Fixing A Broken Watch and A Broken Heart – Spending $100 to Fix a $50 Watch

A few months ago, we were faced with a broken watch and a broken heart. You see, my now fourteen year old son has had his great-grandfathers watch for the past two and a half years, ever since my grandmother passed away (you can read more about my boys special relationship with great-grandma in this article about the memory book they made for her last birthday). Even though he doesn’t remember meeting great-grandpa, they did know each other. This watch quickly became priceless to him, representing a precious link between himself and his great-grandparents.

So when it broke a few months ago, he was devastated. And we had to figure out what to do. Here’s the story of spending $100 to fix a $50 watch, and what money lessons I want my kids to learn from the experience.

The Breaking Of The Watch – And A Teens Heart

My son actually takes great care of this watch. Despite most kids his age having abandoned watches in favor of cell phones (which my son still does not have), and  being unable to even read this kind of watch (!!!!), my son dares to be different. He still wears it every single day. It’s the first thing he puts on in the morning, and the last thing he takes off at night.

This watch had been unused for seven or more years at the time he inherited it. My grandfather had passed away about seven years before my grandmother, of Parkinson’s disease with lewy body dementia. He doesn’t remember great-grandpa, because he was only four years old when my grandfather passed away. But I certainly remember their special relationship.

You see, my grandfather had two daughters and always longed for a son to do “son-type” things with, like fish and sports. When my younger brother was born, my grandfather was over the moon. They indeed did go fishing together and enjoyed a special relationship. When my oldest son was born, my grandfather got him a baseball glove in anticipation of the games they would play together when my son was older. Unfortunately, they never did have a chance to play.

We still have the glove for the little guy to play with when he gets older

Before my grandfathers illness claimed his body and mind, he enjoyed just hanging around with baby-then toddler-Nick. Sometimes great-grandpa would get on the floor with my little guy and just hang out (and then he might fall asleep). Other times they would play catch or just hang out. Once my grandfathers condition had deteriorated to the point where my grandmother couldn’t care for him, he spent a few months in a dementia ward before he passed away. We visited every other week, and my son always enjoyed playing with this large, pink stuffed cat that lived on the couch.

Unfortunately, my son remembers none of this, but we tell him stories. The watch he wears all the time serves as a constant reminder not only of great-grandpa, but also his beloved great grandmother. So when it stopped working, even when we changed the battery, we were very concerned.

We took the family to a local jewelry shop that also deals with watches. They took one look at it and declared it a lost cause. It was going to cost about $200 or more to fix, they claimed, if it could be fixed at all. You could get a new one for under $50. It wasn’t worth it.

As we left the watch shop, my teenage son burst into tears. My son doesn’t ever cry,  especially so since becoming a teenager. We asked him what was wrong. He explained that since we had already had to replace the watch band, if we replaced the watch face or the entire watch, there would really be nothing left of his great-grandparents.

My husband and I looked at each other. I promised my son that we would find a way to fix the watch, no matter what we needed to do.

Great-grandpa is on the right, very likely wearing the watch. My oldest son is, of course the cute toddler.

The Journey To Fix A Broken Watch-A Lost Art

Back twenty or thirty years ago, fixing a watch was likely pretty easy. People didn’t just toss things in the trash when they broke, because back then it was more expensive to replace than to repair. Today that equation is usually reversed. When even large, expensive things break replacing them is less costly than repairing them. So if our local jewelry shop wouldn’t even attempt to repair the watch, we weren’t sure how we were going to keep our promise.

I had the idea to actually call Timex and ask their advice. So my husband gave them a call. It turns out that they actually have a guy in Florida named Fred who repairs heirloom Timex watches. They gave us his contact information and my husband gave him a call

Fred is about 90 plus years old, extremely meticulous, and very knowledgeable. My husband gave him a call to explain the situation, and we got his address with very specific shipping instructions. We popped it in the mail along with a check for about a hundred dollars.

A few weeks later, the watch arrived back home in better-than-new condition. My son was relieved and happy to have it back again. And to this day, it’s still the first thing he puts on every morning-and the last things he takes off.

The glass face is a bit scratched, so you can see the love.

Money Lessons For My Kids

As I often talk about here on the site (for example, when discussing school book fairs, hover balls and wizard chess) I use everyday events in our lives to try and impart big money lessons in an easy to understand, natural way.

With this particular event, the take-away is that there are things that are more important than money. Yes, this was not a wise financial decision if you just look at the numbers. I could have bought a brand-new watch for half the cost. But that brand-new watch would only look like great-grandpas watch. My son knew it would not actually be the same thing. So, sometimes, you need to spend your money on things that are important to you. Even when it doesn’t pay off financially, it will pay off emotionally.

I Want To Know

Have you ever decided to spend extra to repair something rather than replace it? What heirlooms do you or your kids cherish? Let me know in the comments.

Want to learn more about teaching kids about money? Check out this great page with my top articles and resources I’ve found from around the web.

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9 thoughts on “Fixing A Broken Watch and A Broken Heart – Spending $100 to Fix a $50 Watch”

  1. This got me, Liz. My grandfather also had Parkinson’s and dementia related to it (he died while I was in college) and my son currently has a very special relationship with my grandmother… his great-grandmother. Since moving back to northern MI, he has had the opportunity to see her almost every week and now talks about her all the time 🙂

    I could not think of a better way to teach a teen about money and spending on the important things in life. Sure, some would say it is just a watch, but it isn’t. It means so much more and that is where it is worth spending time and money. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Treasure his relationship with his great grandma. We were lucky that my grandmother was with us for many years and was a big part of my boys lives until she passed away a few years ago. So sorry about your grandfather.

  2. Handy Millennial

    Hi Liz, this is a wonderful and touching story. Great post on a Friday morning. I have a similar story although it does not contain the nice money lesson you have here. When I graduated from college my parents gifted me a Pelikan Fountain Pen. I had always wanted one because I think that they write beautifully and are just beautiful pieces of craftsmanship. Well I love that pen. I experimented with different inks and eventually caused a bit of a problem when some of the ink dried in the piston.

    I wasn’t happy about this and I was ready to buy a new one just so I could have a fountain pen and never have to tell my parents I damaged theirs. But then I called Pelikan and I realized that they have a free lifetime service!!! Wow! Can you imagine most companies does this? It turned out that their free service was a charming lady in New England. After a brief phone conversation she reassured me that she would return everything as good as new. So I mailed the pen and I waited. A few weeks later it came back and boy was it beautiful to see!!

    Congratulations on finding Fred! You guys did a great job with this repair!

    1. That’s so cool! Free lifetime service is amazing, and so rare for companies nowadays. I’m glad they referred you on someone that could help.

  3. Dreamer In Chief

    My grandmother died shortly after my daughter turned 3. She met her a few times, though not many, since we live in Utah and she lived in Michigan. But we gave my daughter my grandma’s first name as her middle name, and she knows that. On the day my grandma died, there was a beautiful double rainbow spanning miles perfectly visible from our front door. In the past two years, every time my daughter sees a rainbow — or even light refracting in a rainbow pattern — she says happily, “Hi, Grandma Marie!”

    It’s really nice to have not only a non-physical reminder of her, but also one that pops up randomly and unexpectedly.

    1. That’s so sweet. My youngest son has both my grandparents names as his middle name. It was a late change because it was originally going to be just my grandfather, but then my grandma passed away only a week and a half before the little guy was born. Even though having two middle names is unusual, I think it’s nice they’re together forever in their great grandsons name.

  4. My partner has a similar story – his watch belonged to his Opa, who passed quite recently. When he discovered water under the glass, it was the same situation – money vs REAL value! Getting it repaired was a no-brainer. It seems I still have a lot to teach him though, because he went with the first quote he got and they did such a terrible job he’s having to go elsewhere to get it repaired. I’m still working with him on things like that!

    1. So true! I think the first place we visited said it would be $200 or more to fix, so they recommended just replacing it. It was only by calling Timex directly that we found Fred.

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