It happens nearly every day, questions about watches or those Apple “Dick Tracy” thingamajigs that some folks wear on their wrist that tells them nearly everything they need to know from one’s calorie intake to miles you have walked, or the current time and temperature for the planet Zubar in a galaxy far, far away! I don’t know diddly squat about those things. The fact you can order a pizza to–go or track your spouse’s whereabouts kinda blows my mind. You got a question about how to use the darn thing? Ask the thingamajig; no doubt it will probably answer you. As for myself, I don’t have a clue because I’m one of those who could never figure out how to fully use my iPhone or program my now antique VCR.
When it comes to normal watches—you know the ones, they just tell time and if you were really special enough it even has the day and date—those I know a few things about. The old ones, or nowadays the really custom made expensive ones require winding every day. I remember what my youngest daughter said many years ago, “Dad, you didn’t have battery powered watches when you were a kid? That’s dumb!” Years later, my little genius graduated Summa cum laude. Like I was saying, “normal watches” are either wind up or quartz (AKA battery powered) or automatic; Dad or granddad’s pocket watch or old Hamilton wrist watch would be a winder. Oddly enough in 1946, the Hamilton Watch Company invented the first battery powered wrist watch. To my amazement while researching watches, I found the first automatic or self winding pocket watch was created in 1776 by a Swiss watchmaker named Abe Perrelet. To many this may be useless information, to some, rivetingly fascinating.
Depending on conditions, most all watches do not like things such as physical abuse, severe cold, dust or in our case here in paradise, being immersed in fresh, chlorinated or especially saltwater. Then we add high temperatures and humidity to that recipe and all these elements play havoc on sensitive time pieces that tell time to the second.
In the old days B.B.P. (Before Battery Powered), one had their windup pocket or wrist watches cleaned or put in order on an annual basis, by local watchmakers that were as common as shoemakers, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. That still hasn’t changed for this breed of timepieces, although qualified watchmakers have become a dying breed and finding a good one can be a challenge. Automatic watches, as many of you Rolex and higher grade watch owners know, require attention or periodic cleanings also. As for the average Joe with the basic quartz watch, when their watch ceases to tell time it is usually remedied—in most cases—by replacing the battery.
You may have noticed I mentioned “in most cases.” I will use an automobile as an example, when one has “car troubles” you may have noticed it doesn’t always come down to the battery being the root of your problem. There also happens to be an engine and transmission under the hood among other things. Same holds true to your watch’s movement.
Things between the case and glass can also go wrong. In most cases, I have noticed it’s because many individuals swim, bathe and shower wearing a non–waterproof watch.
Simple math: One inexpensive battery powered non–waterproof watch plus one 12,000 gallon swimming pool equals one drowned and now dead watch.
Folks use and abuse their watches beyond belief. Once, a guy ran his Timex over with his pickup truck and could not believe his watch stopped running!
So, now back to my Goldsmith title—I am not a watchmaker, never proclaimed to be; hence the “Gold” in Goldsmith thing. I can change a watch battery, put on new straps, even repair or tighten a metal strap clasp when it’s possible. But when it comes to the inner workings when a battery replacement fails miserably, I’m as confused as you are unless I see rust or water dripping out of a splayed opened watch case, especially when the owner says “I never got it wet!” apparently the watch has a perspiration issue? The most common reason for a watch’s malfunction is the owner attempted to change his or her own battery – let me rectify that, it’s never a woman who attempts that watch- slaughter, it’s always a guy with a “How hard could it be” mentality. After the inevitable but unintended destruction, I get the watch. A vision impaired chimpanzee with a sledgehammer and dull chisel would have done a better job. I pronounce the watch D.O.A. and slide the deceased timepiece in an unmarked envelope and hand it back to the perpetrator. No amount of crying, handwringing, Novenas or Stations of the Cross will bring that watch back to life.
The moral of this story, if there is one, is that a goldsmith is a person who designs, creates and repairs or restores fine jewelry; besides working with gold he or she is usually skilled in working with platinum and sterling silver. They can also set various gemstones, including diamonds. Many a goldsmith cringe when asked to repair costume or artsy crafty like “jewelry,” but will sometimes accommodate if one is a regular paying customer and it is not Xmas or Valentine Day Eve. Hint, hint! (I hope this request is subtle enough, don’t worry I won’t divulge your full name Mrs. K.)
Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith and Marco’s go to jeweler since 1994. He welcomes your watch battery replacements and questions about “All That Glitters” at www.harborgoldsmith.com.