Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wristwatches and the disposable society

An interesting poll is being taken at WatchUSeek, namely, are inexpensive mechanicals becoming 'disposable'.

My reply:

Yes and No

I think watches have followed the trend that most consumer products have experienced in the past 10 years or so - we do live (in the US at least) in a disposable world. This applies to all products that have seen a drastic decrease in the cost of production: VCRs, televisions, small appliances - all products formerly 'repairable' but now more cost effective to replace. It also applies to electronics and other items where technology outpaces the useful life of products: digital cameras, computers, and MP3 players, for example - why fix an outdated product?

A very small percentage of the watch-buying community buys mechanical watches. Quartz watches have always been largely disposable. With the advent of low-priced mechanicals, particularly of asian origin, more people are wearing mechanical watches. However, these mechanicals suffer from the same syndrome as the VCR - cheaper to replace than fix.

Where the exceptions occur are with the collector and enthusiast. If an individual sees enduring value in a piece for something other than utility, the watch may be worth fixing.For example, I recently bought a Marathon GG-W-113. An uncommon military watch, the Marathon exhibits an early entry of the company into military watch production, and has design elements uncommon for a watch of its type. It has a case similar to to the UK G-10, unique in US service, and houses a mechanical movement which would soon become obsolete in US military watches. So, although I spent $200 for the watch, I had no qualms in spending $70 to service this interesting watch.

If it were an unremarkable Seiko 5, I would probably not have had it serviced.

So, collector value trumps monetary value for a watch collector. If my collection focused on Seiko 5's, even a watch whose retail is low might become repairable for me, if it is no longer a production item.I do not collect VCRs, so I have no problem with a disposable mindset in that context. But for a VCR collector, who knows?

There are many vintage mechanicals that are out of repair, and are no longer worn. This is due in many cases to the perception of the owner that the style or technical features of the watch have been superceded. In this respect, mechanicals have been disposable for some time. A collector might love to fix them, however.

In the end, I guess the feasability of repair depends on the percieved value of the item to the owner, and is influenced by maitenance cost, but is not solely determined by it.



Blogger jgodsey said...

I know what you mean...i just threw away a VCR and previous to that a DVD player. it was cheaper to replace them. however as much as i like a good watch. I always wanted the SS ladies rolex with the white gold bezel (never could find one with a SS bezel) I also found that since i carry a Cell phone, i dont' need to wear a watch anymore.

6:45 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home