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Picking A Good Watch

From Horology magazine, February, 1939

Picking A Good Watch

In the December 1938 issue of the Consumers' Digest there appeared an article entitled "How to Pick a Good Watch" by F. J. Schlink. Anyone glancing at the title would think that the article really explained the different mechanical features of watches, their merits or defects, and then recommended the types considered best.

Actually, the entire article is nothing but a recommendation that a second hand watch is to be preferred. The Consumers' Digest does not state what Mr. Schlink's qualifications to write on the subject are, but anyone who is familiar with watches from a technical standpoint can see that he is greatly misinformed and that the article misleads its readers.

The opening paragraph states that improvements made in watches during the past 30 years are few except in the high priced groups and that most old watches are better than those made today. This is laughable to the horologist, for actually the greatest changes have taken place in the moderate and low priced watches. Almost 40 years ago fine watches were being made with invar balances and in 1913 the elinvar hairspring was developed. If Mr. Schlink is familiar with watch mechanism he will acknowledge that within the last few years practically all manufacturers of watches have adopted these improvements which a few pioneer makers of high grade watches first demonstrated as being practical. This is only one of the easily noticeable improvements, to say nothing of friction jeweling and improved manufacturing processes.

Mr. Schlink remembers the watches of 30 years ago but he may not have remained in close touch with the watch business since then. Present day horologists are well satisfied that watch factories are turning out more uniform and superior timepieces at lower costs. And through modern manufacturing processes interchangeability of parts has reached a greater degree of perfection than ever before. This in itself is an assurance to the consumer that if he buys a new watch he may expect the most reasonable upkeep.

Under the heading of "General Buying Advice," the author goes on to say that the difference between 17 and 7 jewels is not very important for long life. He also says, "If you merely want a good timepiece, a second hand watch of well known make will be good enough." It is hard to believe that such a statement would come from a horologist because everyone in the jewelry business knows that in practically every case the purchaser of a second hand watch gets a timepiece which is worn out or badly mutilated. Watches, in contrast to other mechanical devices, are usually discarded only when they absolutely will not run any longer and are incapable of further reliable service.

The writer of the article recommends that when buying an old watch it is frequently worth while spending additional money to "secure better finish, finer workmanship and adjusting." He says that buying a second hand watch is not as risky as buying a used automobile and suggests that movements whose gold cases have been broken up can easily be obtained and re-cased in new cheap cases. One needs only to follow this advice and then have a reputable horologist appraise such watches to learn how mistaken it is. 

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