WAMU 88.5 : Metro Connection

When Time Is Money: Clocking In As A Watchmaker

Play associated audio
Fima Novik says the market for second generation watches is still strong.
Jessica Gould
Fima Novik says the market for second generation watches is still strong.

While most people rely on their cell phones to keep track of the time these days, the folks at D.C.'s Tiny Jewel Box say the market for mechanical watches is still going strong.

The beginning of a time

Walk through the doors of Tiny Jewel Box, and your eyes are dazzled with diamonds. They're on rings, necklaces, earrings, and even watches. But, tucked behind the plush walls and sparkling cases, there's something that's becoming equally rare - a watchmaker making repairs.

Fima Novik grew up in Lithuania. And when he grduated from high school, his parents gave him two choices: Apply to engineering school, or join his father as a watchmaker. He's been repairing watches ever since.

Every day Novik sits down at his bench, puts on his magnifying glasses, and gets to work. With tiny tweezers and even smaller screwdrivers, he separates the gears.

"An average watch has over 100 parts," he says. "So with experience you learn to familiarize yourself and memorize where each part goes... It's very tedious. You really need to have a calling to learn this trade.

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.

“We all like to put on the fanciest watches we have, just to show off that you’re really doing well,” he says. 

Time changes, but some things remain the same

Novik says he and fellow watchmakers were worried when digital and quartz watches started flooding the market years ago.

"I remember being in the watch repair shop and there were 20-such watch makers and they were all worried that maybe another five, ten years they were not going to have a job,” he says. “Because digital and quartz watches, they don’t need as much servicing, because it’s just a battery replacement."

But Novik says business is good these days. Even with smartphones, people still wear watches, and watches still require servicing.

"The maintenance is not going to be done by robots," says Novik. “Somebody will have to repair them. I know that I’m as busy as I could be.”Plus, he says, for watchmakers, it’s tough to be off the clock.

“I go on vacation I still look at the time. You cannot get away from time. Really, it’s all around us, no?”

So times may change, and telling time may change. But Novik says he’s here to stay. 

[Music: "As Time Goes By" by Teddy Wilson from Jazz 'Round Midnight: Piano]

Photos: Watchmaking

WAMU 88.5

Colson Whitehead On The Importance Of Historical Fiction In Tumultuous Times

Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.

NPR

'Cup Noodles' Turns 45: A Closer Look At The Revolutionary Ramen Creation

Today instant ramen is consumed in at least 80 countries — with culturally specific adaptations. The U.S., for instance, gets shorter noodles, because Americans don't slurp them up like the Japanese.
WAMU 88.5

Rating The United States On Child Care

A majority of parents in the U.S. work outside the home. That means about 12 million children across the country require care. A new report ranks states on cost, quality and availability of child care - and says nobody is getting it right.

NPR

Scientists To Bid A Bittersweet Farewell To Rosetta, The Comet Chaser

To cap its 12-year scientific voyage, the Rosetta spacecraft will take a final plunge Friday. Scientists will signal Rosetta to crash into the surface of a comet — and gather data all the way down.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.