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An Interview with Master Watchmaker Peter Müller A precise assignment protects against trouble when servicing watches

Watch repair costs can mount, particularly if the watchmaker has no clearly defined assignment. Master Watchmaker Peter Müller provides information and hints for optimum order processing, and how one can avoid trouble in an interview with TrustedWatch.

The first thing that people think when they take their watch to a watchmaker’s is “How much is this going to cost?“ How can one protect onesself against unpleasant surprises?

The best thing to do is to draw up a written assignment for the watchmaker. This should be very clear and precise. If during the repair other damage is ascertained, customers should request a phone call, leaving their number as a precaution. With larger repairs, a quotation makes sense. In cases in which a clear order is not possible, for example, because the cause and the associated repair costs cannot be estimated, the customer should set a price limit. But most important of all is to make a written agreement with the watchmaker and ask expressly to be informed by telephone if the repair becomes more expensive.

The basic principle is: If the root cause cannot be ascertained, the watchmaker can also attempt to arrive at the solution by means of a process of deduction. But in doing this, he must abide by the strict rules governing his craft, set down by the Guilds of the land.

Does the repairer have to keep to the estimate set down in the quotation?

Yes. Nevertheless, should the necessary repair exceed this sum, he is permitted to exceed the sum by no more than 15%. The best case scenario is that the customer remains informed at all times. Because processing a quotation is costly, and can be charged to the customer at a rate of 10%. However, many jewellers and watchmakers settle this amount with the next repair.

Are there set prices for payment by the hour and spare parts?

The guilds and associations have issued directives as to how long certain types of repair take. There are no significant differences in price with regard to spare parts in the specialised trade. However, the hourly rates vary, and are usually more expensive in towns due to the higher general level of costs.

Is there anything else that you would like to advise the customer?

If the bill is not clear following the repair, the customer should request that the individual repair positions be explained. In particular cases it can help if one points out to the watchmaker when requesting a repair that the customer would like to hang on to the "old" parts - as possible evidence. However, this trick does not offer 100% security. And most important of all: Take your time when placing the order, as well as when collecting the repair.

Should I pay the bill, even if I’m not happy with the repair?

If you are unsatisfied, you should pay only the amount stipulated in the order confirmation until the case has been settled, either by a neutral arbiter or a court. However, take care: The watchmaker also then has the right not to hand over the watch. If the customer wishes to repossess his watch, there's often little else to do than to pay the requested amount. This is, of course, extremely annoying. However, it is in just such cases that one should keep a cool head and apply an «ex gratia» certification notation to the invoice/receipt. In this way the customer keeps an avenue open to the possibility of claiming back a portion of the payment, with skilled legal assistance.

Who can help me if there’s trouble?

The Guild and the Chambers of Trade will usually help you free of charge if the watchmaker concerned is one of their members.

When will I require the services of an assessor?

In general, an assessor can only be recommended only if no mutual solution can be found. Frequent reasons for this are flawed work practice, ascertainment of value, and the depreciation in the case of damage, as well as the legal and extrajudicial clarification of technical questions.

Mr. Müller, many thanks for the interview!

P.S. You will find an index of qualified Watchmakers and Jewellers here: