Time to say farewell to watchmaker

Peter Oberauer in his organised work space.

After a quarter century in Plumstead and almost twice that time in South Africa, Peter Oberauer has semi-retired, well he’s hoping to.

Fine Time Watchmakers was a landmark on the Main Road in Plumstead until they closed down on Saturday October 1. When I went to see Mr Oberauer last week it was some time before he could pull himself away from customers, most of them wanting to know why the shop was closing. Grandfather clocks ticked as he told them the landlord had sold out to their recent neighbour who wants to expand. The good news is that the three men Mr Oberaurer trained for many years will continue the shop from nearby premises under their own names. Eventually extricating himself Mr Oberauer and I crossed the road to chat in a popular watering hole. Sipping cappuccino he said this time next week he would be working from his home in Marina da Gama, unless he was hiking in Silvermine with his dog Rosie.

“Although I wanted to call her Rolex. A watchmaker must have a dog with an appropriate name and after all, she’s a watchdog,” he said, eyes twinkling with mirth. More seriously he said he needs to supplement his meagre Austrian pension considering that he has not lived there for many years.

Born near Vienna 75 years ago, where the mountains start and climb to over 1 000m, almost the same height as Table Mountain, he qualified as a master watchmaker. Scrunching his nose, he said it wasn’t what he wanted.

He chose to be a car mechanic but school testing disagreed, as did his dad. What put him off was when his granddad took him to get his watch fixed at a “crummy kitchen table watchmaker”.

Mr Oberauer then took on an apprentice who eventually moved to Durban. They had become friends and the apprentice suggested Mr Oberauer also move to South Africa, which he did, both of them moving to Cape Town. That was in 1971 and four years later that he started his own business, initially in Gabriel Road, Plumstead, but he has also had shops in Wynberg and Kenil-
worth.

Asked if his industry has felt the effects of technology and people using cell phones to check the time he looked blank, instead saying
that he’s been working from home two days a week trying to catch up with the horrific backlog of work.

However he did see a big change in 1975 when digital watches started becoming popular. But nowadays the Swiss, who don’t like it to be called a watch but instead a showpiece, can be sold for up-
wards of R50 000, a top grade one for R100 000 and more. Mr Oberauer is sad to close the shop saying he did not have enough time to sell the business.

He first suspected something was wrong seven months ago when he was asked to improve the ap-
pearance of his shop. “But everyone who comes to the shop like to see people working on the clocks and watches. A school even brought children to see how we work,” he said. But his decision not to make changes didn’t go down well and three months later he was given notice to vacate.

Julius Davids, Terence Goldschmidt, Vincent O’Malley will be trading as JVT Watch & Clock Repairs and promise to offer the same business, services, staff.