I couldn’t keep this watch. It’s a piece of James, and he has time to enjoy it. Instead, I wanted to find someone who could restore the pocket watch to tip-top function. Collectors of vintage pocket watches pointed me to Eric Unselt, The American Timekeeper. Eric is quite particular about which watches he chooses to work on and insisted on calling me. He said that he likes to restore watches to new, and this watch was a little beyond that. But then I told him how I received it, and that I wanted to give it back in daily functioning order. After that, Eric kindly agreed to work on it.
He replaced many parts and cleaned the movement. The jolt that likely chipped the dial also likely once knocked the movement out of place. He had to work hard to set the movement properly. Normally Eric restores pocket watches to new condition, aesthetics included, but I asked him to leave the chipped Hamilton dial as it is part of James’s father’s legacy. Eric obliged, even though this would be the first watch in the last five years that he allowed to leave in that condition. He replaced many components in the movement, cleaned it and restored the gleam to the enamel. One upgrade that I did give the thumbs up on, though, was for Eric to mill the caseback and install a crystal, transforming it into an exhibition caseback. The part he milled out had all the invoice numbers scratched in, and he turned it into a coin that I could give to James.
It took a little over a month to get it back. When I did, I presented the watch to James with a folder I made that included printouts of the history of the movement and the particular dial on the Hamilton. It also included the contact information for Eric in case he ever needs the watch serviced again. James was so thrilled to have it back in its new condition. So happy that he immediately started asking me where he could get a “chain” so that he could carry it on his person.
Although I no longer cook breakfast part-time at the café, I still stop by most mornings before work with my dog, Phantom, to share a coffee with James. We chat about things he’s working on; he’s curious about the articles I’m writing; we bullshit about the world’s problems and our sure-fired solutions to fix it all. He’s a true friend and a fixture in my life.
I am grateful for this hobby. It gives back so much more than what I put in. It’s not a stretch to say that this relationship gifted me some of my lost confidence, as soon after I found a job I love at a University that I enjoy working for, I found the RedBar Raleigh watch group that gave me a positive foundation to push forward in my hobby, and finally, I found that there is space for my voice to resonate within this hobby.