TIME, TIME, WHO’S GOT THE TIME!? — Pictured, from left, are Bob Hoffman and his son Matt, the owners of Buffalo Watch & Clock, located at 5735 Maelou Drive in Hamburg. Photos by Alicia Greco.
HAMBURG — When Hamburg resident Bob Hoffman was young, his father handed him a Westclox pocket watch. Led by curiosity, Hoffman took out each screw, even though the timepiece was fully wound, and “everything went flying.”
Saying that he had a deep-seeded fear of parental repercussions, Hoffman spent three afternoons inside the travel tailer in his family’s backyard, working on the pieces with a pair of tweezers and a screwdriver from his father’s work bench.
He found that, contrary to claims made by the Mad Hatter during Alice’s experience at the Mad Tea Party, sugar, lemon, jam and tea will not help in fixing a “mad watch.”
Hoffman handed the timepiece to his father, who then gave him other scrappers to fix up. At 12 years old, he discovered the joy of “looking at stuff and taking things apart.”
After working at a jewelry supply house in the city of Buffalo in 1974, he opened his first trade repair shop the following year, at Ellicott Square. After his father’s retirement in 1979, he took over Howard Hoffman Jewelers in Orchard Park and ran that business until 1987.
“The whole industry had changed. There really wasn’t that much trade work anymore,” Hoffman said. “I had always lived in Hamburg. I thought, let’s just move out back home.”
PIECES OF TIME — Pictured are the inner pieces of a watch that is being repaired at the Hamburg shop.
In 2006, Buffalo Watch & Clock settled in at 5735 Maelou Drive in Hamburg. Services the owner and his son provide include clock and watch repair, restoration and battery replacement. They also sell and service watches, clocks and jewelry.
The business carries primarily Citizen Watch© items, plus some from Timex©, Justex, Sultana© and River City©. The jewelry cases are filled with pieces from mostly Katz Village Jewelers, which is locally situated at 141 Buffalo St.
What Hoffman said his business does not do is the “dip and squirt” technique. He said that less reputable mechanics will take the main piece – called the movement – dip it in solution, squirt oil on it and call it a cleaning – “but it isn’t,” he added.
At Buffalo Watch & Clock, repairs require full service and maintenance, step by step. “You have to take it completely apart; clean all the stuff out of it. All the wheels get steamed, so that all the stuff comes off of them,” he said. “We polish and burnish the pivots so they’re smooth and they’re hard. After we do that, we take each gear train individually, reassemble it into the plates of the clock, and then we check for looseness. Any one that’s worn, we mark off, take it apart again, measure the pivot, ream it out, press in a new bushing and then assemble that train again, to make sure everything is tight.”
Hoffman said that a timepiece will be assembled a total of seven times. “You have to take it completely apart to do it properly, and that’s what we do,” he added.
The shop receives approximately 10 – 12 clocks and 100 – 150 watches, including trade work and over-the-counter servicing, per week.
Since the process is essentially the same for each piece, pricing is based on a flat rate, depending on the specific clock and what labor needs to be done. Each repair comes with a one-year warranty.
“When you think about it, what else can you get fixed, or purchase, that has a one-year warranty?” Hoffman asked. His son followed up, adding, “for something that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for years.”
Matt Hoffman, who graduated from East Aurora High School, has been serving in the National Guard for approximately three years. At Buffalo Watch & Clock, all former or current military members receive a battery replacement free of charge, and 10 percent off all regular pricing.
The shop is alive with the sound of time-keeping: clocks and watches that are both old and brand new. Some have painted decor, while some adorn mirrors. Batteries power some, and the physics of a pendulum make other clocks work.
“When you listen to something that ticks, it’s almost like a life force,” Bob Hoffman said.
Although the shop is constantly ticking, he said that he hardly notices the sound.
“Ironically enough, it’s like anything else. You don’t pay much attention to it. And I have no clocks at home that tick,” he said, with a laugh, adding that he can tell if he passes a clock that is off-beat, while he is out in public.
His son said that what drew him to the trade is how interesting it is. “Not too many people do it. I’m third generation, so it’s kind of bringing the whole family along with it.”
Due to the GI Bill, the clock and watch trade was booming, during World War II, with an estimated 60,000 persons in the business. Now, Bob Hoffman said that there are approximately only 5,000.
Buffalo Watch & Clock may be a rare business, but the Hoffmans agreed that what they offer is still a necessity.
The shop is open from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Tuesday – Friday and 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Saturday. Service calls are done by appointment. For more information, visit www.buffalowatch.com.