A Watchmaker is an artisan who makes and repairs watches. Since a majority of watches are now factory made, most modern watchmakers solely repair watches. However, originally they were master craftsmen who built watches, including all their parts, by hand. Modern watchmakers, when required to repair older watches, for which replacement parts may not be available, must have fabrication skills, and can typically manufacture replacements for many of the parts found in a watch.
Most practicing professional watchmakers service current or recent production watches. They seldom fabricate replacement parts. Instead they obtain and fit genuine factory spare parts applicable to the watch brand being serviced.
Due to factory/genuine spare parts restrictions, an increasing minority of watchmakers in the USA are ‘independent,’ meaning that they choose not to work directly for industry or at a factory service center. One major Swiss watch brand (Rolex) now pre-qualifies independent watchmakers before they provide them with spare parts. This qualification may include, but is not limited to, holding a modern training certificate from one of several reputable schools; having a workshop environment that meets Rolex’s standards for cleanliness; utilizing modern equipment; and being a member of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute. The Omega brand has the same approach. However, the vast majority of modern, Swiss brands do not sell parts to independent watchmakers, irrespective of the watchmaker’s expertise, training or credentials. This industry policy is thought to allow the Swiss manufacturers to maintain tighter quality control of the after-sales service for its watch brands, produce high margins on after sales services (2-4 times what an independent watchmaker would ask), and to lower second-hand watchmaking parts on the used and fake market.
The decrease in trained timepiece technicians (“watchmakers”) in the United States is getting worse. Only a few thousand U.S. watchmakers remain, many near retirement age.
Global production of watches, movements, basic timepieces and other timekeeping products continued to grow last year. Different concurring sources reported that it reached some 1.2 billion timepieces in 2005, worth an estimated total value of over 16 billion francs. Swiss watchmakers account for more than one half of this value whereas Asian countries (Hong Kong, China and Japan) supplied the majority of timepieces.
Because of the shrinking number of qualified watchmakers the best ones in the United States are increasingly busy. Add to that the number of watches that are produced each year and the limited availability of watch parts and it makes the watch repair process a very slow and time consuming one.
At Suncoast Gems, we strive to provide the best possible services at the lowest prices that we can. We use six different watchmakers in different parts of the United States and every one of them is very qualified. In our experience they are among the top watchmakers in the U.S. and they are very busy. Add to this the limited availability of parts and what happens is that in many cases it can take from 3 weeks to 3 months to get a watch repaired.
With that being said we will continue to take in our clients watches for repair but will ask them to sign a watch repair agreement form that states that in many cases watch repair takes longer than originally assumed.