April 12, 2016
I was buying a tourbillon, Westminster minute repeater . The feeling of weakness you get when you’re faced with a complete nutter and you realize there’s no way you can make him see how very insane his point of view is. We’re talking a 15min fix to a watch that takes 5 weeks to make. The winding up of this watch felt rough and gritty and this person, responsible for the quality of all watches in this swanky high-end watch company, tells me I have to accept it. Nothing can be done to make it better… and, we are talking about a watch that could be yours for 650’000$. Now how mad is that? In Tissot, Rolex, Seiko… in any company that produces reasonably priced watches such a detail would be dealt with without discussion, but this person was having nothing of it.
The thing is, if you only deal with +100K $ watches you can lose your sense of proportion and reality. A triple-axis tourbillon or a minute repeater is not an excuse for a gritty winding mechanism or a dirty and badly oiled movement. If you pay 100’000$ for your watch it will not be ten times “better” than your 10’000$ watch. Regardless of how inspired and obsessed with watchmaking “your man” looks in the youtube-“documentary” from this or that luxury brand’s workshop, the sad truth is, he’s more interested in his next coffee break than in the person who will pay the price of an Aston Martin for the watch he’s assembling. Producing a limited edition, complicated watch, involves more “solo” work by the watchmaker and we are all different. Therefore the results differ, too.
The more you invest in a watch, the better you want to have it’s “tires kicked”.
Top 15, problems on new +100’000$ watches:
1.Damaged casings. Polished too many times and out of shape or scratched lugs.
Retailers don’t by expensive watches to keep in their stock. Watch brands lend them to them. If not sold the watch will go to another retailer. On the way to the next shop it will pass the factory in Switzerland and get polished, grained, sand blasted, whatever the finishing requires. Depending on how many times this is done, the poor thing will look miserable. The original shape will be so rounded off that you can’t tell if it’s an apple or a pear. Turn your watch around and you will most probably see the scars under the lugs, left there by too many ham-fisted strap changes.
2.Cracked or scratched dials.
These can be pretty difficult to see in stone, enamel, mother of pearl etc. The price of an exclusive dial will make your eyes water, so you want to find out about these faults before the warranty runs out. Better yet, before buying.
3.Marked or scratched hands.
Hard to see, especially on a polished surface.
4.Dirt on the dial side or in the mouvement.
This is very objective but dirt is dirt and will harm the performance of a watch. Tiny, nano particles, only seen with a microscope, will not.
Again, hard to see. A tiny mark in the anti-reflex coating is not a problem.
6.Winding and hand setting too hard or too “free”. Hand setting not “smooth”. The crown does not stay in the intended position.
Again, very objective. But, generally, if you feel something’s difficult or wrong, something probably is.
7.Cracked or badly oiled jewels.
A serious fault. No client will see this.
8.Scratches on the movement. Damaged screws and eccentrics.
A god indicator of the quality of a given watch.
9.Counters on chronographs not working correctly.
10.Minute repeaters not striking correctly at all times.
11.Rate and amplitude problems.
Pretty impossible for the client to check in the shop.
12.Watch not as water-proof as promised.
13.Crown not turning true.
If a lazy watchmaker tells you it can’t be made better… change watchmaker.
14.Badly printed and centered dates, retrogrades, moon faces etc..
15.Coarsly working pushers.