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March 20, 2010 6:50 PM   Subscribe

Can the hive mind recommend a reasonably-priced Seiko watch repair place in San Francisco?

I have a mechanical self-winding Seiko that's about 30 years old which needs cleaning, adjusting and some minor repair. I saw this AskMe but a Swiss jeweler in a swanky hotel lobby sounds more expensive than I want to spring for. sorry

Anybody have any experience with J. J. Jewelers at 3214 24th St, near the BART station? The owner estimated $40 for the job but unfortunately I didn't have the watch with me when I dropped in. Is this a reasonable price? Yelp says they're good but I trust MeFites more.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Quietgal to Shopping (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ten to fifteen years ago I was cleaning and repairing mechanical watches. If your watch has a date (I'm guessing, since most? of the "5" models do), I would have charged you about $80 to clean it. The Seiko automatic winding mechanism is one of the very simplest and it adds very little work, but date mechanisms are always finicky and take extra time. (Today I would be charging somewhat more. I'm in the midwest so I also bet prices should be higher where you are.)

I did a professional job, with full disassembly, ultrasonic cleaning, inspection, reassembly and oiling using correct oils, and basic timing regulation for that price. You say it needs "adjusting and some minor repair" too - depending on what that means, I may or may not have charged you more.

Someone with a storefront who quotes you $40 is way too cheap. That price cannot possibly in any way cover a professional watch cleaning. Either the person you talked to misunderstood what you were asking, or you are in for a surprise of some kind (most likely just a terrible hack job where the watch is not even disassembled for cleaning - just dunked in some combination cleaner-oiler solution.) This will not give you a reliably working watch. Worse, you might get a (mechanically or cosmetically) damaged watch back. I spent a lot of time undoing hack work, believe me.

I suggest you NOT try to find a repair shop locally. Use the web forums that collectors use (like timezone.com) and find someone good, not someone close. There are many many small-time guys (like me) who are doing excellent work out of their homes or small shops. The corner jeweler just doesn't have competent watch repair services anymore. They have not for decades. The best you can hope for is they'll send your watch to someone like me and then mark it up. But for $40 the shop you visited isn't doing that.

(I am not taking watch work now and have not been for some time. This is not an ad.)
posted by fritley at 9:29 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Frank Seuss in the Shreve building in SF has serviced my mechanical Seiko (self-winding dive watch) twice, and I've been very happy with the work he's done. He specializes in higher-end Swiss watches, but he's happy to work on Seikos.
posted by zombiedance at 12:00 AM on March 21, 2010

Response by poster: Fritley, thanks for the reality check. The watch has a day/date mechanism. The damage I referred to is that I dropped it on a tile floor (d'oh!) and the tiny little Seiko logo popped off the face and is rattling around inside the crystal. I've let it run down so that the hands aren't grinding and bashing the delicate little thing (and vice versa). Also, the watch was never as watertight as claimed, and about 25 years ago a little salt water seeped in and damaged the face a bit (it looks like delamination or bubbling around the edge). It's not a big deal but if I'm going to invest some real money in the repair job I'll ask if they can fix that too.

Zombiedance, that sounds like a very good combination of quality and convenience, but most of the Yelp reviews just talk about the cost for replacing batteries. Do you remember roughly what Seuss charged?

Thanks, and keep 'em coming!
posted by Quietgal at 7:26 AM on March 21, 2010

Response by poster: I took my Seiko to Frank Seuss at Downtown Watch Repair about 6 weeks ago and it cost $240 to get it repaired, cleaned and adjusted. (Ouch.) On the whole, I'd say I'm satisfied but the price was a lot more than I was hoping to pay. But the watch has some sentimental value, so whaddaya gonna do?

Seuss doesn't actually work on Seikos himself - he sends them to a buddy down in Redwood City. This buddy did a nice job polishing the crystal and fixing/cleaning the face, and supposedly he replaced the leaky gasket that let water in all those years ago (but I haven't tested it). The watch still runs a little fast, but I can live with that, I guess, and it took an awfully long time to finish the job but apparently the guy was trying to find "new old stock" replacement parts for the face and crystal, with no luck.

Overall, B+.
posted by Quietgal at 1:11 PM on May 12, 2010

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