Interview with Beverly Loan’s watch specialist, Israel Narvaez

Interview with Beverly Loan’s watch specialist, Israel Narvaez

Israel Narvaez, Professional Watchmaker and Fine Watch Specialist at Beverly Loan Company, the premier collateral lender in Beverly Hills.

The following article is an interview with one of our watch specialists from our sister company, Beverly Loan. Operating from the heart of Beverly Hills, Beverly Loan applies the same dedication to secure loan provision, as well as the commitment to customer service and financial flexibility that you’ve come to expect from Borro for our West Coast clients.

Provide a brief introduction about yourself:

I am a former professional watchmaker and private watch consultant, and broker turned Director of Client Engagement.  I have worked in the industry professionally, post formal Horological training, for approximately 10 years, and overall 15 years. After Watchmaking school, I worked for several years in independent retail repair and operating in the world of Microbrands in new goods assembly, construction, and after-sales service and repair. After continuously honing my craft for those several years, I was given the great blessing and pleasure of serving as a watchmaker for one of the industry-leading watch brands for over a decade. Before my dedicated horological career, and during it as well, I have served constantly as a watch consultant and broker for private collectors and dealers. I was looking to get back to the roots of what led me down this path of watchmaking, and that was working with people directly to help them sell or acquire timepieces and luxury goods. 

As a professional watchmaker, what is the biggest factor that you take into consideration when you buy a watch personally? 

Serviceability, hands down- no doubt! The idea behind a mechanical timepiece is that it is a living and breathing thing that if properly cared for- will outlast us and be able to be passed on as a token for our loved ones to remember us by at least that’s what Patek presents as the ideal behind the industry in most of their ads- but this is certainly true for many- I know it is for me, even more so since I have invested so much of myself and my skills and abilities into this industry. When taking into account serviceability, there are core things to consider (these are what I specifically lean on to make the best judgment call as to whether my money is working in my favor): 

  1. Service history– When was the last service? This is important so that I am aware if I am at the end of the service interval and if the potential good deal might not end up being such a good deal because I might need to further invest into it before getting my money’s worth of use. If service history is unknown, you should assume a service will be necessary for the immediate future and adjust your offer accordingly.
  2. Ease of maintenance, which includes- ease of access to a pool of qualified service providers (watchmakers) who you can trust to do a good job at a reasonable, fair market price; parts availability, accessibility, and cost; frequency of service intervals (this is impacted by many factors such as the age of the timepiece, high vs. low bph, complications and how often those complications are used)
  3. Condition– rarity and condition rule the market, but the condition is almost as important as rarity because you can only realize a watch’s full potential value if the condition is there to back up, and further entice the reasoning process that the buyer is working through to justify their purchase
  4. Reason for purchase– Am I only entertaining the offer because it’s a good deal vs. this is a piece I have been trying to locate, and now it’s finally available? My hard-earned wisdom notes that you should never compromise your funds or time on a substitute to your desired timepiece; this is the fork in the road that typically leads to flipping at a loss or becoming a serial flipper. Don’t get me wrong if something is a great deal with a solid upside and you have the means and the avenues to move it quickly to realize it’s the full potential where you come out ahead before the market turns, then obviously that is an ideal opportunity, however, the drawback is that this lends to feeding the speculator market with artificially inflated prices that eventually have to face a correction and you do not want to be stuck with the timepiece when the correction happens especially if it’s something you do not personally enjoy

Can you share a few tips about what you focus on when you’re authenticating a timepiece? 

I focus on quality of dial printing, finishing, patina and aging, and details of markers and date windows (including discerning service dial vs. original dial); stamping (especially stamping quality and depth) vs. laser engraving, hallmarks (quality and correctness of the hallmark stamping, and whether the hallmarks correctly match case and bracelet metals), case & bracelet reference #’s and codes and whether they are period correct for the timepiece and its reference, finishing of case (correct direction and angles of finishes, proper finishing techniques on the correct areas of the case and bracelet, correct grain patterns, sharpness of angles and transitions in finishing), hand winding and setting tactile response; hand alignment and date changes within the industry and company specific tolerances, proper functioning of complications (classic example is a “chronograph” that is not a chronograph rather a multi-functional movement that resembles a chronograph subdial layout); movement, bracelet, and case construction and assembly

Can a timepiece seem to run well and accurately but still require service? 

Absolutely. Finding the balance between Preventive vs. Reactive Maintenance is key. Not everyone can afford to service their watch on the industry recommended 3-5 year intervals, and it’s not truly necessary to service every 3-5 years when taking in account that the modern synthetic oils used in watch movements have an approximate 8 year lifespan. However erring on the conservative timeframe between intervals is ideal because you do not know how long the movement sat in the manufacturer’s warehouse until it was pulled to be  installed for final assembly during new goods production, just like you do not know how long the piece has been sitting in the warehouse after assembly, or how long the watch has been sitting on the retailer’s shelf after delivery. Just like your vehicle can run “well” when you go slightly past service intervals, it is definitely not advisable because the long term repercussions of a habitual pattern of “ignorance is bliss” or  the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach allows issues to compound, and in the end the “savings” end up being an even bigger loss in cost of future service (especially taking into account the rising cost in parts and labor) as well as performance and overall repairability (you might end up with something that is no longer serviceable because either it’s beyond saving or the cost to refurbish it does not match its potential realized value).

What is your favorite timepiece in your personal collection, and why? 

My vintage Seiko 6309 Turtle on jubilee bracelet- it’s all original except for the bezel insert is an OEM Pepsi insert- I wore it on my son’s first birthday, and that is one of my most precious memories with him, he was coming into his personality and his curiosity was taking off- I had the privilege of helping him open his truckload of gifts and feed him his first cupcake, all while this was going on he was playing with the bezel- it was a monumental moment of bonding that made the timepiece to me a priceless token through which I can always relive that memory- add to this now that he’s 5 and has decided on his favorite color being red- he’s always asks me to show him my “America” watch because of the red, white, and blue colors.

What level of perfection should realistically be expected in the realm of luxury timepieces?

Realistically- “98% of perfect” is the mark that the industry aims for because like all businesses it needs quick turnaround on new production and after sales service at industrial and mass volumes in order to be sustainable. Therefore all major companies have acceptable tolerances where things are optimal for aesthetics and function, but not necessarily perfect. This is more than reasonable considering that all timepieces are largely hand assembled, and as a result the human element needs to be accounted for. When taking into consideration the, tried and true, fact that humans are prone to imperfection then we have to give major credit to the technicians and the work that they turn out because the level, quality, and perfection that is produced is rather astounding especially at the volumes they are expected to meet.

HO – How important is tool quality in regard to a watchmaker’s ability to perform repairs properly?

This might sound extreme, but a watchmaker’s skill and experience can only take the quality of his work so far- when improper tools or poorly maintained tools are used the quality of the work suffers no matter how talented the watchmaker is. This is especially evident if the watch has an exhibition caseback- tool marks will be present such as: screw slots will be altered and marred; scratches might be present on screw heads, bridges, jewels, surfaces of wheels and even pivots from slipping because of improper tool fit and finish; uneven lubrication could be a potential issue if the oiler is not capturing a consistent amount of oil leading to overcompensating or undercompensating when oiling. People wonder how service centers and watchmakers can tell if someone has voided their warranty via user error or out of network repair. Professionals can see the signs from impact damage within the movement (cracked, fractured, or dislodged jewels, broken pivots, broken balance, etc.) even though everything looks unimpacted on the exterior, we can see the lack of cleanliness (such as lint, debris, and fingerprints) or the use of incorrect and poorly maintained tools (such as tool marks on case back screws or notches, etc.) of the unauthorized “qualified” watchmaker you took it to for that “simple” adjustment. 

Are there any brands that you find to be hidden and underrated treasures within the industry?

Absolutely! The mainstream sleepers for me are Mido, Certina, and Shinola’s former run for Filson (the value you get in the movement, case construction, and finishing for what you can buy these brands on the secondary market is insane). To name a few of my favorite underdogs: Aevig, Crepas, Greg Stevens Design, Raven Watch Company, Archimede, and Swiss Watch Company. I’m a huge proponent of Microbrands. The personal service you receive matched with the quality and attention to detail being offered at almost “no brainer” prices that deliver a piece which typically punches above its weight class is almost a rarity within an industry where waitlists abound and markets rise and fall. On top of this you get true exclusivity, because these are pieces done in truly limited runs and batches. If you play your cards right because of the speculator market, you can turn a healthy profit on certain Micros- but the best advice I can give is to always invest in what speaks to you. Most Micros are great deals but like most timepieces, and cars, they do not realize a profit on the secondary market. Buying with the speculation mindset is one of the great temptations in collecting that we use to justify our passion and invest time and money into our collections. Still, at the end of the day, it’s your collection, so you should only ever buy what you can see yourself owning for the long haul- collectors that practice this discipline are typically the ones that receive the greatest satisfaction from their collections.

Factory service vs. independent… What is the route you would take if you weren’t going to service the watch yourself? What about vintage timepieces – there are a lot of stories of customers whose original parts are automatically replaced, completely impacting their collectible’s value when they go through Factory service.

In our consumer-driven, basement-bargain pricing, “buy-it-now”, free next-day shipping, and influencer and speculator-driven world of buying and selling, we have lost sight of the value of the very things we are attempting to ascribe value to and hope to profit from. As a result, many collectors begin to paradoxically take for granted the value, and the added value through proper care, of the very thing they claim to respect and desire to preserve. This in turn leads to costly mistakes. In my personal and professional opinion, when it comes to precision instruments that rely on tolerances of hundredths of a millimeter I believe that the age old adages that “you get what you pay for” and “you can’t rush perfection” are perfectly suited as wisdom that should be applied to the cost and quality of maintenance for both quartz and mechanical timepieces. As a result, I would wholeheartedly encourage collectors to submit their timepieces to authorized Service Centers or Manufacturer Service Centers for repair- it is where you will get the quality of work that you’re hoping that the “qualified and certified” local watchmaker is able to live up to. Don’t get me wrong there are some very talented independent watchmakers that do some amazing work, and there is a real sense of comfort in having a personal business relationship with a person who will personally and professionally stand behind their work instead of a nameless technician working behind the curtain. However, the cost and turnaround time when you get into that level of quality of work does not differ much from the Service Center, and with the service center, you have the full confidence that they are not using new old stock parts that have possibly tarnished over time or in many, and most, cases donor parts from defective or otherwise unserviceable movements (which hopefully, if the independent is doing their job correctly, they are properly inspecting and reconditioning those used parts). I know online you hear many horror stories about Service Centers, but this is typically like most things online- people are more vocal when they have a negative experience. Also, if you take into consideration the fact that most major manufacturers typically service among all of their Service Centers and Affiliates, worldwide millions of watches a year, then the law of averages is still heavily on their side in regards to their quality because if not, then there would be an infinite number of pages and posts that come up on search engines reflecting the supposed poor quality of the work that is being delivered. Regarding the original and vintage parts automatically being replaced during factory service- within the last decade or so, this former truth of decades past (due to companies wanting to return the watches to like new factory specifications) is now nothing more than a ghost story and myth that is perpetuated- the major manufacturers are aware that the success and demand of their new goods market are heavily dependent on the health of the pre-owned and vintage markets, it’s an inevitable symbiosis that can’t be ignored. As a result, they have made major strides to take vintage conditions and parts that impact value into consideration when they are brought these pieces for service- they will not automatically replace the parts without having a constructive dialogue with the client first about their concerns while respecting the clients’ concerns to make certain that the best interest of both parties is covered- the major manufacturers, just as the independent ones, want their customer experience always to be a thoroughly positive one.


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