Professional Jeweler Archive: Realistic Holiday Repairs

November 2001

Timepieces/Education & Repair

Realistic Holiday Repairs

Don't promise more than you can deliver

We know Christmas has almost arrived when a customer walks into our store and says: “I am bringing this antique watch to you early. I would like to have it repaired so I can give it as a Christmas gift. I’ll pick it up Dec. 23.”

Unfortunately, it’s already Dec. 15, and the customer is disappointed when we politely tell him our cut-off date for work that involves overhauls of antique and vintage timepieces was in early October. Any such repairs coming in after that date may or may not be ready for Christmas.

Truth in Delivery

It’s better to tell the truth when you can’t promise a watch repair for a specific holiday. We must temper our desire to please our customers with a realistic time frame in which repairs can be completed. It’s better to disappoint a customer initially than to cause bitter disappointment by making a promise now that can’t be kept later.

Under ordinary circumstances, it’s difficult to predict accurately how long it will take to complete an overhaul of an older watch. We must always be aware spare parts may be difficult to locate or may be on back-order for weeks or months. And unanticipated problems with the repair itself may cause a watchmaker to spend much more than the estimated time to make the watch run satisfactorily. These two circumstances alone can delay a repair for weeks without any distractions caused by the rush of holiday business.


We suggest a compromise for customers with older watches during the holiday season. We invite them to leave the watch for repair and tell them it might be ready for the holiday. If not then they can give it as a gift for Valentine’s Day, a birthday, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. If the customer accepts, everyone wins. The shop gets the work, without any holiday pressure, and the customer will have the watch ready to give as a gift without worrying whether it will be ready on time.

Don’t get too upset if your customer doesn’t understand or accept your rationale. Some customers just can’t accept our limitations. One customer in particular comes to mind. He brought in a vintage wrist watch for a complete overhaul 10 days before Father’s Day and asked that it be ready for that holiday. Of course there was no way it could be done, but this customer had a fall-back position. Could it be ready for July 4 instead? Again we said no. OK, how about Christmas if the watch was brought in around Thanksgiving? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I suggested he leave the watch now and it would be ready in five or six weeks for use at any future holiday. The customer said it was a good idea and he would think about it. He’s never returned, but I do believe I’ll see the watch in December.

Be realistic when you plan your holiday season. Don’t promise more than you can deliver. Don’t overwork yourself or your staff. Enjoy the holidays and your business. There will still be plenty of work after the holiday season.

– Jack Kurdzionak, The Watchmaker, Stoneham, MA

©2001 Jack Kurdzionak
Jack Kurdzionak owns The Watchmaker, a watch retail and repair store in Stoneham, MA. He is a certified watchmaker, a columnist for Horological Times and second vice president of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute. Send suggestions and comments to Professional Jeweler, 1500 Walnut St., Suite 1200, Philadelphia, PA 19102;

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications