How much will it cost? This is one of the first questions we hear. It’s not surprising. Everyone is afraid of being “taken to the cleaners” or “having their clock cleaned.” These common expressions turn up on websites for virtually all services and products. One clock repair site carries the latter comment as its motto. We often see this question in our first communication with a customer, before we have had a chance to see the piece in question; in some cases, before we even know what kind of piece it is!
But, the question is legitimate nonetheless. Sometimes, we can give “ballpark” estimate based on similar projects done in the past. This is not a quotation. A quotation is based on a particular, specific project once it is in hand. Anything done prior to that is a ballpark estimate. We have a policy that once a quotation (or quote) is given, it does not go up unless we find something that the customer might choose to have done which wasn’t in the original quote. In that situation, we will ask first before doing the work.
If a customer asks for a ballpark estimate but not a quote, then the job will generally come in close to this estimate–but sometimes less. Even with formal quotes, the work sometimes comes in less than quoted, but not always. It depends on how the project goes. Some go well and the price comes in below the quote. Other times more is found along the way, and in this case the project cost will meet its quote.
As we describe in our Alarm Clock Forward, we are conscientious about pricing and strive to improve materials and processes to keep our pricing from increasing year over year. We have worked very hard to minimize price increases on product offerings. This is in keeping with this commitment to improve things so pricing can be kept consistent over time.
There are some projects which will be more expensive than others. This is because on some pieces, to do the proper work in keeping with providing a 2 year warranty, the work is extremely time consuming. For example, it takes over 14 hours to properly restore a Style F self winding clock movement. If there were short cuts we could take that we felt good about, the work could be completed sooner and a lower price could be charged. Experience has taught that this is short-sighted and leads to more problems down the road. We have no desire for customers to find it necessary to ship their movement back to us, and doing short cuts will dramatically increase the probability that this will happen.
Vienna regulators are another example. These fine movements are often found in desperate shape. Corrosion removal, de-rusting, polishing, fabricating replacement parts, repivoting, etc. are all time consuming processes on delicate movements. Rebushing a single hole for one of the finer Vienna Regulator pivots requires 2x the time that it takes to do a bushing in nearly any other timepiece. As an example, fabricating a custom bushing for a .014″ ID Vienna pivot hole bored into a .038″ bushing, inserting it, finishing and fitting is much more delicate and difficult than fabricating and fitting a .060″ ID bushing on an American clock. Further, use of off-the-shelf bushings for Vienna regulators is complete folly. Anyone proclaiming anything to the contrary is heading for big trouble.
In the end, our 45+ years of experience and training enables us to do things more efficiently and professionally than would be the case otherwise. Many people don’t think twice about paying someone with less than 6 months training $600 for a brake job once every few years. Then how difficult is it to understand that it might cost 3/4 that amount once every 30 years for someone with 45 years of experience and training to restore a delicate, highly complex precision timepiece? Think about it.