For Josef Herzinger, time is more than fleeting moments and divisions of schedules. It's his passion, his vocation and his artform.
The owner of the Clock & Watch Shop (824 Gravier St., 525-3961) believes there's time for everything and a perfect timepiece for everyone, whether it's an antique pocket watch, a towering grandfather clock or a $25 wristwatch.
"We have customers in all age ranges," says Herzinger, who bought the 43-year-old Central Business District store in 1995. "We have young kids with their Guess watches who need batteries or the crystal is broken, but our (larger customer) base is really the people who live here and come to work in the area. They're customers for many years."
The shop also draws tourists from the expanding list of hotels in the area as well as out-of-towners looking for someone who can repair broken timepieces.
"Our main goal is to keep the customers we have happy," says Herzinger, who spent seven years in school in his native Austria to learn how to craft and repair clocks and watches. "We get a little bit of the tourist business; they come in for quick repairs and batteries. We also have people who ship us their watches from all over the country."
Replacement of batteries and installing new crystals are not uncommon services among local businesses, but The Clock & Watch Shop also can make new parts for old timepieces if those items no longer are manufactured and will take the considerable time necessary to repair the outside of clocks and watches also.
"We do everything in house," Herzinger says. "We do all the repairs, make the parts by hand and we also not only repair the movement, but restore the cases, dials, gold and silver plating, dial refinishing, we do it all." He also goes a step further and will even go to customers' homes to look at ailing clocks that are too large or fragile to be easily transported to the store.
"Our business philosophies are customer service and to be number one always for watch and clock repair and restoration," he says. "One of our specialties is we make house calls. You don't see that very often any more." The business also does a limited amount of repair work for other jewelry stores, although Herzinger says his own customers' demands leave little time for such services.
Giving customers a range of quality choices also is a goal of the business, which stocks 15 brands and hundreds of styles of wristwatches alone. The store also has a selection of cuckoo clocks, new and antique grandfather clocks, unusual vintage items and mantle timepieces in designs ranging from contemporary to intricately engraved and hand-painted items. Clock and watch makers such as Wittnauer, Seiko, Movado, Bulova, Hamilton, Fortis, Seth Thomas, Howard Miller and Linden are represented as well as a host of others.
"We have a lot of antique watches, wristwatches, pocket watches, car clocks and, of course, wall and mantle clocks and grandfather clocks," says Herzinger. Once considered a common component of well-appointed homes, grandfather clocks again are gaining popularity. "They are a big fascination," Herzinger says. "I think it's just because they're quite big, a little masculine, and it has a little bit of relation to childhood." Clocks with complex workings, such as a bird that pops out intermittently or dancers that twirl around on the hour also are still popular. Overall, however, the clocks customers choose are as individual as the people buying them, whether they prefer new or old versions.
"Every customer has a very different taste and every house needs a different clock," he says. "If you're a collector, it doesn't matter if it is simple or intricate. Certainly clocks are more interesting if they are complicated. Some of the clocks have figures that turn or do some things like a blacksmith hitting an anvil, waterwheels, figures that are dancing. That is a little bit more fascinating because you have something moving and going on. It's like watching a play.
"Some people collect clocks like they would art. Anything that has to do with something made by hand has a fascination. Somebody put a love of love into it, and that's interesting."
A reverence for time and its measurement is universal and especially in the modern age has a huge impact on people all over the world, a reality that ensures that purveyors of timepieces will have a continually expanding customer base.
"Time has been a fascination for people since forever," Herzinger says. "Everybody is involved in time. You wake up at a certain time. You get married at a certain time. Everything is a period of time and it's measured. It's never dying; it's very precious to us."
Although he values old clocks and watches and has a passion for keeping them running well, the shop owner says it's the new designs that keep time fresh for him and the challenge of solving problems through repairs.
"The fascination with clocks and watches to me is that they get bigger and bigger every year," he says. "I was afraid I would get bored, but I get more and more fascinated."
- Clockmaker Josef Herzinger repairs a small wristwatch movement at his Clock & Watch Shop in the Central Business District.