LOUIS BOLLE WATCHES - Q&A

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LOUIS BOLLE Watches - 

21 Questions & Answers (as of 8/10/08 with some more current updates)


* None of these answers below are substantiated as I do not work for the company that produces these watches. This is simply information I've gathered from talking with the company on several occasions and doing extensive research. Due to this, there may be some false information.  If possible, I will attempt to update this Q&A with any new or corrected information I get. Questions or comments to; crell 4 @ gm ail .c om    
Pics added 10/2015


1. WHO IS THE IMPORTER?
2. WHERE ARE THESE WATCHES MADE, AND BY WHOM?
3. WHAT OTHER WATCH BRANDS DOES AAM IMPORT?
4. ARE LOUIS BOLLES AVAILABLE IN STORES?
5. IS THERE A QUALITY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE OLDER LOUIS BOLLES (2004-2007) & THE (2007-2009)?
6. WHO HANDLES THE WARRANTY REPAIRS?
7. HOW DOES THE WARRANTY WORK?
8. THESE LB WATCHES ARE CALLED "AUTOMATIC".  WHAT THE  HECK DOES THAT MEAN?
9. I HAVE READ BLOGS AND REVIEWS THAT SAY BEWARE OF THESE WATCHES. ARE THEY ANY GOOD?
10. ARE THESE WATCHES FAKES?
11. 
HOW DO I KNOW IF A SELLER IS AUTHORIZED TO SELL THESE WATCHES?
12. 
WHY IS THERE SUCH A BIG DIFFERENCE IN THE MSRP VS WHAT THEY ACTUALLY SELL FOR?                   13. DOES MY LB REQUIRE MAINTENANCE?
14. 
WHAT IS ALWAYS AT MARKET'S WEB ADDRESS, PHYSICAL ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER?
15. WHY DOES THE LB WEB SITE LEAD PEOPLE TO BELIEVE THESE WATCHES ARE SWISS?
16. DO LB WATCHES HAVE THE WORD "SWISS" WRITTEN ON THEM?
17.  IS MY LB WATERPROOF?
18. ARE THESE WATCHES BETTER THAN KNOCK-OFFS?

19. MY LB RUNS GREAT. HOW DO I KEEP FROM DESTROYING IT?
20. WHERE CAN I TALK TO OTHERS WHO OWN THESE WATCHES?
21. 
WHERE CAN I FIND INFO ON AND ID AN OLDER LOUIS BOLLE WATCH?
THINGS TO UNDERSTAND


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1.

Q;   WHO IS THE IMPORTER?

A;  It's a marketing firm called "Always At Market". Always At Market (known in the trade as AAM or A@M) is located in Carrollton, TX, has been the sole firm that imports the Louis Boll line of watches since 2003. John House, the CEO of AAM, is the man that brought Louis Bolle and several other popular lines  (listed in the next paragraph below) of Chinese-made automatic watches to us. They are available at on-line auctions and mass media sellers, like the most popular shopping network on tv.

2.
Q; WHERE ARE THESE WATCHES MADE, AND BY WHOM?

A; It's a bit confusing, but try to follow me... Originally, back in 2003 through early 2007,  Louis Bolle watches were designed and assembled in China by a company called OrientWay Watch & Jewelry. I'm not sure of OrientWay's physical address, but it's believed to be in or near Beijing.  Web searches have found no information listed on OrientWay to this point.

Up until 2008, all LB watch movements (the watch's engine) had always come from a Chinese company called Sea-Gull located in or near Beijing. Sea-Gull is an Asian movement maker who makes a wide variety of multi-complication automatic and manually-wound watch movements. These movements are said to be made on Swiss watchmaking machinery. Sea-Gull sells many of their calibers to many different watch watch manufacturers like Timex, who don't necessarily always make their own movements. These companies fit them into their case designs. * NOTE- A watch manufacturer buying another company's watch movements, whether fully made or partially made, to fit into their watch case has always been common practice among watch companies. It has been done like this for centuries.

HERE'S WHERE IT GETS WEIRD...
 
Since early 2007 to an unspecified time, the  manufacturing outsourcing of  all watches contracted by AAM are/were taken over by a Swiss firm called Le Bonheur Group.  Le Bonheur coordinates all the components (ie. cases, crystals, bracelets, hands, and dials) for their watches from several Chinese companies that specialize in specific parts of the watch, just like the way they get their completed movements from Sea-Gull. This allows them to produce a higher quality watch than before. I am not sure who is assembling all the watch components into the finished product, but it could possibly be Le Bohner or some other entity.

UPDATE MAY 2011; The Le Bonheur Group site address no longer works. Not sure why, but they may be out of business or AAM and Le Bohner's business relationship may have changed.


3.
Q; WHAT OTHER WATCH BRANDS DOES AAM IMPORT?

A; Besides the Louis Bolle brand, AAM brings us DuBoule, Bernoulli, Rousseau, Deporte, Romilly, Jeanneret, Picard & Cie, SUG, Balmer, Wohler, Tavan, J. Springs, Omikron, Jacot and Argenti (gee, I hope I didn't forget any!).   Each line has different aspects and traits. Some have quartz movements and some include ladies models. Some are said to use Swiss ETA movements, and others use Japanese Miyota movements. Louis Bolle and Duboule (Doo-bow-lay) have been the two most successful lines.


4.
Q; ARE LOUIS BOL LES AVAILABLE IN STORES? 

A; As far as I know, no. Like most watch brands AAM imports, they are only available on-line or through television shopping networks. They have never been available through brick and mortar stores.  Well, maybe a pawn shop!    


5.
Q; IS THERE A QUALITY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE OLD LOUIS BOLLES (2004-2007) & THE (2007-2009)?

A; AAM claims that the newer manufacturing method, (using multiple Chinese component manufacturers instead of just one), enables the quality level to reach "Swiss quality standards". This means, for instance, the bracelets and clasp can withstand a pull pressure which equals any certified Swiss-made watch. Also, the movements are now held in their case with metal frames, instead of plastic. Some believe that the early OrientWay designs were more elegant and sophisticated, whereas the newer designs are larger with a more masculine look and a lower percentage of defects. This has not been substantiated.


6.
Q; WHO HANDLES THE WARRANTY REPAIRS?

A; In 2009, Always At Market in Carrollton TX was the sole warranty station for these watches, even after the Le Bonheur Group's involvement of the line. UPDATE 2015... I do not know how the warranty works these days. Go to the LB website for details.

AN OBSERVATION; it is important to understand that these watches are VERY complex and have sophisticated movements which require great skill to design, assemble, AND to service and repair. Furthermore, skilled and experienced watchmakers are scarce in the US as the resurgence of the complex automatic watch has tapered off in the last few years. There is simply not enough trained watchmakers left. Due to this, AAM has had a great deal of trouble in the past finding good watchmakers to do servicing and repairs. This had caused a long turn-around time for repairs to get back to the customer. You need to understand that AAM is simply a group of marketing people, not a watch manufacturer. I have no doubt they know very little about watch repair, but they are trying hard to address this issue.


7.
Q; HOW DOES THE WARRANTY WORK?

A; Well, this is how it worked back in 2009.... At the point of sale when an authorized reseller purchases a watch from AAM, a 1 year warranty begins for that watch. When they sold it on-line, the remaining portion of the 1 year warranty would get transferred to the new owner as long as they had a valid proof of purchase (unaltered or modified) from the authorized reseller they bought it from. 

If a valid proof of purchase could not be obtained from the on-line reseller, the new owner could purchase an extended warranty of 1 year on the LB site for $50.

MY 2009 RECOMMENDATION WAS; If you bought a new LB watch on-line, make sure the seller was an authorized reseller, and that you received a newly purchased watch  with a valid proof of purchase. You were wise to ask when the watch was originally purchased before you purchased it.


8.
Q; THESE LB WATCHES ARE CALLED "AUTOM ATIC".  WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT MEAN?

A; Instead of winding up an old-style mechanical watch by turning the crown, the automatic watch has a free-spinning counter-weight winder (called a rotor - shown in red in pic) in the back of the watch that spins as you move your arm. It winds the main spring automatically by way of your arm movements, hence the term “automatic”. This design was originally made for pocket watches, but since the pocket watch didn't move much in your pocket, it was ineffective at winding the main spring.  It was later redeveloped for wrist watches in the 1930s by Rolex, and has since been used by virtually all major watch manufacturers at some point. This winding method met it's match with the introduction of the LED/LCD quartz watch in the early 70's. In the late 1990’s, there was a resurgence of the automatic watch due to its interesting complexity and environmentally safe battery-less operation. Of course, you do have to wear the watch or keep it on a motorized watch winder to avoid letting it become unwound and thus, having to reset it.  Most automatics can still be wound by turning the crown as well. FYI. The Seiko Kinetic has a rotor also, but as it spins with your arm movement, it electrically charges a capacitor which acts as a battery to power the watch. If this capacitor runs dead, unlike an automatic watch, you'll need to bring it to a watchmaker for restarting.
9.
Q; I HAVE READ BLOGS AND REVIEWS THAT SAY BEWARE OF THESE WATCHES. ARE THEY ANY GOOD?

A; We ll, that depends on who you talk to. It’s important to be said here that the quality o f these watches is getting better all the time. The manufacturing processes have been improved greatly in just a few short years. However, since China is producing them at lightning speed, sometimes the quality control gets overlooked in a particular area, typically in their final inspection where the mechanisms get oiled, regulated, and the hands and strap are installed, as well as checking all the functions to make sure they work. Of all the defective ones I’ve ever seen or heard about, most had either something minor that needed attention, like a hand was loose, or it needed to be timed (regulated). Occasionally,  I've seen a movement that is 100% DOA, and never worked at all.  In truth, 99.9% of these watches work perfectly, but we typically only hear about the few that are bad from an upset customer that's trying to warn everyone on the web.  It's totally understandable. And of course, there is a faction of purists which dislike any watch that's not Swiss made. When I hear from a non-fan, I just repeat my personal LB slogan to them; "Louis Bolle... Ticking off watch purists since 2004".
 
10.
Q; ARE THESE WATCHES FAKES?

A; No, they're honest to goodness real watches. But if you mean "are they a cheap copy of an expensive Swiss watches", the answer is...  ABSOLUTELY NOT! Virtually all these watches (with the exception of the one pictured below) are uniquely designed and many of their models are exceptionally interesting.  Some watch 
purists may point out certain LB attributes that resemble other famous watches and call them copies (the two pics here show the Eberhard Chrono 4-dial and the strikingly similar LB Informer quad sub dials), but this comes with all 
new designs. All designs feed off other designs, even radical ideas. BTW... Louis Bolle is one of many companies to pay homage to the Chrono 4.

Some purists get upset that the pushers (side buttons) that usually trigger different functions on Swiss and Japanese watches only allow you to do "setting" functions on these Chinese watches. Even so, IMHO, this just makes it easier to set the watch if you happen to let it run down.

Also, the few LBs models that "claim" to have a moon phase complication, really don't... it's only a simple 24 hour AM/PM indicator (see pic below). It shows either a moon or a sun, (hence AM & PM), not the phases of the moon in various states of transition throughout the month. This complication could just as easily been a hand going around a 24 hour dial.

11.
Q ; H OW DO I KNOW IF A SELLER IS AUTHORIZED TO SELL THESE WATCHES? 

A; Typically, the type of auction page a seller has or the type of feedback a seller gets shows whether or not they are trustworthy. You do have to use your instincts. If you are still unsure, I would contact Always At Market or go to the Louis Bolle User Group on Yahoo. 




12.
Q; WHY IS THERE SUCH A HUGE DIFFERENCE IN THE LISTED MSRP vs. WHAT THEY ACTUALLY SELL FOR?

A; When I asked the folks at AAM this question, their reply was simply that their MSRPs (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) are reflective of what other watch company's MSPRs are whose watches have similar features (complications).  Who can argue with that? (There are no laws in the USA which state how a company must derive its MSRPs)

THIS IS MY PERSONAL VIEW ON MANUFACTURER'S SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICES (MSRP)....  
MSRPs typically have nothing to do with the cost of manufacture or the actual price you'll pay for any item. It's merely a manufacturer's “SUGGESTED” price. Marketeers in most industries use the MSRP to give their products more perceived (or leveraged) value, like cars, guitar's and diamonds. In other industries, MSRPs are simply a fixed starting price that is usually expected to be negotiated down from, or used to show how much you're "saving". In A@M's case, they simply use their MSRPs very creatively as a very effective marketing tool... It creates hubbub about their product! That's what marketing is about.

So, in other words, there are NO RULES governing what MSRPs are
supposed to be used for, and luckily most people don't waste their time getting in a tizzy over fictional prices.  Until we pass and enforce laws, MSRPs seem to be for whatever purpose a business wants to use them for. SOME ADVICE; Don't get upset about watch MSRPs, especially because you think others will fall for it and pay top dollar. LET THE BUYER BEWARE!!! This is how it works whether you think it's right, wrong, good or bad.

13.
Q; DOES MY LB REQUIRE MAINTENANCE?
A; You betcha! Technically, you should have it serviced by a GOOD Watchmaker every 3-5 years for a cleaning, oiling and regulating. If you drop or submerge the watch and it starts acting erratic, stops, or has condensation under the crystal that doesn't dry up, the sooner you can get it to a repair station, the better.  Ideally, one would bring their brand spankin' new AAM watch to a good watchmaker for a much more precise oiling and regulation than the factory did. This would be good insurance for an excellent running watch for years to come. Of course, since they're so inexpensive most people would not consider doing this unless they love the watch or it has sentimental value. It's also difficult to know who is a good watchmaker. Make sure they have lots of experience in disassembling watches with several complications! Talk to the Watchmaker directly! Swiss-trained watchmakers are excellent, but they're expensive. Avoid repairmen that are biased against your watch because of its origin. Look for an older, experienced watchmaker.

14.
Q; WHAT IS ALWAYS AT MARKET'S WEB ADDRESS, PHYSICAL ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER?

A; Their web address is;  ww  w.  alwa ysat m arke t. co  m/  Their physical address is; 1545 Capital Dr., Suite 100, Carrollton TX, 75006, Customer Service Phone; 972 242-4045 X301. The Louis Bolle web site can be found at; Dbl U, Dbl U, Dbl U, (dot)lou
isbolle(dot)com

15.
Q; WHY DOES THE LB WEB SITE LEAD PEOPLE TO BELIEVE THESE WATCHES ARE SWISS?

A; They do not say these watches are Swi ss anywhere on their site. Look again. They simply pay homage to the Watchmaker, Louis Bolle, and talk about where he came from. And FYI… Louis Bolle absolutely WAS a real Watch Maker back in the 1700’s. So was Rousseau and DuBoule. This type of marketing is accepted in lots of industries, not just the watch industry.


16.
Q;
DO LB WATCHES HAVE THE WORD "SWISS" WRITTEN ON THEM?

A; No. The older LBs do say China inside. I’m not sure what the newer models say, but it cannot legally have the words “Swiss Made” on them, as they are produced in China. It takes a specific percentage of genuine Swiss manufacturing and parts in order to be legally "Swiss Made".



17.
Q; IS MY LB WATERPROOF?

A; Absolutely NOT. In fact, it’s illegal for any watch to say "Water Proof" these days. A water resistance anywhere from 10 to 50 meters (3 atm or so) simply means you can get it wet by splashes or rain, but you would be well advised to not swim with it. 100 Meters means you can safely submerge it, but I’d still keep an eye on it. Definitely DO NOT pull the crown out or push any buttons when your LB is wet. If you scuba dive, invest in a 200 Meter dive watch. If your LB shows any signs of moisture inside it, take it off and leave it where it can dry as quickly as possible. Consider getting it serviced if you really love it.


18.
Q;
ARE THESE WATCHES BETTER THAN KNOCK-OFFS?
A; First, you should know that LB's are NOT knock offs!!! Besides being illegal here in the USA, knock-offs, (like fake Rolexes), infringe on international laws, hurt businesses, and are said to indirectly (or directly) contribute to terrorism and other nasty things. While I've never heard if the terrorism relationship has been substantiated, I can say that knock-off quality answers to no one. There is simply no reputable company who stands behind them, no one to bring it back to if it's defective, and no way for a Watchmaker to get parts, so it usually can't be fixed easily. 

Louis Bolles, however, are 100% all-original legitimate designs with a company that supports them (as best they can). Even with all the on-line criticism, AAM seems to actually have made a very successful business out of these watches, and is making advancements in quality, design, and business practices all the time. Hopefully, they have cut deeply into the knock-off market.


19.
Q:
MY LB RUNS GREAT. HOW DO I KEEP FROM DESTROYING IT?

A: Simple, first... respect it! Don't be a donkey and treat your LB like a sports watch, even if it looks like one. It's a DRESS watch! Many LB's LOOK like big, masculine, sports watches, especially ones with many "complications", but they're not. FYI... complications are the mechanical features like day / date / stop watch / power reserve indicator / moon phase-AM/PM indicator / chronograph, and any retrograde (arched speedometer-looking) indicator of any kind. These features can easily be broken with the rigors of hard use on ANY WATCH that has them, not just LB's.

Second,   Always press the buttons slowly and positively. To avoid messing up your LB internally, DO NOT MAKE ANY SETTING ADJUSTMENTS OR USE THE PUSHERS WHILE THE DATE IS KICKING OVER NATURALLY (between 10pm and 3am). Doing this could give you the terror of actually hearing something break or snap inside the watch. 

Third, DO NOT bang the crystal against rocks and other hard things or drop the watch on the hard ground.

Fourth, definitely DO NOT submerge it in water and shake (especially in salt water). Remember a 30 -50 meter water resistance rating means light sprinkles of water only, like rain, is all it's designed to be resistant to. Wipe it down after it gets wet. Even wiping sweat off it would be a good idea.

Fifth, You should decide if the watch is worth getting its routine service every 3-5 years, and whether it's worth getting it fixed if damage occurs. While just buying a new LB or other fancy watch may be easier, each owner has to determine if their watch is worth the cost of care and feeding of a complex movement. 


20.
Q; WHERE CAN I TALK TO OTHERS WHO OWN THESE WATCHES?

A; The Louis Bolle User Group on Yahoo had over 500 members at one point. This group is Louis Bolle Central! Some members own 25 AAM watches.  Just goto;  htt p:/  /gro upsDOTy  aho oDot c   om (slash) group(slash) LOUIS BOLLE 


21.
Q; WHERE CAN I FIND INFO ON AND ID AN OLDER LOUIS BOLLE WATCH?

A: Once again, the LOUIS BOLLE User Group site on YAHOO can help identify older LBs. Once you've joined the group, just click on the "PHOTOS" section and scroll down to see promo pics mixed with member's pics. There is also a chart to download in group's FILES section with a lot of specs and details on the older LBs. Try to download legit files as the site is not moderated these days and there's a lot of spam in there (you'll be okay if you simply don't click on or download any penis enlargement or dating ads).


THINGS TO UNDERSTAND;
Most companies that import and distribute products such as watches and jewelry, are usually just that- import companies and/or distributors. These companies typically have buyers that search high and low for whatever items they normally specialize in and what their clients want. Importers usually work hand in hand with distributors who usually have warehouses to stock items in. They also set up a service avenues for repair service. Most of the time, importer/distributors handle a diverse variety of products and brands. Lately, you see more importer/distributors doing creative things (like SMC and Shopping networks on tv, for instance) selling directly to end users or people with home-based businesses. They even drop-ship the products right at the final end-user's door, so the business owner doesn't even handle products or deal with shipping.

The interesting thing about AAM is they call themselves "An Auction Services Company Of Branded Consumer Products". I believe that makes them a marketing company that simply sells products (unlike the norm- a company that sells products that HAS a marketing department). They do this by selling the watches they have on their personal auction site, and also on some of their affiliates on-line auction sites. This gets the watches flowing into the on-line marketplace. Once injected like this, the watches sell themselves at whatever on-line venue the person that purchased it wants to sell it at, usually eBay.

AAM is truly amazing at what they do;  By choosing a very inexpensive watch to manufacture, which also has great appeal, and by using the on-line auction method to introduce them into the cyber marketplace, and developing careful marketing blurbs and MSRPs, A@M has reinvigorated the automatic watch and completely created and dominated the under $500. on-line watch market in just a few years.  It is VERY creative. 

So, to sum it up, the interesting thing about AAM, is that they are a MARKETING company that sells products. This is probably why their service department is sort of sporadic.

I hope this helps clear up any confusion about these watches, and sorry for any errors. I'm trying to get my contact at AAM to substantiate and edit this fact guide, but he hasn't yet.

Dean F.





 
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