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What is a clock shop doing in 2022? 

Cote Timeworks owner Jonathan Cote says the shops are here to stay. While learning the trade of horology is becoming scarce, the need for it is as strong as ever. Even in the downtown Southern Pines shop, the employees don’t have much time on their hands — they’re busier than ever. 

Jonathon Cote

Cote Timeworks services and repairs timepieces, and you can also shop for new watches, watch winding  boxes, or a funky clock. “Even in the digital age, there are many people needing watches and clocks serviced, with less people to work on them,” says Jonathan. He believes the issue is that less people are interested in learning the trade of horology and hopes more young people will become interested in the clock trade to keep the craft alive.

Is there a special school for clock and watch specialists?

There are schools that teach courses exclusively for timepiece work, but Jonathan says most people learn primarily through apprenticeship. As for Jonathan, his family had a jewelry store in New Hampshire while he was growing up, and he learned a lot about jewelry and watches— which he considers a type of jewelry — while helping out the family business. He learned basic watch repairs (like replacing batteries) in the shop before learning the tricks of the trade from an apprentice. Although there is a variety of certifications you can get, one of the most widely recognized is from The American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWCI). 

Jonathan didn’t plan to open his own business. In fact, he was an electrician but didn’t care for the work. After moving to Southern Pines, getting back into clock and watch repairs ‘just made sense.’ Jonathan has over 18 years experience, and Cote Timeworks has been in business in downtown Southern Pines for nine years. He currently has three employees that work on watches and one that works on clocks.

Drop Top, Clock Shop

Jonathan says, “in this business, you have to be an educator for the consumer,” — especially these days, with the lack of knowledge of mechanical timepieces. He stresses that mechanical pieces need routine maintenance. “Not doing this is like not changing the oil in your car. Of course it won’t function right.”

Another common issue Jonathan runs into is water and moisture getting into timepieces. “There are no water resistant watches,” he says, “only water resistant.” Different watches are designed to withstand different levels of water, and Jonathan keeps a chart in his shop to show people who may be using their watch in the wrong settings. 

Even automatic watches, meaning watches that don’t need to be wound daily, need movement to function properly. Moving helps keep the correct time and save the battery because the battery is always running— even if you’re not using it. “It’s like leaving your car on radio without the engine moving, it’ll kill it faster,” he says. Cote Timeworks sells watch winder boxes (yup, that’s a thing) to keep it oscillating when it’s not on your wrist. 

Watch Winding Box

“If serviced regularly, they can last forever,” says Jonathan, “Mechanical watches and clocks are timeless.” His favorite watch brand slogan is “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation,” — highlighting how watches can last lifetimes.

The oldest watch he’s ever worked on has dated back to the early 1800s and was a chain driven (Fusee) pocket watch. Although his company has since stopped taking those in for maintenance because they’re not the most accurate and not too common anymore. 

Do you see more people around daylight savings time change? 

The answer is yes. Like clockwork, the shop employees prepare to assist more customers than usual each March and November. “People either don’t know how to set their timepieces or they’ll grab the hands of a clock and pull instead of using the knobs on the back.” If you need help adjusting time, Cote Timeworks has you covered.

Is there a master clock somewhere? How do people know the correct time, and who decides? 

It began with the stars. Astronomical timekeeping is how people charted what time of day it was and referred to it as “solar time.” The Britain-born Greenwich Mean Time came along and standardized timekeeping — known as “clock time.” Towns kept their own local time, defined by the sun, until the mid 1800s. This meant even neighboring towns could be off by a noticeable amount and was particularly troublesome when it came to the railroad. If one conductor’s watch read 3:45 and they were supposed to be at ‘Point B’ by then, but another conductor’s watch read 4:05 there was a high possibility of a collision. 

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) spread and standardized time for the railroad and sea charting around the world. Now the world primarily uses UTC or Coordinated Universal Time, calculated digitally with satellites. 

Does the constant ticking and chiming in the shop bother you or any employees?

“We don’t notice it until someone points it out,” says Jonathan. We can’t tell if it would make for a great ASMR video or if it’s so maddening that it makes us feel like being on time for once.

We hope you learned something, that’s what counts. The shop is open Tuesday – Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., for all your tick tock needs.

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