favouritism, no folk dont like to be second best.

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I have an example, might be relevant, might be not, just something i feel like sharing, I'm a very open sort of bloke . My sister's husband died this April, a heart attack and then brain damage, decision was made to turn off his life support that same day. Very, very sad day, my sister was inconsolable and is still devastated by her loss after 50 years of being together. While helping her and my nieces and nephews to sort funeral arrangements at her home she comes to me and hands my a watch. A 20 odd year old Sekonda quartz, "this was Kev's watch"  she said, "he wore it every day ever since i bought him it for work, the battery has been changed a few times but its stopped again and one of the little hour thingies has fallen off, can you do anything with it, it doesn't matter if you cant, you can say no ". With tears rolling down my face i replied " of course sis no problem ", what else could I say. I have never panicked so much repairing a watch or anything else for that matter, in terms of money it was worthless, in terms of sentiment it was beyond my comprehension. I gave her the watch back the next day with a new battery fitted, but with no cleaning or polishing of it whatsoever " aw you've even put the hour thing back on " i received a  big long hug.  When ever i see her she tilts her right arm to show me Kev's watch  " its still working, i wear it every day ". That makes me smile, however the sweatstain on my watchbench is a permanent fixture 🙂.

44 minutes ago, oldhippy said:

It's not funny. It happened to me when I was an apprentice thinking it would improve my learning. I soon learnt to say no. 

 

45 minutes ago, oldhippy said:

It's not funny. It happened to me when I was an apprentice thinking it would improve my learning. I soon learnt to say no. 

Ah a genuine example, nowt as wierd as folk as they say. Families eh, been there many times,  you can choose your friends but you can't choose the family you were born with. 

9 minutes ago, Endeavor said:

Seen that quote before ...... 😁

And a bit of knowledge is dangerous, you think you know, but really, no you dont 😄

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