New member with a quick question or two.
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  1. #1
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    New member with a quick question or two.

    Hello everyone! My name is Dylan Tilley. I'm a lifetime jeweler, gemologist, and watchmaker.

    I've recently been taking my horological education and qualifications to the next level after years of apprenticeship, routine service and repair experience, and I'm ready to start seeking out the most efficient route towards getting parts accounts.

    Namely, Rolex and Swatch. I hear they've been cracking down on independent accounts lately, especially Rolex. I've serviced their movements several times with good results by sourcing parts from the grey market or with aftermarket components at my clients' approval, but I don't like doing that and it's getting hard.

    I'm waiting for a date to take my CW21 exam this year, and I'm familiar with the Lititz Watch Technicum; It seems to be an amazing school and program in my reach (I live in MD), but is there a more expedient manner of acquiring these accounts and/or the necessary certifications without going to school for two or three years? I'm very comfortable with both horological theory and practical application from self study and some classes. I just need some fine tuning and credentials.

    For context, there are some competitors in my area claiming to have parts accounts that seem to have lower standards of work than my own, and I'm not sure how to tell if they are honest or not if they evade the questions (which they do).

    In any case, it is moving higher on my priority list to compete by having these accounts myself. Any help is greatly appreciated, and thanks for reading my long and vigorous post.

  2. #2
    Administrator CMSgt Bo's Avatar
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    Re: New member with a quick question or two.

    Moved to the appropriate sub-forum.

    Welcome to WatchUSeek Dylan.

  3. #3
    Member ccwatchmaker's Avatar
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    Re: New member with a quick question or two.

    Rolex parts accounts are a thing of the past. Since the beginning of 2019, those few independents who still had accounts (there were fewer than 100), have been shut down. Going forward, the only Rolex watchmakers will be associated with authorized Rolex dealers.

    A SWATCH Group account, assuming you can qualify, will allow you access to ETA parts, most of which are now available as generic aftermarket items. The SG account, depending on the level, may give you access to case parts for some SG brands. However, be aware that at least 95% of the Swiss brands have restrictive policies, which is simply "No Parts". So even with an SG account for those non-SG brands using ETA movements, you will have no access to brand specific parts--crowns, dials, hands, etc.

    As a watchmaker with forty-plus years experience, I'd advise you to be certain, even after jumping through all the hoops, that you will actually be able to make a living. It is particularly difficult to repair watches when parts are unobtainable. Also, it will be difficult to compete with modern factory repairers who are simply flipping ETA movements, both mechanical and quartz. ETA can turn out a movement for much less than you would need to earn on complete movement service for you to survive. Not that it is impossible to make a living as a watchmaker, but it is much harder than it was in the twentieth century.

    There are economically viable niche markets in vintage and antique repair, but in order to take advantage of these possibilities generally requires years of experience, considerable specific knowledge, and contacts that would be difficult to access for a new watchmaker. Don't quit your day job.

    James Sadilek -- ccwatchmaker
    Joe Horner, BenchGuy and nnt like this.

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  5. #4
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    Thanks for the reply Ccwatchmaker. This is my day job though. I do trade work for several stores around the MD area and watch service and repair is part of it. I can manufacture most parts including springs, balance staves, pivots, fit jewels and bushings, etc. and keep tolerances tight. While it's often easier to exchange a movement, antique or expensive watches prohibit this from expense or scarcity as you said.

    While I also make money as a jeweler and GIA graduate gemologist, I really enjoy watchmaking and would like to capture more market share.

    So back to topic, I need to associate with an AD and acquire my CW21 and Omega 1120 qualifications. Then what? Let me worry about my marketing. I just need a clear view of what I need to do to be armed for those conversations.

  6. #5
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    Re: New member with a quick question or two.

    Dylan, please forgive me, it appears I have misjudged your situation. However, my lack of optimism for the future of repairing modern watches remains. I had a Rolex parts account and spent several years on the AWCI Board of Directors, so I had a good view of what was happening. In 1999, Rolex discontinued supplying material houses. From that point on anyone wishing to access Rolex parts needed a Rolex Parts account. In 2002, I listened to the then head of Rolex USA tell us there were 2000 watchmakers with parts accounts in the U.S. Shortly after that they began cutting accounts. One of the early requirements was the need for account holders to have all the necessary equipment; it was a modest list and any competent watchmaker would have already had the equipment, but it doubtless served to delete a number of accounts.

    Next, around 2004 it was shop visits. If one's shop was not up to Rolex standards, the account was terminated. Then it was record keeping. Not sending in the correct monthly reports, account terminated. In 2008, Rolex required all account holders to be members of AWCI. AWCI experienced a large bump in membership, although one suspects that more accounts were cut as well. Around 2010/2011 came the requirement for the CW21 certification. Since Rolex service was not a large portion of my business, I declined to spend the several thousand dollars it would have cost to become certified. My account was terminated in 2012.

    There was a pattern here. Each year or two, another requirement came along, many in the form of expensive equipment. Eventually, to comply cost more than $30K.

    All the time this was going on, Rolex was ramping up their in-house service capability. It was a well-planned scheme to shift service work to the factory service centers while maintaining the independent capability to service the watches so there were not long wait times for service which could anger customers. The account cutting went along hand in hand with the increased factory capability. Now after twenty years, we see the ultimate goal. No more independent watchmakers servicing Rolex.

    It was only a few years from the time Rolex began implementing their plan that other Swiss brands began following. Richemont cut all access to Cartier parts, and SWATCH Group began restrictions. Some brands did it stupidly, for example, Breitling cut all access without having the necessary in-house service capability and many Breitling owners were faced with 18 month plus wait times to have their watches returned.

    Bottom line here is that the Swiss brands will do whatever they need to do in order to maximize their revenue. A large part of this is monopolizing service and ridding the world of independent watchmakers. Most factory service facilities operate with technicians who are trained in some phase of service, but never enough for them to strike out on their own. Rolex operates on an assembly line, where each step of the service is performed by a different person. Brands with less expensive watches do not service or repair, but simply swap movements. With automated manufacturing and robot assembly, it makes no economic sense to pay human labor to disassemble, clean, repair and reassemble a movement that costs less than $100 to replace.

    You may be able to find a position with an authorized Rolex dealer, although Rolex is doing away with them as well, in favor of their factory owned boutiques. You will be competing for the position with those who have diplomas from Lititz. You may be able to get a SWATCH Group account, but how long before SG cuts all accounts? You may be better off staying where you are and attempting to develop a following with the collector community.

    My apologies for the length, but the watch enthusiasts world needs to know where things came from and where they are going.

    James Sadilek -- ccwatchmaker.



  7. #6
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    New member with a quick question or two.

    What a great comments on here. I have learnt a lot

    Iím 29 and my job is as a carpenter. I do watch service as a hobby for awhile now. I was self taught and now I do watch service for my customer watch at my home with watch service tools, going well so far. Iím not watchmaker but I do have alot of watchmaking tools which I use it now and again when it needs comes to that. Iím good at finding faults and understanding what caused the issue in the movement. Iím good at reforming hairspring back to original shape and so on.

    I would like to start my own business one day, For now I have my eBay watch service. Do you guys think I would stand a chance as a watch service or a watchmaker? Also I do have high standard and I take very seriously when servicing the watches. My most favourite part during the service is oil the cap stone to achieve a perfect small dot on it.

    Just a thought

    Many thanks
    Mat


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    Squirrell likes this.
    My advice- buy a watch that pleases you. Don't let anyone judge or tell you what to wear. Good cheap and expensive watches are no different between them. Both still can tell the time.

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    Re: New member with a quick question or two.

    Am I right to question what the Swiss watch houses are doing is legal? Everyone has heard the comparison, that imagine if you bought a Mercedes Car and Mercedes were the only place you could buy your spare parts from.. Are the likes of Seiko and citizen likely to fillow suit? On the other hand we have companies like Nick Hacko in Australia attempting to do the near impossible, that is, manufacture a High End watch 100% here in Australia. A project I suggest to beworth following just to learn of the difficulties in manufacture of such precise components.

  9. #8
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    Well that was a very informative, if frustrating answer. Thanks for taking the time to lay it out for me.

    It's a shame they don't understand that a free market and competition encourages improvement and innovation. They will stagnate and die off this way. It's painfully obvious to anyone with business acumen.

    My goal was to find a way to compete with this other guy but it turns out he has to be misleading his customers. No AD I know of around here uses anything but the service centers.

    I am getting pretty frustrated honestly. I grew up in this business with my dad and grandfather teaching me the jewelry and watch work, and going to school for it along with gemology later. I was always told that a graduate gemologist was a very respected title and it would guarantee a lucrative career (it still sort of works) but now the market is flooded with them. I went on to study stone cutting, engraving, hone my watchmaking and jewelry skills, more diplomas and classes in all fields...

    If I was working just twenty years ago I would be hot sh*t. Now I don't know. Seems like very few people care.

    At least I can still pay the bills for now.

  10. #9
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    Re: New member with a quick question or two.

    James' description of the Rolex MO agrees with my understanding of treatment of ORJs and independents I have known who were formerly contracted for accounts with the company.
    The takeaway for those interested in establishing new parts account relationships...it is likely less about the quality of your work and more about the marketing strategy of the company. If you want to work on Rolex and use genuine parts...you may have to work for Rolex.
    A suggestion: contact Rolex USA and see what the requirements would be to establish an account?
    Regards, BG

    PS: @ Wiseman101...I share your frustration...very few folks recognize or care about quality craftsmanship in any field these days. Most folks determine quality based on advertising and reputation...but are too ignorant to evaluate themselves. This is somewhat a product of a failed educational system; but is also the consequence of being a consuming society instead of a producing society.
    Last edited by BenchGuy; 1 Week Ago at 13:18.
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  11. #10
    Member ccwatchmaker's Avatar
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    Re: New member with a quick question or two.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squirrell View Post
    Am I right to question what the Swiss watch houses are doing is legal? ... On the other hand we have companies like Nick Hacko in Australia attempting to do the near impossible, that is, manufacture a High End watch 100% here in Australia. A project I suggest to beworth following just to learn of the difficulties in manufacture of such precise components.
    Is it legal? Depends on how many lawyers you have and how many government officials you can rent--in the past, one could buy the government people, but now they don't stay bought, you can only rent them. Sadly, the watch manufacturers have much deeper pockets than the independent watchmakers. When it comes to hiring lawyers and renting government officials, the manufacturers hold the high hand.

    So far, the monopolization has not been declared illegal. There are still efforts to have the situation adjudicated, but no wins for the watchmakers except in Spain several years ago, but then Spain declined to prosecute.

    Regarding Nick Hacko, manufacturing precision parts is no problem with modern computerized machining equipment. There are a few parts that could be a hindrance to Nick. For example, making hairsprings is particularly difficult, also jewels may not be easy.

    However, the most difficult part would be marketing. The Chinese and Japanese watch manufacturers are easily as capable as the Swiss at making very high quality watches if they wished, but they lack the marketing expertise of the Swiss industry. Swiss watches are not all that great, in fact, Seiko knocked them out of the water in the early seventies accuracy trials, but the Swiss are superb marketers and have been for at least 300 years.

    James Sadilek -- ccwatchmaker
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