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Complain for change: don’t be embarrassed to say ‘no’

Watch with battery showing

How much should you pay to get your watch battery changed? A couple of quid? Under a tenner? How about £25? That’s the sum I was charged recently as I reluctantly handed over my watch.

I haven’t worn a watch for quite some time, but I do have a small collection of ‘dead’ watches in my bedside drawer. I’ve spent the past few years limiting my time-telling to checking the clock on my smartphone.

However, I thought I’d start sporting my Casio watch again. My grandma gave it to me a good decade ago, but rather than going out-of-date, it seems to have grown into some kind of retro fashion item.

So, all I needed to do was get a new battery installed. Simple; I’ll just pop to my nearest cobblers/locksmith – you know the ones where they repair shoes, cut keys, replace watch batteries and the like. I can’t remember the last time I did this, so I just asked the man over the counter whether he could replace the battery and he said ‘yes, of course’. He ushered me to hand over my watch…

How much should replacing a watch battery cost?

The cost of replacing your watch battery will depend on the watch. If it’s a waterproof Omega, you may have to pay as much as £65 to send it off to be done professionally. They can replace the seal and guarantee its continued water resistance.

For a normal watch, it can depend on where you go. A jeweler may charge you around £10. A market watch repairer could charge just £3. In fact, Bill Burnell told me on Twitter that it costs him ‘the price of the battery with free fitting as a courtesy’. For reference, most watch batteries cost one or two pounds.

So, how much did the man over the counter ask me to pay? £24.95. I was a little taken aback, but felt I had almost promised to hand over my watch – I couldn’t turn him down.

He got busy with his specialist tools, popped in a new battery, and handed it back in under 10 minutes. He added, ‘I’m sorry I don’t know how to set it. That’s £24.95 please’. I paid and said ‘don’t worry, I can do that’.

Paying more than the price of your watch

I don’t know why I went through with it. I had my chance to say ‘no, don’t worry, I’ll go somewhere cheaper’. It’s not really like me to be embarrassed but, on this occasion, I wasn’t really sure how much it should have cost. I’m even more bitter now that I’ve spotted you can buy the same watch from Argos for £19.99…

In a way, I’m broadly happy to pay £25 if it helps keep these independent shops afloat in this time of shops going bust. Should I complain? I don’t think so. It was my fault for handing over my watch. I just shouldn’t be embarrassed to say ‘no’.

Comments
Member

The important thing is to ask the correct questions and not assume anything when you take your watch in for a battery.

1) Are the batteries a quality silver oxide
2) Are the seals checked and replaced if misshaped /damaged
3) Is the crown/stem seal checked and lubricated
4) Is there a pressure test service available if required
5) Are the case and bracelet cleaned to remove any trapped dirt?

If the answer to all of these questions is yes, how long will it take and what is the charge.
Anything less than fifteen minutes they are only removing the back putting in the battery and refitting the back again.

Member

Had a call from a gentleman a couple of days ago asking if I had any of the tiny screws that hold down a battery strap for a watch, apparently he had tried to change the battery on a couple of watches and lost the screws when they pinged off.

As there are a large number of screws used I asked him to bring the watches in and I would either have the correct ones in stock or I would be able to order them in once I was able to see which calibres they were.

Well he came in today with one watch telling me he used one of the other screws from it to fix the other watch, when I removed the case back he had lost the strap securing screw and had used one of the screws from the coil to fix the other. I found the correct screws in my spares and proceeded to fit them but discovered a disaster, he had damaged the coil when his screwdriver slipped and when I fitted the battery the movement was dead as a Dodo.

The bad news is the movement fitted is now obsolete, but the good news is replacement coils are still available so he has had a expensive lesson and his wife will have her watch back on her wrist in the next few days.

Member

Well another new customer who decided to take his watch to the local St Albans heel bar and now regrets it.

A gentleman phoned on Monday asking if I would be able to sort his quartz analogue/digital watch which had misted up. He brought it to me today apparently he had a new battery fitted a few weeks ago at a nationwide high street heel bar, last week he jumped into the swimming pool with his daughter forgetting he was wearing his watch which is approximately ten years old and of sentimental value.

Well the inevitable happened it filled with water even though it was originally water resistant to 100meters, as I removed the case back the reason for the entry of water was obvious the original seal was half missing and instead of telling the client the previous people just took the money and said nothing.

Fortunately as the client brought it to me fairly quickly there wasn’t too much water damage and the slight rusting which had started to appear was quickly dealt with.

I dried the movement and fitted a new battery, fortunately it started working although the digital part wasn’t functioning properly, I thoroughly cleaned and dried the case/bracelet lubricated the push buttons and crown/stem seals, refitted the movement plus new case back seal then the case back.

The digital part may start working properly once the circuit board has dried properly but that maybe wishful thinking.

Member
l bray says:
9 October 2018

today I paid £21.95 for a new battery and fitting for my Skagen watch at Timpsons heel bar in West Quay, Southampton. Was this a fair price?

Member

£10 to £15 is reasonable and £20 is starting to get towards the high side.

Member

I don’t think the price is what I’d be worried about. I’d be worried about the quality of the repair from a store that doesn’t specialise in watch repairs. As an example we charge £14.99 for a battery and seal test on the majority of Skagen watches (which I think is very reasonable considering the quality of the work) but we’re a specialist. I don’t think £21.95 is too expensive but there are certainly better options with regard to quality.

Member

I wouldn’t condemn Timpson’s work out of hand or say their quality is deficient, but the more unusual the watch type the more likely it is that they won’t have all the necessary experience and techniques. They should know their limitations and decline work they have less confidence in.

For most people there are not many specialist watch repairers around. Some jewellers might have one on the premises but most jewellers could not really be described as specialists these days and are mainly concerned with selling a wide range of goods that includes clocks and watches. They will take in watches for repair locally or send them off to a manufacturer.

So, many people have little choice but to use Timpson’s or similar places. Timpson’s probably regard themselves as watch repair specialists as they don’t diversify very much – mainly just cobbling and key-cutting [which obviously demand a different degree of precision and finesse] – and the company has a certain reputation to maintain. The quality of work will largely depend on the extent and quality of the training and the experience of the individual member of staff doing the work. The same is true of other shops and there have been examples in this Conversation where people have paid a lot of money for a watch repair handled by a jeweller’s shop or the manufacturer’s workshop which has not been satisfactory and had to be remedied by a professional watchmender.

Member

I agree with TheWotcher and John, if a pressure test is included in the £21.95 then it is good value but if as is usually the case it is just a back off change the battery and refit the case back without lubricating any of the seals then I would suggest £7 to £10 would be reasonable.

Without knowing the full details of what was actually done it is difficult to give a like for like costing and would be unfair to comment on the people concerned just using assumptions as to what was or wasn’t done.

Member

Quite right John, I absolutely agree. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea, I don’t have a beef with Timpsons specifically (in fact I believe them to be a good company overall), I’ve just seen that many jobs carried out improperly by cobblers that it grinds my gears a bit especially when they market ‘lifetime’ batteries. I’ve spoken to no end of customers to whom I’ve had to explain that a lifetime battery doesn’t really exist, and that no, our batteries aren’t of a lesser quality just because they last a standard two to three years. You do have to question the intelligence of somebody who believes that Timpsons can supply a lifetime of power in a silver oxide cell and nobody else can though. Imagine thinking that a British cobblers has potentially solved any potential impending worldwide energy crisis 😉

Member

I have no personal experience, so do Timpson’s claim that their batteries last a lifetime – or merely undertake to replace them free of charge when they expire?

If the latter, that is factored into their higher price for that level of service on a discounted cash flow basis whereby the company assumes many owners will have lost the certificate, or will not remember that the last battery fitted was under the ‘lifetime’ scheme, so they will not have to honour the guarantee in the majority of cases. .

Also, is it only the cost of the battery that is covered by Timpson’s ‘lifetime’ guarantee, or does it include the work involved in opening the watch, replacing the cell, and sealing and reclosing the watch? Since different watches involve varying levels of work I can’t believe one simple guarantee fits all circumstances.

Member

To the best of my knowledge the deal includes battery replacements for the lifetime of the watch upon production of the original receipt. I’m not sure if this includes resealing and pressure testing but I doubt it.

Your second paragraph pretty much sums it up. In my experience many customers don’t seem to fully understand it which I imagine is more a fault of Timpsons staff or advertising clarity.

The bigger issue from my point of view is that in the event that the work is carried out poorly then when the watch is returned for its next battery, if the watch is deemed to be faulty and requires a service, then this is not covered under the battery guarantee. Poor battery fitting can easily cause this problem and the customer is usually completely unaware of it and has no recourse. I think the whole thing is a bit gimmicky and no self respecting watch repairer would offer a similar service.

Member

The services offered by Timpson is described here: https://www.timpson.co.uk/services/watch-repairs

“We were the first company to introduce a life-time guarantee on watch batteries. That means you pay once & we replace your battery free of charge as long as you own the watch.” There is no claim that a battery will last indefinitely, which is obviously impossible.

Offering free battery replacements for life is not limited to watch batteries and you can buy a car battery with a lifetime guarantee from Halfords.

Member

I completely agree with TheWatcher, the issues that can be caused if the battery is badly installed are numerous and may not be immediately obvious and will not be covered by any lifetime battery guarantees.

Only last week I had a lady bring her watch in for a new battery, when I removed the case back I could see the battery holding strap had been fitted upside down and only secured by one holding screw (could cause a short circuit), fortunately once I had fitted a new battery correctly including fitting the strap the correct way around securing the strap at both ends the watch worked fine.

If the watch hadn’t worked the customer would have had a repair bill for someone else’s mistakes which isn’t fair to the customer.

Member

Thanks for that, Wavechange.

Timpson’s service description looks impressive, but some doubts remain about the capability of the staff in the local branches; they seem to have around six to eight staff each who are on a roster to cover the opening hours and it is pot luck who is on duty when you turn up with your watch.

Having read the Timpson’s literature I would have more confidence in using them than other high street chain jewellery shops. However, I would expect a specialist and dedicated watchmender to be more dependable than Timpson’s if dealing with a more complicated or more sophisticated watch. I have a couple of Rotary watches that need new batteries and would benefit from a proper service so I took the advice given on Timpson’s website and looked up the British Horological Institute’s list of accredited watch repairers in my area. There are very few listed for Norfolk and only one for Norwich who I was already aware of because he advertises widely. Most towns in the county have one or more independent jewellers who do carry out battery replacements and repairs but there does not appear to be a comprehensive service guide to these firms.

As Robert James says above, the customer has absolutely no idea how good or bad a job has been done on their watch, and no means of checking either. Perhaps the specialist trade could help itself and find a way of bringing its superior – and sometimes cheaper – service to the public’s attention.

Member

In order to become a member of the British Horological Institute, a repairer will have to pay a fee and satisfy the Institute that the company/individual is competent to be a member. From the BHI website: “The people you find on our professional register have satisfied the BHI’s stringent requirements for accredited membership, so you can be confident about their skills and experience.

All these members have agreed to abide by the BHI’s Code of Practice (see below). While our members have agreed to abide by the BHI’s Code of Practice, the BHI is unable to intervene in disputes that may occur between repairers and clients, and recommend that wherever possible such issues are resolved amicably and avoid legal recourse if at all possible.”

This gives me, as a consumer, little confidence in BHI membership and we are not even told if BHI will remove members if there are complaints. If I had an expensive watch I would probably rely on a recommendation from the manufacturer.

I realise that it’s nearly three years since I last replaced the battery in my inexpensive watch: https://conversation.which.co.uk/shopping/get-watch-battery-replaced-cost-price/#comment-1426737 I have checked for leakage a couple of times, as advised by Robert. I don’t wear the watch very often and it never gets wet. I wonder if I can get another silver oxide battery for 99p including postage.

Member

My unbranded everyday watch is one of the most reliable I have ever had and a battery exchange is quick and cheap at a van in the main shopping street!

An on-line search has suggested some more professional places that I might try for work on my better watches.

I am wary of places in the shopping mall with glitzy shop fronts and staff in white coats. I prefer the more traditional image.

Member

Yes, horses for courses as they say. I lost confidence in a high street jeweller when they threw away the seal for the back case of my watch and told me it was no longer waterproof. My present watch still has its seal in place after after a couple of visits to a local trader and my own efforts.

Member

Wavechange won’t be the first or last person to have a case back seal past its prime thrown away by a high street jeweller, any company who does a quality job will always keep new gaskets in stock ( I keep 150 different sizes) and will replace any seals which are past their best.

I have had watches in with seals missing, broken or damaged by the person who did the previous battery change and the customer wasn’t even aware of the problem.

Member

“Perhaps the specialist trade could help itself and find a way of bringing its superior – and sometimes cheaper – service to the public’s attention.” I’m trying my best but I can tell you, that costs a lot of money, John 🙂

I can say with some confidence that Timpsons are a better bet for watch repairs on-site than your average multiple jeweller. I say multiple because some independents do have a skilled watch repairer on-site whereas it’s rare in a multiple. However, when large jewellers have a workshop of their own the results are usually better. Having said that I have seen some of them carry out some awful work or turn down repairs that should be carried out easily.

The BHI is a great institution but just because a company has been deemed credible and pays its subscription to them it doesn’t mean all the company’s staff are competent. As Robert says, the fee isn’t worth it to the majority of watchmakers and there are many very competent repairers that aren’t willing to pay the fee.

“I am wary of places in the shopping mall with glitzy shop fronts and staff in white coats.” Ah, The Watch Lab. That’ll cost you 🙂

Unfortunately, when trying to find somebody that knows their job your best bet is trial and error. This can be costly though so try and find recommendations where possible.

Member

Not all good watch repairers are members of BHI as the cost of membership with the few benefits you have of being a member isn’t financially worthwhile; you tend to find specialists who have the equipment for making replacement parts for obsolete movements are more likely to be members.

When trying to find someone who can do a battery change and give sound advice I would suggest using good old GOOGLE to find people in your area and look closely at the reviews/comments left by previous customers as this will be a good indicator as to what sort of service you are likely to receive.

Member
Seán Allen says:
29 December 2018

I got a watch back remover for £3.50 and a battery for £2.75 inc delivery online – now when I need a new battery it costs me under £3 and five minutes to do it myself.

Member

Having a paintbrush doesn’t make you an artist. Seeing as you can get a proper watchmaker to replace a battery for you properly for around a fiver it seems a bit of false economy. You’ll have saved yourself a whopping £2.74 (or about a £1 a year) for the convenience of having it done badly.

Member

What is wrong with learning to do jobs for yourself? I have replaced my watch battery twice, without any problem. It’s not an expensive watch, so there is no danger of causing expensive damage.

I am not wanting to put watchmakers or anyone else out of business but think it is valuable to learn new skills.

Member

Who said there was something wrong with learning to do jobs yourself? I do an awful lot of my own brickwork, plastering, joinery, electrical work, plumbing, computer building, use custom operating systems etc etc. I’m pretty capable but I’m not a pro at any of these and wouldn’t for one moment assume that my work was 100% without having it checked by a pro. Nor am I equating the quality of my brickwork etc with that of a pro. As a very experienced watchmaker once said to me, thinking you know what you’re doing is not the same as knowing you know what you’re doing.

Member

No, but you did imply that replacing a watch battery yourself might be false economy, but it all depends on the example. I’m not suggesting that anyone without experience should dismantle an expensive watch but there is little to be lost by having a go with a child’s watch. There is little to be lost in trying to repair household goods that would otherwise be thrown out. Ever since I was a child I have found great satisfaction in tackling jobs myself.

Member
Craig says:
9 June 2017

Yes I was quoted £20 to replace a battery in a casio watch in the Oracle, Reading. Complete ripoff – you can buy the batteries AND a complete set of tools for less than £6 on amazon.

Member
Nigel says:
3 August 2017

As a watch repairer with many, many years experience, that is the attitude of somebody who will:

– Scratch a coil
– Lose a battery clamp
– Not AC it
– Fit the wrong battery
– Strip a screw head
– Not be able to get the back off/on
– Lose the alarm spring
– Lose/squash/cut the back gasket
– Snap the neg contact
– Drop dirt in the watch clogging the movement
– Lose the module surround
– Lift the movement contacts above the pushers
– Break the dial feet
– Knock the hands off
– Snap a rigid strap
– Not be able to set the watch up correctly

… the list goes on.

The idea that all you need are the tools is pretty ignorant. While £20 sounds a bit steep to fit a battery in some Casio watches, a large number of them are very complicated, particularly WaveCeptor or dual display models. It’s more work by a distance than fitting a battery in a Breitling and resealing it. The world is full of people who think things are a rip off. Normally it’s because they don’t understand the process.

Member
Mike says:
5 January 2018

I charge between £5 and £8 to fit a Silver Oxide battery to most any basic Quartz watch. I then test the watch and re-assemble properly. I do not conduct a hydrostatic pressure test but apply a touch of Sil Grease to the rear plate O ring or replace as required. Extra work is of course at extra cost. Yes, I am an amateur watch repairer of most types of watch except F300 and Accutron and one or two others for which I cannot obtain replacement parts. This is a hobby for me and what anyone else does I do no know.

Member
M. Travis. says:
11 July 2018

Yes, Spot on Nigel. I am Not a watchmaker just an amateur Jobber Fixer. I had training from an old Vacheron Constantin Geneva trained watchmaker many years ago alas, now gone. Only one comment to make, that is stay away from boot repairers/key cutters if you want your watch properly serviced. Just commenting on the the damaged Quartz watches that have been brought to me for re-instatement.