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"Cleaning," At Bargain Prices

From American Horologist magazine, May, 1939

"Cleaning," At Bargain Prices
By H. W. Pettengill

Mr. A-- came into the office with an advertising circular of a nationally known watch repair shop and said, "What do you think of this? Do they really do work for the prices given here?" Before we could reply he continued, "I guess it must be so, otherwise they would not advertise it nationally." 

"Well," we said, "why don't you send them a few jobs and see what you get. We have an idea of what the result will be, but there's nothing like satisfying yourself." Curiosity prompted us to add, "Let us see the work when it comes back." 

Mr. A-- thought it was a good idea and said that he would send them a watch for trial. After all, the price was so reasonable, and the circular said that watches were even insured against loss by fire or theft. Thereupon he left the office and we returned to our work.

A little later in the day he returned with a 12 size 17 jewel Elgin watch and said, "Here, look this over before I send it away. It needs a mainspring and cleaning." The watch seemed to be mechanically sound and apparently needed nothing but an ordinary good order job and a new mainspring.

"How will I know whether the watch was taken apart for cleaning?" asked Mr. A--.

"Why not do this," we suggested, "Let's take out both sets of balance jewels and insert a little piece of camel's hair from a brush between each pair. When the watch comes back we'll see if the pieces are still there." The watch was then prepared in this manner and shipped away. To make certain that nothing would go wrong, the preparation, packing and mailing was done in Horology's own laboratory and in the presence of witnesses.

In about a week the watch was returned and the package was opened in the presence of Mr. A--, Mr. C. E. DeLong and two members of Horology's staff. A superficial examination showed that the movement apparently had been cleaned in some cheap solvent, for the plate and bridges were covered with what seemed to be an oily film. The watch actually looked dirtier than when it was sent away. The balance was so much out of true that it could almost be mistaken for a miniature of one of the complicated cams on a linotype machine.

The old broken mainspring was neatly wrapped in a piece of tissue paper, so we had the original sample for comparison. Taking the watch apart, we immediately noticed that the brace of the new mainspring was evidently too wide, for it had been filed to size, barrel cover and all. 

The fresh file marks were evidence enough. The spring itself was a cheap imitation, much stronger than necessary. When it was removed from the barrel it looked almost like the helical coils used in a bed spring.

Next, the balance jewels were taken apart and there, sure enough, were the two pieces of camel's hair, one between each pair of jewels, just as they had been placed there originally. The examination and accompanying photograph was made in the presence of four witnesses.

Yes, the bill for the repair job was 80 cents, 40 cents for cleaning and 40 cents for the mainspring. It was very evident that the repair shop had its own definition of the term "cleaning." According to the firm's literature the watch was repaired by "a specialist in this type and make." 



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