Saturday, December 2, 2017

Hot-Rodding Watches

TV series about auto mechanics who transform cars seem to be very popular these days. Usually a series is about a garage which is very popular, where people -- very often celebrities -- bring their cars to be made over. Less often, the mechanics go out looking for diamond-in-the-rough bargains, and then bring them to the garage for the makeovers. Of the several TV channels devoted entirely to cars, at least one seems to show nothing but these shows about mechanics transforming cars, 24-7.

This blog post is not going to be about those shows. Instead, it's going to be about something entirely imaginary, because a little while ago, I said to myself: What if, instead of all those shows in mechanics' garages, there were shows in watchsmiths' shops instead?

There could be shows wherein the watchsmiths go out to thrift stores and yard sales and estate sales and flea markets and what have you, looking for watches which they can bring back to the shop, refurbish and sell at a profit. But maybe most of the shows would be about high-end, relatively glamourous shops where the customers bring their watches and ask to have them fixed up and/or transformed.

So immediately the question occurs to me: how often are watches actually transformed, as opposed to merely being maintained or fixed? Cars, as we all know, can be completely transformed, and very often are, like this, for instance:

It's so common that I'm sure I don't even have to explain it to most of you. But is it at all common with watches? I have the impression that it is not: that the most which a watchsmith commonly does is to bring a watch as close as possible back to the appearance and performance it had when new.

Whether or not it IS commonly done, how much COULD be done to transform watches? Replacing a dial or a bezel with one of a different color could of course be done. But what about adding functions to a watch? For example: could my Seiko 5 --

-- be modified so that it had a manual winding option, or a power reserve indicator, or both? Assuming both could be done -- would that cost me less than 1000 brand-new Seiko 5's?

Because of the ridiculously low cost of Seiko 5's -- back down to around $45 on Amazon for Cyber Monday -- the very thought of having them serviced by a professional watchsmith, let alone hot-rodded into something very different than a stock 5, is -- odd. But when it comes to watches which cost 5 figures or more new, the thought of paying for a number of man-hours of highly-skilled craftsmanship to have them modified suddenly seems less odd -- assuming, that is, that such modifications are possible.

Perhaps it can be done, and is done all the time, but the terminology is different. A 1932 Dodge which has had its original engine removed and replaced with a supercharged 351 Ford engine, and its chassis replaced with an all-wheel-drive chassis with an automatic 7-speed transmission, and its tires with racing slicks, is still referred to as 1932 Dodge -- a souped-up '32 Dodge. Perhaps a Seiko 5 can be extensively modified, but, long before it undergoes as much change as that hypothetical '32 Dodge, it is no longer referred to as a Seiko 5, but may be described as being based on a 5. Maybe this sort of thing is done all the time, and the usual thing to do is for the watchsmith who transformed the 5 to put his own brand name on it.

There are so very many things I don't know.

Well, anyway, clearly, it would be an alternate universe, and not ours at present, if such TV shows about watches existed, and if such modification of watches were as common as it is in the case of cars in our car-crazy world.

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