Inside the Watchfinder Service Centre
If you’ve ever had the chance to get a look inside a Swiss-made mechanical watch, you’ll know that it’s not the sort of thing you can just ‘have a go’ at tinkering with. The sophisticated micro-engineering of both the watch exterior and the movement inside requires the use of proper tools and manufacturer techniques in order to prevent damage to the watch’s delicate component parts. In the same way you wouldn’t want to take your car to a dicey garage, it just makes sense to have your watch serviced at a facility with the right credentials—which is why Watchfinder has invested so much time, money and expertise into its in-house service centre.
But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Watchfinder had been doing business for five years when, in 2007, the company opened a small, on-site servicing and refurbishment facility. With business booming and the number of watches being sold by the company increasing, the service centre was created in order to maintain the high level of quality Watchfinder had become known for. Only by taking its servicing in-house could the company ensure that every timepiece it sold was working to its best possible performance.
It all began with an investment in state-of-the-art machinery and a small team of dedicated watchmakers, who had learned their trade at leading brands like Rolex and Breitling; Watchfinder wanted only the very best. Inevitably, the facility grew to keep pace with the expanding business. To date, over £400,000 has been spent on equipping the manufacturer-certified service centre, including 15 brand-approved machines for polishing, graining, linishing, sandblasting, lapping and turning. It now sits over two floors, with separate dedicated teams for watchmaking, polishing and quality control.
Head Watchmaker Tony Williams leads a team of eight watchmakers, who have each been selected for their skill and experience. In order to meet the standards set by the manufacturers, Watchfinder watchmakers must undergo years of training—it takes two years, in fact, simply to learn a basic movement, each of which contains over 100 parts. There are hundreds of movements to learn, and every manufacturer has its own set of techniques—the watchmaker’s knowledge of which is assessed by brand representatives before they can earn accreditation.
Watchfinder’s 20 technicians are no less subject to exacting manufacturer standards, and must be fully trained in the correct techniques. Polishing isn’t as simple as buffing a watch to a high shine—there are a variety of finishes to learn for each different watch. Many timepieces require the use of several separate finishing machines, and each brand dictates a different set of procedures for achieving the right result; this step in the servicing process requires both skill and exceptional concentration.
Of course, no watch makes it to the Watchfinder website until it has been through stringent quality control testing. Pressure and timing machines, computer software and ultra sensitive microphones are used to test each watch’s accuracy, efficiency and condition, ensuring they are performing to as-new standards. Seven quality control inspectors also give every watch a thorough visual inspection under high magnification, before the timepiece is given a Watchfinder warranty and made available for sale.
This commitment to meeting brand standards is why the Watchfinder service centre is able to work under the names of brands like Omega, Panerai, IWC and Audemars Piguet—but that’s not the end of the story. Watchfinder’s vision for the future is to keep Swiss watchmaking alive and kicking in the 21st century, nurturing young watchmaking talent under the guidance of seasoned experts. The business was founded on a basis of genuine admiration for Swiss watches and watchmaking—and that’s why nothing but perfection will do at the service centre. When it comes to servicing a premium timepiece, sometimes it’s just better to leave it to the experts.