The right to fix - March 2023
There was a day when watch companies would generously offer spare parts for their watches to watchmakers and parts houses, across the country. This was a way of assuring timely and professional repairs for their watches. I have drawers full of original material from specific brands, mostly vintage, but some contemporary too: Elgin, Hamilton, Waltham, Gruen, Bulova as well as Swiss brands such as Rolex, Omega etc… But in recent years, some of these brands have begun restricting the sale of these parts for one reason or another.
A simple gasket or mainspring, stem, crown etc… should not prevent the watchmaker from fulfilling a customer’s request for a repair of their timepiece. But companies are placing requirements of certification in an effort to restrict the sale of their parts. Some require a 1-2 week class in a service center in an effort to assure control of their parts distribution. Rolex is in the limelight as one of the most restrictive. One must be CW21 (certified watchmaker 21st century) in an effort to apply for a parts account. This would require years of training and then passing their testing requirements. But then, on a whim, that account gets closed. I’ve heard of watchmakers who have had an account for decades, only to be sent the fateful letter stating that they are no longer able to buy parts. They would, on occasion, send a representative to the business, unannounced, only to be scrutinized (with photographs and notes) as to the condition of the workshop. If you had aftermarket parts in stock, you’re axed! If you did not have the latest water pressure testing equipment (north of $13,000), then you would be cut off.
I could get into the whole John Deere debacle of the same kind, but craftsmen as well as farmers and automobile enthusiasts and repair shops should be able to buy spare parts, tools and electronics without encumbrances from the companies that made those parts. They purchased the tractor, they should be allowed to fix it and be offered technical assistance from the company that made the tractor. In the real world, there are good technicians and not so good technicians. Those who excel in their world are successful and maintain a good livelihood. Those who are less than skilled, will fall by the wayside as customers will stop requesting their services. Survival of the fittest.
Last month we lost a skilled legend, Barry J. Marcus. My very first journal entry was about Barry, back in 2017. Barry was staunchly devoted to his craft as a watchmaker, servicing both modern and vintage watches In the final pages of his book, Watches I Have Known, which he co-authored with his daughter Julie Campisi, he sends a letter to the American Watch and Clockmakers Institute, canceling his membership. He mentioned how the industry used to be and then what it had become, something he did not recommend to his grandson, sadly. I still believe there is a need for craftsmen and women and we clearly need to make available the training and parts to be able to fix stuff ourselves and not be beholden to a giant corporation. I hope we never come to the point where, as Barry wrote, “Would the government permit General Motors to state the installation of the DieHard battery rather than a Delco to negate the guarantee of the car? What next?”
I will close with Barry’s obituary, RIP.
MILFORD - Barry J. Marcus, 88, of Milford passed away peacefully on Tuesday, January
17, 2023, surrounded by his loving family. He was born in Lawrence, MA on November 17,
1934, to Israel and Betty (Rappaport) Marcus.
Barry was best known for his love of repairing watches. He was a fourth-generation
watchmaker who began learning the family trade at age 10. He worked alongside his
father at Marcus Jeweler on Main Street, Milford until becoming its owner, in 1971, after
his father retired. In 1986, Barry opened his watch repair shoppe. He loved visiting with
friends and customers, while repairing their watches. Barry built a reputation on high skill
and more than fair pricing. His specialty was restoring family heirlooms. Barry understood
that a watch’s sentimental value was more important than its monetary value. In 2014,
Barry and daughter Julie self-published “Watches I Have Known” a compilation of his
Papa Barry stories. Barry did not retire. He was often in the shoppe 7 days a week. Right
up until he passed away, he was asking to go to the shoppe, there were watches waiting
Barry proudly served in the U.S. Navy as an Instrumentman on the U.S.S. Frontier. He
was an avid sailor berthing a sailboat on Narragansett Bay until 2017. He was active in the
Milford community serving on the Milford Retail Board of Trade, Concerned Citizens, B’nai
Brith, president, the Woodland and Brookside School Building Committees, Rotary Club,
president 1971-1973, and a long time Town Meeting Member. Barry was a member of
Congregation Etz Chaim in Biddeford, Maine.
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