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Thanks for moving this topic from Ewinrow’s shop page to the general forum Paul.
I’m not too sure this is going to be of much interest to most members since my initiation into watches and clocks is actually quite bland and uneventful when compared to many accounts I’ve read up here from other members. I’ll be happy to try and answer any questions though.
First let me point out what I had written on Ed’s page that prompted Davids statement
“This means that you have been working on watches more than 40 years “
Here it is:
“When Phyllis and I first got married over 40 years ago I had my set up in our apartment closet!”
Without thinking I managed to reveal three things about myself.
1. I’m old. Not as old as David of course but closing in on him as percentages go! Yes William I’ll be 61 in a couple of months if I’m remembering correctly.
2. I was working on watches in a closet and clocks on the kitchen table about 40 years ago!
but the amazing part is:
3. A woman has actually put up with me for over 40 years!
But my true initiation into watch repair came from a very patient and helpful man about 8 years earlier than the closet days.
At the end of the street and around a corner from where I lived in Whittier, California there was a tiny Jewelry slash Watch Repair shop situated on the quiet side of an already quiet shopping center. I would run by the shop on my way home from school just about every day and plaster my face against the front window to watch this ‘old guy’ (probably 10 years younger than I am now) work on watches. If he was doing jewelry repair that day then I was out of there within a minute or so but if he had a watch in front of him that was it. I wouldn’t budge and proceded to smudge the hell out of his window. These daily visits went on for quite a while and I never once went into his store. He would acknowledge me with a quick raise of his hand and a smile and I suppose I probably did the same but that was it. I was content just watching him work and checking out all the different tools he used. You know the feeling.
One day after I had been there for a few minutes he stood up, walked around his bench and came outside to talk to me! His first words were; “Hi, want a job 2 or 3 days a week after school?”
Wow I was gonna learn watch repair! “Yes, sure, what do you want me to do?”
“You can start with cleaning your finger prints off of my windows and then sweep the floors but don’t throw the dust away until I’ve looked at it.” Probably not his exact words but close.
Ok I got the window part no problem but why would this guy want to see the dust pan after sweeping. Well we all know the answer to that one but it sure seemed weird to me at the time! Anyway it took an hour to clean the place including the bathroom Mondays, Weds, and Fridays every week and almost every night after I finished he would take a few minutes and teach me a little about watches. I probably did this for a year or so and got to work a little more during summer vacation. I got to the point where I was able to tear down a pocket or larger wrist watch and run it through the cleaning machine, replace a mainspring and reassemble. Anything beyond that he would handle. Looking back I’m sure I was more of a burden than a help but he never let me know it. I think he actually looked forward to the short teaching sessions. Needless to say there came a point where girls became far more interesting than watches, food, you name it and my time at the shop eventually dropped down to nothing. A few months later the store was gone. The dry cleaner next door told me he had moved his business to Oregon.
I discovered later that the ‘sixties’ were highly competive years for watchmakers and finding someone willing to share their knowledge was rare and, that I was very fortunate to have someone to help and encourage me. I was lucky.
I dabbled at watch repair off and on over the next few years but didn’t take it seriously until I was about 19. By the time I was 20 I was completely hooked. I checked out any and every book I could find from the public libraries on both watches and clocks; Fried, DeCarle, Bulova School of Watchmaking book, etc.
Antique stores were going crazy during the early 70’s importing containers of furniture and clocks from Europe. When I mentioned to one antique store owner that I was repairing clocks and watches on the side he handed me a couple of ‘Swingers’ to see what I could do. Many pocket watch and clocks followed after that.
I became a Letter carrier (mail man) for the Woodland Hills post office during this time and repaired clock and watches in the evening and days off. I had a person on my route that sold clock and watch tools and parts from his garage. I can’t remember the name of their (husband and wife) business but they were always busy and shipped a lot of supplies out. I know cuz they went into my postal jeep. I purchased A LOT of old used tools from them over the next few years many of which I still have.
I should also mention for those who may remember. There was another person/clock and tool supplier in the San Fernando Valley area where our apartment was located that was a big help to me a few years after I started out and that was Fred Krone, the founder of Norkro clock company. Fred later moved to a small town near Moorpark (oh no William, I can’t remember the name!) where he purchased an old church and filled it with his business and a collection of beautifully restored old Cadillacs! Fred started Norkro by going around selling clock mainsprings from the trunk of his car! He eventually turned it into a thriving business which he later sold to David Rossi in Chula Vista which David ran for a few years before selling it to a person who moved Norkro to Oregon where it remains in business to this day.
and the beat goes on…
You guys still awake?