April 1, 2017
by Ariel Adams
Those people fortunate enough to own many timepieces have likely found themselves in the unfortunate position of having to take care of many timepieces. The mere act of keeping just a dozen or so mechanical watches wound and accurately set – not to mention cleaned, stored, and serviced – is an almost daily chore unto itself. Watches, in order to be reliably useful, as well as for them to be set with the current time, need regular care and someone to look after them. In most cases, that responsibility falls on the owner, but what if there were a better way? One special person has an answer to this problem, and it might just be the beginning of the next “must-have” service craze for the world of watch owners.
Enter a man who prefers to be inconspicuously known as “The Watch Butler.” He sells himself as a watch care and maintenance service provider, offering regular home calls to those with collections they cannot or will not take care of themselves. The Watch Butler will not take on just any clients and, like any residential service provider, is someone who must choose the client as they must choose him.
For many people with large timepiece collections, the idea of affordable part-time help who comes to their home or office in order to service their timepiece needs sounds like a dream come true. What’s really in it for the clients? It is really about taking as much of the headache out of timepiece ownership as possible. In another era, The Watch Butler might have been a horse stable master or a personal driver. In 2017, he is a passionate man who may very well treat a timepiece collection better than even the owner does.
Clients can expect to have their timepiece collections cleaned and polished, wound, set for the accurate time, organized, and cataloged with meticulous notes helping to keep track of problems, needs, and service outings to the originating brands or watchmakers. The Watch Butler himself readily admits that he is not a watchmaker, but rather a meticulous intermediary serving the regular needs of each timepiece on behalf of its owner and performing whatever tasks are required to keep each timepiece in optimal health.
The Watch Butler is discreet about his personal life and habits, which is likely a personal quality that lends itself well to a life of strict confidence bestowed upon him by his clients. The Watch Butler requires unfettered access to one’s most intimate quarters, during intimate parts of their life, so that he can care for the watches in a meaningful manner. Timepieces, after all, are extremely personal objects that in order to be meaningful must be close to one’s body at all times. Rather than being stored in a garage, distant closet, or special room, wrist watches, like clothing, inhabit the most intimate parts of people’s living spaces including their clothing closets, bathrooms, and bedrooms. At this time, The Watch Butler regrets to inform clients that he is not available for travel. But he is willing to continue visiting a client’s watch collection on a regular basis when they are out of town.
According to The Watch Butler, watches are the only company he needs on many days. Catching up with this impassioned horological enthusiast, we sought to determine what makes The Watch Butler tick, and the role he plays in the life of a typical client. For The Watch Butler, the motion of a mechanical watch’s “regulation organ” offers him the same emotional embrace as the beating of a fellow human’s heart. How does this passion for small wearable machines impact his ability to service the timepiece collection needs of his clients?
The Watch Butler must fully vet clients prior to making an initial at-home appointment. For him, it seems to be both a matter of time allocation and personal interest. While The Watch Butler has multiple clients, he can only endeavor to take on a few clients at a time. The minimum volume of visits he requires his clients to allow is two times per month, and some with more complicated watches or larger collections require a few visit per week. In many ways, The Watch Butler seems to prefer this, as it allows for him to spend more time doting upon his favorite watch wards.
Meeting new clients, for The Watch Butler, is something that is done in person only. The Watch Butler seems to frequent events where watch collectors and other like-minded enthusiasts aggregate. Some have referred to The Watch Butler as a watch party-crasher in jest (which seems to have an element of truth to it as no one seems to have recalled inviting him). At such events, The Watch Butler is recognized by his distinctive hand-knotted vintage bow-ties and “The Watch Butler” leather briefcase which always holds his assortment of watch-cleaning spray formulas and carefully curated collection of cleaning cloths. With a serious face that rarely makes contact with the eyes of another person, The Watch Butler usually initiates contact with other people by merely walking up to them and proceeding to apply his cleaning cloth to the timepiece on their wrist.
Some timepiece enthusiasts recoil at this brazen demonstration of forwardness from The Watch Butler. It is assumed that this is merely a test to see who is worthy of his attention. When asked about his strategy for finding new clients The Watch Butler simply remarks that he is attracted to willing wrists wearing watches that are worthy of his butlering. It didn’t take long for the community to recognize that The Watch Butler chooses his clients as much as they choose him. It’s like the cleaning symbiosis relationship between a red-billed oxpecker and large mammals that allow the bird to sit on them while being groomed on the African savanna.
Once The Watch Butler has chosen a new potential client, he asks them a few brusk questions about their collection size, models, organization, and winding habits. Perhaps not surprisingly, The Watch Butler seeks those people who have immediate need for his work. People with well-organized collections, no matter how interesting their watches are, don’t typically receive The Watch Butler. Though some guess that this is merely because people with more organized collections are unwilling to allow The Watch Butler, or anyone else, to loiter around their precious timepiece holdings.
Social lubricants of the inebriating variety tend to work in The Watch Butler’s favor. While not a heavy consumer of such substances himself (though he is known to ask for a drink he’s coined “watchmakers cologne” which is apparently an unorthodox blend of mostly vermouth and bitters with some schnapps), alcohol tends to loosen the socialized interaction restrictions some people have when a character like The Watch Butler approaches them and asks in a low, calming voice “have we been wound today?” in a manner that seems directed to the object on one’s wrist rather than its owner.
Assuming the potential client complies with The Watch Butlers’ initial horological interest, the pre-client interview can proceed. Questions always being stated either in general to no one in particular or to the watches on a wrist directly such as “do you have friends back at home who need me?” Assuming he can maintain a potential client’s attention to this for 20 or so minutes, The Watch Butler hands them a card, explains that he is The Watch Butler, that he is there to take care of the watches under his service as a butler should, his fees, and when he is able to come make a house call.