Image: Steve Lyne/Rex Features
April 04 2011
I nearly fainted when I took my vintage Omega watch – a long-ago 21st birthday present – to Watches of Switzerland in London for servicing. They quoted £400 and said it would take four months. Then I recalled another watch-mender who had serviced a Victorian carriage clock for me a year earlier, so I legged it up to South Molton Street where John Walker operates his fifth-generation business from small, first-floor premises.
Actually his name isn’t John Walker – it’s Steve Martin (like his four predecessors) – but everyone calls him John Walker because that’s the company name. In fact the business was founded in 1830 by the real John Walker, whose son, Fred, sold it to great-great grandfather Steve Martin who’d worked on Walker’s watch-making bench.
Because John Walker is totally independent, it will clean, service and repair any brand, from Rolex to Omega, Longines to Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet to Baume & Mercier, IWC to Jaeger-LeCoultre. “Watches handed down the generations that have been poorly treated are the most difficult,” says Martin, who will seek out vintage watch-parts and, if unobtainable, make them himself. That’s some undertaking when you consider that a chronograph could contain up to 100 parts. But he also carries out simple jobs such as re-inserting glass dial-covers or fitting batteries and watch-straps.
A similar service is offered for clocks of all types, including long-case grandfather clocks. Precious jewellery can also be cleaned and repaired here. Prices vary but I feel the charges are very reasonable. I paid £132 for the watch service, which included a new part (and took six weeks to repair), and £172 for the carriage clock service. John Walker comes with my highest recommendation – whatever you choose to call him.