A Note To Swiss Watchmaker (and others) (Update)

I sent an email to Swiss Watchmakers in Cambridge, this morning, but think the message applies to a great many things and is worth sharing.

I gave my son, Jack, a Glycine Airman Base 22 Purist for Christmas. I’m a watch collector, and I hoped that my son would share my love and appreciation of mechanical watches. When he saw the Glycine, his eyes lit up. I had given him a few watches before, but this time I really captured his interest. I was thrilled.

A few days later, he told me that the hands didn’t align properly. The hour hand was about 15 minutes off proper alignment. No problem, I told him. I called your shop and was told that you could handle it. I was told it would take a day or two, and that it would be no big deal to properly align the hands.

My son brought his watch to you on January 5th. He was told, as I was, that it would be done in a day or two, and he would be called to come get it. A few days later, he still hadn’t heard anything so he called (at my urging) and was told it was being worked on. So much for a day or two.

A week later, he still hadn’t heard, so he called again. He was told that they didn’t know why anyone would say a day or two, as it usually took two weeks to do a repair. That may be, but both he and I were told a day or two. Why we were told that really isn’t a question for us, and doesn’t change the fact that we were told that. You were given the watch to repair based on what we were told. Doing what you say you’re going to do is a matter of business integrity. As we were told that, we expected you to keep your word.

He finally came to pick up his watch yesterday.  The hands were still misaligned. Not only had he waited almost two weeks to get his “day or two” watch repair completed, but after that time, the Glycine still had the problem he came in with. Why would you give a watch back when the problem for which it was given you remains unrepaired?

But the problem that most concerns me isn’t the delay, or the failure to repair, but that you have taken something that was meant to be a joy for my son and turned it into a misery.  Now the Glycine Airman is a burden, a problem, another hassle that he would rather live without.  He was thrilled to get it, and now he wishes he hadn’t.

Please realize the harm that is happening.  If you can’t get this fairly simple repair done right away, then get it back to him and I will have it repaired by my watchmaker, but please do not do more harm in the process. Please don’t make my son hate watches.

If you have any issue with this, feel free to call me.

Maybe this will remind us of the unintentional harm we can do when we forget how the things we do, and fail to do, affect others.

Update:  An unnamed person at Swiss Watchmakers non-responsively replied to me, whereupon I told them that my son would pick up the watch the next day. He did.

He then asked me what he should do with it.  I told him to wear it, enjoy it, and that I would take care of it next time he was home.  I apologized that he was put through this hassle.

He called me back the next day to tell me that he spent some time fiddling with it, spinning the hands backwards, and it appears to have corrected the alignment by itself.  I told him that was great. And if, for some reason, things went south again, not to worry. We’d deal with it.

12 thoughts on “A Note To Swiss Watchmaker (and others) (Update)

  1. Marc R

    Great letter. Hopefully they’ll read it and act upon it appropriately. Wow what a great gift for a college kid! I got a Fossil from my family but it looks good and tells time perfectly! Not sure how complex the mechanical movements are…

  2. LTMG

    When I was teaching operations management to MBA candidates the focus of the course was customer satisfaction in all of its variations. At the time, research showed that only about 5% of dissatisfied customers complained, the other 95% took their business elsewhere. I hope the person to whom you sent the letter understands the gravity of what you are doing by sending the letter.

    Possibly the only thing worse than bad customer service is that performed grudgingly and to a minimal level of quality. Bad customer service can arise from ignorance, but grudging customer service is intentional. Intention is a far worse offense than ignorance.

    1. SHG Post author

      When dealing with small businesses (big business is a whole different problem), people seem to forget that customers don’t exist to give them business, and therefore money. I don’t expect much. Do what you tell me you’re going to do, and do it properly. Once they fail at either prong, I go into damage control mode, where I try to limit the harm they will do to me.

      At that stage, they can recognize the problem and fix it. If so, I forgive and forget, as anyone can make a mistake. But if they go into CYA mode, or worse, attack mode, then they have defined the battle and I will take it to the streets. Ask Kitchenaid.

      At this point, I hope and fully expect Swiss Watchmakers to do the right thing. Watch guys tend to be pretty good people, and I remain hopeful that they will realize that their continued existence depends on not chasing young people away from mechanical watches. I hope it’s ignorance and not intentional, and I will presume that until proven otherwise.

      1. david

        At risk of offending mine host, your KitchenAid link just goes to Google. I may not be smart enough to deal with links . . .

        1. SHG Post author

          You’re right, it does go to google, but it goes to a specific search on google that links to my posts on KitchenAid. So rather than link one of them, or all of them, I just linked to the google search showing my posts so that a reader inclined to look would be able to pick one or more as he or she desired.

  3. Richard G. Kopf


    A beautiful post.

    I tag along with this:

    About a year after my wife died, I took the kids to be with the their grandmother and uncle and his family in San Francisco for the Christmas holiday. My wife had died the day after Christmas the year before.

    It was Christmas 1987 and Keller was seven. I purchased one of those little airplanes with a tiny gas motor as a Christmas gift for him. The little plane flew on a long wire connecting the plan to handle. I was assured by the high end toy store that it was simple and easy to operate and that it would start with no trouble. I bought all the needed accessories including a little battery, and “gasoline” for the engine. I was able to hide the gift on our flight and I got it to California without Keller seeing it.

    I took the pretty little plane and excited little kid to a parking lot on Christmas day. After two hours of trying, we gave up. The little airplane engine had not kicked over even once. My finger was near bloody from spinning the prop to no avail.

    As we got into the car to drive back to Uncle Scott’s house, Keller said, “That’s alright, Dad.” But, of course, that wasn’t true.

    All the best.


    1. SHG Post author

      First, great to have you back, Judge. Hope all is well. Second, there are few things worse than the proffer of something really fun, really cool, only to be crushed by the disappointment of its failing to live up to its claims. It’s that moment where wonderful meets terrible, and it sucks. As a parent, we know that a happy dream just died a painful, brutal death, no matter how well our kids appear to handle it. And there is no going back and doing it again.

      As a parent, this is a heartbreaker.

  4. Turk

    My kid walked down the same path when he got a gift for a Tony Hawk video game with the “skateboard” as the controller. After a couple hours of futility, we never got the game to work.

    Before that he loved Tony Hawk. Now he hates him.

    Lesson learned. I hope your watchmakers appreciate the lesson you’ve offered them.

  5. David M.

    I think this is even worse when it’s the child disappointing the parent.

    Two years ago, I had a classy date coming up and I’d sent my watch in for maintenance. I asked my dad, who also collects, for a loaner and he gave me a Nomos Tangomat Datum. Jesus Christ, I love that watch. I loved it from the moment I saw it. The date was a bust, but it didn’t matter because the watch was so cool. I categorically refused to return it and Dad, who is awesome, agreed to make it a long-term loan.

    Fast-forward a year and I got in very late, was slightly drunk and dropped the watch while I was getting ready for bed. The glass shattered and the face was destroyed.

    Never have I felt shame like in that moment. It wasn’t just that I’d damaged the watch, nor even that I’d violated my father’s trust – I think it was that I’d treated a type of thing dear to him with such disregard. If he’d ever discovered what I’d done, I don’t know how I could’ve made it up to him. I want him to know, always, that I love him and the gifts he makes to me.

    Epilogue: it turned out the damage looked more dramatic than it was, and I got it repaired (covertly, because the local Wempes know my dad) for a couple of hundred bucks. Ramen for a month, but the watch is pristine again, and on my wrist at this very moment.

    1. SHG Post author

      A father’s perspective on what happened: While it’s painful to think that you were so careless with something you knew to be precious, to your father if not you, stercus accidit. If this was a constant problem, it would be different, but everybody is entitled to a screw up. You screwed up. Trust me, so did your father. We all do, even though we may not be proud of it.

      That you cared enough to fix it, to fix it properly, to eat the cost of fixing it and to conceal it from your father is a reflection of your responsibility, even if post hoc in this instance. About the only thing I bet is that your father would have preferred you tell him before repairing it, just so he could make sure that your repair of his watch met his standards. Of course, if all goes well and he never knows, then it’s not a problem. Then again, nothing is a problem until it’s a problem, so be thankful that all ended well.

      And the Nomos is a beautiful watch, one of those “inside baseball” brands that only people who are seriously into watches know about.

      1. David M.

        Thank you. As it happens, I made sure the fix was up to Dad’s standards by taking the watch to a store with which he does business, grabbing the smallest and nerdliest technician* I could find and making him promise on his immortal soul to supervise the repair himself, and never ever breathe a word to anyone about it. I played D&D in middle school and I think we used to call those Intimidate checks.

        *and the blondest. Like, Peter O’Toole blond.

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