Watch Parts

I was reading in my January Horological Tiimes today about workshop organization and parts inventory management. I have seen some very cluttered watchmaker workshops. Often the watchmaker’s bench is completely covered with old parts and movements except for the 10 – 16 square inches directly in front of them where they work on their current project. Usually in these shops there is a 70 year old watchmaker who knows just where everything is. I know some parts supply houses are run in this same fashion.

I don’t operate in this fashion. I throw 80% of my old parts away because, well they’re broken, that’s why I removed them from the watch. I do keep old Rolex parts sorted by caliber for performing statistical analysis which helps me provide better estimates to my customers. I also keep many old quartz movements around for scavenging for battery clamps and screws should I need one, but they are organized in a single drawer by make and caliber.

My biggest issue is this. I keep spare parts stock for Rolex calibers and for a few ETA calibers which I see all the time, namely the 7750, 2824, 2892, and 2000. Any other parts I have are a result of previous watchmakers who worked in my shop. I recently went through our two parts cabinets and organized all the parts either by Bestfit number or by caliber and manufacturers number so that I can quickly check the cabinet before ordering the part to see if I have it in stock. Prior to this I probably ordered several parts which we already had in stock.

The fact is material houses are in the business of storing, organizing, and selling parts. I am in the business of repairing watches. It makes much more sense for them to keep the inventory and for me to order it when I need it. I have been faced with the temptation of buying parts cabinets in the past and I caved once, I bought a cabinet of beautiful blued steel and gilt hands, the quality of the material was so good I couldn’t resist. The problem is there is no index, so if I want hands I have to measure every single pair until I find the ones I need. It is way easier and faster to call up a parts house and order hands. I won’t buy another parts cabinet unless I know it is full of rare and valuable parts for which there is a great demand and it comes with an index.

On bench organization: I try and leave my bench completely clean every night, this way it remains clutter free. It may seem silly to put away a watch and tools which I am going to use again the following day but it allows me to clean off my bench so it doesn’t get dusty and maintain order in my workshop. I guess this may be a result of my Swiss-esque training.


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