Automatic or Quartz?

August 1998

For Your Staff:Selling Timepieces

Automatic or Quartz?

For clear answers to complicated questions, start with the basics, then move on to the technical answers

By Paul White
Watch Division Director
Reis-Nichols Jewelers, Indianapolis

As a jewelry store employee who often also sells watches, your understanding of the terms "automatic," "self-winding," "mechanical" and "quartz" may be clear. But often that knowledge may not be conveyed to the customer in the best possible manner. Frequently, we merely recite a "laundry list" all the neat things a watch can do.

Instead, answers to consumers' questions about these watch types should quickly explain how or why each feature of the watch benefits them.

Particularly regarding the basics of quartz or automatic watches, customers often arrive with little knowledge of how either operates.

Despite the growing awareness of watch brands, younger customers, especially, may not even know watches without batteries exist. To them, winding a watch is a thing of the past. So when they hear about automatics, and learn that some of the "hot" brands are available as automatics, they are intrigued. Let me share with you some of the most-asked questions heard at the watch showcase with responses to these questions.

"I hear so much about self-winding timepieces. Are they better?"
It's not so much a question of better, it's a question of personal choice and how you wear your watch. Quartz watches dominate the market. But some watch purists might consider only a hand-wound or automatic watch – the self-winding variety – as the "genuine article."

Fine watchmaking is an art form and always has been. If the customer is the kind of person who appreciates the complexity of a fine working machine – a lifetime piece and heirloom – then he or she may really take to the special qualities of an automatic. I received one as a graduation gift from high school and still wear it 31 years later!

"Won't I have to wear it every day to keep it running?"
Self-winding (automatic) wrist watches feature an ingenious rotor system, much like a pendulum, that helps provide power to the watch. Your automatic watch certainly will not run if you don't wear it on a regular basis. Most self-winding watches will retain somewhere between 30-42 hours of power after they are set down. But they are easy to wind and reset to the correct time. Everything today is so fast-paced, we expect instant gratification at all levels. So taking the time to wind your watch occasionally seems a small price to pay for membership in an exclusive group of people who wear the finest examples of the watchmakers art.

"Why would I want an automatic? I don't wear my watch all the time."
In that case the customer may want a quartz timepiece. The majority of fine timepieces in our store are quartz. They give you accurate time without winding. They are convenient, slim and may be generally less expensive. The only time you'll be inconvenienced is about every two years when the battery runs down.

Instruct your customer to bring the watch back so you can install a new battery and gaskets and pressure-test the watch to ensure its water resistance. Point out it's a modest service charge and offer a loaner while the customer's is in the shop. Say the watch will be ready the next day, and make sure it is.

I'm sure your own experiences are similar. Our goal is always to have a well-informed consumer. It helps your sales effort to work with customers who really understand what you're talking about and what they're buying.

Next month: Building a Watch Wardrobe.

Each month Paul White relates sales tips for retailers who want to sell more watches. If you have suggestions, questions or specific examples from your store, contactProfessional Jeweler, 1500 Walnut St., Suite 1200, Philadelphia, PA, 19102, e-mail


Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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