Horology - Lost to time?


When I used to live in Darwin, there was a business called The Watch and Shop Clock. The owner was a friendly old guy who was, as far as I’m aware, the only proper horologist in town. He didn’t just sell watches and clocks - he understood the mechanisms, and repaired them. He used to say that when he finally hung up his hat, there’d be one less horologist in the world, as no one cared any more about the mechanics of time.

(Ok, so - I’m trying to show the fact that the shop is now “Permanently Closed”…)

Over the interceding years, I’ve seen other articles about this loss of knowledge, happening all over the world. People are no longer interested in mechanical watches and clocks, or at least - the throw away nature of the world means - even if you do buy a clock / watch with a mechanical piece inside, chances are if it breaks, you’ll be throwing it out and just go buy a new one.

Making these time pieces is ultimately just a manufacturing process. No huge deal, even if they are complex. But to repair them - you need to understand them. And whilst I understand the concept of a clock mechanism - a source of power (eg spring) causing cogs to move at a desired pace, matching the passage of what we call Time - I can’t imagine my hands nor brain mastering such a task as repairing one. My Garfield Alarm clock’s remains testify to this.

Up until the mid 2000’s I always wore my watch - a Citizen ProMaster. It had both digital and analogue elements. Then it was stolen, because I had left it home they day we were broken into, in favour of a Samsung flip phone, that had a time display on the outside. Who needs a watch? That of course was later exacerbated by proper smart phones…

Now, I’m back to wearing a watch - Apple’s own version. But there’s no mechanical time piece inside this thing.

My father used to own a self-winding watch. It died, he gave it to me, and then I made doubly sure it would never work again. Like I said - these hands… brain… not to mention being 12 at the time… But the idea of wearing a watch that would wind itself by your own movement - the watch wasn’t just something you wore and could tell the time with - It drew its power from you. A symbiotic relationship.

Even the most complex watch ever invented - one capable of operating at sea - has been surpassed by GPS satellites…

Who knows; maybe one day we’ll all be living under the rule of the Tripods, and someone will find an old watch, and think - could our civilisation really have been responsible for creating this?




I have a friend who is a trained jeweller, he makes not only metal jewellery by hand but also repairs mechanical watches.

He still does the work but it’s only worth repairing high end mechanical watches because the cost of labor is prohibitive for any watch costing less than several thousand dollars. He recently posted a step by step of a rebuild which took him days to do. He’s not young either so I guess when he stops another one will be gone.

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I took my 1980s Cuckoo Clock to a place when I was still living in QLD to get a quote to get it going again. The guy said similar - it wasn’t worth repairing, as I could buy a new one for about $150 (which my wife did). He was happy to give me some pointers, though at the time I was too chicken to dismantle the clock. I’ve since watched a number of videos on YouTube, and think I may well give it a go.

It’ll be a shame when there’s no one left to repair them… we are wasting far too many resources on this planet, and money seems one of the biggest culprits. C’mon Gene - where’s that utopian money-less future you promised us…