Friday, November 20, 2020

Whatever the time is made of


"Hey, do you remember this?" asked Andrew while handing over a flyer which flew out from a pile of magazines.

Of course I do: the 'Opening Special' invitation to the good people of Parramatta; an announcement that a migrant watchmaker from the Balkans has arrived, fresh off the boat.

The list of watches accepted for repair was simply a reflection of what 1994 jewellers had on display. The clock repair service was a reality: and in no time, I was flooded with cuckoo clocks, junk mantle clocks from the 1950s, the usual stuff no other reputable watchmaker would touch. 

But I had no choice and 12 hours per day behind the bench was standard. Sunday was a normal trading day too, but keeping Shabbat was a big deal - an obscure family tradition of a Judeo-Christianity; a sign of non-alignment and independence.

As for the promise of 'friendly service': well that one was broken soon. To be perfectly honest, most of my customers only wanted good workmanship at a low price and could not care less for that extra bit of free friendliness. I've learned quickly that in my new country, friendliness is rather an expensive commodity, one to be given away and shared to the deserving, and only when the relationship is based on mutual respect. True experts in their fields - surgeons, flight controllers, mathematicians, micro-machinists and watchmakers are highly motivated, highly focused nerds, grumpy and edgy, focused on chasing either time itself or whatever the time is made of.

Parramatta was tough. The lack of sophistication was unbearable, and $650 rent for 17 square meters of retail space paid every Friday to St. George Bank was the biggest rip-off. As my mother would say: pay the fine, but keep the receipt.

Last night we were ready to deliver two crucial components to an Australian business. I can't tell you who the customer is, what the parts are for, or even for what industry. But we - our small team of makers - delivered micron precision components in less than four days. We've solved the problem our customer was struggling with for months. We’ve also secured an order for nine more parts, to be delivered next week. Manufactured in Australia.

Twenty six years in the making, worth every second.

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