IT is not a matter of money, it is a matter of time. If you spent a day in the shoes of David Thomas, you would know exactly what he means when he says this. The owner of Thomas’ Timepieces, he is a horologist, trained in the science of keeping time.
In business for more than 30 years, his shop, just off the Hunter Street Mall on Wolfe Street, is full of ticking clocks and watches. Several cuckoo clocks are mounted on the main wall behind the service counter and distinguished grandfather clocks line the opposite side of the shop.
There’s a German-made Hermle grandfather clock on display that will set you back $18,900. You start with the fact it is all mechanical – no batteries, no cords. The simplicity is also the complexity. This model has three chimes – they ring at 15 minutes after the hour (four notes), 30 minutes (eight notes), 45 minutes (12 notes) and on the hour (16 notes). It has a brass face and inlay and burr walnut case.
You can turn the chimes off at night (11pm to 7am) and set the phases of the moon on it.
Perhaps most important of all, the purchaser will be buying something that could become a family heirloom.
Grandfather clocks are defined by their size, usually at least 1.8metres tall. Those in the 1.2-metre range are called grandmother clocks.
At least half of Thomas’s business is repairing clocks.
‘‘There are so many private clocks out there,’’ he says of Newcastle. ‘‘Many are English long-case clocks. They can be taller than grandfather clocks. Because there were so many independent manufacturers in England, there were many styles. They have a brass or painted face, two weights – which run time and strike. I serviced one in Adamstown Heights that had eight bells every quarter hour; that was quite unique.’’
To the irritation of some potential customers, Thomas does not give quotes on repairs.
‘‘You can’t tell from looking at it,’’ he says. ‘‘You must inspect it. On a service to a clock, it has to be totally stripped down.’’
The Depression era was tough on clocks – people didn’t spend the money on maintenance.
And the Newcastle earthquake in 1989 took a toll, too.
‘‘Clocks fell off, cases broke. I’m still getting work from people who put it aside and left it for later,’’ Thomas says.
Thomas’ Timepieces, 5Wolfe Street, Newcastle. Ph 49262805.