The dying art of watchmaking makes him tick

AS the son of Queenstown watchmaker Fred Smith, who looked after the clocks and watches of customers in the district for decades, Claude Smith knew from an early age that timepieces would be his life.


For 32 years, father and son worked together at Guard’s Watch Repairs, now situated at Lukhanji Mall in the town centre. But sadly, three months ago, Fred Smith suffered a stroke and was forced to retire from the business he first walked into at the age of 14.


“It was very sad – people still come in and ask for him and he is so frustrated at home,” said son Claude, 52, who learnt everything he knows about watch repair from his father, who would bring his work home with him.


“I joined the business straight after matric – it was all I was interested in.

“My father taught me about clocks and watches,” said Claude, who misses working side-by-side with his father.


“Ten years ago we repaired the tower clock in the town hall and I still go and wind it every day of my life.

“I also like the challenge of fixing old wind-up mantle clocks and watches.

“Sometimes people bring them in and say no one knows what’s wrong; that they haven’t been working for 30 years and then I get it to work. It is very rewarding.

“The wind-ups are totally different from the quartz watches because with quartz you just replace a part, but with the wind-ups you have to make the part.

“But it’s a dying art. There is no one in my family who will take over when I retire,” he said.

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