watches; batteries not intelligent

I’m quite a fan of watches. I probably have 4 or 5 between here and Italy. Nothing too expensive. I’ve acquired them not because I’m a collector but more often than not I’ve gone out without wearing one, mistakenly, and have popped into Next or somewhere to buy another one – I cannot stand not knowing what the time is. Stupid I know but that’s me.

My favourite watch is an Emporio Armani model bought as a Xmas present by my lovely daughter S. It was more expensive than my others but not outrageously so, I think it was a shade less then £100. But I love its style – solid, square shape, 40’s style face, steel frame and chunky leather strap. For me, perfect – here’s a view:


Now what’s the point of all this? Well the battery recently ran out so I popped into Buckingham to get a replacement. The first jeweller’s (we actually have two, another closed recently – see barmy buckingham posting) advised me that as it was a designer watch I’d have to take it back to the Emporio Armani to get the battery changed. Eh? I explained that my daughter had bought it in an independent jewellery/watch store. She went on to say that the problem was that designer watches like mine were uniquely designed to be ‘serviced’ by the label’s own stores and if they (the jewellers) tried to open the watch their tools may damage it thus invalidating the warranty. I thought it’s just a watch not a BMW 5 series when she smiled and said further that ordinarily it would cost around £5 to replace a battery but in this case it would probably cost me £45. What, half the value of the watch? I thanked her and left.

Is it just me or does this sound faintly ludicrous? If I was Lewis Hamilton and asking them to sort out my personalised uniquely-crafted timepiece from Tag then I could understand it perhaps. Then as I was walking along I recalled this happening with another watch – the shop concerned didn’t have the tool to unlock the back and they sent it off for their match repairer to sort it for me. As it happened I never got the watch back, that’s the shop that went out of business!! So here’s the scenario, I’m faced with going to London – probably direct to the Emporio rather than waste time at the jewellers who sold the watch to my daughter, to be faced by a young, attractive but unhelpful Armani assistant who would no doubt tell me that they couldn’t handle the repair in-store but would have to send it off to their repairers and could I come back in 3 weeks time? Total cost to sort out £125.

Anyway I toddled off to the second Buckingham jeweller’s for his views on the subject. I showed him the watch and briefly related the advice from the first shop but he just said he’d have a try with his tools and asked if I’d come back in 15 minutes. That’s what I wanted to hear – positive thinking.

I went back after a while and sure enough he’d sorted it ‘without any trouble at all’. Mind you he did charge me £7.50 for his troubles (I thought there weren’t any). Hey ho. But at least it’s not £45 plus two visits to London.

But I got to thinking about a few issues concerning watches. Firstly, I’ve done a bit of research and there are it seems quite a few watch manufacturers out there producing everything from hand-built personalised jewel encrusted works of arts costing many £000’s through to the mass-produced stuff like Swatch. But here’s the thing, despite the thousands of designs out there, watches do tend to be roughly the same size – large enough to read yet small enough to sit comfortably on a man’s or a woman’s wrist. But the manufacturers (even the mass-producers) cannot agree on standard formats for the size of back plates, nor release aperture sizes, nor tools for opening the watches, nor – incredibly – battery sizes (every jeweller has to stock dozens of varieties), nor spindle sizes -the little bar that holds the strap to the frame, nor strap sizes and so on.

All in all it means that you’ll probably hit a snag of some sort or another when you visit a jeweller’s for the simplest of repairs or maintenance. That really surprises me. It’s something that can be designed out of at least mass-produced products through simple agreements. Don’t they have conventions in the watch-making industry? If the EU can lay down regulations on standardising banana shape then surely it can ask the watch guys to think about their customers’ needs a little more by making product parts more compatible etc. But that might mean dealing with the Swiss who as I’ve come to learn do not think like the rest of us in the Western world. In terms of their thoughfulness it’s definitely a case of batteries not included.


8 thoughts on “watches; batteries not intelligent

  1. Great post and an interesting read! in terms of the ‘ISO’ fixings you speak of around the head casings this is very much like hundreds of products produced by hundreds of manufacturers out there. On rare occasions they come together and produce ‘standard’ fixings but on the whole they go off and do their own thing with little thought to the end customer. This also reminds me of an issue I experienced a few weeks ago around those annoying shop guarantees….I bought a gift for around £15.99 and was offered breakage guarantees for about £40 per year?! as per your comments above regarding the price of your watch compared to a new battery of half the price you do have to wonder sometimes where these giant conglomerates get off!?

  2. hi james
    many thanks for checking in and for your comments. i’m not the only frustrated consumer after all.

    i’ve just got a new nokia phone (courtesy of s-i-l I) which uses a different charging lead to our existing ones. why do they do this – why can’t all leads, batteries etc be standardised? come on you European Commissioners do something useful for once.

  3. You will be interested to know that little has changed since you posted the comment on Armani battery replacement. I needed a battery for the exact same model and was told by mid priced jewellery chain that I had to take it to an Armani retailer. The only one i knew was the dreaded Selfridges but was content when told that for the 2 Armani watches I submitted plus the new strap (sale item) it would be £35, £5 for the strap. Not Buckingham prices but I expected to pay more as everything at Selfridges has a massive markup. I offered to pay in advance and was told to pay on collection. When the watches were ready 45 minutes later I was presented with a bill for £65 and told that it was £30 each watch (one third of their original purchase price) and the prices were on the individual receipts I had been given. Declaring that I hadn’t needed to check the receipts as I had been TOLD the price including price of the watch strap didn’t alter the fact that THEY had my watches, the work had been done and just wanted to get out of there. Am regretting not making more of a fuss now.
    The tale is as much about risk averse society and the extinction of the professional watchmaker on the high street as shameless profiteering. BTW the franchisee in Selfridges was David Morris Jewellers. Rather like popping into Claridges for egg and chips.

  4. hi jenny

    many thanks for checking in and for the great comments. it’s an outrageous con trick. it would almost be cheaper to buy a new watch – how can that possibly be sensible? you’re right about the increasing absence of the professional repairer; have you tried to get a video repaired or dvd machine? almost a hopeless task these days.

    anyway you’re welcome jenny.


  5. Hi.
    I am having Emporio Armani AR 5331. Last week, it stopped running suddenly. Unfortunately,i have lost it’s user manual.So could you plz tell me if my watch needs a battery replacement or maybe it doesn’t use battery at all.Not sure.

  6. Hi HKT

    Sorry I’m not an expert – best to take it to a local jewellers and see what they say I think. Definitely don’t go to an Emporio Armani strore . I’ve found out that they have no internal expertise – they’ll just send it away to Fossil who make the watches and charge you a whack to get it done. A good old-fashioned local store will want your repeat business.

    Good luck

  7. Thanks for the reply,FPB. I m currently in India and not sure the local sellers can make it done. However,i will try it out and then will post here the outcome. Although,if u have any advice regarding any particular type of cell/battery which is of good quality,then kindly let me know.

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