Thread: watch repair to make money on the side

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  1. #1
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    watch repair to make money on the side

    I have been tearing apart and trying to fix watches that I bought off of ebay for awhile now. My question is how can I get good enough at this to make some money on the side in my spare time? I know about TZ watch school and I have not yet registered. Is this course worth it? After this course will I be able to fix other people's watches as a hobby? I don't think packing up and relocating to go to watchmaker school is possible as I have to work to feed my family. What else is there to learn more about watchmaking? I live in rural Iowa USA and the closest watchmaker is about 50 miles and there is no group of collectors or anything like that around here. Any Ideas for me?

  2. #2
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    Re: watch repair to make money on the side

    What else is there to learn? All of it. The good news is that you learn how to do it by doing it. Straightforward servicing (strip, clean, check for wear and reassembly) is something that you can get competent with in a year or two but making parts for long obsolete stuff is a lifetime's work in learning, amassing tools and so on.

    You say that you've been attempting to repair watches. Do you succeed? It helps. Nothing breeds competence like practice but confidence is worth every bit as much. I wouldn't think twice about removing a balance, for example (and I haven't busted a pivot in days) and I'd expect to be able to put a watch back together without difficulty. Most of the time, though it doesn't come to that. Every family you know has heirloom watches that stopped and got placed in the kitchen drawer. They are worthless and the cost of repair is uneconomic to the owners but when they hear that you fix watches in your spare time, they'll root them out, believe me! Mainly though you're going to need polishing kit, an account with a crystal supplier
    plenty of batteries (most folk use electrics and you can't turn them down because it is an easy way of, making money and expanding your word of mouth range), lots of straps, springbars and a good set of strap tools.
    The reality is that most jobs are simple and mundane but sometimes you get beauties. A cement filled Omega that was a builder's wedding present from a late father, for instance. Took an evening and earned me good money. The wife of the builder put the word around the factory I work in. It is a very well respected skill to have so you can always tell people that you'll take a look and make no promises. Stay within your depth and form a relationship with a good watchmaker so you can lay off the more scary bets. (I had to take my JLC back three times for my guy to fix it correctly and it cost nearly 200 to repair. I was well out of my depth and knew it.)
    Don't be afraid to say it is too advanced for me or that you haven't got the right tools and be aware that Dad's old Timex may earn you as much as a tycoon's Vastek-Spence. People are sentimental about watches.

  3. #3
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    Re: watch repair to make money on the side

    tomshep is right, lots and lots of practice is what will make you feel confident. Most "broken" watches that I've come across are really only dirty and in need of oil, breaking them down, giving them a nice clean and oil gets them ticking just like new. A buffed or new crystal and a little TLC on the case and its like new! You'll get a feel of what you can and can't do and as you continue to practice practice practice the list of what you can do will get longer and longer.

    tomshep is right about making as much off of a timex (which are super easy to get running since they are virtually indestructible and almost always just need a clean/oil) as anything else, i get a steady supply of timexes and they pay for my addiction...er...hobby. Now, you aren't going to make a ton of money here and be able to up and quit your job but making a few bucks is within the realm of possibility

    daniel

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    Re: watch repair to make money on the side

    The sentence in my first post was supposed to say "Where else is there to learn more about watchmaking." Not "what else is there to learn." That would be just plain silly because I don't hardly know enough.

    Interesting. Is the Tz school worth it? So what happens if you ruin one? Do you take it to your good watchmaker and say fix this and pay for it out of your pocket or do you have some sort of an insurance plan that will pay for it? The idea with straps, springbars, batterys is a pretty good one because that is what breaks the most. I never even thought of doing that. What types, sizes, assortments of these should I get?

  5. #5
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    Re: watch repair to make money on the side

    I didn't do TZ watch school because I was able to learn what I needed to know online with a few weeks' research (but then I was a research engineer,) Lots of people have benefitted from it so I wouldn't rule it out. It is a bit like driving school as you'll probably have picked up some bad habits by now (if you're any good) BTW the going rate for a battery change is a 4oz. bar of Green and Blacks organic chocolate (and I often get two!) That's about 3 for 3 minutes' work which is attractive. I don't take on anything that I can't get bits for, and if I can get it going, I show the owner my (his) parts bill and explain that it is a hobby so all contributions are gratefully received. They tend to give me more than I'd ask for. I make on straps but only ever buy good ones. Crystals make good money because they really sharpen a watch up (and allow you to fully strip the case for cleaning.) The first one that I got paid for was a friend's Ingersoll seven jewel that had belonged to his grandfather. The last watchmaker had failed to tighten a screw and after my friend had dropped it, it wouldn't wind. I cleaned it up as well and called him that afternoon. He paid me 30 and the smile on his face convinced me that I'd want to keep doing it. That 30 bought me a set of A*F screwdrivers.

  6. #6
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    Re: watch repair to make money on the side

    One thing I picked up that was very helpful was the cd of the chicago watchmaking school, it's a whole watchmaking course, as the copyright is expired someone scanned them into PDF files and sells the disk on the bay. There is some really valuable info in the lessons and since watches work pretty much the same as they did a 100 years ago, you can pick up a lot of info and techniques. I've also heard good things about the Bulova School cd but I've never seen it myself.

  7. #7
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    Re: watch repair to make money on the side

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveDodds View Post
    The sentence in my first post was supposed to say "Where else is there to learn more about watchmaking." Not "what else is there to learn." That would be just plain silly because I don't hardly know enough.

    Interesting. Is the Tz school worth it? So what happens if you ruin one? Do you take it to your good watchmaker and say fix this and pay for it out of your pocket or do you have some sort of an insurance plan that will pay for it? The idea with straps, springbars, batterys is a pretty good one because that is what breaks the most. I never even thought of doing that. What types, sizes, assortments of these should I get?
    Where to learn more about watchmaking? WOSTEP schools. That is one answer, and a very practical one, they do have different programs to fit each individual's need and time, and best time investment too, you have very intense course so every minute worth it.
    Beside schools, you can start as apprenticeship with some repair shop, that will give you first hand experience quick, or just work as watch repair service desk.

    When you work on watch as hobby, you do not need to promise deadline for your repair, no another customer is waiting for you, no phone to answer while you are working on the project, no need for FederalExpress anything, no need to do the repair you are not familiar with, no need to help the person you hated....
    So you can finish it with your own path, talk to the watch owner for hours, and watch TV while you are working on watch.
    Are you sure you want to give up all that? and probably much more you need to give up from your past, freedom of everything in particular!

    Once you start to make a living on repair watch, you are a watchmaker, there is no in between as hobbist or part time watchmaker.

    What I like to say is - It is a big commitment if you want to make a living as watchmaker, after all the top paid watchmakers are just a few, and most watchmakers worked as transitional profession, until they move up to management position. only the one open their own business can possibly make a good living.

    Have this in mind and look at your area for the future market, how many jewelry business in your area? how many of them do watch repair? Can you start your own business now and get enough money to pay your rent and your salary?

  8. #8
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    Re: watch repair to make money on the side

    Hi Steve,
    As no-one has responded on the TZ course...
    I did go through the courses as I wanted to know it was doing it correctly, and was starting from scratch. It's easy to get an old watch running - but less easy to do it in a way that will carry-on delivering good results for another 5 years.
    Going back to the notes now, probably 90%+ is second-nature, and to be honest I seldom refer back to them now.
    What we all seem to agree on is that practice is the key. I've gone back to some of my 'family and friends' pieces that I worked-on intially, and re-serviced them, as my skills have moved on since then (stuff like correcting beat error on fixed-stud escapements is beyond the TZ course).
    If you've picked up the manual handling skills, and know how to clean and lubricate correctly, then you are probably ahead of what TZ will teach you.
    Cheers
    Dave

  9. #9
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    Re: watch repair to make money on the side

    My best advice is to know what you can't do. Friends and relatives will beg you to work on their junk. After you do your best, they will hold you responsible forever (of course with no further payment).

    Learn to identify the trouble jobs and politely decline the work. This will save you a world of grief, embarrasment, and wasted time in the long run.

    Steve

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