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Horologist Jim Michaels Is Keeping Time, History Alive
WHEN JIM MICHAELS STARTED IN WATCHMAKING, PEOPLE CAME TO HIS SHOP LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO TELL TIME, AND TODAY... PEOPLE COME FOR A PIECE OF ARTWORK. For Jim Michaels, watchmaking is not just changing a part... "you have to know a lot more than just replacing wheels, you have to know metallurgy. You have to know chemistry, you have to know a lot of math. There's a lot of skills involved in it.." Michaels has been interested in the mechanical since he was a child; in fact, it was a watch from his father that sparked that interest. "I remember to this day, I remember opening the back and seeing all those tiny wheels and all those parts and all this stuff. Wow. This is really cool. So I kept that watch. And then when I graduated from Switzerland, I restored it gave it to my Father" He's been a horologist, or watch-maker, for more than 53 years... His success? “there's so few people left that really are old school I call old school watchmakers that know really how to do the watchmaking, There's really no place to learn this anymore.” He became one of the few watchmakers in town. Many visitors to the House of Time are drawn in by the unusual and sometimes one-of-a-kind, timepieces from the mechanical era, "There's very few mechanical things today that are 200 years old or even 300 years old, that you can get working like they originally intended. You know, that's there's not many of those left at all." Some clients come to get a piece of history. Students also come to marvel at Michaels’s handiwork. "wow, this is really cool. What makes it work?" And Michael will tell them... Magic. And the reason he likes to restore the watches: "it brings history back, and it saves history." For Michael, old watches have a heart and a soul a lot of the old ones were handmade. And you can tell they have a personality of their own, you can you can tell the person who made them, you can tell his personality, because he took the time to do things that no one else would see, except another watchmaker,” And when someone asks him why anyone would pay so much for a mechanical watch when they can get one for 5 dollars…he always tells them... "you can have a tree that's paint by numbers. It's worth nothing where you could have a Rembrandt tree and it's a piece of art that's the big difference." Today, watchmaking has become a dying art. "just because history has changed doesn't mean you forget it, you need to know where you've come from to where you going." For Michael, he hopes to keep this moment in time alive.