Killing Time – And Small Business

I don't usually get into activism, but…

Although I don't wear watches that often, I do have a fascination for them (mechanical ones at least,) coming partly from my fascination for timekeeping – an example of which is my Solstice Clock project, but also because they are created out of a meeting of art and precision engineering – two things close to my heart.

Luxury watches mean different things to different people. Whilst some may regard them as a vulgar show of ostentation (and, on some people, this is the only thing they can every be,) I see them as a piece of art which is also a highly portable investment – which can, incidentally, tell the time.

Where there are luxury watches, there must be watchmakers. (Cheap watches have – sadly become very much a throw-away item in our wasteful, throw-away society.) Watch-making is one of those traditional skilled trades, for which I have an enormous respect. Being able to work with tiny parts – which can be made without the use of modern manufacturing processes – and keeping a purely mechanical device tuned to a surprising degree of timing accuracy rates as a very worthy occupation, in my view. A year ago, I would not have even contemplated trying to take a wrist-watch apart, but thanks to the generosity of third-generation watchmaker, Nick Hacko, who is sharing some of the required skills through a series of articles, I am assembling a toolkit – and hoping for some spare time – so that I will be able to strip down and rebuild one of my pair of old Seiko automatics.

Unfortunately, Nick advises us through his mailing list that there is something rotten in the state of watchmaking. Big corporations ripping off customers and hurting small business is old news – but it's happening in this sector too, where master watchmakers are already a rare breed. The essence of the problem is that certain large concerns such as Rolex and Richemont (Cartier, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Panerai and others) will not sell spare parts to independent (but highly qualified) watchmakers, only performing repairs/service in-house. Having heard some horror-stories where customers are charged (at vastly inflated prices) for parts which are not even necessary to the repair in question, I am starting to have certain misgivings about the wisdom of acquiring a watch myself, at least from the investment perspective.

As I have mulled over the issue, I think that the aspects that upset me the most are that of another skilled trade being driven into extinction and that this is hurting small business. Running my own small business, the latter strikes a very loud chord (or possibly discord) with me.

Can anything be done about this situation? Possibly, but it's an effort that needs the help of many. Save The Time is a campaign trying to raise sufficient petition signatures to bring the issue before the ACCC (the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) for action. If you are reading this article, you can help – even if you aren't in Australia. Sign the petition, make a difference.

Footnote

Whilst this article has not (yet) brought monopolistic watch manufacturers to their knees, it has attracted a positive deluge of attempted spam comments, so comments on this article are thus turned off. If you wish to provide feedback or discuss this matter, please contact me directly.