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Don’t sweat the small stuff

by Jordan Ficklin

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If you have subscribed to my blog you may have noticed that I sometimes write posts in waves. My inspiration seems to come that way. If you haven’t subscribed to my blog, you should. With a subscription you can get my posts in a feed reader (like Google Reader or Microsoft Outlook) or in your e-mail box whenever I write one. To subscribe to this blogs feed in a reader click here. To get this blogs feed in your e-mail click here. Still confused about what a feed is and why you would want to subscribe? Try watching this video:

Anyway, there is some actual watchmaking meat to this post, it’s not just a plea for more subscribers. Here it is:

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Sometimes watchmaking can be kind of stressful. Stuff happens! Especially with older watches you can run into problems. Here are two problems from my week: I had a Rolex with an old thin 18K gold bezel. I recommended the customer replace the bezel because it was worn so thin, but I didn’t make it a mandatory part of the service. After completing the service I went to water test it and it failed. The bezel went on with not enough tension and this turned out to be the problem allowing water to seep in through the crystal seat. A new bezel would have done the trick. I could have got grumpy about it and let it ruin my evening (since it happened at the very end of the day) but I didn’t. I came back the next morning tightened the bezel and got the watch to pass the water test. The watch would look better with a new bezel, next time the customer gets their watch serviced the bezel will be worn enough they will need a new one for sure.

Problem number two was an vintage manual wind which needed significant hairspring adjustment. While manipulating the hairspring it broke at the stud. I knew it would be difficult to get a new balance and hairspring for this watch, but I didn’t stress. I knew I could fix the problem. I set it aside and tackled it the next morning. I re-pinned the hairspring at the stud, adjusted the collet to put the watch back into beat, trued the hairspring, re-regulated the watch and ta-da, it is working like a charm again. Stuff happens, but you get over it.

So, why am I telling you this? I think my blog lost focus. I share my experiences to let people know why I am a watchmaker, how I got interested in this wonderful profession, and why I keep doing it. Watchmaking is cool. You should be a watchmaker. Well, if you find this stuff interesting, have some patience, and a mechanical aptitude for working with small components, then you might consider watchmaking.

I’m working on a series of posts about the fundamentals of watches and the profession. They might be spread out a little bit, but they’ll be coming. The first one will be on mainsprings, I’ll try and cover some of the basic components of a watch and what makes them tick 🙂

Oh, and of course your always welcome to show your support by making a simple donation.

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  1. Perdita
    Posted October 12, 2008 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Good post. We just started hairsprings and smaller caliber watches, and there have been a few days lately when I’ve wondered: “how did I ever think I would be any good at this?”

    Of course, I just keep going and learning from mistakes, and it never seems so bad once the problem is solved. I’ve found it is always important to remember that even the teachers and professionals make mistakes and have bad things happen, and it is not the end of the world when they do happen.

    The key is patience, certainly. This is not a job for someone without lots of patience, especially with one’s own errors. I agree this is indeed a wonderful profession, and I feel fortunate to have found what I feel is my “calling.”

  2. Prem
    Posted October 12, 2008 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jp,
    ‘Don’t fret when you are getting wet’
    Watchmaking is similar, if you feel like you are losing it over some watch, put it aside!! No, seriously, my Master Trainer always said this, do it the next day, and his advice was oh-so true. Whenever I have worked on something perforce, something bad happens. But, when you are in a more relaxed approach to it, you find the solutions straightaway!! Some realise these follies, and again, some do not, all part of the patience game and watchmaking is definitely for patient ones.
    Btw, I have mailed you a little something, please do comment- or e-mail me, cheers matey!

  3. Aaron
    Posted October 12, 2008 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    I just want to say thanks for having this blog! I don’t know why it took me so long to find it but I’m glad I did.

    I will be going to the original WOSTEP School in Switzerland next fall and it is great to read about people that have went to and are going to the WOSTEP schools in the USA. I’m sure I can learn a lot from this blog before I even go to Watchmaking school.
    Plus it gets me quite excited to start.

    Is there anyone else who has been to the Swiss school? I was there last November to take my test to get in and I found out I was accepted 2 weeks after taking the test. They only accept 6 people every 2 years unlike LWT and Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking School.

    Anyways, I am so excited about going and this blog is making things much better. Thanks to all of the watchmakers who contribute to this site.

    If I posted this in an unappropriate area I apologize!

  4. J.Peter
    Posted October 12, 2008 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Perdita, all of this watchmaking stuff comes with patience. Unfortunately or fortunately you will have to continue learning on the job. Hopefully some of this can come from continual education sources.

    Prem, thanks for the advice. That is a practice I follow whenever I can. I always try to give myelf time for a mishap or backordred part when I schedule a job that way the worst thing that happe a is I have to let the customer know their watch is ready early 🙂

    Aaron, congratulations on your acceptance to Wostep in Switzerland. I hope to make it out there for their complications course before I am a loony old watchmaker. This is a great profession. I hope you will stick around the blog and comment often. Will you be traveling there from the U.S or are you from somewhere else? Your English is great.

  5. Aaron
    Posted October 12, 2008 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Actually I am Canadian! We don’t have any schools that are certified by WOSTEP (I’m sure you knew that) so I decided to apply there. I was going to apply to LWT or NGHWS but when I looked into it they said they wouldn’t help me get a visa so I would have to get it on my own. I thought that was kinda crappy but oh well. I just wish I could get my tuition fees paid for over there. I think WOSTEP in Switzerland would probably be the best anyway considering I will be right in the heart of the origin of “Swiss Made”!!

  6. Perdita
    Posted October 13, 2008 at 8:41 pm | Permalink


    We actually have two Canadian students here in the Seattle school, at North Seattle Community College. Did you apply there?

    Still, I am sure it will be fantastic to go to Switzerland. I hope you have a great time there.

  7. Aaron
    Posted October 18, 2008 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    I was going to apply there but I decided to apply in switzerland first and I ended up getting in so it worked out for me.

    I was also reading about some of the US schools and from what I could tell, I needed a bunch of knowledge about US history to get in and I would have to take some other classes as well which didn’t really appeal to me all that much.

  8. Anthony R. Moxley
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I too, am truly glad a found this site. I’ve been collecting clocks and watches for about ten years or more, but only started learning to repair them, maybe two years ago. I wish I could afford to go to school, but have decided to do it the hard way. Just learning about the tools and how they work has been very exciting for me. This is the most interesting passion I’ve come across. For me, it’s been better than making music, restoring sports cars, breeding dogs, and equal to writing poetry, because watch making is poetic. My only regret is that it’s taken me so long to find my true calling. I’ve managed to repair maybe two dozen watches, which I’m selling from an antiques store on the other side of the island. Yes, I’m living in Hawaii, which makes it impossible to attend school, but I can dream!

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