This was in my early days of watch collecting, but still, it didn't seem right. I contacted a watchmaker who runs a shop in another state where I had bought a watch off the shop's website. The owner, who it turns out is a "master watchmaker," said he could fix the watch, for much less. I sent him the watch. He kept it for a week or so, then emailed me to tell me that the work was complete. It needed cleaning, oiling, and adjusting. No parts were needed. He then kept it and tested it for one more week, to make sure the day function was working. The case and crystal were also polished. For this work, I was charged only $65, which the watchmaker felt was more than average. The watch continues to run fine, and the date hand points exactly to the date.
Why then did the guy in Chicago want $425 to fix the watch? What was it that the Voodograph machine spoke to him about, and what secret did it tell? The following possibilities exist:
1. Chicago is a more expensive town.? Well, Chicago is not a cheap city. But even if you accept this explanation, that should make a can of soda cost $4.90 in Chicago, (based on the final price I paid for this repair, done in another state.) Furthermore, I have since found an excellent watchmaker in Chicago, who does not charge $425 to clean a watch. He replaced a broken balance staff, and totally overhauled a watch for under $50. So, this is not a good explanation.
2. The Vibragraph told him things no one knows about this watch, a deep secret. Like what? What could possibly cause the repair of this watch to cost so much?
3. The watch man doesen't know how to fix this watch, and creates a gargantuan inflated cost figure so I will leave him alone. Doubtful ... this watch really isn't a "Grande Complication", just an ordinary mechanical with day-date.
4. Watches get sent out from his shop to an actual watchmaker, so both of them have to make profit. This of course is common and customary, but still should not explain such an obscene price.
5, The watch man can find a broken watch like mine from a flea market for 5 dollars or less. He spends about $20-50 to fix it up, and puts it on his shelf with a price tag of $425. Profit is good. Herein, I believe, lies the explanation. If he can spend about $35 to fix a watch, and sells it for $425, and it would take the same amount of time and effort to fix my watch, why waste time fixing my watch? Here the watch man is, in effect, saying, "I can make this much money fixing up any busted watch I already have laying around the shop. If I am going to spend the same time and effort on your watch, I won't do it unless I make the same money."
It's actually quite logical. From a purely business sense alone, it does not make any sense for him to waste time and effort fixing my watch.
I went back there once to ask about replacing a crystal on one of my ordinary watches, a round plastic crystal. He told me it would cost $50. A year or so later I went to look for straps. He had a nylon NATO watch strap in black, 20 mm. I needed one for a Submariner. It wasn't even an authentic version, just a flimsy knock-off. He wanted 65 dollars for it. I've never bought anything or had any repairs done there, but he does have nice watches in the case to look at, and gives a year guarantee on all vintage watches.
I am just glad I got a chance to see a Vibrograph. It was an awsome machine in action. I think they need one of those in every car-repair facility... "Sir, you see this tracing here? It shows dangerously excessive lateral pseudo-wobble in your rear stabilizers. I am afraid we need to immediately replace your entire engine."
I bought this watch in from a Las Vegas pawn shop. It was running very slow. You can see, it is a day-date Benrus watch. Benrus is an American company, and they used good Swiss movements to make their watches. [Recently I was told that Benrus was at some point owned by Victor Kiam, the man who liked Remington shavers so much, he bought the company.] Well, I took the watch to a local Chicago shop which sells some very nice vintage wristwatches, and also does repairs. The man looked at my watch, wound it, and then went to this contraption. He did some kind of diagnostic test on my watch. The machine made some noises, and then he came back with a strip of paper, shown above. You can see there is a tracing on the strip. I call this a "watch EKG." Anyway, he produced the strip for me to see, and pointed out some of the hills and valleys in the tracing. He told me that the strip, which I later found out was made by a contraption called a Vibrograph, was telling him that it will cost me $425 U.S. dollars if I want him to fix my watch. Below is a picture of a vintage Vibrograph, and an ad for one named "Vibrograf."