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.
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.
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.
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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