Sunday, 10 August 2014

Are You Being Served?

i, and i suspect many, have had stories of unhappy watch service centre experiences and that is separate from any sticker shock [a good example of this here LINK] at learning what u have to dish out to get the watch back to a good functioning statethe cost of servicing and the quality of the service do play a part in the overall joy of owning or even of keeping a piece so for now, let's look at some true tales of service centre woes...

raphmeister learning to fix his own watches so as to save on servicing costs :) 

1. they fix your watch but...
  • scratch up something in the process - uhm what's that fresh scratch on that dial/bridge/case/lug about? that wasn't there before. here the person handing you back your piece will try to use a jedi mind trick to convince u 'the scratch was always there' if u bring it to their attention
  • screw up some other mechanical aspect in your movement eg. yup it keeps time again but the chrono doesn't reset to zero
  • it works for awhile and then the same fault surfaces shortly after
    2. we can fix your watch... at our factory in Switzerland/Germany etc
    • cost goes up and it can get pretty steep
    • not having the expertise here means any post servicing issue or future service of that watch model will require trips back to the factory from whichever country it came from
    this used to be serviceable in Hong Kong, not sure about now... 

    3. we can do what you asked us to do but... 
    • oh you want us to polish your watch? yup we can do that for $X00 but you have to service it too for $Y,Zoo. don't want to service your movement, we can't polish your watch then. i for one don't see the link between watch movement servicing and case polishing... 
    hopefully things do get better with servicing at the established brands service
    centres which many people still have to turn to... including myself of course :) 

    some other considerations

    A. ability for other folks to service other than the original manufacture
    • while i love independent watches the inability of any watch servicer to open it up and fix it to get it right presents a problem. it almost always have to take a trip back to the manufacture that made it as they don't have a vast servicing network and also faces the possibility of one day not having someone being present that is able to service it without charging a whole lotta $$. which could also mean that the wonderful 50 or 100k or 500k watch could be a very expensive paperweight one day. as for a grand comp from Patek, you'd probably be feeling very safe. 
    not serviceable by just anyone... 

    this one too... UN also being recently purchased by Kering... 
    • doesn't mean we should all be buying ETA watches but it does mean it would be good to find reliable and fair alternative servicers for the watches we own. example 1: former Rolex service centre technicians/servicers leave and set up their own shops and may provide a similar service for 1/3 or 1/5 the current cost. example 2: get access to servicers that can service old watch movements 
    alternatives to RSC are available... 

    a positive for Patek is that they will service watches they make from years back hence the whole 'looking after it for the next generation' does work coz someone will be there to service it unless the brand dissapears eg. apocalypse happens. different brands will have different thresholds as to how long they will service(or keep parts for) watches past a certain age

    B. nearest service centre is tooooo far away

    this may not be so much of a problem in Singapore but folks who don't live in countries with a lot of buyers of certain watches/models, there may not be official or reliable service options available nearby. costs go up with shipping and handling etc.

    C. how much did you say it was? 

    in the past i believe service centres were really setup to more or less break even. looked to just provide enough on the ground in a country to service a majority of the type of watches in that market and look to cater for a reasonable price for that service. 

    increasingly i think service centres have gotten a bit more fat on and that is padded into their service price. so instead of paying for the skilled watch technicians time, parts and machine use, you are paying for... more. the more of course depends on the company in question and it could be used for something that gives back to folks using the service centre or not at all.   

    I remember once i could service a watch at an authorised service centre for less than 10% of the purchase price from an authorised dealer. Now I have heard of $4k watches with $1+k servicing or a third or more of the price someone paid to own the watch. egads!

    D. a pleasant experience

    yup we know we are not back to buy another watch but being provided a pleasant experience, a smiling face at the counter and a helpful tone, some feigned interest in helping you resolve your watch crises(vs the 'what silly question are you about to ask me' gaze or a chortle with co-workers about the seemingly legitimate request you just made 'he wants to keep the original hands and dial... kekekeke')... is that really too much to ask for? 

    do note the intense focus as i service this lady customer's timepiece

    E. how often should you service your timepiece? 

    Some companies advice 3 year intervals before servicing but for me personally, 3 years is pretty short servicing interval for a current mechanical watch. for folks who rotate through a number of watches they will also likely have a longer service interval going for em. my view(which may be wrong and may not work for you but does for me) is that unless it's not working right or not keeping good time(as in losing minutes daily yuh), don't send it in. who lives by the seconds anyway? ;)

    i recently serviced this baby outside of the Swatch service centres but only
     after it was losing a fair bit of time and the cost was very reasonable

    to conclude... 

    so this is just my point of view as all my posts are. i think addressing some of the shortfalls above would go towards making the servicing experience and the overall ownership experience that much better and add to brand loyalty (vs brand aversion). maybe key to all of this is just consistent, reliable and good quality servicing of the timepieces.

    it is such an important part of the customer experience of ownership of a luxury watch that what brands and their service/retail partners should be striving for is for people to share about great service testimonials vs tales of woe ;)

    hard at work at perfecting my skillz before my next watch has to go in for servicing

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