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A watch to watch (out) for

September 5, 2008
By Bob Seidenstein,

For most people, buying a watch is no biggie. They go in a store, take a look and then buy either one watch or another.

After that, life with their watch is just a series of putting it on, taking it off, and in the interim, checking the time.

For me the process isn't so simple, due to my peculiar requirements for a timepiece (or perhaps due to my peculiarities in general).

First, it's got to be accurate. Don't ask why, but for a guy who's a slob in most realms is finicky about watches, but I am. Then again, I figure if a manufacturer can't make an accurate watch with today's technology, they should go into blacksmithing or some such.

Next, because I travel a lot and end up in some odd places, I need an alarm on my watch, just in case I've got to wake up at some god awful hour and there's no one else around to do the honors.

Also, month, day and date functions are vital, since I'm never sure of any of them and it's too embarrassing to ask someone, "Ah, excuse me, but is today Tuesday or Wednesdayor maybe Sunday?"

Finally, because I wear bracelets, I keep my watch in my pocket. This means I lose them fairly frequently. Thus, they've got to be cheap. And they always were, until my most recent watch.

Time's on my side

Here's what happened. After I lost my last watch, I happened to be thumbing through the Duluth Trading Company's catalogue and ran across the "Guarddog Watch." It appeared to be the answer to my dreams. Not a wrist watch, it clipped to your belt. It had all the functions I wanted, and it had analog as well as digital dials.

And beyond that, it had cachet.

Dig this (and I quote): "Tradesmen, cowhands, Harley riders and other rowdy types love our Guarddog watch."

OK, so I don't work a trade, am scared of horses and the only two-wheeler I've ridden is a bike. Plus while I talk too loud and tell a lot of off-color jokes, I'm not much of a rowdy either. But still, I thought, this might just be the watch for me.

The only problem was its price. Admittedly, it wasn't in the same league as Cartier and Rolex, it did $70, with about an extra $10 for shipping.

But just to be able to wear the same watch as those rowdy types? Even if no one else noticed, at least I'd know I was a full-fledged member of the Testosterone Tribe.

My decision was almost automatic: Only a few minutes after looking at the ad, I called up and ordered it.

When it came, I wasn't disappointedat least not at first. It had all the functions I wanted; I couldn't lose it, and it gave me a certain virile je ne sais quoi that awed men and thrilled women.

But then I noticed the digital dial gained time.

What to do?

Simple: I went to the Guarddog Web site. They didn't have a phone, but they had customer service e-mail, so I shot off a note, telling them how inaccurate the watch was and asking what to do about it. I got a quick reply, was told to send in the watch and they'd send me a new one, which they did. The new watch worked beautifullytill two weeks ago.

This time all the digital functions were fine, but the analog dial started losing two hours a day. Two hours a day? It was a horror show! I mean, think about it: A broken watch would've been more accurate, since at least it'd tell the right time twice a day.

The numbers game

Again, I went to their Web site. They still had no phone, but they had several email addresses for customer service. I figured the cheapest problem might the most likely one so I e-mailed them, asking if my battery could be dying. A day went by, with no reply.

A couple of days later, with still no reply, I sent out another email, this time to one of the other e-mail addresses. I got no reply from that one either.

This got me thinking. The way I figured it, when I first wrote to Guarddog, two years ago, they were a young company and thus quick to reply to their customers. Now that they're established and successful, I guess they figure they can ignore their customers.

But there's a consolation in that. A lot of big, successful companies not only outsource their manufacturing, but their customer service as well. So you give their 800 number a call and you're talking to someone in Bombay, Bangalore, Benares or one of those other exotic B cities - sometimes someone very hard to understand. A lot of people I know get annoyed by this and consider it an insult of sorts.

But you don't have to worry about that with good old Guarddog. You'll never get stuck dealing with an unintelligible accent, or any accent at all, since they have no phone. Instead, they've got email for customer service. And while they don't actually answer your emails, at least you've got the pleasure of knowing you're being ignored by an American citizen and not some foreign national. Makes a fellow proud to be flyin' the red, white and blue, I tell ya.

Luckily for me, Guarddog also had on their website the name of a watch repair company. I don't know how established they are, but they have a phone, and oddly enough, it was answered by a lad from the Heartland. He told me the battery wasn't the problem and I should send in the watch, and they'd send me an estimate, which I then did.

But after that, I reflected on my new dilemma: How much was it worth to repair the watch?

The way I figured it, no repair could cost less than $30, and probably it'd be closer to $50. So, counting $50 for the repair, plus what I originally paid for the watch and what it cost to send it in, I'd be out $130. And if the repaired watch followed its previous history, it'd need to be repaired again in another two years.

Or I could buy a cheapie for $20 and it'd last the year or so before I lost it.

In terms of money alone, it was no contest I should forget the repair and just buy a cheap watch.

But I looked at it another way.

What if I got it repaired and ended up spending $130 or even $150, and the watch lasted me another two years? Ultimately, that'd be only about $6.25 a month for a timepieceand the look of a pure 100 percent rowdy Alpha Male.

My decision took no time - I'll repair the watch.

And after I get it back, I may go the whole hog, so to speak, and buy a Harley to go with it.



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