Don’t Confuse The Cost Of Repair To
What You Paid For A Watch
In Defense Of Jaeger-LeCoultre (JLC) & Others
Posted by Jack Freedman, Pres. Superior Watch Service Inc. on February 07, 1998 at 0:04:50:
In Reply to: A New Collector & His JLC Experience… posted by Brandon Sparks on February 06, 1998 at 21:22:55:
I have the watch collecting bug. I’ve had it for over a year. In that time, I have read up on various brands, movements, etc. So when I found a Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox in solid 18K for $25 at an antique store, I snatched it up, even though it did not work.
Then started my journey. I dropped the watch off to a watchmaker who told me it was missing two wheels (escape & third). An ‘amateur’ had been at it, he said. No problem, I will purchase the parts and have a great watch for a very reasonable price.
I was amazed. I emailed JLC direct. Called their Virginia facility. Traded messages with over 15 repairmen and parts facilities throughout the US (and a few abroad). While everyone was extremely cordial, no parts could be found or bought. I did finally find one complete movement to match, but the watchmaker would neither sell it nor would he part it out. Quite understandable.
In short, I gave up. I finally traded it to a dealer who was willing to part it out to other collectors that might contact him, but by chance need the parts he now has.
Over five months of frustration has left me much wiser, but wary as well. I will continue to collect, but I will stick to brands I now know I can repair for less than the $625 that JLC was going to charge me.
It’s a pleasure to welcome new watch collectors to the horological world. There are always new things to learn and the better informed one becomes, the more exciting and thrilling the hunt for additional timepieces for their collection.
As a repairman with 30 years of experience servicing high-end watches, I have the following information which, hopefully, will answer the concerns of many watch collectors and owners of prestige brands.
My response consists of two points, age of watch and maintenance costs.
AGE OF WATCH:
The JLC Memovox mechanical automatic/alarm watch with its caliber 825 movement is a model which was manufactured about 25 years ago and is now obsolete. Typically, watch manufacturers maintain and guarantee a stock of parts for 15 years for any given watch. They will supply spare parts to watchmakers after that period only if enough parts are left in their inventory.
When their parts begin to dwindle and become nearly extinct, it is understandable that watch companies wish to hold on to such so they can restore customers timepieces per special requests.
Calculating the cost of maintenance of a watch should not be based solely on the initial cost of purchase. Suppose you bought a Patek or Rolex from a friend for $250 and now that watch needs an overhaul and complete service. The company or your repairman estimates it would run you $300 for the service costs. You then might think why should you spend more money for the service than what the watch cost you in the first place. Suppose you found a Royal Oak on the street and took it to your local watchmaker for a checkup. He tells you it needs routine maintenance and since no parts are necessary he will charge you $275 for his labor. Does this cost, exceeding what you paid for the watch, make the repair charges
Similarly, the JLC 18kt gold watch you snapped up at an antique store for a mere $25 is probably the biggest bargain you’ll come across. Whether you know it or not, you are lucky to have found such a fantastic steal. Many years ago, a customer of mine looked high and low for that model gold watch and was unsuccessful. So, figuring you spent $25 as the initial cost for your watch, the additional service and restoration costs of $625 charged by the JLC facility in Virginia brings your total cost to $650 for a watch carrying a value of at least four times that after its refurbishment.
Looking at it from this perspective, it would have made a great investment. Likewise, anytime a watch appreciates in market value, whether due to price increases or due to an upgrade of your watch, the costs of service and maintenance should be considered as an investment rather than an expense.
You told us your JLC watch was previously in the hands of an amateur trying his own repairs. You are actually quite lucky that no greater damage than the breaking of the escape wheel and third wheel occurred. The calibre 825 is not an everyday simple mechanical movement. I know many experienced watchmakers who would hesitantly work on this watch. All in all, the charges quoted by JLC for the parts and labor involved with restoring this type of timepiece is not way out of line as it may seem.
Jack Freedman, President
SUPERIOR WATCH SERVICE INC.