Archive for the ‘News’ Category
Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
Tourneau Honors Graduates of Watchmaker Program
On June 12, 2014, seven students successfully completed Tourneau’s new Watchmaker Program. The eight-week course explores the art of watchmaking, giving at-risk students in New York City the skills and knowledge they need to start a career as a professional watchmaker. The graduation ceremony marked the third session of the Tourneau Watchmaker Program, which was started in 2013. The next class of the Tourneau Watchmaker Program will begin in the fall.
Actor and Avid Watch and Clock Collector, Dead at 98
Eli Wallach, a famous character actor best known for his role as the Mexican bandit, Taco, in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,
a spaghetti Western from 1966 co-starring Clint Eastwood, died on June 24 at age 98.
The interest for readers of Horological Times is that Eli Wallach had a passion for collecting watches and clocks. His interest in collecting began when he was an officer during WWII and the interest continued through the years. As
Mr. Wallach pursued acting roles that took him to many countries, he had the opportunity to seek out-of-the-way flea markets and jewelry and watch stores that sold items from estate sales in America and across the globe. As a result, his collection was eclectic. He didn’t seek out specific brands or types of watches or clocks. According to a 2002 JCK article, Mr. Wallach didn’t collect “…for the investment or financial value of the timepiece—according to Wallach, he doesn’t even know what their appraised value is.” As his friends and work colleagues became aware of his hobby, they helped add to his collection by presenting him with gifts of watches or clocks. He received a blue Cartier cloisonné pyramid clock from Walter Matthau and his wife. Cheryl Crawford presented him with a Longines Automatic. Designer Nathan George Horwitt gave him an engraved Movado Museum watch. Sergio Leone, Italian director of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, presented
Mr. Wallach with a stainless steel Baume & Mercier with an unusual chain bracelet.
Wallach had displayed his collection at three separate venues in New York City over the years. In 1999 to commemorate Wallach’s 50 years in theater, he showed his collection at Tourneau’s Time Machine Store. He also brought his collection to Sotheby’s in the summer of 2001 for an American Watch Guild Event. The final time he showed his collection was at the July 2001 Concours d’Elegance, co-sponsored by the American Watch Guild at the Jewelers of America New York summer show. Part of the draw of seeing Mr. Wallach’s collection was also to hear the stories of how he found each piece, what movie or theater project he was working on at the time, or the circumstances of the gifts received from famous people. For a charity auction, he once donated a watch given to him by director Elia Kazan, raising $14,000.
Eli Wallach’s collection, which numbers over 100 pieces, has been stipulated by his will to go to the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City, where he began his acting career and was listed as vice president on the board of directors at the time of his death.
“Eli Herschel Wallach Biography” IMDb, July 3, 2014.
”Eli Wallach Dead: ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’ Actor Dies at 98″ by Bill Trott. Reuters, June 25, 2014.
“Eli Wallach, Veteran Character Actor, Dies at 98″ by Jake Coyle. The Associated Press, telegram.com, June 25, 2014.
“The Good, the Bad, and the Horological Eli Wallach’s Fascination with Watches” by William George Schuster, Senior Editor. JCK, March 1, 2002.
Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
By Donna Hardy and Henry Kessler
It is always sad to lose a friend, yet early this summer, we all lost one of the good guys. Paul Borel passed away on May 24. He would have become 62 in July. Having literally grown up in the watch industry, Paul served American watchmakers most of his life.
There are many Borel family members involved in Jules Borel, the business where Paul worked most of his life. Paul’s grandfather, Jules Borel, founded Jules Borel & Company in 1920. Several of Jules Borel’s children joined him in his business. One of his sons was Pete; Paul, Roger, and Becky are Pete’s children. Another of Jules’s sons was John; Gary and Bob Borel are John’s children. Mark was yet another son of Jules, and Kay is Mark’s daughter-in-law. Other family members were involved in the past, and younger generations are getting involved today. Paul was fortunate to be surrounded by so much family. Jules would have been proud of the work of his children, grandchildren, and other family members.
Over Paul’s 40 years at Jules Borel, he served as IT manager, and he was also a watch-parts expert. He served as a director of the Jewelry Industry Distributors Association (JIDA) and the Kansas City Swiss Society. He was also a member of the Oklahoma State University Watchmaking Advisory Committee and the AWCI Industry Advisory Board (IAB).
Bob Frei, Paul’s cousin, referred to Paul as a classic—yet fun and very athletic—computer geek. Paul was so athletic that one day he and Roger began racing as the two were descending the stairs of their multi-story offices in Kansas City. Unfortunately, Paul tripped on the way down, fell, and broke his leg! Paul’s love for computers served him well when managing the company’s computer operations, maintaining the watch-parts database, and watch materials department. While in his 20s and on a trip to Switzerland in 1973, Paul decided that he’d stay in Switzerland and work at Albert Froidevaux & Fils, where Bob Frei’s sister also worked. A*F is recognized as a worldwide distributor of watch parts. Paul studied the French language and took courses at the Bulova Watch Company. Upon his return to the United States in 1975, he joined Jules Borel & Co. full-time.
In the 1980s Paul worked with his brother Roger to capture watch case numbers and their corresponding case part number information. Initially, this was for internal purposes to assist in accurately filling orders from Borel’s inventory of over 100,000 items. Today this watch-parts database is available on the company’s website and is used daily by thousands of watchmakers around the country. This was Paul’s pride and joy.
Furthering his interest in computers, Paul took many courses in various program languages and operating systems. In the late 1970s, he moved to Miami, Florida, where he took courses in jewelry repair at the Stewart School, worked at the Borel Miami office, got married, and became manager of the Miami office upon the retirement of Frank Murray.
His interest in personal computers grew, and while in Miami he developed an order entry/invoice printing set of programs. His pride and enthusiasm was overwhelming when he got one of the early hard drives for a PC—a 20-megabyte Rodyne for $600.
In the late 1980s, Paul and Roger worked together to compile several widely used books of case-part number to case-part references, supplying these to BB/American Perfit Crystal Company and Froidevaux in Switzerland. These were the beginnings of the Borel parts database used today.
A unique aspect of this project was the use of a desktop publishing program Paul wrote that controlled the special escape codes for the early Hewlett-Packard laser printers. This was used for many years to create laser-quality hard copy for the Tick-Tock-Talks, ads, flyers, and drawer-front labels before the availability of PC publishing programs.
As a hobby, Paul loved to make large wall clocks and other items out of multicolored woods. These projects required precise cutting using his laser. He loved cooking, exercising, and conversation. He was friendly and had a positive outlook on life.
The family suggests donations be made to the Salvation Army or Old Mission United Methodist Church, Fairway, Kansas, where Paul was a lifelong member.
Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
NAWCC Chapter No. 1 Scholarship Grant
The Directors of the Philadelphia Chapter No. 1 of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Inc., cordially invite all interested and qualified individuals to apply for a Scholarship Grant to attend a recognized School of Horology in the US or an NAWCC Field Suitcase Workshop. Membership in the NAWCC by applicants is preferred but not required. One or more grant awards of up to $500 (five hundred dollars) are planned and may be used to cover all or part of the tuition and registration costs for a single course of study at a recognized School of Horology or a Field Suitcase Workshop. NAWCC Workshops and Suitcase Course listings are available at www.nawcc.org, as are listings of other recognized Schools of Horology in the US. Previous award recipients may be eligible for a second scholarship at the Directors’ discretion.
For a copy of the application form and more information, call Charles Buttz,
Scholarship Committee Chair, at 570-595-3306 or email him at ten.dtpnull@sretlehs.
Chelsea Clock Is Moving
Massachusetts-based Chelsea Clock, the country’s oldest maker of fine clocks, barometers, and tide instruments, will relocate its corporate headquarters, manufacturing operations, and repair facility from its original building at 284 Everett Avenue to 105 Second Street in the city of Chelsea. The company’s new home, just blocks from its current location, is owned by The Simboli Properties, and will undergo renovations to accommodate the needs of Chelsea Clock. Their ZIP Code will remain the same.
dir=”LTR” align=”JUSTIFY”>JK Nicholas, CEO of Chelsea Clock, says, “We are grateful to the city of Chelsea for their continuing support of our business and their cooperation in many of the details associated with moving a manufacturing operation to a new location.” A final move date has not been set, but is expected to be sometime in early 2015.
Chelsea Clock was founded in 1897 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and continues to produce a broad range of nautical and heirloom-quality clocks, with styles ranging from the company’s renowned Ship’s Bell to classic reproductions and contemporary timepieces.
Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
It has been quite an interesting journey these past two years while at the helm of the ship called “AWCI.” This will be my last president’s message, as I am only allowed to serve a maximum of two years as per our bylaws. While there were requests and attempts by certain members to extend the term of the president to a third year, the Board of Directors will be deciding this issue at the annual convention in Clinton,
Maryland, this August. At the time I am writing this column, this decision has not yet been made, and you will be informed of this matter in a subsequent issue of this magazine.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank our very own Terry Kurdzionak, who in her position as secretary has done an outstanding job of producing the minutes of our meetings as well as for her tireless efforts in organizing our annual convention. Thank you for your insight, your help, and your availability at all times to help with the running of our organization.
Also, a personal thanks to Herman Mayer and his team of instructors from the Lititz Watch Technicum for teaching the outstanding courses over the past year in our headquarters in Harrison, Ohio. On behalf of AWCI, I thank you for your generosity. Your in-kind contribution has helped the institute as well as its members. Most importantly, you have made a lasting impression on all the students who attended classes taught by your professional team.
Last but not least, I would like to thank the active members of the Spare Parts Directory Committee chaired by Drew Zimmerman for planning, contributing, and calling all the watch companies. Also a special thank you to Jordan Ficklin for the countless hours of work poured into this very important project and for taking care of the design and “electronic” side of it. The results of this project will be shared with the membership shortly.
Many of you may not know, but when I first joined this organization in 1997, I was under the impression that by joining the only professional watchmaking organization of its kind in North America, I would automatically be recognized as a professional by watch companies that would subsequently grant me a spare parts account. I quickly found this to be not the case. I was quite disappointed when companies continued to refuse supplying me with spare parts, and I lost many nights of sleep. For better or worse, I was not deterred by this and continued to be more involved with AWI (which became AWCI in 2004), where I chaired the committee with the same name, and the Spare Parts Directory list was first published in 2004. Times were different then and the list was published only once in our magazine. While this helped a small segment of our readership at the time, we have now done it again. However, this time it is available on our website for all of the world to see. First, watch owners will benefit from it most as they will know which brands supply parts and will thus make their watch-purchasing decisions accordingly. Second, watchmakers will use it to see which brands will offer support. This will affect their decision as to which brands to work on and therefore not waste their precious time on uncooperative and restrictive brands’ products. The services and skills of those who work to the highest standards are an irreplaceable asset to watch brands, and, conversely, those who do not yet adhere to this code can be considered to be counterproductive to the brand image as well as to the whole industry. And third, watch brands can visit this directory to view the policies of other, more successful, and, quite often, competing brands. While a brand can choose to restrict parts, ultimately those who make parts available to qualified and professionally minded individuals who are properly trained will continue to prosper in this delicate luxury industry. Brands are encouraged to contact Jordan Ficklin, our executive director, to correct any erroneous information or to report a change in their spare parts policy.
As stated on numerous occasions, the relationship between watch manufacturers, suppliers, retailers/jewelers, and independent watch-repair individuals is a delicate and important one to the point of being symbiotic. While many brands in the watch-manufacturing industry have more or less stumbled through the past decades all the way to the 21st century, it is true the face of the watch-manufacturing and watch-repair profession is always changing. Yet it seems the more it changes, the more it remains the same, for all one has to do is to read some of the older publications from the 1920s through the 1980s—it seems history is always repeating itself. While this last phrase is a cliché, it is also true that those who learn from history will be more successful, mainly by not repeating the mistakes of the past and most importantly by learning from the mistakes of others. Do we really need to reinvent the wheel?
In this vein, in order for our ship to go forward and reach the common destination, it would be best if everyone could work together with mutual respect. Inevitably, there will be some disagreements between the various parties, for such is the nature of life. However, a common ground and a “meet me halfway” situation must be reached. Otherwise, we all will sail in our own directions, where some will succeed and others will fail, and we may be faced with yet another “lost generation” of watchmakers in the near future. Which of you wants to be responsible for single-handedly creating another “lost generation?”
Ultimately, we can achieve much more if we can think “what’s good for the whole profession?” versus “what’s good for me?” My hope rests with the next generation as well as those who can step out of their own skin for a moment and think of how they can make it better for the entire industry.
As a forever message to all, always keep your skills honed, your standards very high, your attitude professional, your tools and equipment in great condition, and your workshops clean and organized, as this is the only way we will excel, not only as watchmakers and clockmakers but also as upstanding human beings.
Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
While we may complain about a variety of situations, such as the lack of spare parts, and this is certainly a valid concern, the main issue still remains—the lack of the visual standards and best practices of workmanship.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
As you are reading this month’s issue, summer is in full swing: hot and dry for those of us in the Southwest and mostly muggy and hot for the rest of the country with a few spots of cool here and there. Regardless of the weather, many of us are preparing to attend our annual convention, August 21-23. Specifics are in the ensuing pages of this magazine as well as on our website, awci.com/symposium. If you’re reading this early enough, and you can make some free time on these dates, register first and stop by our convention. There may still be room to get in, and we’d love to have you.
Reflecting upon the events of this past month, we have two new directors elected to the Board of Directors, Aaron Recksiek and Joshua Kroman. Fred White has been reelected to the board. Congratulations to all three of you. I am looking forward to working with you all on the main mission of continuously elevating and maintaining the standards of workmanship in our profession. Also, a big thank you to the outgoing directors, Henry Kessler and Michal Blaszczyk. It’s been a pleasure serving with you.
As some of you may know, I have quite a few heroes, the first being George Washington as the first American president for seeing an infant country through some very difficult times, but mostly because he ultimately went back to tending his farm, a move which is said to have bewildered the British. But, of course, the rest is history. As with all presidents, there are admirers and supporters as well as a fair share of critics—this comes with the territory. A famous quote comes to mind from yet another hero, President Abraham Lincoln: “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.” Which leads me to the third individual I admire, William Edwards Deming (October 14, 1900–December 20, 1993). Born in Sioux City, Iowa, he was an engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant. He is best known for his work in Japan after WW II, particularly for helping the leaders of the Japanese manufacturing industry rise out of the destruction and devastation of their economy. You may read more about Mr. Deming on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Edwards_Deming.
Although watch service and maintenance may not be the same as manufacturing an automobile, motorbike, or shoes in the strictest of sense, in my opinion, we are facing some of the similar problems as the Japanese were prior to their adoption of Dr. Deming’s ideas and concepts.
When you read Dr. Deming’s points and teachings, you will notice he places great emphasis on producing the highest quality of product, process, and/or service, and better (different) management of a system. While we may complain about a variety of situations, such as the lack of spare parts, and this is certainly a valid concern, the main issue still remains—the lack of the visual standards and best practices of workmanship in the repair sector. The lack of these visual standards leads to a “free for all” situation where those who adhere to high standards of workmanship are constantly battling with those who do not adhere to the would-be generally accepted visual standards and vice versa. This leads to a domino effect on several levels, which has repercussions all across the industry, mostly negative. It seems our current situation is nothing new, just read page 30 of this issue—watchmakers in the US endured the same issues as far back as 1934. Naturally, it would be preferable for all the major industry members to agree on a set of best practices that would be available for public consumption. Compared to the 1930s, we now have a different set of tools at our disposal, namely the availability of a wide array of electronic media that is quite affordable and freely available to a worldwide audience. This means, once everyone in our industry agrees on “red for stop, amber for caution/slow down, and green for go,” then we can all play on the same level field, and work ethics and integrity become a little less ambiguous. Until then, we will be going round and round in circles, and the never-ending search for those highly qualified individuals will forever be haunting our industry.
Quoting a friend and colleague, Bernhard Stoeber, “A true professional does the right things (and things right) when nobody is watching.” The question we must all ask ourselves is: “Am I doing the right things and things right when nobody is watching?”
Keeping in tune with this month’s editorial focus on crystals, “One can better see the dial and hands after changing that scratched crystal, and our crystal is quite badly scratched. Things become crystal clear and we may or may not like what we see; but first, we need to change the crystal.”
In the meantime, keep your skills honed, your standards very high, your attitude professional, your tools and equipment in great condition, and your workshops clean and organized—this is the only way we will excel.
Monday, September 22nd, 2014
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
July is here and I am very excited about the upcoming Annual Convention in Clinton, Maryland (just outside of Washington, DC). Early registration ends on July 15, so if you haven’t registered yet, call toll free 1-866-367-2924 (in the US) or 513-367-9800 if you are calling from overseas. An even easier way is to register online by visiting AWCI.com. Please take the time to read this month’s message from our Executive Director, Jordan Ficklin, as I am sure you will be quite pleased to hear about our upcoming activities and programs as well as all the great progress we are making.
I’ve been attending the AWCI conventions since the year 2000, and I have to admit I have always enjoyed meeting with all of you. Ours is a relatively small community, and it’s nice to meet each other, share our knowledge, and gain new knowledge. The amount of information I have gained from the seminars has always been highly valuable, and I have learned from many of you. Thank you to all of you who have influenced me in a positive way. I have learned much from both old and young, and it has helped me realize we are what we do with ourselves. It is all in our own hands; learn to improve and have a positive outlook on life, and this is what you will attract. The opposite can also be true. The most dangerous phrase in our language is “We’ve always done it this way.” Do not think for one moment you know it all, as you will be severely humbled at the most unexpected moment. The only thing you can do is to continue to learn and improve.
As many of you may already know, this is my life-chosen profession, and I have been directly involved in it since age 13, not to mention I was born into a watch-and-jeweler’s family. At a very young age in 1973, I barely remember my father going to the 125th Anniversary of the Omega Watch Company in Montreux, Switzerland. We were at the time an Omega and Tissot retailer. As you can see, I grew up with watches all around me and, yes, many of my school teachers would receive a nice watch from my father during Christmas as a token of appreciation for all their hard work. While my father had his retail store, he also had dedicated one room in our house as a watch-repair workshop where he would handle some minor repairs, such as crystal replacements, minor adjustments and such in the evenings and on some weekends. More involved and complex repairs were sent to his specialist watchmaker or authorized brand dealer. On some occasions, he would invite me to the workshop and let me see all the cabinets, drawers, tools, and equipment. I remember the first time I saw the eerily glowing green light of his Vibrograf B200 accompanied by its spooky tick tick tick sound. It definitely had a profound effect on me. Fast-forward to 2014—if you are still using the Vibrograf B200 without an amplitude meter (I understand, as I sometimes miss the B200’s green light and distinct tapping noise), there are now new alternatives that will help you do the job better and quicker. Come and check them out in person during the vendor fair.
If you like and love watches and clocks, live with them, retail them, repair them, restore them, and everything that has to do with every aspect of horology, from sales to service, then we’re it! And while I can encourage you to attend, I also know you have your own obligations, such as your store, your workshop, or perhaps an employer to answer to. Regardless of the situation, I recognize the challenges involved in leaving your business for a day or two or more to attend a convention and seminar. But like my father who attended his first convention in Switzerland 41 years ago, which eventually led me to follow in his footsteps on so many levels, attending this convention may also be the first step in your long and fulfilling journey in horology.
Be kind to each other and help your fellow watchmaker and clockmaker any way you can, for what comes around also goes around.
Until we meet this summer, keep your skills honed, your standards very high, your attitude professional, your tools and equipment in great condition, and your workshops clean and organized—this is the only way we will excel.
Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
The official results of this year’s election are in. I would like to thank everyone for their willingness to serve. Congratulations are in order for
and Fred White
who have earned the highest number of votes and will be serving on the board of directors for the next 3 years. Congratulations!
A huge thank you to Terry Kurdzionak for her service on the board of directors as the Industry Advisory Board Chair and for her continued willingness to serve as well as to Michael Michaels, Rob Gamber and Terry Curkan. We hope each of you will continue to work with AWCI in our mission to promote the art of watchmaking and clockmaking. There are always positions on committees available and next year as well.
Speaking of next year, the membership approved all of the constitutional changes which means next year there will only be 2 seats available on the board of directors and I wish to remind the membership that the right to nominate members to serve on the board of directors lies within the membership. Anyone who would like to serve on the Board of Directors (self-nomination is allowed), or anyone who would like to nominate a candidate for this position should contact the nomination committee by January 1, 2015.
Clcik to view the 2014 Election Results
Friday, December 20th, 2013
As you read this message, you are most likely being asked for those special requests to finish that rush job just before the holiday season—we all know how that is. In my experience, December is always an exciting and busy time with sales and service quite often taking precedence over each other, and things can get quite blurry.
Having said this, I will again discuss a topic I have discussed on many occasions since becoming president in August 2012, and that is quality of workmanship and price structure. By now, many of you who have followed my messages have come to realize my leadership is focused on workmanship of the highest standards. However, standards are hard to define if you cannot also show a clear example of them in practice. Regardless of the number of words printed on this and other pages, the written word cannot compare to a close-up picture of the item in question.
Last month I discussed the use of the binocular microscope for the watchmaker at the bench. While for many this is a rather exotic item to have at or near the workbench, for others it is a standard item to have at the bench. The human eye has its limitations in viewing small objects, and since we live in the world of miniature items, a good microscope with a range of 20 to 50 power magnification, with several sources of powerful yet cool lighting, can be a great advantage in ensuring high-quality work and can help with troubleshooting. Once you experience the advantage of using the microscope, a whole new world of better work will be opened to you—but you will not know it until you try it.
Of course, the usage of the binocular microscope has an initial effect of lowering productivity as the technician sees more things that can be potential problems. With sufficient practice and experience, a watchmaker can learn to set up the microscope in a convenient location where time is used efficiently, and only key areas of the movement are verified.
Having touched upon the above where quality workmanship is truly being scrutinized and standards defined, let us talk about what keeps the lights on—the business aspect of the profession.
With higher quality being expected, more time is spent on a task, and, therefore, less is accomplished each day. However, better-quality work lasts longer and therefore you have fewer premature comebacks. The customer wins, the watchmaker wins, and the retailer wins by gaining a better reputation. This reputation is goodwill, which in turn translates into higher sales, the initial reason the retailer opened the retail store, right?
The following line is an interesting concept:
A service center does not necessarily have to be a profit center as long as it is a profit generator.
To explain further, it basically implies a service center is designed to support the sales of merchandise; therefore, a high quality of workmanship is always required, and it is expected the service center should at the very least break even or at most make a profit of approximately 20–30%. This age-old formula has worked relatively well for service centers for a long time.
Upsetting this formula is unfortunately quite easy, as many managers/retailers like to increase profit margin. However, it comes at the dear cost of quality. The higher the net profit margin, the higher the probability that shortcuts will be taken. It’s easy to take shortcuts, and the most susceptible target is the watch movement itself, which is hidden from the customer’s view and, therefore, it is hard for many watchmakers to assess since they mainly use one eye and a loupe of about 4x magnification. When the façade or the exterior of the timepiece is made the main focus, it becomes easy to cover up questionable workmanship.
If there is always a shortage of good quality horologists, perhaps it is because their highly valuable skills and knowledge are not always properly remunerated. What is a fair price to charge for a good watch repair?
As friend and AWCI member Matt Hritz, CW21, said to me last year, “What if we were to ask the client, “How much does it cost to get a haircut?” With that in mind, we calculated that if one got a haircut on average 10 times a year at an average of $20 per basic haircut, that would translate to $200 per year. Over five years it would translate to $1,000 spent to maintain one’s hair. The price, I am told, is much more if you visit a “hair stylist/salon.” If today’s water-resistant mechanical watch functions five years on average between services, the haircut analogy could be used, and it is something many clients can relate to. Now, let’s think of what a barber invests in education, tools, and equipment versus what a watchmaker does, and it makes you think about your pricing structure all over again.
As a closing message for this year, I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season enjoyed with your friends and loved ones with continued health and success for the upcoming year. It is my sincere wish that all of you continue to work while striving for the unattainable—perfection. Tools, equipment, workshop setup, education, and training are only a few parts of the equation.The ultimate goal is the final product, and isn’t that what really matters to us?
Manuel Yazijian, President AWCI
Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
As you read this message, you are most likely being asked for those special requests to finish that rush job just before the holiday season – we all know how that is. In my experience, December is always an exciting and busy time with sales and service quite often taking precedence over each other and things can get quite blurry.
Having said this, I will discuss a topic which I have brought up on many occasions since becoming president in August 2012 and that is quality of workmanship and price structure.
By now, many of you who have followed my messages have come to realize this leadership is focused on workmanship of the highest standards. However, standards are hard to define if one is not shown such in a clear manner. Regardless of the number of letters that are printed on this and other pages, the written word does no justice when compared to a close-up picture or image of the item in question.
Last month I discussed the use of the binocular microscope for the watchmaker at the bench. While for many, this is a rather exotic item at or near the workbench, yet for many others, it is a standard item at every watchmaker’s bench. It is an undeniable fact that the human eye has its limitations in viewing small objects; since we live in the world of miniature items a good microscope with a range of 20 to 50 power magnification and with several sources of powerful yet cool lighting, can be of great advantage in ensuring high quality work as well as to help with troubleshooting. Once you experience the advantage of using the microscope, a whole new world of better work will be opened to you and you will not know it until you try it.
Of course, the usage of the binocular microscope has an initial effect of lowering productivity as the technician sees more things that can be potential problems. With sufficient practice and experience a watchmaker can learn to set up the microscope in a convenient location where efficient use of time is made and only key areas of the movement are verified.
Having touched upon the above where quality workmanship is truly being scrutinized and standards defined, let us talk about what keeps the lights on – the business aspect of the profession.
With higher quality being expected, more time is spent on a task therefore less being accomplished per day; however, it is better quality work that lasts longer and therefore less premature comebacks. The customer wins, the watchmaker wins and the retailer wins in the form of better reputation – this reputation is goodwill which in turn translates into higher sales, the initial reason why the retailer opened the retail store, right? The following line is an interesting concept;
A service center does not necessarily have to be a profit center as long as it is a profit generator.
To explain further, it basically implies a repair center is designed to support the sales of merchandise, in this line, a high level of workmanship is absolutely crucial and as a result, the service center should at the very least break-even or at most make a net profit of approximately 20%. This percentage figure can vary slightly depending on the operation and this age-old formula has worked relatively well for service centers for a long time.
Upsetting this formula is unfortunately quite easy as many managers/retailers like to increase profit margin, however it comes at the dear cost of quality. The higher the net profit margin, the higher the probability that shortcuts are taken. Shortcuts are easy to take and the most susceptible target is the watch movement itself, where it is hidden from the customer’s view and for that matter it is hard for many watchmakers to assess since they mainly use one eye and a loupe of about 4X magnification. When the façade or the exterior of the timepiece is made the main focus, it becomes an easy way to cover up questionable workmanship.
There is always a shortage of good quality horologists, perhaps it is because their highly valuable skills and knowledge is not always properly remunerated? What is a fair price to charge for a good watch repair you say?
As friend and AWCI member Matt Hritz, CW21 explained to me last year, “if we were to ask the client, how much does it cost to get a haircut?” With that in mind, we calculated if one were to get a haircut on average 10 times a year at an average of $20 per basic haircut – that would translate to $200 per year. Over 5 years it would translate to $1000 spent to maintain one’s hair. The price I am told is much more if you visit a “Hair Stylist/Salon”. If today’s water resistant mechanical watch lasts on an average of five years between services it could be argued the same analogy can be used and this is something many clients can relate to. Now let’s think of what a barber/hair stylist invests in education, tools, equipment and general overhead versus what a watchmaker does and it makes you think about your pricing structure all over again.
As a closing message for this year I wish you all a safe and happy holiday period enjoyed with your friends and loved ones with continued health and success for the upcoming year. It is my sincere wish that all of you continue to work while striving for the unattainable – perfection. Tools, equipment, workshop setup, education and training are only some parts of the equation, the ultimate goal is the final product and isn’t that what really matters for us?
Thursday, October 31st, 2013
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