Because mechanical watches these days are enthusiast interests, and big Swiss brands generally want to handle their own repairs, the independent watch repair shop is increasingly a rarity. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that only 2,200 individuals work in watch repair nationwide. Compare that to the tens of thousands of shops from 50 or so years ago, and you can’t help but feel wistful for the American watch repairman.
Even though the craft’s scale has winnowed, it remains a passionate and mostly dependable industry. Ideally, what you’ll look for is a shop that has been accredited or certified by a brand or a watchmaking organization like the American Watchmaker-Clockmaker Institute (AWCI) or Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program (WOSTEP). These individuals have gone through rigorous testing and schooling to master their craft.
Admittedly, these certifications are rare. (Just over 200 individuals in the US hold the AWCI’s coveted title of Certified Watchmaker of the 21st Century, which entails extreme proficiency in modern watch repair and whose certification exam has a considerably high fail rate.) And because not everyone needs an OMEGA Co-Axial movement fully rebuilt, there’s merit to going to the guy down the block with decades of experience and a penchant for service with a smile.
That’s why, to find all of these gems, we asked the watch fanatics who read Gear Patrol to tell us their favorites, picked the 10 most compelling shops, and added a few of our own. These highly trained, experienced and friendly shops are 15 of the best in the US that are still standing — and if you’re not within a short drive, most are happy to receive your watch through shipping and shoot it back your way when it’s fixed.
From the Readers
Your Favorite Shops, Coast to Coast
Their website is impressive and full of information, and the shop has worked on timepieces from around the world. The shop’s master watchmaker, Matt Miner, looked over my Grandfather’s Hamilton pocket watch (handed down to my father and to me) from the 1930s and was very impressed. Luckily, I had kept the watch covered so it wasn’t exposed and was in fairly good condition. He got it back to me exactly when he said he would and had it running perfectly. We talked about the watch and he gave me a lot of information about the piece. I have an OMEGA, given to me by my other grandfather, that I will also be bringing to Connecticut Timekeepers. — John T. (Milford, CT)
3530 Main Street, Stratford, CT 06614 | (203) 380-8963 | cttimekeepers.com
RGM Watch Co.
They have probably the best-equipped shop in the country and do modern, vintage and antique watch repairs and restorations. — Robin (PA)
801 West Main St., Mount Joy, PA 17552 | (717) 653-9799 | rgmwatches.com
I’d been commuting out of Grand Central for many years without ever coming across Central Watch, until I went looking for work to be done to my Ball watch and learned they were an authorized dealer. Since I finally found out where they were located, they’ve helped me with numerous things — extra links, new straps and a tune-up. They also have a nice selection of vintage watches, which is great to see in person — especially for somebody who buys mostly online. They’ve always been super helpful and I have recommended them to numerous friends looking for a watch store that isn’t just a jewelry store that sells watches. — Bill D. (New York, NY)
45th Street Passageway, Grand Central Station New York, NY 10017 | (212) 685-1689 | central watch.com
Claudio’s Watch Repair
Claude Cur is CW21 certified and is just good and honest. He is under the radar and does not take the easy approach, which someone unfortunately did with my 1944 Omega W.W.W. milwatch. Cur is great at servicing and repairing Omega cal. 321 movements — that itself is a task deserving accolade. — Patrick, F (Charlotte, NC)
106 East South Main St., Waxhaw, NC 28173 | (704) 843-4102 | claudioswatchrepair.com
J. D. Watchworks
Julius Dabrowski is known for Breitling repairs and fixes. When we spoke on the phone, I felt very comfortable and confident with my repair, even though he couldn’t price it without seeing it. I mailed it and within a couple of days he had a quote for me that was very reasonable. A week later, and the repairs were complete. Julius was incredibly polite and said I could pick it up (two hours away) or he could mail it, or, better yet, that he was going to be around my neck of woods and could meet me at Starbucks. Very easy transaction. I had a follow-up servicing done on both my watches. I have a lot of confidence in Julius and love his small hidden shop in San Francisco. — Mike B. (Sacramento, CA)
210 Post Street Suite 506, San Francisco, CA 94108 | (415) 397-0310 | jdwatchworks.com
I was a complete novice regarding vintage watches and took my first vintage find to About Time for a cleaning and a new band. They did a great job rejuvenating a 1950s gold OMEGA “Bumper” that I wear as a dress watch. I loved their enthusiasm and interest and was hooked. I’ve since moved out east but would consider sending my watches to About Time in the future. — Robert E. (Wilmington, NC)
1429 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103 | (619) 955-5959 | sandiegotimezone.com
Jostmar Jewelers & Watch Repair
A second-generation shop where the employees truly love watches, treat all customers with respect and offer fair and reasonable prices. I often send people there to have links taken out, and they never even charge them. — Dan M. (Huntington Beach, CA)
3333 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626 | (714) 966-2953 | yelp.com
The Watch Buyers Group
It’s a super-reliable Rolex repair shop that has access to authentic parts. Shipping is free, and they’ll provide a no-cost estimate of the work. They won’t change you a dime you don’t authorize. They communicate really well, and they’re the absolute opposite of the black-box experience of a Rolex Service Center. — Joe H. (Waltham, MA)
380 S Lake Ave, STE 206, Pasadena, CA 91101 | (626) 844-0170 | thewatchbuyersgroup.com
Setrak’s Watch Repair
An old shop with a caring/knowledgeable owner/operator. He services all kinds of watches for reasonable prices with great care and results. — Nathan L. (San Francisco, CA)
210 Post Street, Suite 708, San Francisco, CA 94108 | (415) 398-4130 | www.setrakswatchrepair.com
Tick Tock Shop
The shop is small, but stocked to the brim, and can repair anything from intricate Swiss mechanical timepieces to 200-year-old stable clocks. It doesn’t hurt that you can browse stock to fuel the addiction while the repairs are underway. — Noah C. (Colorado Springs, CO)
7 North Circle Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80909 | (719) 475-8585 | ticktockshoponline.com
The Long-Time Experts We Admire
For an old-school watch, go for an old-school repairman. 90-year-old Al Maddox, a Brooklynite born and raised, has been repairing watches in downtown Manhattan since the 1940s. He works by himself, out of a small room, and is known for his quick, affordable repairs and his dedication to service with a smile.
116 Nassau St, Room 836, New York, NY 10038 | (212) 962-6225 | yelp.com
Treiber & Straub
Trieber & Straub’s Jeffrey Debbink is not only a graduate of the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education (WOSTEP) program, he’s also one of the couple dozen watchmakers in the US to complete the AWCI’s stringent Twenty-First Century Certified Master Watchmaker (CMW21) certification. The shop both sells and services brands like Cartier, Patek Philippe and TAG Heuer.
14740 W. Capitol Drive, Brookfield, Wisconsin 53005 | (262) 790-5757 | treiberandstraub.com
Excel Time Service
Excel has an impressive roster — its founder is a former executive at Rolex, and it employs three watchmakers (one with CMW21 certification, the other with CW21) who between them have a wealth of formal training from a variety of brands including Seiko, Hublot, Rolex, Breitling and ETA to name just a few. Also in Excel’s employ is a “Master Polisher,” who has over 20 years of experience polishing watch cases and bracelets.
121 Alhambra Plaza Suite 1205, Coral Gables, FL 33134 | (305) 460-0019 | exceltimeservice.com
Cleves and Lonnemann Jewelers
Cleves and Lonnemann, established over 80 years ago, is headed by Charlie Cleves, a third-generation watchmaker who holds the elusive CMW21 certification. C&L keeps a well-equipped workshop and a storefront stocked with vintage timepieces.
319 Fairfield Ave, Bellevue, KY 41073 | (859) 261-3636 | clevesandlonnemann.com
Nesbit’s Watch Service
A family-owned watch-repair service that’s been around since 1895, employed with watchmakers who have received WOSTEP and CW21 certification. Nesbit’s gets official part supply from brands like Rolex, OMEGA and Patek Philippe, and provides ultrasonic cleaning of movements, water-pressure testing up to 1,200 meters and a warranty on repairs.