Barry Carter
Victoria, B.C. Canada

Choosing a Repairperson

Here are tips to help you find a qualified watchmaker or clockmaker.

When you go to a watchmaker’s shop, look around. Competent craftspeople can’t carry out needed repairs unless they have all the necessary tools and equipment. If all you see is a set of screwdrivers and a hammer, then you’re in the wrong place. A dirty and poorly organised workplace is a good indicator of the care that will be given to the repair of your watch or clock.

I once had a customer who took his clock back to a repair shop four times, hoping to get it properly repaired. Finally, he gave up hope. He realized that each time he took his clock back there were other customers in the shop, complaining about the same sort of problems he was having. He realized he’d gone to the wrong shop. Get a feel for the watchmaker or clockmaker you’re dealing with. Ask what would happen if your watch or clock had been taken back two or three times over the guarantee period because of problems and then acted up again right after the guarantee period ran out. If you don’t feel assured, you risk being disappointed later.

Ask questions
Ask for an honest appraisal of your watch’s or clock’s condition, how badly it’s worn, and its expected life span. You don’t want to spend a day's salary on a clock or watch repair that won’t last. If your watch or clock has continuing problems, it may be worn out. If a timepiece is badly worn it’s incumbent on the repairer to tell you that in the first place. Ask for assurance that mechanical failures can be rectified and parts sourced or made if necessary. If your watch or clock is obsolete, make sure the watchmaker you’re dealing with can make parts. There are some watches and clocks that will surely end in disappointment. Don't waste your money. Be careful, be assured, and if necessary get a repair agreement in writing. Check with the Better Business Bureau.

Be wary
There are many tales about people not being able to wear a watch. They’ve been told they have too much electricity in their body or that there is something about their body that won't allow them to wear a watch. There isn’t a reputable watchmaker who would tolerate such nonsense. However, there are many who use stories like this to dodge responsibility for their incompetence. I've given my watch to people who “couldn’t wear a watch” and told them to bring it back to me as soon as it malfunctioned. It never once happened. Many clock owners have given up trying to get their old, expensive clocks repaired because of a poor repair history. This need not happen.

Be patient
Don't expect to have your clock or watch repaired as quickly as your car. Quality repairs take time. You wouldn’t tell a heart surgeon to "rush it." Clocks and watches are complicated and repairs should be tested. A simple watch or clock repair might be finished and tested in a week or two. An automatic watch or 8-day clock will need at least a week of testing after the repairs have been completed. If parts have to be ordered or made you’ll need to wait weeks or months.

Choose quality
Be wary of shops that offer discounts to seniors and free house calls. The bottom line is that those services have to be paid for one way or another. You'll pay for them in the end. Price shopping for a repair is a big mistake because in the end you get what you pay for. If you get a quote of $500 from one shop and $1500 from another it’ll be for a good reason. You do not want to have someone charge you for a repair that only lasts until the guarantee runs out and then stops again because the underlying problem wasn’t identified and corrected. Thorough quality repairs may seem costly, but you’ll save money in the long run.