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I have done that in the past and have written about it extensively in this thread several times in the past. The AWCI listing for my state, New Mexico, has one entry. He died last week, unfortunately. There are no others. I'd have to drive to Denver or Dallas or Phoenix to find the next closest one.

Shipping to a watchmaker? Done that as well. Had a 4R36 die a few years in a Seiko Monster that I shipped off to a well-regarded watchmaker in Michigan. I originally paid $180 for it. He kept it six months, charged me $200 for a complete movement replacement, and did a pressure test for free because he felt so bad about how long it was taking him to get the replacement movement through his supplier (this was pre-COVID, even).

Things written frequently written in watch forums:

. You can drop in a new 7S26 movement in an SKX007 for about $35. Um, not in my experience.
. You should have your watch pressure-tested once a year, just to be safe. As from above, where, who?
. Any decent local watchmaker should be able to work on the Soprod STP1-11, ETA 2832-2, Sellita SW-200. Oh yeah, where are these mythical guys outside of New York, Boston, or Los Angeles? Even then, are they going to take in the EMG 1963 I once owned with Chinese ST-19 chronograph movement and work on it? Highly doubtful. How about my Borealis Cascais or Karlskrona Midnattssol? Again in my experience, independent US watchmakers are so few and far between (2500 registered in the AWCI, for a nation approaching 327,000,000) that they can be very picky about what brands and movements they are going to handle. My local guy only took in high-end Swiss brands. A ten-year-old micro-brand watch? Forget it -- simply not worth his time.

I got involved with this debate on the NTH forum with the question: are micro-brand watches essentially disposable, considering there are so few watchmakers willing to service them? And even then, are they worth servicing? A gen 1 Seiko Sumo cost around $430 back in 2017. If one can find a watchmaker even willing to take it in and service the 6R15 movement, will the cost of that service (conservatively $250 to $300) make sense? If the watch has sentimental value, like the Monster described above, perhaps. But most of the time, I would let a Nodus Avalon with a Miyota 9015 inside just run until it's dead and not bother trying to find someone to even look at it.

It's one of the main reasons that I went with mainstream Swiss and German watches from brands that I know will have established service networks for decades to come. I can bring my $4000 Omega Seamaster Diver 300M to my local AD sometime in the next five years and at least I know that they will ship to a service center in Miami or Los Angeles, it will be done by trained technicians, spare parts will be available, and the watch will come back looking like new. All for $700, including tax. It saves me time and the hassle of trying to find a decent independent watchmaker and it comes with a two-year warranty. It certainly will cost me, but I'm actually okay with that.

Sorry for the wordiness, but this "it's so easy to get your affordable watch serviced" meme is simply not true, in my experience.
Without wanting to seem like I'm instigating an argument, may I ask, are you assuming that any / all watches with a Seiko NH3x or Miyota 9 series movement will need (or should have) regular maintenance, as in every 5-7 years?

That's the assumption many seem to have when discussing this topic, and I don't get it. If the movement can be replaced (even in theory) for less than it would cost to service, I'd think most people would rationally let the watch run until it doesn't (or doesn't run well enough), then consider their options - replacing the movement, or binning the watch.

Regarding the pressure testing - if your watch isn't being opened, I don't know why you should have it pressure-tested so often. The seals don't degrade that swiftly. Viton seals are supposed to last "forever", though I think 20 years is a more realistic expectation. Even the more common NBR seals are supposed to last for 5-10 years. I would only pressure-test the watch if the caseback was opened for some reason, and only to ensure the seal on the caseback was properly seated when the caseback was put back in place.

You're not wrong in your other observations, though - there is a dearth of watchmakers within the population, more noticeable in their absence outside the biggest cities, and dealing with either regular maintenance or the unfortunate in-warranty or post-warranty repair is often a frustrating experience. I'd think most independents wouldn't want to work on most Chinese movements, and some may not like being asked to simply replace a Japanese movement.

But the hassle of maintenance is exactly why I prefer the workhorse Japanese movements. I have no intention of having them serviced, ever. No trips or shipping to the watchmaker. No hassle at all. I expect them all to run well for decades, by which time, I'll have gotten my money's worth.

Ultimately, every movement could become unserviceable, inasmuch as replacement parts may become unavailable. On a long enough timeline, ALL watches would become disposable.

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Watch companies are looking for revenue streams. When you sell a watch, there's the cost of manufacturing a watch - all the parts going into it - on top of paying a sales force. When you service a watch, there's the cost of the technician working on it, and...? Seems like a no-brainer to bring a high profit margin source of revenue in house, with parts sales restrictions and necessary certifications.

The mrs-ish and I are still among those who favor repair instead of replace. When things go wrong, we tend to fix them, or have them repaired, if a fix is beyond our abilities.
I think you're correct - big brands see ongoing maintenance as a big revenue opportunity. It seems like they're squeezing independent watchmakers out of the market.

That said, it makes me think about big appliance manufacturers, who all seem to be onboard with built-in obsolescence and replace-not-repair as a business model. It seems they've determined that it's more profitable to make products that don't last as long, and need to be replaced, rather than support a service / repair team.

I suppose there's a challenge in that business model for big Swiss watch brands, as they've built their branding and marketing around the idea that a Swiss mechanical watch is something you'll keep in the family forever. If there's no place to have the watches serviced, good luck selling that story once consumers catch on.

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Pretty sure Lee_K was talking about servicing his Swiss/German watches when commenting on the lack of watchmakers. Like his Omega at $700 service cost.

Rolex are even worse, last time I checked in Europe a basic service starts at €800.

However, on these higher end movements I see no reason why parts would need replaced if it still ticks and functions. I’d have no issue sending a functioning Rolex or Omega to an independent watchmaker for a service, at a much lower cost. (Just gotta find one)

Always worth checking what a brand charges for an in-house service. I know some smaller brands like Steinhart, Stowa, and Nomos charge around €200-350 for a full service, which is very decent.

But yeah, if you’re on a budget, a Seiko/Miyota movement is pretty carefree. As are ~$1500 Swiss/German watches with standard 2824-type movements, as a replacement/service will always be relatively easy/cheap.
I took his comments as such, vis-a-vis the dearth of watchmakers and his need of them, to service his Omega, but I don't know why that would matter with regards to my response, especially given this part:

"I got involved with this debate on the NTH forum with the question: are micro-brand watches essentially disposable, considering there are so few watchmakers willing to service them? And even then, are they worth servicing? A gen 1 Seiko Sumo cost around $430 back in 2017. If one can find a watchmaker even willing to take it in and service the 6R15 movement, will the cost of that service (conservatively $250 to $300) make sense? If the watch has sentimental value, like the Monster described above, perhaps. But most of the time, I would let a Nodus Avalon with a Miyota 9015 inside just run until it's dead and not bother trying to find someone to even look at it."

If you need a watchmaker, to service an Omega, or drop in a new Miyota, but there isn't one nearby, then you're SOL either way. If the Omega AD is simply shipping your watch off to some other place for repair, is that really much different than shipping your watch with Miyota off to some other place for repair?

My question was exactly as stated - is the underlying assumption in the above that the workhorse Japanese movements will need servicing according to the same interval as the Omegas and such? Because I can't imagine why anyone would do that.

The bigger issue seems to be the relative scarcity of watchmakers in most parts of the world, not what watch you need a watchmaker to repair. My point remains - knowing that service is a chore, fraught with some risk, I choose movements which are less likely to need servicing at regular intervals.

My comment about replacement parts remains valid. No brand stocks all parts forever. Eventually, if a part is needed, and it can't be inexpensively purchased or fabricated, then the movement may be rendered disposable. I have two old pocket watches which need repair, but the parts aren't available, and having them fabricated would exceed the value of the watches.

I don't think it's logically sound to assume that any / every Swiss or German movement will be serviceable forever. I think it's more realistic to expect serviceability for a few decades, at most, but with the understanding that servicing, if it's even possible, will entail some unknown / unpredictable degree of cost and hassle.

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Hey Doc, nice to see you here again. Answer: no, not at all. I let my mechanical watches run until it's clear that they need a service (hard to wind, losing excessive amounts of time, date not snapping over properly). With two Planet Oceans that I have owned, they both started showing symptoms of these issues at the seven-year mark and off to Omega service they went.

Agreed. I was more interested in discussing the point about the dearth of watchmakers in the US who would even bother with the work on an affordable watch movement. As I've written extensively here in the past, the one watchmaker in my state (yep -- one), did not work on anything lower than Rolex/Patek/AP/Cartier. He had more than enough work just with that and couldn't be bothered with the lower-tier stuff. I don't blame him, he's a businessman and his time is valuable. But I wanted to address the conventional wisdom often seen in watch forums that finding a guy (and they are almost universally male) to do the work of even a movement swap for an SXK is a lot more difficult in the US than watch forum denizens believe it to be.

We're in total agreement here.

That is a very valid way to pursue the hobby -- run 'em till they drop dead. When I had a bunch of Seikos and micro-brand watches (owned one of the very first NTH Nackens made, thanks to Gabe), I had that same approach. For the most part, that was a good strategy. But then a 4R36 broke in a Monster and the movement swap done by a highly-recommended watchmaker out of state cost more than what I originally paid for the watch. Again, the forum conventional wisdom will lead one to believe that I could drop off my dead Monster at a local jewelry store and have the movement replaced for less than $100. This has definitely not been my experience. Then there's "you can do it yourself by buying an NH35 off of eBay for $35" exhortation that usually follows when I relate my personal experience with the Monster. I probably could do the job if I also had a case back removal tool, hand-pullers, and a Bergeon 6767F. I'm not too bad with fine motor skills but my first tentative attempts at fixing broken watches in the past has resulted in bent hands and regulations that haven't helped all that much in regards to accuracy. I'd much rather have that mythical white-bearded watchmaker who looks like Burl Ives take my broken watch in with a twinkle in his eye and return it to me in a week or two, fixed. Unfortunately, that is becoming an exceedingly rare occurrence for all the reasons listed by my fellow WPACers above.
Mate, you said a mouthful.

I'm fortunate there's a legit watchmaker not half a mile from my house. But he's the only one within driving distance in all directions, is close to retirement, and freely admits he's so backed up on work that he needs months with a watch to do anything. There's an authorized Seiko guy in the city (Philly, about 30-40 minutes from me), who I visited once, years ago, but that's a hassle.

I have bad manual dexterity (nerve damage in both thumbs), and a total lack of patience when it comes to tedious tasks. I'd be ill-suited to doing a movement swap myself.

I'm doubly fortunate that the local watchmaker likes me, and would do a Seiko / Miyota movement swap for me, if I needed him to. I'd like to think he'd do one for anyone walking in off the street, but if he wouldn't, and instead limited his services to more expensive services, I could understand why. If being a watchmaker is like being a master mechanic, I imagine battery and movement swaps are like changing tires - a poor use of the craftsman's hard-won skills.

I'm triply fortunate to have found my in-house watchmaker, Dan, who likes me, likes working for me, and can do a movement swap with his eyes closed, in about five minutes.

So I understand and agree that we (WIS) are probably over-estimating the ease of getting a Japanese movement replaced. Easy enough for ME. Maybe not so much for Random Joe, without a willing watchmaker within driving distance.

That said, I look at the odds. Our experience with the Miyotas and Seikos is that we replace 1 in 1000, maybe 1 in 500 movements, within 6 years. The majority of those seem to appear early on, within the first few weeks of ownership (well before the warranty expires). So the odds of you or anyone else needing to replace a Seiko or Miyota movement - outside of warranty - are pretty low. And within the warranty, I'd hope the manufacturer would handle the repair / swap.

But the odds that your Omega or Rolex will NEED to be serviced within 7-10 years are a virtual certainty. There's no escaping that hassle / cost.

Even with my own in-house watchmaker, and an independent down the street, and a decent mix of AD's within a short driving distance of me, I can easily imagine the dread I'd feel when contemplating regular maintenance. I don't like taking my car to the shop. Why would I like taking my watch in for service?

I don't begrudge anyone their preference for the Omegas and Rolexes, especially not if they understand the ongoing service requirements. I just like seeing people being fair in their discussion of "disposable" movements. I think their disposability is a virtue, not a drawback, when I consider the cost of the watch, and its likely longevity.

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I'm interested to know whether movements, such as the Miyota 9015, will in the course of time be more or less reliable than a Swiss luxury movement? Is there enough evidence for the reliability of the cheaper movements, not sure how long the 9015 has been around? I know that there are the stories of old Seiko movements going for decades without needing a service, but considering the issues with other Seiko movements it feels like good luck with one rather than signifying cheap movements being more reliable.

Considering the stories I've read of Rolex servicing 40 year old submariners I'd suggest there's a good chance of being able to service some luxury movements for a good time. The only problem is I suspect that the older the watch the more expensive it'll get.....
Valid point.

The 9 series was introduced in 2009 (or 2010, or 2011, one of those). My expectations for it are based on other Miyota movements, and Japanese movements in general, which seem to have a knack for running maintenance-free for decades.

Also - every watchmaker I've had work on a Miyota 9 has remarked that it's a well-designed, well-made, well-finished (as in, how the small parts are finished), well-assembled movement. These same watchmakers will tell me horror stories about this or that ETA or Sellita they worked on, so I take their comments about the 9 series as high praise.

And I think what may be misunderstood within these discussions is the apparent "time-bomb" assumption, about what happens with un-serviced Swiss movements, vs Japanese. Does a Swiss movement up and die if it isn't looked after within 10 years? Of course not. You're probably not doing it any favors, but it's certainly possible it'll continue to run reasonably well, even well past its service-by date.

The difference with the Japanese movements isn't that they necessarily resist normal wear and tear better. They might, and I suspect they do, but for all I know, much less what I can prove, they don't. But I can replace one for much less than I can replace or service a basic Swiss movement. It changes the economics, and the logic involved.

If a 2824-2 is $300 to service, or $300 to replace, and will show signs of decreased performance after 7-10 years, or worse, may need a more expensive service, because parts need to be replaced due to the delay in maintenance, I'm more likely to adhere to the recommended service interval, especially if the watch cost me 10x as much when I bought it.

It's like paying $20k to put a new roof on my $400k house. Needs must. I'm protecting my investment. No one lets the roof fall in if they can avoid it.

But if a Miyota 9 is $100-$200 to replace, and doesn't show signs of decreased performance after 10 years, and the watch it's in only cost me $600-$700, then eff it, I'll run it until the rotor breaks loose, then worry about it, or just get a new watch.

I wouldn't pay $10k to repair a car that only cost me $20k, more than ten years ago. Just scrap it, and move on.

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I was more thinking of the comparison between the 9015 and a Rolex/Omega movement, not quite fair but still an interesting academic exercise....

.....I'm curious to know whether the comparison is anything like comparing a Ferrari and a Toyota; the Ferrari isn't something that you'd expect to use and abuse and find it working well in tens years time. Toyota, yeah it'd be OK. But possibly it ain't a good comparison.....

Considering the likely tolerances and QC of Rolex I'd hope it'd be as good as a Miyota in terms of reliability.

The 9015 does have the benefit of time on it's side, with a more modern design and the hindsight of previous iteration failures to act as lessons learnt. Generally design/engineering improves with time. So comparing to eta 2824s and others considering the time elapsed between the designs is maybe unfair?
It's a topic I have thought and continue to think a lot about.

The two camps seem to be:

1. "Muh Switz watch will last forever, because I'll always be able to have it serviced by a watchmaker."

2. "Muh disposable Japanese movement will run forever, because reasons."

I think if we're being logical, we ought to be able to see the inherent weakness in those two positions, especially if we consider mitigating factors, such as...

A - Is there even a watchmaker close to you? How close to retirement / death is he? You're banking a lot on him being there in the future, no? Does he have a successor in place to take over when he's gone? If there isn't a watchmaker close to you, where is the closest one? How backed up on work is he? Does he answer his phone, or return emails? How much is it going to ship your watch to him, and how long will it take to get it back?

B - Of all the bazillions of Japanese watches produced, the vintage ones you see for sale, still running after decades without any maintenance, may just be the handful of robust survivors, the horological equivalents of those old codgers on remote islands, who thought WWII was still going on, into the '60's and '70's, because no one told them to stand down.

I think it's more reasonable to expect a Swiss movement to be serviceable for decades, but not forever, yet with the understanding that servicing will likely involve some hassle / cost. And it's reasonable to expect a solid Japanese movement to run for 20 years, but beyond that, you're on the bonus-mileage-plan, having gotten your money's worth, and any extra life it has left is a bonus.

That's not to say I ONLY expect them to last 20 years. It's simply to say, I expect AT LEAST that long, and honestly, more, but that beyond 20, I think no one has the right to complain if they don't.

I felt bad if one of the Chinese ST19's in the L&H Riccardos crapped out on someone after 4-5 years, past the warranty. Those watches were $450-$550 new, and I don't know if there's a watchmaker in the US who'd touch one. I don't like the idea of paying ~$500-ish for a watch that isn't expected to last a decade. I don't like the idea of selling that watch to my customers.

Likewise, I'll feel bad if the Miyota 9's and Seiko NH3x's I've been selling the past 9 years don't last at least 10, especially considering all the smack talking I've done about them. I'm gonna have to get off the internet if that happens. I can only imagine the run on pitchforks and torches at the local Monster-mart.

I suppose I ought to admit, and consider, the relevance of those we DO need to replace, albeit infrequently. They are out there. A search of my email reveals we've had 4-5 year to date. Some very new (as we'd expect, and built into our assumptions), one or two in that 2-6 year period between the 2 year warranty and our 6 year movement guarantee. I suppose if you bought a watch with a Miyota or Seiko from someone else, and the movement died AFTER the warranty, you'd probably want to tell me to STFU about them (and I wouldn't blame you).

But, again, the odds are in the Japanese movements' favor. I know their failure rate. It's 0.1%-0.2%. When I ask watchmakers what they expect with ETA or Sellita, I routinely hear 3%-6% or more.

This occurred to me today, after reading this discussion, as I was going to pick up my dog from day-care...

Q: Why do watchmakers train to service and repair Swiss movements?
A: Because Swiss movements need service and repair. There's a business to be made with that knowledge.

Okay, so...

Q: Why don't watchmakers train to service and repair Japanese movements?
A: Uhm...

Okay, maybe it's because they're so cheap to replace, why bother? But still...c'mon. The Japanese aren't stupid. No one is accusing them of being BAD at watchmaking. If they thought it was a good idea to make movements that needed regular servicing / repair, and they wanted to charge more for them, they could do that.

There's an authorized Seiko guy in Philadelphia, and I think Seiko has a big service center in Jersey. When I went to have the guy in Philly work on my watch (the plastic movement spacer needed to be locked down), I waited for him to do the job. Not one other customer came in while I was there. When I go to my Swiss watchmaker's shop, there's never NOT someone coming in or leaving while I'm there. I imagine the Seiko center in Jersey being the most boring place on Earth, just two watchmakers and nothing to do.

None of which really answers the Rolex/Omega/Ferrari/Toyota/Miyota question, so...

Yes, Rolex / Omega are like Ferrari, in that you shouldn't buy one unless you can afford to have a mechanic (or watchmaker) on speed-dial, and don't mind paying lots of money while NOT driving your car (or wearing your watch) for extended periods of time.

Is Miyota Toyota in this scenario? Maybe. Or maybe Nissan, in the form of a GT-R. All the performance of an exotic, at a fraction of the price. Even if it's not that, but rather a much less exotic Infiniti G/Q whatever, or Lexus RC-whatever, or even a lowly Mitsubishi Evo or Subaru WRX-STI, I'll take it.

I'm sure I'd enjoy DRIVING a Ferrari, on a track, perhaps, once or twice, but I honestly wouldn't want to own one. I'd much rather have a hotted up sedan from Japan, because it suits me better for daily use.

And that, to me, is the real test. I wear all my watches like I don't give AF if they'll ever break, because I don't. I don't fear the service bill, because I know exactly what it'll cost me, in time and money, to have a movement replaced, not that I expect I'll need to replace any of them, ever. They are all capable daily drivers.

And with that, I think I'll bugger off. There's Chinese food on the counter, and two teenage boys in the house. If I don't wrap this up, I may not get to eat.

I'm out.


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I'm actually not sure that the car analogy works for watches, by comparing Rolex to Ferrari I think I'm guilty of perpetuating the image that it's a delicate thing that if not serviced will fall to pieces and turn to dust. Whereas bog standard ETA movements probably do require attention I reckon a Rolex would be as durable as the best Japanese movement if not better. As is always the problem with most watch debates, we actually need data to prove/disprove theories and unfortunately it doesn't exist......

Always good to have a guest appearance from you Doc!
That hasn't been my understanding from Rolex authorized watchmakers. My understanding has been that they need to be serviced according to the recommended schedule.


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.....and considering the vested interest they have in that being adhered to its not surprising? Again we'll never satisfactorily resolve this debate because of the lack of evidence. If anyone wants to buy me 6* each of the following:
  • Rolex submariners
  • Omega POs
  • 9015 equipped watches
  • 2824 equipped watches
  • 4r35 equipped Seikos
I'll start a scientific study of durability. I'll also need a budget of several million for travel to expose the watches to a variety of environments. It'll be hard work but I'll take the hit for the collective WIS so this question is answered. Don't expect any results until 30 years from now.....

* - statistical significant number
Of course you have a point. They may not be completely objective and unbiased.

But, to be fair, the watchmakers I've spoken to generally aren't unknown to me. I've known them all well enough to think they'd be candid with me on that topic, just as they've been candid on others. And they've all independently told me the same things, which lends credibility, IMO.

This isn't the place to relate the many tales, but suffice to say I've been privy to many a story of shockingly poor workmanship and states of repair in luxury watches. They seem to revel in making me wince, the bastards.

Regardless, I think the economic argument holds more water than speculating about mechanics.

If a Rolex costs $10k-$20k, whatever it is, the ~$700 service every 10 years can be seen as a form of insurance, a proportionally small expense invested to protect the current and future value of the watch. Any astute buyer's first question is likely to be about the most recent service.

But investing $100-$300 in servicing or replacing the movement in a <$1k watch, with any regularity, would seem to make less sense. I think the less the watch costs, the less likely we'd all be to bother. And so I think the less the watch costs, the more value we ought to see in it having a a movement that either won't need servicing for decades, or is cheaper to replace, or both.

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But as someone pointed out earlier, if it becomes sentimental (a hilarious concept around here.....) then for most the cost of a repair would be somewhat irrelevant......
Sentiment is an almost completely alien concept to me. I fear I may be broken in some way.

If sentiment dictates a watch MUST be fixed, regardless of its intrinsic value, then I'd say we're back to the scarcity of watchmakers problem. What does the value of the watch / movement or the maintenance schedule matter in that scenario, if there's no watchmaker able or willing to work on it?

And, if one is sentimental about the watch, because it was a gift, or inherited, then the choice to buy that watch in the first place was already made, likely long ago, rendering a debate about luxury vs affordable watches (and their movements, and their maintenance schedule) fairly moot.

Quickly - Back in 2014, I inherited a 1957 Hamilton Ventura Electric. It wasn't running (at a minimum, the battery was dead), and it needed to be cleaned up. In all the US, there's exactly one guy who specializes in vintage electric watches, so he was my only choice for the service. I don't know how old he is, only that he inherited the mantle of "Mr. Electric" from his mentor, who had recently retired.

My reading up on those electric movements led me to understand they're quite delicate, or at least finicky. Knowing that there was only one guy in the country who specialized in them, and not knowing how long he might be in business, I put the watch up for sale as soon as I got it back.

I'd have felt anxiety, knowing I owned something valuable, which might need future maintenance, which might not be available when needed, so I removed the cause of the anxiety from my life.

Lee's point, I think, goes to the long-running debate on these forums and elsewhere, about the relative merit of cheap/disposable movements versus those which are more expensive and will need regular maintenance, or at the very least, we're advised to have them regularly maintained, at some not insubstantial cost, and not necessarily without some considerable hassle.

I don't really care what position one takes in that argument, so long as those arguing aren't ignorant of all considerations, and are being fair in their assumptions. Unfortunately that frequently seems to be too high a hurdle for the arguers to clear.

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Nah, you're not the only one. I can get sentimental about people or experiences or animals, but almost never for an inanimate object. We in WPAC encourage the control of impulsive purchases and very often we see threads in WUS along the lines of "I'm getting married, what watch should I get?" or "I'm celebrating the birth of my third child". It's justification behavior. There is also the frequent forum warning to people considering having their watches polished: Don't do it! It will erase all those memories you created with the watch!

We're a pretty silly bunch in this hobby. A watch is a piece of metal and glass and maybe some plastic or nylon. It is incapable of conveying anything other than what it was initially designed for. We are the ones that take it into the levels of sentimentality.

Cue the "but this watch was my father's and I'll always cherish it because it reminds me of him whenever I wear it" responses. That's a little different. How a person reacts to something that reminds them of a loved one is personal and unique. But to get exited about a watch because one wore it to Disney World eight years ago? That's a little eyebrow-raising.

Often we see people justify purchases because they want to "pass it down to my children" as if they are forcing the sentimentality onto their offspring. In my experience, my children couldn't show more indifference to my watches and I don't expect that to change when I'm gone. I've told my wife to just sell them all to a reseller and be done with it, even for pennies on the dollar. They're just watches.
I own my grandfather's watch. I never wear it. Haven't even bothered to size it. I only wanted it because it was his. Otherwise, it's worthless (unless there's a raging hot market for quartz two-tone Seiko dress watches from the '70's or '80's). I rarely even look at it. I don't need to look at his watch to remember him. I've got the memories. None of them revolve around his watch, or such nostalgia as "grandpap showing me how to wind it, and telling me all about it, having worn it in the war", or whatever.

The "pass it on to my children" thing is semi-ubiquitous, and as you said, I agree it's most likely misguided. I didn't attach any sentiment to any of the watches I've inherited, and I'm actually INTO watches. There's no reason to think someone's offspring will want that gift, if they're not really into watches (especially vintage), especially if the gift comes with the expectation that they also inherited the future service costs.

Thanks, Dad! A future bill for something I didn't want, didn't ask for, and may not profit from.

I liked receiving the Hamilton Ventura from my dad. Not because he owned it. He was unaware he had it for 20-30 years, and knew nothing about it. He never wore it. We don't know how he came by it. It wasn't my grandfather's. We think it might have been his great-uncle's.

I liked it because it was an historically significant watch, and came with a bit of mystery (whose was it?), the investigation into which provided me with some small entertainment.

It only cost me a few hundred to have it restored to like new condition. I felt a sense of duty to have it restored, rather than toss it in a box or otherwise dispose of it in some way which might lead to its further neglect. If I wasn't into watches, I probably wouldn't have bothered. I haven't bothered much with the two pocket watches I inherited, nor, as I said, with my grandfather's old Seiko. The family ties to those old pieces don't move me.

I'm sure I would have felt great if I sold it for $2k-$3k. As it happens, no one even inquired about it, not even to make a lowball offer. I ended up donating it to a local watchmaking school for service-disabled veterans. I could have done that BEFORE sinking $300 into it, but c'est la vie.

All of which is just a long way of agreeing with you - those who justify their purchases by suggesting they're creating a future heirloom are most likely mistaken, and simply seeking a better-sounding reason than simply admitting they like the watch they intend to buy and don't mind indulging themselves in its purchase.

Recently, I've come to the belief that all the online argle-bargle about "value for money" is misguided, inasmuch as the arguments all seem to center around tangible specs/components, or speculation about future resale value. I think the only measure that matters is how much enjoyment we get from the purchase, "smiles per dollar".

If one wants and Omega, Tudor, or Rolex, to achieve the desired enjoyment, and the money seems well spent, then more power to them, and even more so if they can enjoy without projecting their rationalizations onto their unwitting offspring. If one is content, as I am, to enjoy more affordable pieces, without concerns about anything (other than possibly having too many watches), there again, more power to them (and me).

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No purchase during the last six months, and in addition:
I got rid of a fake tourbillion watch (trash),
I gave my Vostok Amfibia on permanent loan to a friend (so he will wear it until I replace the crystal for him, and then some), and
I returned a watch I had ordered to see if I like silver dials (not really: great in light, but mediocre in the lower lights).

State of the pile of watches:
a) my graduation Glashütte from 1995. I don't like Fliegers, most (including this one) are following the **** prescription too closely, but that's the watch for my few occasions in life when a solemn suit is in order.
b) Invicta ProDiver, modded. The ability to modify it drew me into watches. I am wearing it in dangerous situations like gardening, wrenching and fishing, because when something breaks I will be able to fix it myself.
c) NTH Antilles (rum). My daily diver. Elegant, robust, functional, but not boring when looking closer. Got it last October, and it is clearly my default. Also my entry ticket for the customer abuse thread...
d) Raketa Big Zero. I got it cheap, but it lost 15min per day. Demagnetized it, and it's really acceptable (losing a minute per day). I bought a dozen of identical, defective movements off an Ukrainian dealer, of all places, to train me up, so I can clean the original movement. I have come far handling movement parts, but I don't have a good solution (ha!) for cleaning.
e) I may have a digital Casio somewhere, but that one, because the second battery has died and the strap is dissolving, will follow the fake as soon as I find it.

So my four (let's face it, e) won't get far with me) watch collection. I will not reduce further, since each watch has a purpose, when the others would feel inappropriate. Also, I have no need for another watch, but.. I am here.

There is no grail or exit watch for me. When I ever get bored of modifying b) I might replace it with a Scurfa or Näcken that'ssimilar in looks but thinner. Else: thanks for letting me in!
You didn't need to buy an NTH just to get the abuse.

We dish that out for free.

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Very cool. It is interesting how much more mainstream watches are in Europe than here in the states. It makes me wonder if we will get back to that at some point. We talk about micro brands and there are a lot of them. Some of them actually have Watchmakers involved with either the assembly/regulation of the watches or in some rare cases the making of the case/movement themselves. Everyone has to start somewhere, but will any U.S. watch companies be able to transition from micro brand to full blown watch brand? The obvious thing holding us back is we do not have any factories producing our own movements. Why not? There is demand. Who will step up?
Respectfully, I think you're conflating "old brand" with "manufacturer", when you say "full blown watch brand". Simply being a large or old brand does not make them true manufacturers.

The vast majority of watch brands, large and small, old and new, outsource the bulk of their manufacturing, since the quartz crisis and Nick Hayek Sr's moves to consolidate most Swiss production, thereby rendering most existing watch brands no more a manufacturer than any microbrand.

Separating the front-office operations of design and marketing from the production side of the business was integral to Nick's plan to save the Swiss watch industry. It's what gave birth to the behemoth that is ETA and Swatch Group. Nick gutted the industry, then consolidated all the production under his own roof, slicker than grease-covered goose-poo.

A consortium of Swiss banks had to bail out the two groups to rescue Switzerland’s third largest export industry. In a series of rescue packages between 1981 and 1983, Swiss banks pumped more than SF550 million into the industry. In this crisis, the banks turned to Hayek, owner of Hayek Engineering in Zurich, Switzerland’s top consulting firm. The banks commissioned Hayek to come up with a plan to save the watch industry. Completed in 1983, Hayek’s radical solution was to merge the two groups into one company and separate the brands from the production units. All production would be concentrated in ETA SA. The brands, who previously produced their own movements, would focus on design, marketing and sales. The banks accepted the plan and hired Hayek to execute it. The new company was called SMH for, in English, Swiss Corporation for Microelectronics and Watchmaking. (Note that microelectronics precedes watchmaking.) Today it is known as the Swatch Group.

The difference between most big / old brands and most small / new brands isn't that the big / old brands make everything themselves. Most don't. The difference is only one of scale.

Most parts for most watches, even those from "European" brands, are not made in Europe. I've looked into both European production, and US production. If I want a steel case or bracelet made, there are literally hundreds of vendors to choose from in China. In Germany or Switzerland, there might be four or five. In the US, there are zero. None. Zilch. Nada.

I've spoken to a half dozen potential vendors in the US, about getting steel parts made here. There's zero appetite for that business, for reasons to complex and long-winded to explain, if I want to keep this brief.

I spoke to another brand owner, who has an original design for a movement. He said they'd need $2M-$3M, just to get the plant up and running. The movements, when produced in volume, would cost more than double what a workhorse Swiss movement would cost, and that was before they did any large-scale reliability testing.

My business / brand is just as "real" as any old Swiss brand operating the same way mine does, which is to say, the vast majority of them. Even vaunted Tudor outsources production. They get movements from Kenissi.

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I knew, but now I can deliver my feeble attempts of rebuttals with an air of entitlement and arrogance.
You didn't need to buy an NTH to adopt an air of entitlement and arrogance. Those also come free, as soon as you start discussing watches online.

See how that works? Arrogance & entitlement = free. Abusive responses = free.

Getting to poke fun at the brand owner = priceless.

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Much appreciated for your insight into the industry. I was aware to a lesser degree of the industry shift post quartz crisis and my wording in my comment above was not particularly clear. Apologies. Honestly $2M-$3M to get a movement manufacturing plant up and running wouldn’t be so bad if the company had enough investors or went public. Now for a small micro brand, obviously that would be unlikely, but a more established brand? I hope we get to see that in the near future. I mean with Watch sales being such a large market, do you see any reason for the necessity for the Swiss and others to continue operating as if we are still in crisis?
I think $2M-$3M is a big ask, if the end-result is a movement that will cost double what a basic 2824-2 or SW200 costs, produced in much smaller numbers, with no appreciable performance advantages, or any features to justify its cost premium.

When I was talking to people about an American-made movement, I always maintained the target cost would need to be within 20% of a Swiss 2824-2 clone, because at the end of the day:

A - it's a global market. "Made in America" means jack squat outside America, and...

B - even in America, "Made in America" means jack squat if people can't afford the product, or if the next best alternative is significantly less.

I figured 20% was close enough to stay competitive, and only if we could say "Made in the USA". More than that, the end-price of the assembled product would make it a non-starter, even within the US market, and totally blow us out of the water internationally.

It's not just movements. Even if the movements were made in the US, where would the cases be made? The crystals? The gaskets? The bracelets? Straps? Clasps? Spring bars? Dials? Handsets?

You're not getting dials and handsets made in the USA. Forget it. Not gonna happen. Not with the quality we get from China, at the price. You're talking about $25 in labor costs to make what should be a $5 part.

You can't get a good brushed finish on a steel part from an automated (robot-operated) machine. That's a labor-intensive process. The labor rates in the US are 10x what they are in China. Good luck with that.

You're talking about an ecology - an interconnected network of multiple vendor options for diverse components, all in support of a specialized industry. That ecology died out in America about 50 years ago. It ain't coming back.

US companies that produce things made of steel aren't interested in the small-batch consumer products market. I spoke to half a dozen, and not one would even give us a SWAG (stupid, wild-a$$ guess) about a unit cost to produce CNC machined cases, much less an actual proposal for production services.

It's not just a matter of money. But even if it were, no, the global watch market isn't that big. It isn't big enough to rationalize the sort of investment that would be needed to rebuild that ecology, from scratch.

If we were to try, it would end up being a sliver of what currently exists in Switzerland or Germany, which is only a sliver of what exists in China, at best.

If we were lucky, we might end up with single-source options for some larger components, but the labor and regulatory compliance costs would price the products out of reach of most consumers, and the quality wouldn't even be as good as what we're currently getting.

And without sourcing everything in the US, we couldn't even call it "Made in America". We'd still be sourcing too many components from outside the US to qualify under FTC guidelines.

Trust me, "bringing it back" is all I've heard about since I started in this industry. It's the holy grail of the American watch geek, and it's a total pipe dream.

You're not going to see it, from any brand, large or small. It won't be from Fossil (have you seen what's happened to their stock-price?) or Shinola.

Fossil owns Zodiac (heritage brand) and STP ("Swiss" movements). It's a publicly-traded company, founded 38 years ago, with $2B in revenue. If it made sense to make watches in the USA, they'd already be doing it.

To put that into perspective, Swatch, the 800-lb gorilla of the watch industry, is a $7B rev company. So, compared to Swatch, Fossil isn't exactly "small". If there was a US-based company with the resources to create vertically-integrated, in-US production, it's Fossil.

And yet, where do all the parts for an affordable watch from Swatch or Fossil come from (and more importantly, why)? Wanna take a guess?


BTW - Fossil was trading at $132 / share 10 years ago. Today, it closed at $10.25 / share, meaning they lost over 90% of their market cap in the last decade, even with producing all their watches in China, and owning their own Swiss movement maker.

What about Movado? Could they do it? Not even close - barely 1/10th Fossil's size, and only recently recovered from seeing an 80% decline in their market cap in just the last five years (yet still not back to their 2017 peak - perhaps not coincidentally preceding their ill-advised purchase of MVMT for a bazillion dollars).

These are companies with hundreds of millions, if not billions in revenue, and they can't rationalize the investment you're proposing.

If they can't, and haven't by now, no one can, and no one will.

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Isn't a watch brand owner posting in the "Watch Purchasing Abstinence Club" a bit paradoxical?

More oxymoronic.

Or maybe just plain old moronic.

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That makes complete sense and is very sobering. I hadn’t thought about it enough and I can see why things aren’t moving in that direction. Thanks again for your insight. Much appreciate, even if mildly depressing lol. Well damn, I guess the only way we will ever see Made in America on a large scale will be if we become communists.
No worries. Sorry to be the bearer of depressing news.

As you can likely understand, it's a source of frustration for small brand owners to be viewed by customers as somehow "less than" or "other than" when compared to larger or older brands which are essentially operating in the same way, perhaps just with less transparency, and more reliance on the market's willingness to continue believing in a nostalgia-driven version of reality which actually isn't real.

"Heritage" is just a way of saying "we used to make things ourselves", for most of those brands.

My business / brand are every bit as real, and arguably more viable, than many older / larger brands. It's grown at double-digit rates for the last 9 years, has zero debt, and a healthier P&L and balance sheet than many of the largest watch brands in the world. My inventory turns 8x faster than Swatch's. By comparison to some "real" brands, it's a finely-tuned, well-oiled machine.

Let's not wish it was burdened with the legacy costs and unrealistic expectations of those older businesses. Outsourced manufacturing is no scarlet letter on a modern watch brand.

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Just noticed you added this to your post after I quoted it...

How about this: What if a bunch of successful U.S. micro brands formed a super group to bring back manufacturing in the U.S.? They could do this in The old Gruen factory or another old factory. This would take a lot more passion than sense to be fair, but man would they be a legend if they did it right.
The micro-consortium has been discussed. It's easier said than done. Who's in charge, running the show? You want democracy in this situation? Decision by committee consensus?

Yeah, no. Kill me now. I'm out. Most of my peers struggle to run their own businesses effectively. No way I'd let them have any say over mine.

Understand - few if any watch brands, even those which actually have their own production facilities, are actually vertically-integrated to the point that they make ALL their own components.

So...I've looked at his from a few angles...

1. What if we just made movements here?

See my earlier post - $2-$3M up front investment, before you're producing only a few thousand units per year, at a cost double what an ETA 2824-2 or SW200 costs, before you've done long-term reliability testing (rendering the entire project not market-ready).

Not exactly a great place to start.

2. Forget movements, what if we made the other parts here?

See my post above - forget dials and handsets, spring bars, and probably bracelets and clasps. Labor costs alone will kill us.

Cases? We could CNC cases here. Up-front tooling costs will run in the tens of thousands of dollars, compared to nil when doing cold-forging overseas. We'd need to make tens of thousands of units - of the SAME case design - before the production volume would be high enough to effectively amortize the start-up costs.

When you're done, you'd still be faced with a choice of two finishes, if you intend to keep the retail price competitive - blasted, or polished. Brushed is not an option. Forget about any combinations of finishes, such as brushed and polished.

Quality would be no better, and could easily be worse, than what we're now getting from China, for much less.

3. What if we just started with assembly?

Yeah, fine, do that.

I've done it. Reaction from the market was a collective yawn...

No one cares about "assembled in the USA". Some say they do, but they're lying, whether they realize it or not. I couldn't get people to pay $25 more per unit for something assembled in the US, and that was under-pricing. Brands making a big deal about it are generally under-pricing their products, NOT charging a premium because "assembled in the USA".

Let watch brands make good products in cost-efficient ways. Let's not beat them up because the landscape shifted under their feet, and they adapted to it.

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Agree with all of this. Even if one could squint and get enough tax breaks to make a movement factory worth considering in a FTZ near a port in a low-wage, non-union state (like Alabama, Mississippi, or South Carolina).....still not feasible imo.

If you automate everything, the equipment and engineering alone would require millions in up front capital. If you semi-automate or try a relatively efficient/modern low automation (very manual) model like cell style manufacturing you have to either:

Higher trained watchmakers
Turn unskilled labor into skilled labor

Both are expensive, and the more specialized your workforce the higher your exposure to increasing wages (because the employees have more leverage than unskilled labor)

One could attempt a manufacturing model that has enough process to employ unskilled labor, but my experience says that is not a realistic approach.

So you are talking about a major capital commitment just to get started.


Who do you sell to?

There is not enough watch manufacturing in the US today (if ALL of it transitioned to a US factory) to drive scale. If you have to ship overseas, there is bo way you can compete with the established Eurasia movement companies

The only potential US movement manufacturing I see being financially feasible in the foreseeable future is a high quality, hand assembled movement used by $1k+ boutique or micro brands. Basically saying selling to the niche market of customers that will pay 30-50% more for a small, made-in-US brand

We (my watchmaker, Dan, and I) looked into this. One CNC machine and a high-end robot would run half a million dollars (ish).

Okay, fine. We could raise half a mil, probably. Or borrow it. But then you have to create a return on that investment, or find a way to pay back the loan. Most micros aren't producing enough volume to amortize those costs.

So...forget a brand doing it. The company would need to be a business / vendor that supports multiple brands.

Okay, so...we do that. Okay, fine.

Each component being machined with that system will require someone to program the machines, and create the tooling. That's tens of thousands of dollars, up front, before you produce a single part.

It doesn't matter if that company supported one brand, one dozen, or one hundred. A microbrand producing 500 pieces of a new model can't rationalize spending tens of thousands of dollars in up-front costs to produce 500 cases. That doesn't even account for the actual parts costs - raw materials, the machining, the labor component, etc.

Can't you use the tooling / programming for one brand's part to make another brand's part? No. No you cannot. Different parts require different set-up. Each brand would incur those costs individually.

FTS Solutions recently announced their "Americhron" movement. It's assembled in the USA (Yay!). Where are the parts made?

Outside the USA. Apparently the parts are made in Asia (India, I believe).

I recently spoke to a business incubator group within a town that's both a QOZ (federally-designated qualified opportunity zone) and a KIZ (state-designated keystone innovation zone), enjoying a double-whammy of tax incentives. I explained what I wanted to do.

"I just want to create a business that can do CNC machining for a bunch of other watch brands, so we can make watch cases, maybe bracelets, without having to spend $30k in set-up costs."

They couldn't wrap their heads around it. And this is in Coatesville, PA, a former STEEL TOWN. They suggested we look at 3D-printed carbon fiber polymers instead of steel.

"Bringing it back" is a pipe dream.

Unfortunately, it's a crack pipe.

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There is something quasi-romantic about the idea of bringing manufacturing back....

Until you realize the US economy has moved past that point in the industrialization life cycle. For stuff to be "made in USA" it requires a global supply chain and heavy automation, because record low levels of unemployment mean you will not find a ready-and-willing low cost workforce for manufacturing. Just look at the trouble companies like Amazon & Starbucks are having in their work forces, and they are both known to pay well vs peers. The products that are made here today are highly automated, protected via tariffs......or both. They also tend to have enough demand in the domestic market to avoid the need to compete on price with global markets. The US is a net importer for a reason.

Fun convo though
Yes. From what I've seen, domestic manufacturing is best suited to products which fit into one of the following categories:

1. Custom / one-off.

2. Enormous, like machines used in ship-building. Typically also one-off / custom built to spec, and generally cost-prohibitive to ship here from overseas.

3. Fairly simple products, not requiring skilled labor in assembly, and produced in super-massive volume, large enough to justify huge investments in automation.

4. Cost is no object.

If the product doesn't fit into one of those categories, most US contract manufacturers don't want to know from it.

Like most consumer products, watches do not fit into any of those categories, which is why the US doesn't make a whole lot of consumer products anymore.

If we can't rationalize making smartphones here, we can't rationalize making watches here.

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Don't forget cars. Although other than not being too simple, they may fit under your third point though. And not just the "domestic" brands. Honda, Toyota, Subaru, heck even BMW builds in Alabama if I remember correctly. But of course there's the mass market and infrastructure for car manufacturing (still).

The only watch brand I could imagine having a chance at mass American manufacture would be if Citizen felt like that might add some value to Bulova. However, I don't see that happening. I know Bulova is currently releasing neo-vintage left and right that play on nostalgia. However, I'm not sure how it is in other places outside of the US, but even until recently I haven't been able to find Bulovas here other than on Amazon. And they've been more expensive than equally-specced counterparts. One of our department stores started carrying them at some point in the last year, but they're mostly the basic quartz models and they're always heavily discounted.

I don't think "American-style nostalgia" would be profitable for Citizen. In fact, I wonder if Bulova in general is profitable for Citizen.
I admit I hadn't contemplated cars, but I suppose the auto-industry is different enough, in enough ways that it may defy the "rules".

Much like watchmaking had become integral to the Swiss national identity, beyond just being a key industry within the country, I think America - its people, and its government - would have extreme difficulty letting the auto industry simply fail.

As a result, there have been "turnaround" efforts at various times, most notably during the '70's-80's (gas crunch / stagflation), and then following the "Great Recession" of 2008, when the Feds essentially made the US taxpayers de facto shareholders of General Motors.

Without being a true expert in the topic, my hunch would be that the American auto industry benefits somewhat from the shipping costs associated with imports, decades-old investment in industry-specific infrastructure, government subsidies in various forms, stronger-than-typical customer loyalty, and various other factors which wouldn't equally support domestic production of other consumer products.

That said, the American auto-industry is a lot different today than it was just 40-50 years ago, when the American watchmaking industry was gasping its last breaths. Case in point - my best friend, who is the service manager at a local Chevy dealership, recently explained to me that the new Trailblazer, Chevy's compact SUV, is actually a re-badged Daewoo, sourced entirely from Korea.

I'd also point out that the auto industry, while using some contract manufacturing, is still much more vertically integrated than the watch industry. My experience is based on speaking to contract manufacturers, who can make virtually anything, for any customer or market. Without explicitly saying so, they all gave me the impression that they weren't interested in making products for they hyper-price-sensitive consumer market.
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