Wheels of time hold a fascination

David SalvaireSound Telegraph
Warnbro watchmaker Graham Emmott with one of his favourite timepieces at his Shoalwater Shopping Centre stall.
Camera IconWarnbro watchmaker Graham Emmott with one of his favourite timepieces at his Shoalwater Shopping Centre stall. Credit: David Salvaire

For Warnbro watchmaker Graham Emmott, getting old time pieces ticking again is one of the best feelings in the world.

Mr Emmott has been a cog in the Rockingham community for nearly 30 years since emigrating from his native Yorkshire with his wife and two daughters.

Now based in the Shoalwater Shopping Centre, the self-confessed horophile has been fixing watches for nearly half a century.

He began his foray into horology at 15 years old after working for a watchmaker who enjoyed testing his young apprentice.

“He used to turn wheels upside down and mix things up to see if I could work out what was wrong,” he said.

“The last one he ever gave me was a mantle clock and there was an extra wheel in there and I couldn’t work out where it was from.

“I drilled new pivot holes and fitted it in and when I took it back he was surprised to find that I’d fixed it, especially as the wheel didn’t come from that clock, so I guess I’d passed the test.

“(Watchmaking) is really all about attention to detail. ”

The profession has been under threat in recent years as people retire, fewer enter the trade and a growing number of pressures take their toll on the industry.

While small jobs such as replacing batteries or glass don’t take much time, other repairs can turn into major projects.

When he’s not manning his stall in Shoalwater, Mr Emmott works from home fixing bigger clocks — a complicated task that he says keeps him extremely busy.

“I’m booked up for the next two years with that,” he said.

“I’m having to turn away jobs because I hate telling people that it’s going to take me that long to get to their clocks because, as far as I know, I’m the only qualified watchmaker between Rockingham and Perth.”

That high demand is down to watchmaker numbers dwindling across the country, but WA is providing some resistance with a thriving community of enthusiasts.

The Master Clock and Watch Association WA runs three-year training courses in Gosnells, where students attend one session a week across two semesters.

Graduates can pursue Certificate III qualifications through a TAFE recognition of prior learning assessment.

Mr Emmott said although it could be tedious work at times, prospective students could look forward to the “timeless” reaction on customer’s faces when they are handed back a working watch.

“That’s the best part of the job, especially when people have been told that a watch that has great sentimental value couldn’t be fixed,” he said.

“I talk to everyone here and it’s a really nice feeling to come to work and be a part of the community. They become part of your family and that’s really important.

“If you’re not a people person then you’re in the wrong industry because you have to be able to relate and talk to people.”

When asked if there was a watch out there he couldn’t fix, the 60-year-old shuddered.

“I’ve had two jobs in my career that have beaten me,” he said.

“But it’s not very often I get beaten because I’ll keep going and going until I can fix them — I just hate to see them broken.”

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