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Consider the Benefits

From American Horologist magazine, April, 1936

Consider the Benefits
By Ray C. Bauer
National Executive Board Member

As the Second Annual Convention of American Horologists approaches I view the position of the watchmaker in the scheme of American business life with a great deal of wonder and conjecture. I wonder how many watchmakers in the United States have considered the good to be derived through organization. We hear of plumbers, barbers, waiters, bartenders, and numerous others who are earning very good wages (fifty dollars per week and more), simply because their trades are organized and they are realizing on the benefits derived through cooperation.

Great Store of Knowledge We know our craft to be one requiring more skill than any of these mentioned and yet, I venture to say, there are comparatively few watchmakers who are receiving such salaries. The fault lies, not with the employers, but largely with ourselves. We have allowed the chiseler and the racketeer to enter our craft, and prey on the ignorance of the public, to such an extent that there is no longer a premium set on fine workmanship because the customer has been taught by these cheats to look for price rather than workmanship. Inasmuch as our craft requires a great store of technical knowledge not easily understood by the layman, it is an easy matter for the unethical to prey on the confidence of the uninformed public.

For years we have labored in an unorganized state and we have not had the means with which to educate the general public, as has been done by the automotive and radio people. Also, we have not taken advantage of our own opportunities of public education. Hence, when a customer asks us the price of a repair job, instead of painstaking explanation (in simple understandable English) of the work required, we have been in the habit of quoting our price with a take it or leave it attitude and let the customer walk out to hunt a shop where price is the objective rather than workmanship. The result is, that after a customer has visited four shops and received four different prices, he, or she, decides that all watchmakers are liars and none of us know our business.

Now for the first time in the history of our craft in this country, THE AMERICAN HOROLOGIST has the opportunity to better these, and many other, conditions.

There are two courses open to us.

First, we can do as our predecessors did in France nearly 300 years ago. We can become a small group of highly skilled and intolerant craftsmen who have little or no use for others who are less skilled than ourselves. Those acquainted with the history of Horology know that this group became so intolerant and overbearing that they resorted to the use of the lash and ostracism on any member who made a mistake, and as a direct result of their brutal tactics drove many watchmakers out of France into Switzerland where guilds were formed on saner principles leading to the eventual establishment of Switzerland as the real seat of the watchmaking industry. To a certain extent this has already been tried in this country but it has not met with any great success.

Educate Ourselves It is far better that we profit by our predecessors' mistakes and organize ourselves for the greatest good to the greatest number. Therefore, we unite for the good of the entire craft by educating ourselves, and the public, to a better understanding of our problems.

Let us educate ourselves. It is easy to do, now that there are so many Guilds throughout the country, and these are united into a National organization. We can hold technical classes at Guild meetings. We can invite our backward workmen to take advantage of these classes.

We can exchange ideas of mutual benefit. We can, in short, become well acquainted with each other and all the problems of our craft and become, through these acquaintances, more capable and more competent to deal with those problems. All this and more can be done, by and through our Guilds and the National organization.

Let us also educate the public with whom we have to deal. We can each of us appoint ourself as a committee of one to educate every customer with whom we come in contact. Through the uniting of the Guilds into our National Association it is possible to promote a national advertising campaign to gain public recognition, as has been done in other lines. Then let us go after the cheat and the fraud and put him out of business through due process of law.

All this is possible through organization. All this and more. Cooperation with each other will allow us to return to our old status in the community as highly skilled and respected citizens; our earning capacities will increase and this will be a better world in which to live. 

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