Pocket watch repair help
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Thread: Pocket watch repair help

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  1. #1
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    Pocket watch repair help

    I have a 1892 Hampden 17jewel 18size pocket watch that just needs a new balance wheel installed. Just wondering what is a good price to have it replaced?

  2. #2
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Pocket watch repair help

    When you say it needs a new balance wheel...do you say this because the balance staff is broken, or because the balance wheel is missing completely?

    The balance wheel was numbered to the movement from the factory, and the matching serial numbered balance is considered to be an important part of the watch.

    If the balance staff is broken, the best repair is to have a watchmaker remove the old balance staff and replace it. This is a routine repair, although it requires a staking set at a minimum, and normally a lathe to really do it properly.

    If the balance wheel is missing completely, most collectors will consider the movement to be parts.
    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
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    Serious collector of American pocket watches-Waltham(and the predecessor companies) is my specialty.

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    Re: Pocket watch repair help

    What happend is I was adjusting the movement in palce so the leaver set was aligned properly in the case and I did a stupd thing by knocking the balance wheel with a screwdriver while the watch was running. The watch still ran but the balance wheel was loose and not spining freely and hiting the movement. I took the watch to get repaired and the person told me it needs a new balance wheel or a new balance staff, I am not sure which one it was? They said they had to order a new one and install it and if that is all it is the cost would be around $80. So first I am just wondering if this is a good price for this job and second if it is even woth repairing if it is the balance wheel? what are your thought on this?

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  5. #4
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    Re: Pocket watch repair help

    Well consider what the hourly shop rate is... It's a VERY specialized trade, more-so than even an auto mechanic, so i'd expect shop rate at a watchmaker to be anywhere from 75 to 150 per hour + supplies. I don't think you're being swindled if thats what you're wondering. Just my thoughts.
    Eeeb likes this.

  6. #5
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Pocket watch repair help

    Quote Originally Posted by airgood View Post
    What happend is I was adjusting the movement in palce so the leaver set was aligned properly in the case and I did a stupd thing by knocking the balance wheel with a screwdriver while the watch was running. The watch still ran but the balance wheel was loose and not spining freely and hiting the movement. I took the watch to get repaired and the person told me it needs a new balance wheel or a new balance staff, I am not sure which one it was? They said they had to order a new one and install it and if that is all it is the cost would be around $80. So first I am just wondering if this is a good price for this job and second if it is even woth repairing if it is the balance wheel? what are your thought on this?
    If that's the price including the labor, I'd say it's definitely on the low end of the cost scale for this sort of work.

    Depending on the source, I usually pay $5-15 for staffs, although I've paid a lot less buying assortments and paid upwards of $30 for some hard to find staffs. Plus, a broken staff often(about half the time in my experience) means at least one broken balance jewel, and I usually pay anywhere from $3-10 for balance jewels(although I can often pull them off parts movements at a substantial savings).

    Assuming everything drops into place and works as it should, it generally takes me about an hour to replace a staff. That can easily double if it needs to be adjusted, as many of the replacements available are intentionally made oversized.

    Most watchmakers will also want to do a full clean and oil on the watch, especially on an 18 size since it's going to have to be taken completely apart anyway to access the lower balance jewels for inspection. This adds an extra hour of work.

    So, all considered, I think it's a very fair price. That's about what I charge to do the same work, and I don't have to worry about putting food on the table with the money I make from watch repairs.

    As to whether it's worth it-having common, 17 jewel or less American watches repaired rarely pays off financially unless you're doing the work yourself. This is especially true of Hampdens, which are not as collected as many other American brands. If you like the watch, and will enjoy carrying it or using it, that shouldn't necessarily scare you away from having it repaired.
    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
    Member, NAWCC Chapter 149. Vice President and Secretary NAWCC Chapter 140. Member, NAWCC Convention Committee.
    Serious collector of American pocket watches-Waltham(and the predecessor companies) is my specialty.

  7. #6
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: Pocket watch repair help

    $80 is low unless he's really good. You'd want to find out exactly what they're going to do to "repair" it. If they're actually going to replace the balance staff, then it's a very good price. Otherwise...well, you get what you pay for. As for if its worth it, depends on you. A quick glance on Ebay shows that you can get running Hampdens for that same $80 (but you'd then have to pay to get them serviced).
    My growing collection of "affordable" vintages: http://www.abslomrob.com

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