Friday, December 3, 2021

Jewelry Common Sense…Watches



Richard Alan

With any profession there are words or jargon (call it what you like) that pertain to only that particular business. The word “shop talk” comes to mind.

Sometimes I catch myself using jewelry terminology in front of a customer, and at once realize he or she has no clue what I am taking about. Sort of like me understanding the daily goings on the subject of physics or nuclear fusion. Over the years I have tried to educate or give advice on certain aspects of the business, whether it is on the subject of jewelry or watch repair, the do’s and don’ts when shopping for a diamond or gemstone, or just buying a piece of fine jewelry. You can be the judge, I have been doing this jewelry thing longer than I care to mention, meaning I’m literally a cascading waterfall of excellent and useless information.

My devoted readers have been gleaning the wealth and/or useless information from the fifteen years I have been writing “All That Glitters.”

Somehow the subject of wristwatches has become a never-ending source of writing material for me as of late. People seem to have the most misconceived perceptions about this subject, and it is truly amazing how attached one can be to a contraption that one wears on one’s wrist to tell the time of day, and how it can be the cause of so much emotion and drama.

Before I go on, above is some simple terminology when talking about watches.

Some common sense…

One enters a jewelry store with a large freezer bag full of dead watches. What’s the big deal? Why can’t I wait for them?

Every battery change offers never-ending challenges, the time it takes can be as quick as a New York minute to forty-five “Marco minutes” per watch. There are sometimes multi-micro screws that can be smaller than a no see um’s kneecap that are holding the case back on, and then even more holding in the battery inside the watch. Not to mention special sealing gaskets that expand and are not reusable once they are exposed to the air. There is also a large amount of tools and expensive wrenches required to perform the opening and closing of the innumerable configurations of different models of watches. So replacing some 25-odd-watch batteries, especially when the store is full of customers, is going to take some time. And where does this “I can’t wait” mentality come from? And who the heck needs 25 watches?

My son or I will probably spend over an hour and a half on this bag of “watches.” The real fun comes trying to explain why half of them don’t work with a new battery installed because when the case back is removed the watches are either broken, rusted, or worse, the stem and crown or hands are missing, or it just plain ran its $10.00 life expectancy.

Now comes the drama when the five-buck yard sale watch is kaput. Move on, for Pete’s sake! Look at the good side- you still have twenty other watches that are telling time in the freezer bag!

Folks, there comes a time when no amount of money will fix a watch that has run its last race, especially old mechanical wind up watches, which have irreplaceable parts that wear out and that’s all she wrote. It’s possible to jury rig an electric movement in them sometimes, but this can be expensive, and besides, most of my watch drama involves the customer not wanting to spend a nickel to fix it anyway. It’s time to move on, reach into the mattress, grab another $2 silver certificate and purchase another yard sale watch.

Even a chimpanzee can change a watch battery.

Did I mention it was a trained chimp? I love it when some untrained Homo sapiens will just tear into their timepiece like a monkey attacking a football, ripping out parts that are now broken or lost and basically destroying their watch trying to save three or four bucks! Most quality watch batteries cost six or seven bucks, so forgive me if I charge three or four bucks over that to “professionally install” your battery.



I don’t expect to purchase my private island getaway from the profits anytime soon.

Sometimes a watch is broken and a battery change is not the solution.

Customer enters the store with a watch that is no longer working, it’s dead as a doornail, and places it on the counter. I’m told it needs a new battery. Upon opening the watch I see the worst thing that can happen to any watch movement, cheap or expensive; the old battery has leaked acid, or the internal parts got wet and rusted solid, or the moisture has shorted out the movement.

What happens next is the equivalent of being handed a live hand grenade. Apparently I’m the blame for the rusty watch because he or she never got it wet, and besides, it worked before it was handed to me! Of course it did, and so did your wife’s car before she wrapped it around a palm tree! If it was running perfect, why did they bring it in my shop in the first place? Where do these people come from? This scenario rarely ends well.

Don’t swim with a watch that is clearly marked “water resistant.”

Regardless of how many meters deep in the water it says it can handle, if you swim with it on you are living on borrowed time (no pun intended). Water resistant watches do not have the proper seals and gaskets to insure being totally waterproof. A frog’s derriere is waterproof, not water resistant watches, which will eventually take on water, rust and la morte…you throw it away.

High end watches, especially automatic movements, require periodic maintenance.

This is a fact of life; like death and taxes, you shelled out the big bucks when you purchased it, expect to pay big bucks every few years or so to maintain and keep it up and running precise. Period.

What to expect when bringing cheap knock-off watch problems to your local jeweler.

Don’t expect V.I.P. assistance from real retail jewelry stores when your internet watch deal of a lifetime winds up being a piece of junk, and requires CPR to keep it on your wrist, let alone tell time. And yes, you will pay for strap repairs or adjustments and/or batteries (You don’t expect the company you bought it from to remedy the problem, do you?). Also, a personal note, if you notice a slight attitude from the jewelry store staff, remember they are also trying to make a living, and they just happen to sell real watches, and quite honestly couldn’t care less about the fact that just days ago you paid 200 clams for a clunker designer watch in a big fancy box with a $10.00 Chinese movement that doesn’t seem to fit right or tell time.

The fine watch you have worn for twenty years does not always hold its value or become worth more today, or have any value what so ever.

While it’s true some nice watches in perfect condition may actually increase in value, that is provided you rarely wore the watch and still have the original box and paperwork.

Most people expect their everyday beat and banged up timepiece to hold its value. Most folks won’t pay big bucks for a watch that looks like it spent many years toiling in a gravel pit, sort of like getting top dollar on an old beat up black and white television… good luck with that.

Many watches today have solar power storage modules or kinetic movements, not batteries.

This fact should be clearly marked on the dial below the hands – don’t open it up and mess with it yourself, you will destroy the watch. It requires arm movement or simple sunlight to run. That means if it has been sitting in a drawer since last season, all you have to do is wear the watch and it should run again.

Just remember, you get what you pay for when it comes to watches. Sometimes it is amazing to see a $12.00 Timex last twenty years or more.


Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith @ Island Plaza and welcomes your questions about all that glitters 239-394-9275 or visit his website

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *