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Parts Availability

by J.Peter

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In the world of watch repair obtaining spare parts is extremely important & often problematic. The american watchmaking industry invented the production of interchangeable parts in the late 1800s but parts weren’t really interchangeable until the 1940s. By the end of WWII watches could easily be repaired by identifying faulty parts and ordering replacements. For all but the most exclusive watches this is still the case today. Modern computer controlled machinery allows tolerances to be so tight that modification of parts is rarely necessary when fitting them in a watch.

Many people are aware that parts for antique and vintage watches are becoming hard to find. When I see an antique watch, if it looks like it is going to need lots of parts I am very careful to make sure they will be available before I agree to do the repair. Sometimes finding the needed part involves calling multiple supply houses and/or scouring the internet until the part can be located. Manufacturing parts is very time consuming and therefore an expensive operation, but it can be done if the customer feels the watch is deserving. Sometimes it just isn’t worth it.

The spare parts problem to which I refer in the opening of this post doesn’t have anything to do with vintage watches, I am referring to modern (still in production) timepieces. Many watch companies do not make spare parts for their watches available to most watchmakers. They want to control the quality of work performed on their timepieces. I can understand some brands taking this stance, but for some brands, it is just overkill.

Let’s look at some brands and how they deal with parts distribution.

Rolex — The 100 ton gorilla of the watchmaking world (maybe). For the longest time in order to get spare parts from Rolex all you needed was to maintain a clean and professional workshop which meets their criteria. This is still the case, but it also helps if you have some training or a certification recognized by the industry (like a WOSTEP certificate, or AWCI Certified Watchmaker). It wasn’t (and still isn’t) necessary to be a Rolex dealer, contrary to popular belief. Your local Rolex dealer does maintain some advantages over the shop down the street however. Your Rolex dealer can purchase special Rolex specific tools which other watchmakers cannot. ( This appears to be changing) Your Rolex dealer has access to technical literature and training directly from Rolex that the average watchmaker does not. Your Rolex dealer can get certain parts that Rolex requires an exchange of an old part (like dials & clasps) that the guy down the street cannot. — In conclusion if you are a qualified professional watchmaker with professional tools and a professional shop, you can get parts from Rolex.

Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, et al — These are widely accepted to be among the finest and most prestigious watch brands and to the best of my knowledge spare parts are only available to watchmakers who have been trained directly by the manufacturer. I don’t know how one gets training from them, it would appear that it is necessary either to work for them, or at one of their dealers at least.

Swatch Group — has to the best of my knowledge signed on to the AWCI CW21 system, allowing Certified Watchmakers access to parts for at least some of their brands. I can get parts for Hamilton, Longines, Omega, and Tissot parts. Parts for some of their higher end brands (like Breguet, Blancpain, & Glahutte) may be more difficult to obtain.

LVMH has a very friendly parts policy. Parts for Tag Heuer are available to watchmakers, end of story!

Richemont group has a stingy parts policy. Parts for their brands (Cartier, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Panerai, IWC, Montblanc) are difficult to come by. Even some stores which carry their brands are instructed to return all goods to the factory for servicing (and power cell replacement). This is slated to change pending the judges decision on the Fleury v. Richemont class action lawsuit.

Now for the ridiculous part: There are some brands which just think too highly of themselves. I can understand Patek Philippe wanting to maintain their image and insuring that only highly qualified technicians work on their watches, but what about these next brands.

Breitling doesn’t sell parts to independent watchmakers.

Maurice LaCroix doesn’t sell parts to independent watchmakers.

Movado makes some parts available but Ebel (also of the North American Watch Group) doesn’t sell parts to independent watchmakers.

Seiko sells parts to parts houses who will do business with anyone, even the consumer.

Citizen sells parts to watchmakers for everything except for some dive watches which they request be returned to the factory for service.

So, what does this all mean? Sometimes a highly qualified watchmaker cannot service timepieces simply because he cannot get the parts he may need. Some watchmakers make do with generic parts, or by cleaning and oiling the watch without replacing worn parts. Other watchmakers just turn work away needlessly. The AWCI Certified Watchmaker for the 21st Century provides the industry with a standard by which they can qualify watchmakers to work on their product. I encourage all brands to expand their spare parts network to include AWCI CW21 and CMW21. I encourage consumers to support brands which support watchmakers, after all it means more choices for service and we all know competition inspires excellence.

I would like to keep this information update, accurate, and as complete as possible. If you have first hand knowledge of parts policies for specific brands, or if there are any errors above that you are aware of, please leave a comment and I will update the information. Thank you.

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  1. Posted January 31, 2008 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Jason Rakowski

  2. Posted February 1, 2008 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    There’s some very good information and shopping tips at this Google Answers discussion on replacing lost links in the watchband of a Rolex watch:

    Rolex Watchband Replacement Links

    Well worth a look for anyone who’s figuring out the best repair and replacement options.

  3. Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet do sell parts to watchmakers.
    I am one example and I never attended any training from them.
    Rolex requirement for their parts is more than acceptable, one page.

    The Cartier/Richemont so called Evaluation Form is 14 pages long and absolutely asbsurd, but approved by the AWCI then president Mr. Warner.

    I have to add that the AWCI have not help the watchmakers in the suit for parts availability and damages caused by Cartier’s action. On the contrary as seen in the case Fleury V. Richemont.

    Andre Fleury

  4. Posted March 5, 2009 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    You guys do a wonderful job! Keep up the good work!!!t

  5. Posted May 17, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    The Cartier case result at this time:

    Mr. Simon and Mr. Spellberg fees were awarded, approximately $1.7 million for as April a recovery of approximately $222,100 in coupons.

    Here are some part of Judge Chen document 361:

    Judge Chen document 361 states as follows:
    “Defendant has agreed to pay up to$2 million in fees, expenses, and incentive award as part of the negotiated settlement. On the other hand it is significant that Defendant has not objected to Counsel’s claim for additional fees up to the contracted-for cap of $2 million.”

    “The preliminary results on redemption response rate of both the consumer and watchmaker subclass are relatively meager.”
    “The Court must consider other factor, most notably in this case, the results obtained, which appear relatively meager.”
    “For the watchmaker subclass, only 91 watchmakers have asked for an application to become a qualified watchmaker and, as of March 4, 2009, only eight applications were actually been sent in. See Mot. 4 (noting that applications may be submitted until June 12, 2009-i.e., for another four months). At the hearing, Settlement Class Counsel provided updated information-i.e., that as of April 1. 2009, the total number of applications sent in was nine. Apparently seven of the applications were preliminarily rejected, leaving only two still under consideration. Defense counsel stated that one of the applications was rejected because the applicant was not a member of the class.”

    “At the hearing, Settlement Class Counsels provided updated information-i.e., that, as of April 1, 2009 the total number of credits redeemed was 2,221.”

    Note: The consumers received a $100 credit coupon toward a new purchase in any Cartier Boutique.
    The total recovery in coupon is therefore as of April 1, 2009: $222,100

  6. jakob leitmann
    Posted June 15, 2009 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    For havinng my quartz movement changed of an Audemars Piguet Royal, AP wants more than 2000$.

    I just think this is obscene and it shows what they really think about customers.

    Any comment would be appreciated.

  7. Posted September 14, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Bonjour Andre!
    I didn’t see these comments before, better late than never. A tres bientot, j’espere..
    Salutations meilleures de la Colombie Britannique,
    Prem C
    Thanks so much Jp, Jon, facilatating this spare parts comments. Andre and me share the same watchmaking professor from La-Chaux-de-Fonds, ie: Professor Pierre Girardet.

  8. Posted May 12, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    AWCI today support and approved Mr. Warner past president, actions in Court.
    They published a letter written by Mr. Warner giving 52 lines of Court documents and explanations of why and how I was removed from my case by Judge Chen!
    They refused to publish a rebuttal letter.

    That never happened; I was never removed from my case and will be back before Judge Chen June 23rd 2010.

    AWCI and Mr. Warner case results: an absolute zero recovery for the watchmakers either in kind or monetary, but the approval of their attorneys fees for above $1.6 million.

  9. Posted June 27, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    AWCI actual president and the board approved and support Mr. Warner/Cleves action in the fight for parts availability and officially stated so. But AWCI, Mr. Warner and Mr. Cleves actions are against the members and watchmakers interest.
    Judge Chen accepted to hear my Motion to annul and /or revise the Final Settlement that made parts availability even harder to get and brought no benefit to the watchmakers but increased the restricting companies to 41.
    I will be in Court June 30th 2010.
    Mr. Warner and Mr. Cleves both past president of AWCI and supported by AWCI, are now attempting to have that Motion Strike out to protect Cartier/Richemont parts restriction.
    That is a total betray of the watchmakers. They supposed to represent their interest and wellbeing. They again chose to defend Cartier/Richemont.
    You mentioned CW21 and CMW21, CMW21 does not have any exam so it is not a valid title. CW21 is not a guarantee to receive any parts from any company and is a costly process for a lot of watchmakers.
    AWCI went from 4,539 members in 2001, 3,203 in June 2007 and less than 2,000 today.
    Their shameful conduct vis-à-vis the members and watchmakers will certainly drop that membership even more and they deserve it. A personal opinion: they surely and certainly should not be recommended in any way, watchmaker should take a good look at their action and then decide if that organization is worth to be part of and receive your money! The actual president Butterworth is claiming that parts is important in their magazine and web site, but his action are just contrary, he support the attempt to have the motion to annul/revise strike-out.
    Andre Fleury

  10. Posted August 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    AWCI President Warner and past President Cleves did intervene in the Fleury V. Cartier case but not to argue parts availability to watchmakers but to enforce the Swiss restricting companies policies and to protect the interest of the industry not of their members or watchmakers at large they were supposed to.
    AWCI is not an entity that deserve any positive comment, they betrayed the watchmakers and their losing of members is only the result of their inexcusable actions.

    Andre Fleury

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  4. […] you happen to have been keeping an eye on the conversation that sprouted from this earlier post regarding the spare parts policies of several brands that sell their products in the United States, you may already be aware that the case for making […]

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