Reprinted from September 1993
Can the independent jeweler/watchmaker husband and his wife toil together side by side for more than 40 hours a week without having to pay their marriage counselor overtime?
That is an interesting question.
All you wives out there – you haven’t forgotten, have you, when your watchmaker/jeweler husbands didn’t even have a pot to pickle in? That’s fine, because now he’s got a pot that’s a tribute to your good cooking, and everything else you’ve accumulated together.
All this togetherness, though, is enough to make you a candidate for a libertarian movement. You go to work together. You come home together. You scrounge the floor looking for lost parts together. You spend all your holidays together. You spend Christmas Eve wrapping customers’ gifts together.
About the only thing you don’t do together is to be sick in bed together – that is taboo. When his majesty falls ill, you dare not catch the same bug until he is healthy and on his feet again – or on the seat of his britches at the watchmaker bench, as the case may be. By that time, you are usually out of the mood for spending several days in bed with the aspirin bottle, so you just keep going.
Years ago, perhaps you don’t even remember how or exactly when, you were lured from you delightful child-bride household duties into the business by your conniving mate who knew the ropes already. In return for your hours of participation in his business, he promised you a rewarding life full of beautiful gadgets and appliances to make you comfortable and happy. You would be “Queen of Every Day,” because – now get this gals – since you would be replacing the hired help, there would be more profits.
Gee, this sounded just great!
But somehow, when payday rolled around, there was no special envelope with your name on it containing that nice green folding stuff! Whatever you’d paid the former employee found its way back into the business and store operation. By some ridiculous quirk of fate, you found yourself working for nothing!
Or so it seemed, but everything has its rewards.
Fortunately, for our watchmaker/jeweler husbands, the women’s liberation movement wasn’t in full swing in those days. If it had been, maybe we would have joined it, but we didn’t know the difference. We didn’t know we were being taken advantage of because of our sex. If somebody then had told us our husbands were exploiting us, we would have answered, “Well, that’s why a girl gets married.”
Somehow, we justified our labors with terms like loyalty, obligation or just plain love. And this made up for the hours and hours of grueling, unfamiliar work.
Perhaps by now you have achieved success, and there is enough money on deposit to take a vacation – if you ever have the time!
No doubt there are many memories etched in your mind which reflect your experiences with your husband and the jewelry business. You may have learned to estimate watch repair jobs, for example. Believe me, if you didn’t, you have missed one of life’s golden opportunities.
Now that you are part of the business, the next step is learning to open the watch case and figure out what is wrong inside. One thing was always for sure, something had to be wrong because the watches were often not even running. During my “training,” I learned a number of things, like why the curly thing inside the watch is called a “hair spring.” Perhaps you have heard the term “hair trigger,” something quite delicate which the dictionary defines as “set in operation by the slightest pressure.” Well, let me tell you, that’s what a hair spring thing does, all right. You just poke that silly thing a little too hard and zoom! Off it goes and you get 57 different varieties of abuse from RB. In fact, RB developed a sort of “hair trigger” personality over those silly little hair springs.
Then there was the problem of “seeing” what RB was talking about. All those years he’d worked with a loupe, it looked so simple to me. The loupe he gave me, though, was obviously too big, or too small or too wide, or too narrow or something. It was constantly popping out of my eye socket, embarrassing me because it made me look so stupid and unprofessional right there in front of my customers, and I didn’t want to confess to RB that what hurt most was the insult to my vanity.
So I flatly refused to use it.
“Look,” I told RB, “I’ll try to develop microscopic eyesight, but I simply will not use that little loupe. Now there, period.”
That was our first labor-management dispute. In desperation, RB bought another contraption that fit over my head that made me look like a lady welder. I didn’t like that silly thing, either, so he then offered me a spectacle loupe to fit on my glasses, and say, I just adored it because it made me look more dignified and intelligent – even if it wasn’t true. Only problem was, I never could see through it.
It took several months to overcome that slight handicap, but little by little the technique became more familiar, and every time I learned something new, RB gave some more brownie points, and what girl could ask for more than an adequate and consistent supply of tokens of appreciation from the boss?
There were pitfalls, though. Inside the cases, carefully hidden, were tiny little scribbles, so small no one could possible see them. After I opened the case RB said I was supposed to look carefully at these microminiature hieroglyphics before I opened my mouth. This was a sequence which took months to perfect. It wasn’t too difficult to open the case, and reading the inscription wasn’t too hard, either, but that last part, gals, was plain misery.
Time takes care of everything (in more ways than one) and pretty soon I could open a case, look inside and make those mysterious, secretive, impressive little sounds all watchmakers make when they are looking inside a broken watch.
There have been many ups and downs around our store, and vast and varied experiences (as there have been for any wife helping her spouse in his business – no matter what business). Perhaps if you’ve been helping hubby for a few years, you’ve about choked on all the togetherness experienced through the years, but wasn’t it a highly rewarding experience anyway? As you consider each phase of the business, there is a certain element of understandable pride, and remember – you helped to make it so!
After all, if you’re like us, starting with nothing much to speak of, now you’ve not only got a pot to pickle in, you’ve also got a window to throw it out! Now you just can’t get any more successful than that, can you?