Apprentice has time on his hands
In the workshop behind The Clock Shop in Waipawa everything runs like clockwork.
“It ticks along nicely,” says Jim Greef, who with his wife Anne owns the shop.
There are a lot of clock puns to be had in the workshop, where horologist Jim repairs and restores clocks and watches from the antique to more modern quartz battery timepieces.
There are antique clocks in various states of repair, there are several self-winding watches twirling slowly on a winding apparatus, and in the corner of the workshop there is another rarity: An apprentice.
One of only four or five watchmaking and repair apprentices in the country, Alan Pyatt says he is more than happy with his career choice, even though initially it was something he’d never heard of.
“I wanted an apprenticeship as I didn’t want to get stuck with a big student loan,” says Alan.
“So I tried building. The tools were larger and scarier than I expected and I didn’t have the body for building, all that heavy lifting and sunburn,” he laughs.
He stumbled across watchmaking when he met a friend of Jim’s, who suggested maybe he try clock repairs.
“I had never heard of it, but it’s like a desk job only fun and practical.”
Alan finds the job fascinating. “Overhauls, where you take the clock apart and get it back together and running nicely are very satisfying. It can take as little as 15 minutes to take a clock apart, then about an hour and a half to put it all together again. You have to do diagnostics, address any wear and tear . . . some of them have been lying around a long time.”
The clocks are almost all antiques and come from all over the Southern North Island.
“You can’t get spare parts,” explains Jim, “the shops that made these parts are long closed. So we have to make them.”
The workshop has lathes, soldering equipment, and minute drills and files.
Jim holds up a file only a little thicker than a hair.
“This is a square file,” he says.
Working with such precision, Jim says an apprentice has to have a calm presence as well as a natural aptitude.
Alan adds “and an ability to hold your breath”.
It was one of the things he learned at one of his first courses.
“When you are working with screws that are so small they are just specks . . . one sneeze and there goes someone’s 200-yearold watch.”
On the other end of the scale are the grandfather clocks, removed from their cases and mounted on specially-made brackets for repair, their chains and immensely heavy weights hanging below them.
Along with restorations and repairs, The Clock Shop has a donor clock scheme, where people can donate unwanted antique clocks that they have chosen not to repair.
These sit in storage, available to anyone who would like to chose one and have it repaired.
Jim says it gives the old clocks a second chance to be used and enjoyed, rather than thrown away.
“People can chose a clock and I will repair it for them and just charge them for the repairs. The clock is free.”
Alan is three years into his apprenticeship in what he says is his lifelong career.
“I will do this for the rest of my life, so long as there is work around. There are so many different types of clock I will never be bored.” He’s also getting hooked on the merchandise.
“I am getting more and more clocks.”
Clockmaking apprentice Alan Pyatt concentrates on the workings of an antique timepiece.
Jim Greef taking time out in his workshop at Waipawa’s The Clock Shop.