Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jeff Sexton, Watchmaker: "the Elgin guy"

*** Google this!

"Never mind, I'll find it on Google!"

This is a typical answer you'll get from a teenager nowadays. Which is true in most of the cases - except when you are looking for things which are really important - a personal recommendation, for example

Still not convinced? Go ahead, google for "my dentist's dentist". I told ya.

And every now and then, yes, even a watchmaker needs a watchmaker.

The other day when I needed a crystal replacement for a Patek, I sent my assistant to Max Schweizer. A week later - it was all done and ready for collection. Last year, Joao Santos got me out of trouble with a hard to find circuit for a long-discontinued Cartier. And I am always happy to recommend my colleague Thomas Czibula to those who call or email looking for a watchmaker who specializes in vintage watches.

All three of them are a watchmaker's watchmaker!

Often, we are asked to recommend someone in the US who is equally passionate, independent and skilled.

Sometime ago I've bumped into fine and enthusiastic American watchmakers who specialize in Elign watches and other American brand pocket watches.

Jeff Sexton is 'my guy'- if I lived in the US and ran into problems with a vintage American watch, I would send it to Jeff.

I asked Jeff to introduce himself to our newsletter subscribers:

"I learned watchmaking from my Grandfather, Everett Sexton, who attended the Elgin Watchmakers' College in the late 1930s. My Grandfather had no small amount of natural skills. This was something noticed by William Samelius, "The Dean of Watchmakers", who singled out the young man for instructing personally. This was an enormous benefit and a privilege.

When I was just beginning, I would drive to my Grandparents' home, about 6 hours away, as often as I could with a collection of watches I had repaired. My Grandfather carefully and silently examined each, then offered suggestions. He often spoke of Samelius.

"Well, this is good, but Samelius would say you were a little too generous with the oil there."

I learned the tools and methods as Samelius taught them. At first, I did nothing but re-shape screw driver tips and finish the insides of tweezers. Later I learned to set the pallet stones, collet hairsprings, make a staff and set the beat - no machine either. On the one hand, much of what I learned is out of step with modern practices, but on the other hand I also routinely perform repairs and adjustments that few do, while using tools much, much older and more experienced than myself. I use my Grandfather's lathe, which he bought in in 1936 for $38, and many tools much older.

You never know what you will find inside an old watch, that has been handled by a progression of watchmakers, and had all manner of repairs, over a century and more. Every one is different. But I am proud to carry on the work my Grandfather cared for deeply."

Jeff's website is By the way, as someone not familiar with the work of William H Samelious, I was pleased to discover that he wrote a book titled "Watch and Clock information, please!" about watch and clock restoration. Stay tuned for a review :-)

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