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Have the brand sponsored boutiques changed the customer service experience?

by Jordan Ficklin

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Way back in June 2011 Nichols Hayek Jr told Joe Thompson of WatchTime magazine in an interview that U.S. watch retailing was amongst the worst in the U.S. http://swisswatchwire.com/2011/05/in-an-extraordinarily-frank-interview-with-joe-thompson-in-the-june-2011-edition-of-watchtime-swatch-group-ceo-nick-hayek-j.html He proposed a change in the customer’s experience with more knowledgeable sales people and fewer discounts in brand sponsored boutiques.

This week I am in Las Vegas where there is no shortage of brand boutiques and I set out to find out (a little bit by accident) whether this has changed any at all. My first stop was a Breguet boutique. The first thing I noticed was that all the watches were running and set to the correct time. I was impressed and I mentioned it to the sales staff who assured me they wind them each day because they pride themselves in their timepieces and they strive to take proper care of them. I took the opportunity to find out a little bit about their repeater. They had a beautifully skeletonized repeater on display and I asked to hear it chime. I was told the watch was in Platinum and only $239,000. They invited me into one of their little salons and brought the watch to me. I activated the repeating mechanism and was surprised by it’s tiny and ‘tin’ny sound (hopefully because the whole thing was still covered in protective plastic.)

I turned the watch over and began to examine its components. The first thing that jumped out at me was that this “platinum” watch was stamped .750 (Strike 1 – the watch is 18K, not platinum) The finish of the components seemed questionable to me so I asked for a loupe and was provided one. I may have high expectations, but for $239,000 I expect flat polished (mirror polished / black polished) screwheads and steel components for that price. Not so, the screw heads had an “ordinary” polish. The steel components had a line finish but even that seemed somewhat inconsistent and many of the small springs had no beveled edges whatsoever.

The bridges were all hand engraved and I wondered if for this price maybe they were in precious metals so I asked what material the bridges were made of. The sales person had to go ask another who said that the bridges are usually made of brass because it protects against corrosion. (Strike 2 for my ‘ambassador’ / Plus 1 for the manager)

Intrigued by my experience to this point I decided to inquire as to what caliber was found in the watch that most appealed to me, the Chronographe Classique with a beautifully printed snail tachometer on the dial. Once again the salesperson did not know, neither did the manager so they pulled out the catalog (caliber 533.3, FYI). Well, this was strike 3. Even with a single brand and only a handful of watches the sales people still can be quite easily stumped. I had to return to the Internet to find out what I really wanted to know and that was that the 533.3 is based on the Lemania CH 27 as I had suspected it might be.

Mr. Hayek, you have your boutiques, but you don’t have your customer service yet. I propose you put some real watchmakers who are passionate about the art in your boutiques, or choose retailers who have passionate watchmakers who can speak intelligently about your product. It is a miracle we can sell these watches at all. There can only be 2 kinds of buyers: those with so much money they must have the latest, greatest, and most limited timepieces, and those who have done enough research on the Internet that they need not rely upon the sales people to answer their questions.

My next boutique experience was in a Rolex boutique, sponsored but not owned by the brand. The sales person there knew which models were new from Basel this year but unfortunately couldn’t tell me what calibers were to be used in the new Cellini models although she did know they were going to be automatic. A google search reveals multiple confirmations that they will be built on the 31xx architecture and so are only partially “new.”

My best service experience of the day: In an independently owned retail shop with a multitude of brands from many different companies where the sales people genuinely seemed passionate about watches and not only knew about the product but volunteered to tell me all about it even after I had disclosed that I wouldn’t be purchasing anything today.

Has the experience changed. I don’t think so. It seems highly unlikely that the boutiques will provide any better experience for the consumer than the independent retailer did. Oh, and as for discounts . . . I was in no position to buy but I have heard many individuals tell me that you can get a discount at the boutiques. Sorry, Mr. Hayek, I hope the boutiques are generating a better profit because they haven’t delivered on your promises.

Dear Mr. Watchmaker

by Jordan Ficklin

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To quote The Beach Boys, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?”

                                                                October 15, 1962

Dear Mr. Watchmaker:
On October 31st, Elgin National Watch Company, Cas-Ker Company
and the E. & J. Swigart Company will present a Technical Symposium
in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The meeting will take place at the Cincinnati Club and is scheduled
to begin at 8:00 P.M.

Mr. Granville Webb, our Service Representative, will speak.  He has
been a watchmaker for many years and is eminently qualified to discuss
Elgin's latest development, the Elgin Electronic Watch.

Mr. Webb will present a graphic demonstration on the Elgin Electronic
Watch that we are certain will be very enjoyable and informative.

Following the meeting there will be refreshments.  Admission, of
course, is FREE.

If you can possibly attend, we strongly urge you to do so since this
meeting will bring you up to date on the technical information use-
ful in servicing the Elgin Electronic Watch.

                                            Cordially,
                                            ELGIN NATIONAL WATCH COMPANY
                                            Wm. F. Schefelbein
                                            Manager, Customer Service 

Why You Should Use Genuine Parts

by Jordan Ficklin

Comments (1)

A watchmaker’s reputation for skilled workmanship is his most valuable asset. By paying too litle for cheap, imitation parts he can lose his reputation. Be sure you guard your reputation for good work by using parts that you know will be satisfactory.

The manufacturers know they need to supply us with genuine parts. They have known it since 1965 when the Elgin watch company promoted their parts, and from before then, and they know it today. Watchmakers should use genuine parts and the manufacturers should sell them. Our reputation depends on it, and so does their’s.

Really cool poster

by Jordan Ficklin

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Not too long ago I shared a really cool watch poster from the Hamilton Watch Company. Now you all have a chance to own your very own poster from ESA.

Click on the image below to purchase this poster from AWCI and support the future of watchmaking in the United States.

Tourbillon Model

by Jordan Ficklin

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What students at the Lititz Watch Technicum have been up to: I wish I had made one of these. I love this stuff.

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by Jordan Ficklin

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by Jordan Ficklin

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by Jordan Ficklin

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by Jordan Ficklin

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How a Watch Works #1

by Jordan Ficklin

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Detailed view of the Hamilton Poster I featured yesterday.

How a Watch Works