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No Parts? No $ervice...


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A sign of the times...

Our county has a population of 130,000.  A few years ago there were two 'pro' watch repair shops in town, one had a repair guy that used to work for a rolex AD and the other had an AWI certified watch guy, both were very good.  Now there are none. 

 

Our slowly dying mall (adios Sears, JC Penney etc) has three jewelry stores and every one has to send a customer's watch out by mail to get repairs other than a new battery.  A friend owns one of the stores and he told me yesterday that the guy he has been sending high value mechanical watches to for repairs closed his shop recently because he did not want to chase high grade or 'in house' parts all over the internet and pay nose bleed prices for them.  The repair guy's wholesale customers simply would not/could not pay the high prices and still make a profit.  He told the jewelry store owner that his retail customers were no longer having many repairs done either...they were relying on smartwatches, quartz watches, or cell phones, and almost all had stopped wearing expensive mechanical watches.

 

Next town 15 miles away has a population of 470,000.  Last I heard there were 4 watch repair shops, one being a rlx AD.  All are reputed to be unfriendly, high priced, and hit or miss in quality of service. 

I know one super skilled guy 40 miles from here but now he only works on American railroad grade pocket watches, no wristwatches.  Another super good guy is about 50 miles away but you have to know him (I do not) and he is 'by appointment only', no walk-ins.  I heard he stays booked at least six months in advance. 

 

Yesterday the jewelry store owner asked me to look at a customer's vintage rlx AK with 15xx movement that had stopped running.  I looked it over and it needed c/o, balance staff, mainspring, case tube, crown, stem, crystal, gaskets, and spring bars.  I would not quote a price because I have watches of my own that need fixing first.  I talked to him today and he said he called a few shops that repair watches for the jewelry trade and told them what was needed for the watch.  The lowest quote was $1050 including insured return delivery.  They all justified their prices by the limited parts availability and high cost of parts. 

My guess is the watch will end up unrepaired in a dresser drawer.

 

No wonder replicas have hit The Big Time. 

 

 

 

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Parts availability will be the death of our watches, not unlike the dying of vintage cars.  Anyone have a layshaft for a Suffix "A" gearbox for my '63 Land Rover?  No?  Didn't think so.

 

I once sent my ultra-rare Gigandet chrono to a well known watchmaker in Canada that used to haunt these halls.  Someone had dropped it and broken a shaft.  He hunted for a couple years for a watch with that movement that could be sacrificed, and finally gave up.  In the end he made one with a lathe and sent it back working perfectly.

 

Watching Adrian here offering 800 and 702 crowns and now 6204 case sets brings a glimmer of hope.  I wonder if he'd be willing to work up some aftermarket reversing wheels for the 1030 auto-wind train?  With mine on the way out, my gen sits in the safe.

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"Parts availability will be the death of our watches, not unlike the dying of vintage cars."

 

True.

One big difference is when a vintage car has a handmade or aftmkt part it is still '100% correct' and has been 'restored with a non oem part or parts' and no one really cares as long as the part is same as original.

Otoh a vintage watch with a handmade or aftmkt part is deemed FAKE! and banned from the collector community...at least until it is sold at auction and regains credibility with watchsnobs.

 

 

"ultra-rare Gigandet chrono"

 

A friend had a Wakmann/Gigandet chrono wristwatch 20+ years ago (the pocket watch guy) and I could have traded into it for near nothing.  I passed on it of course like a dummy.

 

 

"I wonder if he'd be willing to work up some aftermarket reversing wheels for the 1030 auto-wind train?  With mine on the way out, my gen sits in the safe."

 

Another trouble prone part is the winding rotor bearing p/n 7004.  I had a spare and sold it like a dummy.  

 

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While the collectors turn their noses up at non-originality (and only consider Rolex' position if you want a bit of comedy with your morning coffee), many buyers of vintage watches are fine with non-originality, even to the point of redials.  I think this trend could win out, and I keep expecting to see more and more aftermarket parts appear as one-off production becomes easier, or fine tolerance machining in batches becomes more possible for small operations.

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Exactly right.  As more and more watch snobs put their prized pieces in safes because the part they need to repair it is simply not available anywhere ... will they finally crack and accept "perfect" aftermarket parts that can keep their babies in circulation?  Will greed or snobbery win out?

 

Fortunately, we're on the winning side of the equation.  Consider Slay's recent foray into "perfect" replacement hands.  And his Fat Font inserts.  Consider HH's perfect 5514 cases.  Consider the Phong Big Crown 6200 case that Daniel2000 has for sale.  Consider Adrian's 6204 case set project.  It's like low hanging fruit for the vintage connoisseur.

 

We're living in the candy shop, gents.  Vintage parts are ours for the taking.  Nothing is off limits, your imagination is king.  Enjoy the freedom to build what you want!  Before long we'll be infested with snobs from VRF asking how they can get in on the action, and "Who has the best Sub???".

 

Mark my words.

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