Home Forums General Discussion Forum Charge for an estimate?

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      Hi. Does anyone charge a fee to give a customer an estimate on a watch repair? In my very limited experience, clocks seem to want to tell you why they’re broken, often without any disassembly or real work. Watches (for me anyway) are a lot more time consuming and difficult to diagnose, usually requiring at least some disassembly. So My question is, should there be a minimum charge for the diagnosis even if the customer decides the piece isn’t worth the cost of repair?


        hey vanhooglesnort, this is a touchy subject with many opinions and practices out there. My thought on this is if you want to spend all your time going thru peoples watches to give a diagnosis and not get the job you may be in the poor house soon ;) . I have a hard time doing professional work and not getting paid a professional price, ssssssoooooo that then leaves us with, what is a professional price and for doing what???? I find this question difficult as I labor over it :? . I usually get caught up in the mister nice guy syndrome and worry about someones reaction to my pricing when in fact I am underpaying myself because I do much more for my customers and their clocks than most would…..if I take my car in for a diagnostic test it can cost me $80.00 😯 , or to have a plumber come over and unload a tool could cost me $75 😯 without anything being done. what I do do is spend time talking with the customer, free estimates without any dismantling, and then telling them the price for getting their clock running again (or pocket watch) and do the best professional, conscientious job I can!!!!, does a initial inspection always reveal all the problems that need to be addressed????? the answer is NO. for to do a superior job on a clock or watch there are things that cannot always be quickly seen and many things that can be checked and adjusted properly throughout, even though the initial inspection can reveal many obvious issues that need addressing, there are most likely issues that cannot. for instance a pivot on the front plate of a mantle clock may need replacing because someone in the past decided to solder on a hunk of sharp metal to hold it in place 🙄 , or a safety pin hiding behind a mainspring that was used to hold the count wheel on 🙄 , now you need to find a proper part. In a watch you are right when you say @vanhooglesnort wrote:

        time consuming and difficult to diagnose

        especially for a beginner like me ;) . I usually will take a initial look at the works, check all that I can without taking it apart and having a set price for a service (which you have to determine for your customers), anything else would have to be extra, (new mainspring, cracked jewels, staff, ect…) I like to use the analogy of a old used car, to get it running again may cost more than what its worth and I have to weigh the pros and cons of junking it and getting another or fixing it, but if its a 69 camaro that your dad bought you when you graduated and its the car you met Hildagard in ;) , then the cost doesn’t matter, a initial upfront “ESTIMATE” will prepare me, and is usually not close to the final bill. Still the mechanic needs to dig into it to find out why it is hissing, spitting and sputtering and it is most likely not the air in the tires, filling the windshield washer fluid, or dumping more oil into the engine till its flowing out of the fill tube (kind of like alot of people think with their clock, add oil and it will run). Show me the mechanic that will disassemble your engine to tell you exactly whats wrong, with the chance that he may not even get the job!!!! Well maybe I opened a can of worms, this pricing thing IS difficult, my grandma said to me once, “pay yourself what your worth, and be happy” my grandpa said, “who knows how the cookie will crumble”, well I didnt always listen 🙄 and if what grandpa says doesn’t make much sense it is because its not supposed to ;) . I dont know if I even answered your question but remember this, if you are serious and stand behind your work, you have probably invested alot of time and money into it, your name as a clock and watch repairman is at stake, dont let someone take advantage of that. William


          Some good points from William :)
          The only advice I would give is not to do part jobs, they will always come back to bite you in the backside, and because of that you can then give the customer a standard servicing price and state you will not know the full extent until you are doing the job but if they want a full examination and estimate (which is time consuming) charge them for it, set a price of say £/$40 but tell them if they go ahead with the work you will discount half the estimate cost. This covers yourself for not getting the job. If a customer wants that watch working the cost as long as it is not ridiculous in most cases will not be a factor. You do of course get the odd customer who wants a quick fix for $20 but they are the ones you want to avoid anyway.
          Hope that helps :)


            Good morning all, hope all goes well and you are at your benches. On the subject of estimates: I have had 2 businesses where giving estimates was considered the norm. I have had 17 years now to look back on them. My conclusion is that whether you give estimates (free, or w/ a discount on the work if they agree to have it done) depends on the type of business you want to build. Personally, I think this is a very important decision to make early on. If you don’t make it and resolve to stick by your decision you could end up trapped in an unhappy and unprofitable business. If you are going to run a general “watch repair” business (I think clocks would be quite different), I don’t think you can offer anything more than the most cursory examination. You will get lots of quartz watches that need batteries, and other small repairs. You will also get mechanical movements which will generally need cleaning. If you make your free estimate on them a simple “the watch is in need of cleaning, there may be other problems that we can’t foresee”;I think you can avoid getting into a situation that you wish had never started. Keep your cleaning fee a fair representation of your skills. That could be (So Cal prices) from $75-$200 and up. Of course you will have to have to have the discipline to say that to a person who brings in an old Timex, and have thick enough skin to listen to their answer. It is human nature for a person to think that if they paid $19.95 for a watch, they should not pay more than that to have it cleaned. Maybe you will get some customers w/ some very nice and valuable movements drop in, and that will work out well. The other way to go about it is twofold, I think: You have to make a start so you probably can’t just have your cards and business sign indicate that you deal only w/ distinguished and exquisite timepieces. (unless, of couse , you are capitalized to open a store in an exclusive neighborhood, and really are a master watchmaker.) But, this is the second part, you should be organized and prepared to change the entire nature of your business (perhaps, even the location) when you no longer want the street traffic. I know this is tough, and you will be turning your back on old customers and dropins who like to say hello, etc. But it is what you will have to do if you want to end up w/ an exclusive clientele. I see no way you can be happy if you are cleaning and repairing a $25 watch for $75, and a $2500 watch for $200-$400 when you do each w/ the same degree of care and dedication. It is an easy way to become cynical and unhappy–I have been there. Well, that is some initial advice, or my opinions, however it comes out. Good Luck all……….prosperity for all who want to jump in and “do the work”……….b

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