This Is What’s Wrong with American Workmanship Today

I got my watch as a gift in the fall of 2001. The battery that was in it when I received it lasted a really long time — five years, perhaps. And then it died, as they do, and I had it replaced. And the next one lasted a little less long — perhaps a little over three years. And then it died, just as I moved to New York for my sabbatical last August. So one of the first things I did when I arrived here was to find a place to have the battery replaced. It was a teeny little storefront that did shoe repair and a few other random things, and when I asked the ancient Asian guy behind the counter about my watch battery, he pulled out a battered shoe box and flipped through several dozen half-empty and decidedly Carter-era-looking cards of watch batteries, holding them up against mine before coming up with one that he finally put in my watch.

This scene left me not terrifically surprised when my watch stopped again this July — the very day I started work at the MLA, in fact. There’s no telling how long that battery had been sitting in that shoebox. So this time, I took the watch around the corner to an actual jeweler, where I had to leave it overnight. But I figured it was worth it, right? You get what you pay for, and all that.

My watch stopped again yesterday, after 2.5 months.

One of two things is happening here: either something has gone wrong with my watch such that it is now chewing through batteries at an ever-increasing rate, or the quality of batteries is plummeting. And I’m just not sure how much I want to spend in order to figure out which it is…

4 thoughts on “This Is What’s Wrong with American Workmanship Today

  1. Is your watch American-made? Are the batteries American-made? It seems you are blaming this on the ‘workmanship’ of the watch repair place, whose only ‘workmanlike’ involvement with your watch is to open it and put a battery in. I’m not sure why this story impeaches American workmanship.

      1. I absolutely agree with you. American workmanship is a myth. While the material quality of US made products are top notch, but the workmanship can’t even come close to the old world. This is unfortunate because we do have good craftsman here in US, but those are more from the traditional “moms and pops” outfit. America used to make top quality products, but this all changed when output quantity takes preference to quality. This is a carry over from WWII when the country needed all manufacturers to produce war equipment in huge numbers meet the war. They were producing airplanes, tanks, guns, armored vehicles, warships, all in great numbers. The idea was that the great amount of weaponry decides the outcome of the war. So what if the Sherman Tanks were annihilated by the Panzers in great numbers, but as long as the Sherman tanks have infinite supply, the Germans just can’t keep up. Ever since FORD found out a way to mass produce the model A, it becomes a numbers game. Profitability comes from numbers and this is most obvious when the companies stock price is reflected in Wall Street. Besides, all consumer products remain serviceable before newer and better technology comes along. The truth of the matter is we can build products that will last several lifetimes, but at what cost and if there are buyers willing to pay for it. That is another reason why US has outsourced its manufacturing industry.

  2. Dude. The headline was a joke. The point of the story is that either I have a watch that is eating batteries or batteries have begun to suck. Neither has anything to do with American workmanship, but it’s the kind of leap that people make on the internet.

    Thanks for making me explain it. It really augments the humor!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.