MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Now, if you're like most people, you probably rely on your cell phone to keep track of the time these days. And I was like that, too, until I bought a watch a few months ago for a trip overseas and I found I really like it. So much so, my trusty watch is now an everyday accessory. In fact, I'm wearing it right now and apparently, despite the comments of one friend who remarked I must be trapped in 1997, I'm not alone.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
The folks at D.C.'s Tiny Jewel Box say the market for mechanical watches is still going strong. Jessica Gould visited the DuPont Circle shop to find out what makes a watchmaker tick in this digital age.
MS. JESSICA GOULD
Walk through the doors of Tiny Jewel Box and your eyes are dazzled with diamonds. They're on rings, necklaces, earrings, even watches. But tucked behind the plush walls and sparkling cases, there's something that's becoming equally rare.
MR. FIMA NOVIK
My name is Fima Novik and I'm a watchmaker. I do watch repairs.
Novik grew up in Lithuania, where his father was a watchmaker.
When at the age of 17, just as I was graduating high school, I was given two choices by parents, either go to college or join my father and learn watch making. And basically, I accepted to become a watchmaker and I applied myself towards that and basically that's what I do for a living for the past 30 plus years.
So every day Novik sits down at his bench, puts on his magnifying glasses and gets to work.
Average self-winding watch will have over 100 parts. With experience, you learn to familiarize yourself and memorize where each part goes.
With tiny tweezers and even smaller screwdrivers, he separates the gears.
That would be an escape wheel, that third wheel, sweep second wheel. This thing would be a train bridge and this is a main plate. It's very tedious. You really have to have a calling to learn this trade.
And for more than three decades, it's a job Novik has enjoyed. Still, he says, sitting in his office all day, listening to time tick by can be a little lonely. So he likes to meet up with other watchmakers when he can.
I have maybe two or three friends that are watchmakers. I would talk to them when I have a problem or they have a problem. We all like to put on the fanciest watches we own, you know, it's like, just to show off, I guess, that you're really doing well.
Of course, he says he and fellow watchmakers weren't worried when more high-tech watches started flooding the market years ago.
By late '70s, already were introduced digital watches and the quartz watches and the whole industry, they thought that's it. I remember in a repair shop we had 20 plus watchmakers and we were all worried that maybe another 5 to 10 years we're not going to have a job because digital watches and quartz watches, they don't require as much servicing. It's only a battery replacement and so you don't need to be a watchmaker to do that.
But Novik says business is good these days.
Even with telephones and cell phones and computers and all different gadgets. If you'll look at today's watches and tomorrow watches, they still will require servicing and they'll require maintenance. I know that I'm as busy as I could be and the maintenance is not going to be done by robots.
Plus, he says, for a watchmaker is, it's tough to be off the clock.
You know, I go on vacation. I still look at the time. It's like, you have a cell phone, you have this. I mean, you cannot get away from time. I mean, really, it's all around us.
So times may change and telling time may change, but Novik says he's here to stay. I'm Jessica Gould.
To see photos of Fima Novik at work, check out our website, metroconnection.org.
After the break, the economics of a sport that's all about time, competitive running.
The road race industry, whether it's shorter races or marathons, its big business.
It's just ahead on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5
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