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September 1999

Timepieces Education & Repair

Basic Take-in Procedures, Part I

At the front counter, your initial and efficient observations can add professionalism to your store's watch-repair reputation

Accepting a watch for a service or repair estimate can be a bit disconcerting if you're caught in the middle between the customer and the watchmaker. You want your customer to have a fair estimate of the work needed and the fee charged, and you don't want to delay the process by waiting for an estimate. Yet you don't want to compromise your watchmaker or your store by misdiagnosing the problem or the cost to remedy it.

A few observations and a few well-considered questions will help you service your customers in an efficient, knowledgeable and considerate manner. This month, we'll start with the initial procedures you should use when a customer leaves the timepiece in your store. Next month, we'll move on to follow-up procedures.

Condition: Watch Is Running
Watches arrive in two basic conditions: running but in need of some repair and not running. First, take a good look at the watch. Is it running? If so, is it on time?

If it's on time, then ask why the customer brought it in for service, if he or she hasn't already told you. Here are four possibilities:

  • It needs periodic servicing to maintain performance.
  • The battery is nearing time for replacement.
  • It's time for a routine gasket replacement to maintain the integrity of the watch case.
  • The customer is having problems winding the watch or pulling out the crown to set the time or the calendar. This likely indicates the stem is rusted and the watch movement needs to be serviced. In addition, it's possible the gaskets should be replaced (if there are any), the stem should be replaced and possibly the crown needs to be replaced.

If it's a mechanical watch and it's not on time, then you'll need to ask how fast or slow it's running. If it's within a minute a day, the watch needs to be regulated by your watchmaker. If the variation is greater than one minute per day, the movement needs to be serviced.

Condition: Watch Is Not Running
The watch may not be running for several reasons. Here are some things to check:

  • Use a battery tester if the watch has a battery. Replace the battery if need be. If the watch still doesn't work, turn the hands around the dial a couple of times. Often this will loosen the internal motion works and allow the watch to resume running. If that doesn't do it, the movement needs servicing.
  • Look with a loupe or just very carefully to see whether the hands seem to catch on one another or on a dial marker? At the same time, note whether some of the markers are loose and floating around the dial? This would require a relatively minor repair procedure. Notify your watchmaker or service repair center.
  • If the watch is mechanical, the crown may be too smooth or too small to grasp after winding each day. Younger or smaller fingers often can't wind these usually difficult crowns. If the watch starts running and keeping correct time, suggest your customer invest in a new, larger crown.
  • If the mechanical watch won't run, it probably needs servicing.

We'll look at more aspects of this procedure next month, as well as cover inspections you can perform to locate problems on the case, bracelet, crown, dial and elsewhere.

– By David Christianson Certified Master Watchmaker, President, American Watchmakers - Clockmakers Institute

David Christianson is fourth-generation owner of Christianson Jewelry, Kendallville, IN. In addition to serving as president of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute, he is a certified master watchmaker and a fellow of the British Horological Society. Christianson discusses watch repair for the sales staff in this column each month. Send questions, suggestions and comments to Professional Jeweler, 1500 Walnut St., Suite 1200, Philadelphia, PA 19102;

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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