Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 13

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12

The next Monday, the 21st of May, at around 10:01 AM, Brown, the man with whom the Latham concern generally dealt at Harrods, was exclaiming over some watches Latham had brought to show him. They custom-built some individual watches to order, and then they made watches like these, in models. Latham's grandfather had been the first in the firm to put a number to a group of similar watches, dubbing them Model 1 in 1854. They had reached Model 100. Unlike the other models, which they had built until demand petered out and/or a newer and better model had replaced them, they had decided to make exactly one hundred Model 100 watches. They were all done now, and Latham had brought ten of them to show to Brown. There were in an office away from the main ground-level floor at Harrods. Latham had chosen 10 pieces which he felt well-represented the variety of cases and faces in the Model 100 series.

"But the movements are all the same?" Brown asked.


"Beautiful," Brown said. Latham had come to the puzzling realization lately that many, perhaps most of their customers actually knew little and cared less about watches, and bought them mostly to impress other people who also knew practically nothing about how watches worked, or even which ones were more accurate or reliable than others, but had remarkably accurate knowledge about how much the customers had paid for them -- unlike most of the people who ended up wearing their watches, the shops who bought them wholesale tended to have a pretty exact idea of what they were buying. And Brown here was a true connoisseur. He had unscrewed the back case of one of the Model 100's, removed the cover and was looking at the whirling movement through a loupe. Brown was one of the few people Latham would allow to take apart a Latham watch which he hadn't yet purchased. Latham would disassemble a watch for some others, and watch closely to make sure they didn't damage it. But Brown here was okay.

"There's the same price for each watch," Latham said, "although, as you can see, of course, some of the cases and faces were more expensive for us to build than others." Latham winced a bit, but said exactly what his father and his brother William had asked him to say: "Our prices for series watches have always been negotiable in the past, and especially for good customers such as Harrods, but for the Model 100 I'm afraid it's take it or leave it. Thirteen hundred pounds apiece."

Latham had expected Brown to pretend that he was outraged at such a price, and to have to go through some back-and-forth before Brown either took it or left it, but instead Brown just said, "I'm not even going to pretend that that isn't a bargain."

Latham smiled. He really did like Brown. With him, there was very little of the bargaining nonsense Latham encountered with many buyers, and which he also observed in William. They seemed to enjoy that sort of thing, which to Latham was like pulling teeth. Perhaps Brown was bargainer too, most of the time? And sensed that Latham didn't care for it? He continued, again, exactly as his father and William had asked him to: "There's one exception to this firm price: if Harrods buys all of the available Model 100's, the price will be eleven hundred pounds apiece."

"All one hundred, eh?"

"I'm sorry, no, three are already off the market," one in a display case at the plant, one to be auctioned off and the proceeds given to the Salvation Army, and the other, at Latham's insistence, was now in Charlie's pocket. "It's felt that -- Ehh! Excuse me for speaking to you that way -- my brother feels that there could be some considerable marketing cache both for our firm and for Harrods if we make this an exclusive deal with you. He's even speculated about the deal making headlines."

"I daresay it will. This is news, my good man. Ah, I should say, it would make news. I'd like to go ahead and say yes, but with... Ah... Eleven hundred times -- "

"One hundred and six thousand and seven hundred pounds."

"Thanks, old chap. You really do such sums in your head, don't you?" Brown seemed honestly surprised. Latham was surprised that Brown hadn't been able to do the math in his head. But this was apparently another example of how people like him and Charlie were unusual. "With an amount as high as a hundred and six thousand and seven hundred pounds, I can't say yes or no on my own. Afraid I'm not quite that far along in my career yet. Don't want to make you a promise about something that's not done yet, but I'm pretty sure they'll say yes." Brown was putting the watch back together again. "There's been a lot of excitement about this around here."

"That's gratifying."

"So," Brown said, "I've heard about your prodigy. Your young man Charlie Evans."

Latham was quite startled. He felt his heart pound in his chest. Who'd been talking about Charlie? Then he reflected that customers came and went in the plant all the time, and that they'd seen Charlie at work and exclaimed about him, and that it certainly wasn't his place to expect them not to talk about it to others. He cleared his throat and said, "'Prodigy.' Yes, that's exactly right. Happened to run into him when I was consulting on a police investigation, and Charlie was a witness."

"They say he's an amazing repairman."

"Better than I am. Miles better."

"You're exaggerating," Brown said.

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