Clock repairman helps restore sounds of the past

Published 5:00 pm Friday, July 11, 2008

Raymond Barrett keeps his promises. He’s a man who lives by the clock — he owns more than 60, in fact — and he knows how to manage that time.

“I like being able to keep track of time,” Barrett said. “That’s important to me.”

Barrett found a way to marry his love of clocks and his love of machinery when he decided to start his own clock repair business in his Chelsea home about three months ago.

Barrett’s fascination with clocks goes back to his childhood.

“My dad had an old watch, and three or four times a year he had to go get it adjusted,” he said. “I was fascinated by his fascination.”

Barrett’s father shared some of his knowledge about clocks, and young Raymond was hooked.

“I’m fascinated with timekeeping and with the craftsmanship behind it,” he said. “If I can put a clock back together, I’m helping a customer, but I’m also reviving the ghost of the craftsman.”

Barrett said his basic fee for cleaning a clock usually runs about $300, and other services are priced according to the clock and what the customer wants. When he cleans a clock, he takes it apart completely and checks the mechanics.

“I’ve been gifted with the ability where if something doesn’t work, I can tell what needs to be fixed,” he said.

Before Barrett became a clock repairman, he worked in vehicle repair. Repairing clocks was just a hobby for more than 25 years, until the job market worsened. At that point, his wife, Judy, encouraged him to try going into business for himself.

Barrett estimated that he’s now fixing three or four clocks per week.

“Things are starting to pick up really quickly,” he said. “I’m getting a dozen e-mails a week. This really started a brush fire.”

Eventually, Barrett may move into a separate store if the business continues growing, he said. He currently works five days a week but may have to expand that to six.

Judy said she loves what her husband does and has adjusted to sharing her home with constantly ticking clocks.

“When we first got married, we went to a clock shop, and he said, ‘This is what I want our home to sound like,'” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh, no!’ But you forget about it.”

Judy said she just wanted her husband to be happy in his job, and he’s finally found that.

“He loves cars, and he loves clocks. He has room for his cars and a room for his clocks. It’s the closest thing to heaven for him,” she said.

Barrett said what he does is important because he helps his customers remember.

“It’s important to the customer because I’m reviving memories,” he said. “It’s important to me because the customer is trusting me with those memories.”