A dy­ing trade

Re­tired Bree­den still ap­ply­ing an ex­pert hand to time­pieces

Talk of the Town - - Pick n Pay - BOB FORD

ANY­ONE need­ing a wrist­watch or grand­fa­ther clock re­paired or ser­viced in Port Al­fred may al­ready be fa­mil­iar with Set­tlers Park’s Gavin Bree­den.

But he is no or­di­nary spe­cial­ist in his field as through sheer de­ter­mi­na­tion, he has over­come a life­long dis­abil­ity of not be­ing able to walk prop­erly.

Bree­den was born and ed­u­cated in Bu­l­awayo in Zim­babwe and was al­ready me­chan­i­cally-minded from a young age.

And so it was in 1969 that he left school and joined a lo­cal firm of watch and clock-mak­ers and re­pairs.

“I liked me­chan­i­cal things and watches and clocks were the eas­i­est for me to do,” he said. He ex­plained that in those days there was no ap­pren­tice­ship avail­able to him and he worked un­der a qual­i­fied clock-maker from Scotland for three years. He also read and stud­ied as many books on the sub­ject as he could to im­prove his knowl­edge.

Once he had gained suf­fi­cient ex­pe­ri­ence, Bree­den joined the then Rhode­sian army as an in­stru­ment tech­ni­cian out­side Bu­l­awayo where he moved up to the rank of sergeant. Dur­ing the five years he spent in the army he met a man who also re­paired clocks and watches and was able to in­crease his ex­pe­ri­ence in his favoured field.

While in Bu­l­awayo, Bree­den’s one re­spon­si­bil­ity was to at­tend to the town hall clock and to en­sure that it was al­ways on time. The rea­son for this was that the lo­cal buses re­lied on the clock’s ac­cu­racy to set out on their daily trips. “But one day I made a mis­take and the buses went off ear­lier than they should have, which re­sulted in some con­fu­sion,” he said with a smile.

The most fa­mous clock he once re­paired was a mar­ble one that had been pre­sented to King Ge­orge VI of Eng­land. Once Robert Mu­gabe had be­come pres­i­dent of Zim­babwe, Bree­den re­signed from the Rhode­sian army and moved to Jo­han­nes­burg, where he worked for a com­pany that spe­cialised in re­pair­ing and fit­ting all types of in­stru­ments. Af­ter 25 years, he “re­tired” to Port Al­fred.

“I liked the town and al­ways said this was where I wanted to be,” he said.

It also meant that he was again able to con­cen­trate on watch and clock re­pairs and, as far as he is aware, is the only man in the area who is still pre­pared and qual­i­fied to un­der­take this. As a re­sult, he re­pairs clocks and watches from far afield.

Bree­den has seen big changes in his in­dus­try over the years as there are few peo­ple left who are pre­pared to un­der­take the me­chan­i­cal work re­quired on older pieces. He no longer has a lathe and what would have taken him 30 min­utes to do now ends up in a two-day job to make parts by hand.

He has ob­vi­ously worked on many dif­fer­ent types of clocks and found the most work­able ones were the old me­chan­i­cal clocks used for pi­geon rac­ing.

The big­gest change he has seen over the years is bat­tery op­er­ated clocks and watches be­ing in­tro­duced to the mar­ket. “And I don’t like them,” he con­cluded.

Bree­den has lived in Set­tlers Park for eight years.

The most fa­mous clock he once re­paired was a mar­ble one pre­sented to King Ge­orge VI of Eng­land

Pic­ture: BOB FORD

ME­CHAN­I­CAL MIND: Gavin Bree­den with an old clock he is re­pair­ing

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