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Photo by Brian Carroll.

Every picture tells a story at the Watch Clinic

By Brian Carroll on February 2, 2018

Meet Vivian Schenker, manager of The Watch Clinic European Jewellers. She doesn’t just run a business. Vivian collects stories… stories of people, their jewelry, and their watches.

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A broken vintage bangle reinvented

For instance, one young woman came into the shop, clearly upset. She’d broken a fine silver filigree bangle, an heirloom inherited from her grandmother. The silver was very thin and soldering it together would have been a disaster. Vivian looked at the pieces and explained that the bangle was beyond repair. She saw the look of disappointment. So The Clinic came up with the idea of making a pair of earrings from pieces of the bangle. The customer was delighted. Every time she puts these earrings on, she has an emotional attachment.

For many clients, when they bring in these emotional jobs, there are tears of joy when the work is completed.

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Pendant and lone stud reinvented

Happy customers bring repeat business. The same customer also lost a diamond ear stud from a matched set of studs and pendant. What could Vivian and her team do for her? Vivian suggested putting the remaining diamond into the pendant, creating a unique piece of jewelry. Furthermore, Vivian suggested replacing the claw mounts with bezel mounts that require no maintenance. The result is a classic piece of jewelry that’s inheritable. Again, a smiling customer.

Vivian suggests that clients look at the gold in their jewelry boxes. She can suggest ways to repurpose their jewelry. It’s frugal and full of heart. It’s family gold being reinvented. It has a story to it. A story that has meaning for the next generation.

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Watchmaker made parts and gave dropped watch new life

Watches also break. A customer dropped an antique pocket watch. The watchmakers, Steven and Fernando, consulted each other on the repair. Steven Schenker made replacement parts to give the watch new life. (Who makes parts anymore?) This is a “talking” watch. It’s a repeater. If you’re blind, or have it in your pocket, the strikes on that pocket watch will tell you what time it is.

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From Russia with…

The Clinic can replace watch batteries while you wait. Since you have the time, Vivian shows you around the jewelry and watches for sale. Some unusual pieces come into view, like a couple of Russian watches. Vivian has a story for those. A Russian ship docked in Montreal. One of the sailors came to Ottawa with some watches and some amber. He was short of cash, so Vivian bought his watches.

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Hidden beauty

Some watches aren’t just beautiful or interesting on the outside. Waltham pocket watches had beautiful engraving that was hidden inside the watch case, where only watchmakers would see it. When a client brings in a watch for service, the watchmakers have to open it to estimate the cost of repairs. Vivian offers to let customers see the interior of their watches. Then the client gets to see the full beauty of the watch.

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Bulova’s Space View Accutron

But not all watches hide their inner beauty. In 1960, Bulova launched the Accutron whose mechanical timekeeping was regulated by an electronically oscillating tuning fork. Bulova shipped demonstrator watches to dealers to show off the new technology. Some customers liked and bought the demo watches, so Bulova had to make more. Thus was born the Space View line.

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Hamilton Rail Road watch after servicing

Vivian recommends that a fine mechanical watch be cleaned and lubricated every four or five years. After that, the oil will evaporate, leaving a gummy residue. Lacking proper lubrication, parts wear out. The watchmakers at The Watch Clinic completely dismantle the watch. They clean and condition each piece in three different solutions. They inspect each part to see that it has all its teeth. They test the strength of the mainspring. If necessary, they replace parts. Then they reassemble the watch. That’s what they did with my Hamilton Rail Road watch, which belonged to my wife’s grandfather.

Check your jewelry box. Or your old watches. Is there a piece with sentimental value that could find new life? Bring it to Vivian and her craftsmen. She’d love to hear your story.


The Watch Clinic European Jewellers is located at 431 Bank Street. Hours of operation are 9:30am-5:30pm, Monday to Thursday and 9:30am-3pm Friday. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Visit them online or on Facebook. For more of Vivian’s pictures and stories, visit @watchclinicottawa on Instagram.