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Can of Worms

by Jordan Ficklin

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Omega PWThat’s right: pocket watches. It is very rare that I work on a pocket watch and I don’t find some big problem that I missed in my estimate. There is just so much that can go wrong. Yesterday I was working on a 4/0 size Elgin Pocket Watch. Everything looked good from the bridge side but under the dial I found 4 of the jewels broken. They are burnished in jewels and it will take a bit of effort to replace the jewels. It is a big commitment. First, I measure the pivots to determine the hole size in the jewels. To figure out the outside diameter I have to remove the jewels. When they are badly cracked like these ones were, they usually fall apart when I remove them. This means I have to measure the hole they came out of to determine what outside diameter to order. I don’t stock very many jewels so I have to order them. Several days later I’ll get to put them in, adjust endshakes and continue on the watch.

Often in a pocket watch you need to re-shellac the pallet stones and/or roller jewel. Lots of times the hairspring will need some major adjusting. Balance pivots are often flat and need to be burnished. And it seems there is always something on the case that needs to be repaired. It can be a can of worms – or you can think of them as being more involved than modern watches.

Here is the hardest part. The perceived value of a pocket watch is far less than a modern luxury timepiece making it more difficult to charge what you need to justify the amount of time it takes to perform the repair. The repair often costs more than the watch is worth.

2 Comments

  1. Bryam
    Posted April 26, 2008 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    I try selling the repair based on the intrinsic or “heirloom” value and let my customer know ahead of time that the repair estimate is likely to be more than the dollar value of the watch.

  2. Perdita
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    This comment is unrelated to your post and I wanted to write this on your “suggestions” page but there was no place to write!

    One of my friends sent me this link:

    http://blogs.wsj.com/wealth/2008/04/25/the-300000-watch-that-doesnt-tell-time/?mod=MostPopular

    My first thought was “this can’t be real” and I thought maybe it was an April fool’s joke, but the article was dated April 25th. After looking at the original website, here:

    http://www.romainjerome.ch/en/les-inatendus/day-and-night-en.aspx

    and looking at their other “watches” I knew it was ridiculous and the “press lounge” ended any doubts I had.

    Still it is pretty amusing. Especially the rusty watch you have to keep in an argon-filled glass dome. Someone put a lot of time into the site.

    Reading the comments on the WSJ is quite hilarious.

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