Interview: Thompson Watch & Clock Repairs
The job of a watchmaker is a dream of many of us watch enthusiasts and collectors. Sitting behind the light green desk, observing the movement through a loupe and making like minded people happy again by returning their watch repaired or completely overhauled. If possible, a nice view in the background, like the Swiss Alps for example.
Not for Jacob Thompson, he is in Australia and therefore the Swiss Alps are lacking but all other boxes can be ticked off. He loves the watchmaking job and is occupied with repairs and overhauls for us, watch collectors and enthusiasts.
Jacob is the owner of his recently started company Thompson Watch & Clock Repairs in Sydney Australia, after having worked for large mono brand service centers for the last years. Jacob Thompson and I have been in touch on several occasions discussing watches and he let me know that he was going to pursue his dream of starting his own company specialized in watch & clock repairs.
Time for an interview to get to know him a bit better and to introduce his business to you, our readers (especially those from Australia, you are from the #4 location of our readers!).
Besides asking Jacob Thompson some questions about his work, I also asked him some generic questions about watch maintenance. I thought that might be useful for everyone that has a mechanical watch and has doubts on the service intervals that are advised by the brand(s) etc.
FW = Fratello Watches
JT = Jacob Thompson of Thompson Watch & Clock Repairs
FW. You decided to start a new business as a watchmaker in Australia, how come?
JT. I decided to start a watch and clockmaking business because I have an enormous amount of passion and heartfelt love for the industry.Unfortunately, within the after sales service environment where I was working, you are limited with the type as well as the brand of watches you work on, the amount of time you get to work on them and as you can guess…there are no antique watches or clocks to restore. The skills I possess aren’t suitable for an aftersales service environment and thus I would lose them over a period of time.The aftersales service was a great experience and I am thankful for it, but I felt it was time to say goodbye and move in the direction that knew would be best suited for me.
FW. Why kind of watchmaking education do you have? How important is it to have the right training?
JT. Having the right education and training is extremely important to me and to the watchmaking industry as a whole. I hold a Certificate III in Engineering – Watch and Clock Repairs. I completed my apprenticeship under a master clockmaker here in Sydney and I was very fortunate to have an apprenticeship with such a great man… Now, that I am out on my own I have realised how fortunate I was and I am enormously thankful for the opportunity to learn from him.
I look back at my early years, when I was performing the duties of a clockmaker in the workshop while attending my Technical and Further Education (TAFE) classes, where I studied watchmaking. Although it was difficult to study both watchmaking and clockmaking at the same time, I know the education as well as the hands on experience I received was far better than most as I am now skilled in two fields. The right training and education can set you in the right direction for life…the most important thing to do is soak up everything from everyone around you. Listen and learn as the older generations have some amazing abilities, which they just cannot find anyone to pass them on to these days.
My favourite place to learn from those with amazing talent and knowledge is when I attend the Watch & Clockmakers of Australia (WCA) meetings. The combined knowledge, talent and skill that is found at the WCA is phenomenal.
FW. Now that some brands are not very keen on supplying independent watchmakers with their parts, how will you be able to source parts for watches?
JT. I have been fortunate enough that over the years I have made many friends within this industry who are more than willing to help. Over the past several years, I have also acquired multiple workshops from retired watchmakers with a large amount of spare parts. With the repairs I have been doing, it’s become apparent to me that some things have become scarce, however I’ve kept a watchful eye, looked carefully for the parts and started to acquire them for future repairs.
I’m currently cataloguing all of them now so they become easier to find later on. Something that I have been doing is testing myself, so to speak as I like a challenge, hence I challenged myself make replacement and spare parts. I have always found it important to challenge yourself and refine your skills, as one day we won’t be able to buy these parts off a shelf. They will need to be custom made and I know I can make them
FW. What is your favourite watch to work on?
JT. My favourite watches to work are the Moon Phase and Triple Date Calendar watches. Lately had a fascination with Vintage Triple Date Calendar Chronographs, and any pocket watch with a complication such as Date or Jumping hour. I find these types of watches with these complications unbelievably fascinating. I’m also very fond of hand engraved wristwatches or pocket watches as I sit there wondering in amazement at the amount of time that went into each watch engraving…it is pleasant experience to sit there and admire the engravers artistic skill. I have a friend here in Australia who is a hand engraver and his work is phenomenal.
FW. Are you a watch collector yourself, or is it merely a job for you?
JT. I am very fortunate that I don’t see this as a job; I see it as a lifelong passion that I can peruse every day and not only enjoy what I do, but be happy that I can do it. I am most definitely a collector, however the watch has to “catch my eye” and it has to “speak to me” or otherwise I will pass on it… If a watch does catch my eye and when I am done servicing it…if I am not “still in love with it”, I will pass it on to another collector. I am just like any than any other collector, the only difference is I am able to service the watch, so I get a feel of the watch from start to finish and inside and out.
FW. Brands advise us (consumers) to have their watches serviced every 3 years, some say 5 years other say 10 years. What is your opinion?
JT. This is a tricky question to answer… I personally service my watches every year; however, that’s because I don’t own many and servicing them myself is a pleasure and fun for me. I have seen firsthand what servicing a watch every 10 years can do, and in my opinion, I don’t think that you should wait 10 years to service a watch. I know if you put 10 watchmakers in a room and you asked them their opinion on how often a watch needs to be serviced you would receive 10 different answers.
I do know that manufacturers will include in their advertising that the watch only needs to be serviced every “X” amount of years as a way to increase sales in both watches as well as factory-authorized repairs.
FW. What are the main reasons to service your watch? What will happen if you don’t have your watch serviced at all?
JT. One of the main reasons to service your watch on a regular basis is to avoid having to replace any major parts, which is caused by excessive wear… Consider a regular service as preventative maintenance for a watch and in addition, it helps avoid accidental damage due to neglect. If you don’t service your watch you run the risk the internal parts that will need to be replaced which could be very expensive. A watch is a machine, it needs to be serviced to work properly, improper maintenance generally leads to failure and an expensive repair or replacement. Having experience working in an after sales service environment another reason to have your watch serviced on a regular basis it to keep current with the upgrades that the manufacture does, many companies often change certain parts as an upgrade to the movement, which is beneficial to the watch…an evolution so to speak.
When most people think of servicing a watch, they only think of servicing the movement, but the whole watch needs to be serviced and this includes the bracelet. Many think that servicing a bracelet is just cleaning and polishing it, but the reality is it checks all the parts on the bracelet to ensure that the pins or screws are not damaged and if so replaced as to prevent the watch from falling off your wrist.
FW. Can you explain to our readers what a service consists of and why it is so darn expensive (or at least it feels like it is)?
JT. This can vary depending on the manufacture, the movement and when it was last serviced. Also, the cost depends on what you are having done from the “Partial Service, “Quick Service”, “Full Service” or “Complete Overhaul.”
For me, when I refer to a service I only perform two type that is Full Service and Complete Overhaul, both are almost the same, the latter usually requires new parts to be installed to replace the damaged parts. Typically, on a full service only the basics need to be replaced. In both cases, the watches are completed dissembled, cleaned assembled and oiled. Complexity of a watches movement is another factor a time only watch is going to cost less than a Triple Calendar Chronograph as the amount of time involved, most people don’t realise who labour intensive serving a watch can be. A watchmaker is an engineer, mechanic and a highly skilled professional work on a complex mechanical machine, just in a miniature form.
For someone who doesn’t understand the complexity of a watch the best way to view it as a sports car engine, an high performance V-12, that was put into a watchcase.
The “engine” in this case needs to be removed, dissembled, cleaned, checked for damage, oiled then reassembled all the while leaving no trace that anyone has been there.
Serving a watch regardless of the complexity of the movement is precision work and when you are done the work it has to perform to standards, ensuring that it will function as it should
FW. What are your top 3 tips for keeping a watch in good condition for years to come?
JT. That is an excellent question here are my top three tips for keeping a watch in good condition.
1. Make sure that every two years you get your watch tested to check its water resistance, this is vital, as it is important to know how you watch fairs in a water resistance test.
2. Have your watch serviced on a regular interval to avoid having watch parts replaced; this is more especially true on vintage watches as it avoids costly repairs such as having to make a part for the watch because there are no parts for it. Also, it is good practice for new watches to keep the parts in the watch original and in excellent working order.
3. Service your bracelet, the bracelet is what the key to keeping you watch on your wrist and in good condition or ultimately ending up on the ground causing damage to your watch. This is the most overlooked service on a watch, but it is one of the most important ones. Serving your bracelet or even just replacing your spring bars and checking the strap is extremely cost effective as it prevent having to replace the bracelet and new spring bars keep a strap firmly in place.
FW. Thanks for your time and answers!
Jacob Thompson can be found on the Thompson Watch & Clock Repairs page on Facebook.