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From pocket to wrist to Apple, watch repair has been a timeless business

December 18, 2016 Updated: December 20, 2016 at 12:19 pm
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Michael Knight sits at his work station at Knight Watch & Jewelry Co. on Wednesday, December 7, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette

Everything old becomes new again.

Michael Knight counts on it for his watch repair and sale business, Knight Watch and Jewelry Co.

And so far, history hasn't disappointed.

Before about 1915, pocket watches were the only fashionable way to tell time, so much so men were expected to wear them. That changed with WWI as soldiers in the trenches needed a faster way to check the clock, giving birth to the wristwatch. When they returned home, the fashion stuck.

Now, the invention of cellphones has again put time back into the pocket.

"It's kind of come full circle," Knight said.

If the cycle continues, wristwatches also will never really go out of style. They're just changing in design, make and function.

"Nothing ever dies," Knight said.

Especially Knight's prized watches.

He deals only in specialized, high-end watches like "your grandfather's watch," which was designed to last and be handed down across generations, Knight said. The family heirlooms displayed in his store date back to the early 1900s and still run, well, like clockwork.

"They're forever watches," Knight said.

His mechanical watches "require the owner to keep them alive," Knight said. They must be worn and wound, and taken in for maintenance every five to 20 years, depending on the make and model.

You'll find only two battery-operated watches for sale in his store.

"And I protest them," Knight's daughter Ecko said, though she admits she does specialize in battery watch repair and testing through her own business within Knight Watch's walls, Ecko Co.

For their displays and their wrists, though, the Knights remain purists.

That day, Knight was wearing a Rolex Daytona with a Paul Newman dial. Ecko wore a Hamilton with a green band to match her holiday outfit.

Last Christmas, Knight's brother sent him an Apple watch to work into his everyday wear. He turned it into a money clip.

Some of the watches for sale are of Knight's design.

Pocket-to-wristwatches are a way to make the pre-WWI watches trendy again. He removes the chain and adds a wrist band.

Skeleton watches remove the front face entirely, allowing the wearer to follow the inner-workings of the gears as they turn the hands. "Glass backs" flip the peak hole to the rear side of the watch.

One of Knight's favorite watches is an 1870 Patek Philippe pocket watch converted to a wristwatch with a glass back. It was hand engraved by Kristofer Johansson of Thistlejack Clock Co. in Canon City.

The fine details bring the cost to $18,750.

"Everyone's wearing big watches right now," Ecko said.

Most of his other watches run between $800 and $7,000, based on the jewels used, the gold value and the time spent repairing and preparing it for sale (price tags quite above the maximum charge of $7.99 on the antique cash register they still use).

The price also goes up when Knight has to build the right part.

"I'm working with things with no replacement parts and no manual," Knight said. But he does have about 65 years of knowledge backing the business.

It was started in 1951 by Knight's father, who is 92 and still makes it down to the shop to tinker from time to time. His father also taught him the trade, based on his father's schooling at the American Watchmakers/Clockmaker's Institute in Denver.

By 10 years old, Knight said he was charging for clock repair. By 13, he was a watchmaker working for Zales.

It's a love that has stood the test of time, Knight said, and, after outlasting seven folded watchmakers, the small shop has too.

"We're the last man standing," Knight said.

NOTE: This article was corrected Dec. 20 to credit the hand engraving on the 1870 Patek Philippe pocket-to-wrist watch to Kristofer Johansson of Thistlejack Clock Co. in Canon City.

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Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362

Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin

Facebook: Kaitlin Durbin

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