The yr: 2006.
The place: Tim Jackson’s watch shop in Northern California.
The occasion: a now-legendary weekend organized by Jackson and attended by a number of the world’s nice unbiased watchmakers, together with Kari Voutilainen, Marco Lang, Peter Speake-Marin, and Vianney Halter.
The objects of want: the Antiqua and Contemporaine, two dramatic items made by Vianney Halter, on show on the occasion.
Oh, how I liked these watches!
Whereas a few of my buddies weren’t fairly positive on the time in regards to the Antiqua, for me it was love at first sight. And assembly Halter solely elevated my ardor. The one factor holding me again from putting an order so as to add one to my then-modest assortment was the expense, which on the time was far past my watch price range.
The same-but-simpler platinum Contemporaine that Halter introduced with him additionally caught my eye, however sadly was financially out of attain as properly.
Because the months handed, I couldn’t get these two items out of my thoughts and searched the net every so often to see whether or not any may be obtainable on the pre-owned market.
In June of 2007, I typed the search time period “Halter Contemporaine” into the search engine and to my astonishment was guided to an eBay advert for simply that watch, this one in white gold and provided at a value that was about one-third its unique retail worth.
In case your Spidey Sense is already tingling at this level, good for you! I suppose that I used to be a extra harmless (spelled “S-T-U-P-I-D”) fellow in these days, and because the vendor (a Florida supplier we’ll name Alexei) had good constructive eBay suggestions and the pictures of the watch regarded good, I typed in a quantity barely decrease than the asking value and hit the “make a proposal” button.
The subsequent morning, I awoke to the information that my supply had been accepted. And as soon as I organized for a wire switch for the acquisition value plus transport, my watch was on its strategy to me.
Think about my pleasure upon the arrival of the field at my residence, after which the sentiments of disappointment and outright concern when it turned out that the watch within the field was fairly totally different from the one within the eBay pictures.
Right here’s the listing of issues that I despatched to Alexei with a request for a direct refund:
- The case again had clearly been (badly) opened and changed. There have been huge gouges going out from a number of of the holes for the case software on the rear of the watch, the holes themselves had been disfigured, and the scratch continued all the best way onto the polished facet floor of the watch.
- The motion itself confirmed important injury. A number of of the screw heads had been scratched and had injury to their slots. It appeared that the steadiness bridge was eliminated and misaligned when changed because the becoming a member of line between the bridge and plate was uneven (as you may see within the picture under). The plate and bridge themselves had been coated with many random scratches throughout the floor, and there have been smudges (seemingly fingerprints wiped over) clearly seen on the plate and bridge. There was additionally injury to the steel rim of the thriller rotor – particles or smudges and scratches.
- The moon part disk had scuffs on it; I can’t even think about how these bought there.
- It wasn’t clear that the automated winding system was operational because the rotor would flip solely in a single route.
- The date-change mechanism held on the 10th, 15th, 29th, and 30th of the month, which signifies injury to or misalignment of it.
- There have been small burrs alongside the sting of the case in different spots and some gentle scratching on the entrance of the watch case and crystals.
- The small bezels on the entrance of the watch (apart from the date window) had been clumsily eliminated, gouged, and bent.
- Even the hinge on the presentation field was damaged!
To his credit score, Alexei was fast to reply, however not with the precise information I’d hoped for. The message: all gross sales remaining, so no refund. However as a good-faith measure he’d supply a restore and refurbishment fund of as much as $5,000.
Enter the blacksmith
Below a spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he, with giant and sinewy palms;
And the muscle tissue of his brawny arms are as robust as iron bands.
To try to take Alexei up on his supply, I’d must contact Halter and clarify my plight; and as on the time I had no method of contacting him instantly, that meant that I’d must go right down to Jackson’s retailer, hat in hand and swallowing onerous greater than as soon as, to elucidate the next:
- That I’d purchased a Vianney Halter watch, however not from him.
- I’d been dumb sufficient to get right into a “no returns” association with the vendor.
- That I wanted him to place me in touch Halter with some urgency to ask him for his enter, and that I may also want their assist in arranging for cargo of the watch to Ste. Croix, Switzerland.
Tim Jackson and his staff couldn’t have been extra splendid about the entire thing, and thus started a sequence of e mail exchanges with Halter. I realized that my watch, No. 3W, was certainly one of solely six examples and had initially been offered in Belgium in October of 2005.
Its path from that point to the second it entered my palms could by no means be recognized, however between the time that the pictures within the eBay itemizing had been taken and supply to me, monumental injury had been executed.
The phrase from Halter upon reviewing the pictures: “The great level is that the 3W most likely could be revamped, though this shall be confirmed after exterior and inner full checking.” And so (with Alexei’s blessing) off went the watch to Switzerland for analysis on the Halter atelier.
In mid-July, I acquired the next from Halter: “That is to tell you that your Contemporaine 3W has arrived in Sainte-Croix. I’ve instantly had a have a look at it and, to be frank, the information isn’t that good.
“The watch was opened and badly manipulated by a so-called ‘watchmaker’ who most likely would fairly be a blacksmith. Not solely he badly handled the mechanism and the case however he additionally signed his crime along with his preliminary contained in the case. Two of the bezels shall be modified and the case shall be re-machined.
“The motion is scratched in addition to the screws amongst which one was damaged in its bridge and glued by the blacksmith. After all, nothing is irreparable! The price of revamping can be as follows: case $9,000, motion $eight,000.”
I’ve had just a few moments of panic as a watch collector, and that one definitely ranks excessive amongst them – though fact be instructed, the “blacksmith” reference did convey a minimum of a smile. And because the years have handed, this has turn out to be an oft-shared quote: the sheer audacity of gluing a steadiness cock into place does elicit a weird sense of admiration – of kinds.
I definitely didn’t have 17 grand, and even the $12,000 that may be wanted after factoring in Alexei’s $5,000. For his half Alexei was equally gobsmacked, however agency in his conviction that, “There is no such thing as a watch on the earth that can not be fastened for 5 thousand .”
From the jaws of defeat
Simply as all appeared misplaced, salvation appeared from an unlikely quarter: Halter himself. In a message to me, he defined that he lacked a “demonstrator” instance of the Contemporaine to point out to potential patrons and that he can be prepared to maintain the watch and restore it on his personal nickel, paying me the quantity I’d paid within the first place much less the $5,000 restore allowance from Alexei.
Amazingly sufficient, Alexei was amenable to the thought, and so it got here to cross that I acquired funds from Halter and Alexei that totaled, to the penny, my out-of-pocket price for the watch and its related transport charges. Halter repaired the watch, and my understanding is that just a few years later he acquired a proposal for it and that it’s now within the palms of a personal collector to whom I hope it brings nothing however success.
All’s properly that ends . . .
Since then, I’ve had the great fortune to purchase two different Vianney Halter watches: the Deep Area Tourbillon (see Why I Bought It: Vianney Halter Deep Space Tourbillon) and the piece I a lot admired within the first place, the landmark Antiqua (see Why I Bought It: Vianney Halter Antiqua).
Each had been bought from respected sources; the primary from Halter himself and the second from a famous Singapore-based buddy and collector.
I additionally took residence some useful classes from my expertise with the Contemporaine.
- Until it’s completely not possible, at all times deal with a watch in particular person (and for notably advanced items, think about having a certified watchmaker carry out an evaluation) prior to purchasing it.
- If the value appears too good to be true, it most likely is (sure, I do know that is an previous cliché however true nonetheless).
- So long as we’re on previous chestnuts: purchase the vendor. It turned out that Alexei was man, however I may simply have been out of luck coping with a stranger.
- It’s all in regards to the individuals! People of fine will and integrity abound in our interest, and on this occasion each Tim Jackson and Vianney Halter went above and past on my behalf
- Typically it’s higher to be fortunate than sensible, however don’t depend on it!
Thus ends the parable. I’d love to listen to about a few of your wilder watch shopping for experiences within the feedback part under.
Fast Info Vianney Halter Contemporaine Section de Lune/Jour
Case: platinum, white gold, and gem-set white gold; crown with moonstone cabochon; 39 mm
Dials: lacquered small dials for time, day, date, and painted by hand moon part
Motion: computerized Caliber VH300 with sapphire crystal “thriller” rotor
Features: hours, minutes; day of week; date in small window; moon part
Limitation: 6 items on this model
Value: unique retail value $63,000; no recognized current re-sale values
Manufacturing years: 2001 onward
* This text was first revealed on August 11, 2018 at How Not to Buy a Watch: My Misadventure.