The following article appeared in the Jeweler's Circular
-Weekly and Horological Review from April 13th, 1910. Courtesy of
the NAWCC Library and Kent Singer for scanning it.
The Horological Review was a trade magazine, and as such, there
is some jargon that they assume all watchmakers will know, but I don't
think other people will lose much because of it. The differences in
writing styles, grammar and even spelling (see 'employe') between 1910
and now is interesting, as well as the differences in prices.
The Watch, the Customer, the Repairer and his Employer.
Regrettable as it is, the general belief of the public is that
watchmakers are a body of harassed and overworked mechanics, and their
nervous temperament is attributed by laymen to the nature of their
It is well known among men in the profession, however, that a
watchmaker who understands his trade thoroughly does not find his work
laborious, monotonous or detrimental to his nervous system. On the
contrary, a good watch repairer finds his work interesting; he puts
life into something that is literally dead and useless, and after his
work has been performed, the timepiece again becomes an essential
factor in the modern system.
It is the speed under which the repairer is demanded to execute his
skill that enervates him. The indiscreet judgment, the demands of
the public and, in many cases, of his employer are the things that add
to his tribulations.
A good watch repairer will find pleasure in putting a watch in
first-class condition if he is allowed ample time to do the work, but
his employer frequently fails to prepare his customer to pay for the
time that is required for such work. The employer will generally give
an estimate on the repair haphazardly, and promise a satisfactory
result. When he hands over the job to his watchmaker the price is
plainly marked on the tag, and that suffices to instruct the
watchmaker as to how much time he may spend on the watch. Let us
assume the price is marked $1 for a mainspring.
The watch is taken apart, and besides the broken mainspring there is a
tooth broken in the barrel (which is very likely to be the case).
That means a loss to the employer, and naturally it means that the
watchmaker must put on more speed and hurry through the job.
A watch is sometimes given to the repairer by his employer with
instructions to clean and regulate it. The price is placed at $1.50.
When the watch is taken apart the conscientious repairer sees at once
that the balance staff (that has been maltreated by a former repairer)
must be replaced by a new one, jewel holes must be fitted properly,
the jewel pin is several degrees too small for the notch in the fork,
some train pivots must be repolished and their respective holes
closed, the side-shake must be taken up, and several other jobs which
the repairer knows are essential in order to obtain the results
demanded by the owner of the watch.
Lack of foresight on the part of his employer, however, does not
justify him in doing all that is required. He is compelled to
economize his time. Instead of polishing three pivots he will polish
only one; he will perhaps change the jewel pin, but the extravagance
of replacing the balance staff is out of reason, for that job not only
requires the labor and time of the workman but also an extra money
expenditure which is generally avoided by a considerate employe [sic].
The final outcome of such jobs is detrimental to the repairer's peace
of mind, and robs the boss and his employe [sic] of their fraternal
understanding, for it is an inevitable occurrence that such jobs are
eventually brought back to the store accompanied by that well-known
song and dance that is freely given to a watchmaker if the job is
If the customer is combative he will venture to add that all his watch
needed in the first place was regulating, and evidently he paid $1.50
for a job that was never executed. Such remarks are apt to put a
crimson flush on the repairer's face and discourage the best of
workmen. As for the boss, who has by this time either forgotten or
was never aware of the fact that his watchmaker had difficulties to
make both ends meet on the job, owing to the lack of time, he offers
reasonable excuses to his customer -- assures him of positive
satisfaction, and this time without charge, if he will leave the watch
for a few days observation. Then the employer is ready to put the
whole blame on his watchmaker for not properly timing the repairs.
Such are mainly the conditions that cause the discomforts of the
employer and add to the trails of the man at the bench.
Every competent repairer is willing to do good work, but his desire is
in many cases blocked by certain limitations and restrictions. It is
impossible to obtain high-grade results from a low grade watch. There
are certain grades of watches that are not modeled for close
timekeeping, and in order to obtain the results, which some laymen
expect from such timepieces it would require several days' labor of a
skilled repairer, who would have to reconstruct the watch.
It would be a great aid to the man at the workbench if his employer
would instruct his customers concerning the results to be expected
from his watch.
A low-grade cylinder movement cannot be timed as closely as a 17-jewel
movement, nor can a seven-jewel movement be adjusted to heat and cold
or time in five positions.
Such facts must not be left unexplained to the owner of a watch.
Every watch can be put in running order, but real accurate time can be
obtained only from a movement that was modeled to give such time.
It seems strange that watchmakers have failed to inaugurate a system
similar to that adopted in other trades. A plumber, for example,
seldom gives estimates on repairs before the job is completed. He
invariably takes his time in doing the job, and charges for his labor
in proportion to the time rendered, regardless of the result of the
The watchmaker is less fortunate. If a watch is taken in to be
repaired and the price is fixed at $1.50, the time spent on such a job
by the repairer is generally an expenditure to the boss of 75 cents,
material averages 15 cents on each repair, and benzine, oil, light and
rent 25 cents, leaving 35 cents as a net profit for the "boss" under
the most favorable conditions. For this sum of 35 cents he is
practically requested, owing to the prevailing custom, to hand over to
his customer a paid-up insurance policy on his watch for one year!
Such are the present difficulties that confront the watch repairer.
He must determine how to do justice to his profession, to his boss and
to the public.