If you’ve ever spent any time at the JB Hudson Service Counter with a broken watch, you’re familiar with the scene: one of our esteemed Service Professionals sympathetically examines your timepiece, takes your personal information, and asks penetrating and intelligent questions about exactly what happened when you let your toddler play with the diver extension on your SeaDweller? (You were in the kitchen? Is the floor tiled?)
But past them, back over their shoulders, who are those people?
Who are the natty gentlemen in the sharp white labcoats shuffling around and then going back to hide in some little room somewhere? What are they doing back there? And for goodness sakes why is it going to take so long to finish fixing my watch?
SO Many Watchmakers
Here at JB Hudson we love watches. We love wearing them and we love talking about them. While that might not be rare (except in the degree of our passion!), what is special is the presence of watchmakers on the premises. Most fine jewelers dispense with such relics, but not JB Hudson. We believe it’s part of offering service at the highest level, and every watch we repair passes through the hands of one of these guys, sooner or later.
Part of my job is to evaluate the watches that come in for help, and to separate the one we can service internally from the ones that need to be sent away. We would love to attend to every piece personally, but a dozen different constraints make this impossible. And can make it take a long, long time.
Though we would love a crack at your tourbillon, some brands refuse to make parts available to the technician on the street. Instead, you can be assured that a factory technician with the very best training, tools, and components will be addressing your watch’s condition.
However, sending your watch to a domestic service platform takes time – perhaps a two month round trip. Sending it to Germany, France, or Switzerland takes longer. And in the rare cases where your watch is of a truly auspicious and excellent caliber, there may be only one technician qualified to repair it. This fabled magician works in a bunker in the Jura Mountains. Other watchmakers speak about him only in whispers. The major brands resort to subterfuge and smuggled Krugerrands to engage his services. To a man like this, haste means very little.
Paradoxically, vintage watches present a set of challenges for which JB Hudson is better equipped. Until relatively recently, the Twin Cities harbored one of the longest running watch repair schools in the country. It’s difficult to avoid turning over a rock in this town without finding some aging technician left over from the GI Bill, often trained to factory standard on your grandfather’s Speedmaster or Accutron.
JB Hudson partners with a number of local watchmakers for whom the winds of change have etched areas of specialty. It isn’t unusual for such gentlemen to hoard a king’s ransom in ancient OEM parts still in the packaging, or production tooling (in some cases literally) stolen from the factory floor. Our service department treats with these cranky, aging pirates so you don’t have to. Expect a delay of six to eight weeks.
But even in cases where the spirit is willing, particularly old and worn watches may need parts from far afield. If your Angelus chronograph requires a balance wheel that can only be found by haunting eBay and hoping for the best, best to resign yourself to a wait that can last years.
We prefer to perform our repairs in-house when we can. There are a number of quality brands for which parts are available, and when these dovetail with the training of our technicians, repairs can almost always be accomplished in less time and at a more reasonable cost. Between them our technicians maintain skills in a variety of contemporary and antique disciplines, including complications, vintage restoration, fabrication, and fine refinishing.
Some small jobs can be completed while the client waits. For more extensive repairs like complete overhauls of mechanical watches, when parts are available it is rare for the task to require more than four to six weeks.
Finally, for levels of repair surpassing the general battery change, JB Hudson insists on an observational quality control interval of anywhere from one to seven days. While it may seem criminal to withhold your watch even longer when it’s already been all the way to Dallas or New Jersey (or Geneva or Schaffhausen), this extra look is instrumental to increasing the probability of a happy outcome.