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Frequently Asked Questions: Vintage Watch Repair

How do I get a repair estimate for my vintage or antique watch?
Just follow the instructions located here to obtain a no-obligation estimate for the repair of your vintage watch.
Do you guarantee your vintage watch repair work?
All of our watch repairs carry a one year guarantee... that's one of the best vintage watch guarantees in the business! You can read all the details of our guarantee by clicking here.
Do you give free repair estimates?
No, we do not. Doing a detailed examination and estimate for a vintage watch repair takes time. We require an estimate deposit which covers the time required to perform a complete examination and estimate, and also covers return insured shipping in the event that our repair estimate is not accepted. If our estimate is accepted, then the full amount of the estimate deposit is applied toward the repair. Complete information on getting a repair estimate may be found here
Do you have parts to repair my vintage pocketwatch?
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That depends entirely on the watch and which parts are needed. We have in stock, or can obtain, replacement parts for many of the more common watch brands, though sometimes an extensive part search is required (more often these days, it seems). Parts may either be new old-stock, or used parts taken from an identical watch movement. In some cases we are just not able to find the parts needed to complete a particular repair (see below "what if you can't fix my watch").
Is my vintage pocket watch worth repairing?
That's a question that only you can answer. If your watch is a family heirloom that you've inherited, then it may have sentimental value that, for you, makes it worth repairing at almost any price. We can tell you what it is going to cost to repair your watch, and we're always willing to share our opinion about whether a watch is a good candidate for repair, but whether it is "worth it" to proceed with a repair is a decision that only you can make.
If I send you a picture (or serial number) of my pocket watch, can you provide me with a repair estimate?
Sorry, but no we can't. We are unable to provide an estimate without actually seeing the watch. In fact, in order to protect our computers from unwanted viruses, we don't even open email attachments from unknown senders, so please save us both some time by not sending photos of your watch. A photograph is simply not able to convey what may be wrong with the internal mechanisms of a watch.
How do I know if my vintage watch needs to be serviced?
If your watch isn't working, then it obviously needs service. But it may need to be serviced even if it seems to be working properly. We often have people tell us, "I found my great grandpa's old railroad pocket watch, and it ran great for a while but then I heard something snap and now it won't run anymore." Now just think about that for a minute. Would you take grandpa's old model-A Ford out of the barn where it had been sitting idle for the past 50 years, and start it up and try to drive off down the road without making sure that the engine was in good condition and that everything was properly lubricated? Of course not! But many people do essentially the same thing with a delicate piece of machinery like a 100 year old watch without so much as a second thought. If your watch hasn't been serviced in years, or maybe even decades, then it needs to be properly serviced before being used. Running a watch "dry and dirty" is a sure way to cause damage that could significantly increase the expensive of repair.
How long will my vintage watch repair take?
Repairing a 100 year old watch made by a company that went out of business 75 years ago isn't like getting your washing machine fixed. Unfortunately, we can't just phone the factory and have them send us the new parts we need. (you might be surprised how many times I've heard a customer suggest that). As such, there's a fairly wide range in how long a repair can take depending on whether or not parts are required and/or available. Repairs that are in for simple services like a crystal replacement can often be completed in only a few days, while difficult repairs requiring an extensive search for parts can take much longer. Each watch is serviced in the order received, and we give each watch the attention it deserves when its turn for service comes. We are always willing to answer questions about the status of your repair, and your patience will be rewarded with a watch that's been repaired carefully and correctly!
Is there a faster way to get my watch repaired?
Many of our customers come to us because they know our reputation for doing the highest-quality work, or have been turned down by 2 or 3 other shops who tell them their watch is no longer fixable, or that parts can't be found. The reason those other shops reject these repairs is because they are not easy. They take a lot of time, a lot of searching for parts, and a lot of custom "fitting and adjustment" work. Sometimes a repair that starts out as a straightforward cleaning can turn into a bigger project if we discover a broken part or an internal problem that must be corrected. When this happens, we work through the problems to get the repair done right... and that takes time.
Can I pay extra for "RUSH" service on my watch repair?
We do not offer expedited repair service. We service our watches in the order received. When someone asks us to "rush" their watch, what they are really asking is to jump to the head of the line, and that is simply not fair to the customers who have been waiting for their repair. We're always a bit perplexed when Grandpa's watch that has been sitting idle in the dresser drawer for 30 years suddenly has to be overhauled within the next 2 weeks in time for Junior's graduation.
When I contacted you about my vintage watch, you said you were not accepting repairs at the present time. Why not?
We have a reputation for doing excellent work on vintage watches, and the demand for our services consistently exceeds our repair capacity. We almost always have more requests for repair work than we can fulfill, and we would rather provide excellent repair service for fewer watches than increase our repair volume by sacrificing quality. Each repair we accept is done carefully and properly, and we don't take short-cuts to save time. When our work backlog gets too long, we feel it is more fair to our customers to hold off on accepting new repairs until such time as we get "caught up". If your request for repair was declined, please don't take it personally, and feel free to check back with us in the future. We apologize that we can't take every repair, but it is an unfortunate reality of too many watches and not enough highly-skilled vintage watchmakers!
I'm going to be in the Seattle area. May I drop my antique watch off at your shop?
We're sorry, but we do business only through the Internet and mail. The primary reasons for this are insurance liability and security, but we have also found that we get more watches repaired if we aren't dealing with a steady stream of drop-in customers. By being mail-order only we also keep our overhead low, and those savings can be passed on to our customers in the form of better repair prices. We realize that some customers are reluctant to mail their watch, but after hundreds of watches, we've never had a properly packaged watch lost or damaged in the mail.
Can you provide a repair estimate for my antique watch repair if I email some pictures?
Sorry, but no. We must do a hands-on inspection of your watch in order to determine what's wrong with it so that we can provide an accurate repair estimate. Most of the pictures we receive (and we receive quite a few) are so big and blurry that we can barely make out the watch, let alone determine what's wrong with it... so they are essentially worthless for determining what's wrong with a watch. If this policy seems unreasonable, please try emailing your mechanic a big, blurry picture of your car next time it breaks down and see if he or she is able to tell you what's wrong with it and what it will cost to fix it.

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How should I package and ship my pocket watch to you?
We recommend that you wrap the watch in bubble wrap or other well-padded material, and then place it in the center of a small box with additional padding around it. If you just place the watch by itself in the box of styro-peanuts, the watch will quickly "sink" to the bottom and you'll have a very nice box of peanuts with an unprotected watch bouncing around at the bottom. Please send only the watch and do not include the box from the jewelry store, or other items (chains, fobs, etc). We have had great success using US Postal Service Priority Mail with delivery confirmation and insurance, but you may send via the insured shipper of your choice. We prefer that you do not send using registered mail, since the mailman will not deliver a registered package to our PO Box. This requires us to make a special trip to the main post office and thus delays our receipt of your watch. Please be sure to include a note with your name, address, phone number and email so that we know how to contact you with your estimate.
How will you ship my vintage watch back to me?
Our preferred method of shipment is US Postal Service Priority Mail with delivery confirmation and insurance, and that is the method we use unless you specifically request another method. We will gladly accommodate your request if you have a specific shipping method that you prefer to use, though additional shipping charges may apply.
Shouldn't I find a local watchmaker instead of mailing my watch to you?
It used to be that every town had a skilled watchmaker or two, but that is no longer the case. Mechanical watch repair, especially antique watch repair, has become a very specialized skill with fewer and fewer skilled practitioners. It is much more important that you find a good watchmaker with plenty of experience with vintage watches than to find a close or convenient watchmaker, especially when you're talking about the restoration of a family heirloom. So don't eliminate a watchmaker from consideration just because they don't live in your hometown; we are really just as close as your mailbox!
Should I take my vintage watch to a jewelry store for service?
Taking your vintage watch to a random jewelry store is probably one of the WORST ways to get your watch serviced. Now before I get a lot of angry emails from jewelry store owners, let me state that I'm sure that there are jewelry stores who still employ a skilled watchmaker... but they are getting to be few and far between! There was a time when every jewelry store had a skilled watchmaker on staff, but that is no longer the case. Many jewelers still claim that they repair watches, but most actually send all mechanical (wind-up) watches out to someone else, or they have someone on staff who's pretty good at changing batteries, but doesn't have a clue how to repair a mechanical watch. So chances are, you'll either end up paying a lot more for your repair by having a "middle man" in the transaction, or you'll get bad results. Of course, if you know that your jeweler has a top-notch watchmaker on staff, then by all means use them... but be sure to ask a few questions before leaving your valuable watch with just any random jewelry store.
How often should I have my antique pocket watch serviced?
That depends on how the watch is used. The main enemies of your watch are dirt, moisture and lack of lubrication. If you carry (or wear) your watch daily, it is going to need service sooner than if you have it on display under a glass dome, or tucked away in a drawer. We recommend servicing a regularly-used watch every 2-3 years, and for a watch that is on display or used only occasionally every 5 years. Even the finest lubricants (which we use) will dry out after a number of years, so 5 years is about the longest you can go and still hope to have some lubrication on the watch.
What if you can't fix my vintage pocketwatch?
As much as we would like to believe that we can fix anything that comes through the door, that is simply not the case. Our acceptance of your watch for repair is not a guarantee that we can fix it; but it is a guarantee that we will make our best effort to do so. We do occasionally encounter situations where we accept a watch for repair that turns out to require parts that cannot be obtained, or we discover another reason why the repair cannot be completed. In those cases, we will return the watch to you and you will not be charged for any parts of the repair that we were unable to complete (your estimate deposit is non-refundable). The one exception is if you have had us arrange for or purchase outside services for your watch, such as case repair or dial refinishing. In those cases, you will still be responsible for all outside-service charges for work that has been completed whether or not we are able to complete the mechanical repair of your watch.
What is included in a Clean-Oil-Adjust watch service?
We do our clean-oil-adjust (COA) watch service the old-fashioned way, except we've added the advantages of modern tools, lubricants, and techniques. First your vintage watch is completely disassembled. Then the watch is thoroughly cleaned in a multi-step ultrasonic cleaning process. Cleanliness is critically important to the proper operation of your watch. Once clean, we can begin the reassembly of your watch. Each part is carefully inspected, adjusted, and lubricated as the watch is reassembled. We use as many as 5 different types of watch lubricants while reassembling your watch, and use only the finest synthetic horological lubricants. Once the movement is assembled, we thoroughly clean and polish the watch case. Final assembly consists of re-attaching the dial and hands, and re-casing the watch . Each watch is then timed on an electronic watch timing-machine for best-possible timekeeping. Finally, we give each watch at least a 30-hour "run in" period to ensure proper operation and good timekeeping. We know that there are cheaper and faster ways to clean a watch (like the "dip and swish" cleanings offered by some shops), but we don't know any better way to ensure that the job has been done properly.
You said my pocket watch needs a new mainspring, but the mainspring in my watch isn't broken. Why do I need a new one?
The mainspring is the "gas" in your watch's gas tank: It's the motive power source that drives the watch. Many of the older pocket watches are driven by strong "blue-steel" mainsprings that can soften and lose their resiliency after many cycles of being wound and unwound. When this happens, watchmakers say the mainspring is "set," and it will no longer provide enough power to properly run the watch. New alloy mainsprings are not as prone to this condition, but they can also require periodic replacement. Click here to see a picture of a new vs. a "set" mainspring.
Why does your warranty not cover certain items like broken pivots?
Broken pivots (the tiny "tips" of the balance staff) are only caused by one thing: IMPACT! A broken balance pivot or cracked balance jewel is a sure sign that a watch has been dropped, or that it has undergone some other significant shock that was severe enough to cause the pivot or jewel to break. We have never seen a balance pivot break on its own under normal use. As clearly stated in our guarantee, damage caused by impact or abuse is not covered, so if you send your repaired watch back to us with a broken balance staff or shattered jewels, it will NOT be a warranty repair.
Can you repair my damaged watch case?
The difference between watch repair and case repair is like the difference between the mechanic who repairs your car's engine, and the shop that does the body work when you have a dented fender. They are completely different trades. We do not do major case repair in-house, but we have an established relationship with an excellent manufacturing jeweler who can handle some of our repairs. For those repairs that we can't handle locally, we will gladly provide you with a reference to a case specialist upon request.
Can you refinish my worn or damaged pocket watch dial?
That depends. If you have an enamel dial (sometimes incorrectly called "porcelain") on your watch that is badly cracked or chipped, there is really nothing that can be done for it other than superficial repair. Cracks in enamel are like cracks in glass; they can be cleaned or glued, but you can't make the crack go away. It is often the dirt in the crack that makes the dial look bad, and many dials can be cleaned up to where cracks are much less noticeable.
If you have a metal dial on your pocket or wrist watch, it can be refinished to "near new" condition. We do not refinish dials in-house, but send them out to the best dial refinisher in the country. They do beautiful work and can work wonders on your old, faded dial. To learn more about vintage pocket watch dials, click here.
Is dial refinishing a good idea for my vintage watch?
Professional dial refinishing can produce a result that looks "nearly new." By "nearly new" we mean that the dial will probably not look as perfect as a factory original, but it will look darn good! An expert could likely tell that it was refinished, but most non-experts could not. It is a great option for worn, faded, or stained metal dials where a significant improvement in cosmetic appearance is desired. Dial refinishing is only possible on metal dials; enamel dials cannot be refinished.
If your goal is absolute originality, then you should not refinish your dial. Some collectors would consider a refinished dial as "inferior" to an original dial, and a refinished dial may adversely impact the value of a collectible watch. The dial refinisher will match the details of the dial as closely as possible, and they have dial "prints" for tens of thousands of dials. But they don't have every variant of every dial for every watch... so minor changes in font size or style, dial signature, color, and other design details are always a possibility. If you want your dial to be precisely "the way it was before" then you would be better to keep it as is and not refinish it.
How accurate will my vintage watch be after it has been serviced? Do you guarantee the accuracy of my watch?
Some vintage watches are capable of extremely accurate timekeeping and some are not. We can only bring the watch up to its inherent level of accuracy based upon its current condition, and can't make it better than it was meant to be. That said, a good quality mechanical watch that is in good condition is capable of timekeeping within a few seconds a day, and most leave our shop keeping excellent time. As part of our clean-oil-adjust service, a watch is adjusted for best possible timekeeping. But since these are vintage watches, we make no guarantee as to the ongoing accuracy of any antique watch or its suitability for any particular timekeeping purpose.
I saw a watch repair site on the internet that charges less than you do for a cleaning. Why is that?
A quick search on the Internet will show that there are a wide range of prices being advertised for watch "repair" services. We have even heard about someone who advertised that they will "completely overhaul" your watch for $25! Didn't your mother teach you that when something seems too good to be true, it probably is?
Please consider this: mechanical watch repair, particularly antique watch repair and restoration, is a dying art. Parts are becoming more and more difficult to find, and there are fewer and fewer skilled watchmakers who really have the tools, skills and materials to keep these old watches alive. There are simply far more watches to repair than there are good watchmakers to repair them, and every skilled watchmaker that we know of with an established reputation for doing quality work has all the work they can handle and then some. So if someone is offering overly low prices simply in an effort to attract business, that likely speaks volumes about their experience and/or the quality of their work. We're not trying to put anyone down... just pointing out the realities of the marketplace.
There are some very fine vintage watchmakers out there but not all the people offering repair services have consistently high-standards for the work they do. I have seen more than one watch completely destroyed by botched repair work... and it is often impossible (or very expensive) to undo the damage caused by someone who didn't know what they were doing.
So before you entrust your valuable heirloom watch to just any watchmaker (including us), we encourage you to check the reputation carefully, ask questions, and please don't make your decision based on price alone. If you opt for that bargain basement overhaul, you will likely get exactly what you paid for, and your watch may never be the same.
Do you sell vintage watch parts and watch repair material?
No, we are not a vintage parts vendor. Our inventory of vintage parts is reserved for our own repair and restoration work.
We do make our huge inventory of SUC "Rocket Cylinder" vintage wrist watch crystals available to other watchmakers and watch hobbyists. We have nearly every shape and size of SUC crystal ever made. If you are a watchmaker or hobbyist and would like to order a specific SUC crystal, please click here.
My watch went through the washing machine. What should I do?
Unfortunately, rust is one of the leading destroyers of mechanical watches, so if your watch has been exposed to water, you should get it to a watchmaker as soon as possible! This is especially true if the watch has also been exposed to detergent, as the phosphates in most modern detergents can be very corrosive. Look carefully to recover any parts that may have come off the watch. If you can find the crystal, hands, or other parts that may have fallen off, you'll save yourself significant expense when you have the watch repaired. But don't wait. Get the watch to a skilled watchmaker right away if you want to save it.
Do you repair Rolex watches?
We do not repair modern Rolex watches, because we, like many other skilled independent watchmakers, cannot obtain genuine spare parts from Rolex. Rolex has closed hundreds of spare-parts accounts in the past few years. Watchmakers who have had Rolex parts accounts for decades have suddenly been told they are no longer "qualified" to repair Rolex watches. In fairness, Rolex is not alone in this practice as many other watch brands also restrict the availability of parts to independent watchmakers. In particular, Bertolucci, Blancpain, Cartier, Hublot, Mont Blanc, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, Breguet, and Bulgari are particularly restrictive in their parts policies. These manufacturers claim that only their own watchmakers are qualified to service their watches, which is both dishonest and patently ridiculous. We believe the practices of many watch manufacturers to be monopolistic and restrictive of free trade, and these practices damage the consumer. Only fair-market competition will keep quality and prices under control for the watch-buying public. Before you buy that expensive mechanical watch, ask the seller if the maker of the watch will provide repair parts and technical information to the independent watchmakers of your choosing. If they won't, why would you buy their product?. Click here to learn more about the unfair practices of watch manufacturers.
Do you repair modern, battery-powered quartz watches?
Our repair work is focused on the repair and restoration of vintage mechanical (wind-up) watches, particularly American pocket watches. Sorry, but If it has a battery we don't service it.
Do you repair clocks?
We repair LeCoultre Atmos clocks and we repair mechanical aircraft clocks, which are really very similar to the mechanism in a high-grade watch. But we do not repair other antique mechanical clocks. We've got plenty of work to keep us busy servicing vintage watches!
Do you repair replica watches?
No, we definitely do not. "Replica" is just a nice name for "counterfeit" and we do not support the counterfeiting of goods. The sellers of replica watches rip-off their customers by selling them a cheaply made watch for which there are no repair parts available. They also rip-off the companies whose watches they copy. The sellers of these fake watches don't have any intention of standing behind their product. If you buy a replica (counterfeit) watch you'll get even less than you paid for.
Do you repair "cylinder" or "cylindre" watches?
No we do not. The cylinder escapement was quite advanced when it was invented in the 1600's, but it fell out of use in the late 18th century as it was supplanted by the far more efficient and accurate English Lever escapement. Some cylinder watches continued to be manufactured until the late 1800s. We find that, in most cases, the cylinder watches we run across are not good candidates for restoration and can seldom be made into good timekeepers (there is just too much friction in the constant-contact cylinder escapement). We also find that the cost of restoration often exceeds the value of the watch (just try finding someone to make a cylinder staff from scratch). As such we have made the decision to not repair cylinder watches.
Do you repair fusee (chain-drive) watches?
We are not accepting repairs for verge fusee watches at this time as they are very time-consuming repairs (thus very expensive) and can seldom be made to keep excellent time. While a fusee watch is always a fascinating and challenging restoration project, they are just not the best use of our limited resources. As such, we prefer to concentrate our repairs on those watches that can be restored to good working condition in reasonable time and with reasonable cost to our customers.
Do you sell pocket watch accessories?
We offer watch accessories including glass display domes and watch display stands so that you can proudly display your beautiful watch. Keeping your watch under a glass dome is an excellent way to both display it and keep it in a dust-free environment. Click here to go to our accessories page.
What is your return policy for watch accessories?
If for any reason you are not happy with your purchase, just return the item in new condition, and we will gladly refund your purchase price less shipping and a 20% restocking charge.
 

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