March 17, 2015

Demers Fine Watch & Clock Repair: A WE35 Report

Gaetan Demers has been repairing fine watches and clocks in the heart of Lawrence for 30 years. His shop sits across from a small strip mall, above a barber shop. It has all the personality that you’d expect from a fine watch and clock repair shop that has been at the same location for 30 year.

I learned about Gaetan and his shop through a friend who raved about both his work and the charm of his shop. I thought it would make a great Photo Story, so I paid a visit last week in the hope that Gaetan would allow me to photograph his operation. In case he refused, I brought along an antique pocket watch that needed repair and cleaning — I didn’t want the trip to be a total bust!

As it turned out he was more than willing. So, after the initial introduction and an assessment of my watch, I agreed to return on Saturday for a morning of photography.

I decided to use the opportunity to further my WE35 research and shoot with my Olympus OM-D E-M1 and 17mm, f1.8 prime lens (~35mm in full frame terms).

Demers Fine Watch & Clock Repair

I arrived just before 10:00 AM on Saturday, as scheduled, and after a quick tour began shooting.

The workspace is divided into two sections, one for clock repair, the other for the more intricate watch repair work. The clock repair shop is also where Gaetan meets with customers. The walls and shelves are lined with old clocks and a few toys. Some clocks work, some don’t. Tools and random clock parts clutter the work bench, yet you get the impression that everything is in its proper place. The watch repair area is a quiet and much more organized section of the shop. It is also off-limits to customers — perfectly understandable, given the fragile nature of disassembling and reassembling fine watches.

His shop is guarded by a four year old Gray Parrot named Darling. Like a good watch-parrot, Darling also bites.

I also learned a bit about his background and business.

Gaetan’s family moved to the area from Canada when he was eleven years old. He inherited his skills from his father, who was also in the clock repair business. He has no website and no brochures in his shop. His marketing is limited to word-of-mouth and a local yellow pages listing. “I have more work than I can handle,” he told me.

Here is a look at Gaetan repairing a clock:

Gaetan Demers at work Gaetan Demers at work

A look at Watch Repair:

A disassembled Rolex A Rolex Gaetan Demers A disassembled Rolex

Meet Darling:

Darling, the gray parrot

Gaetan Demers:

Gaetan Demers

Gaetan was a great host, a great subject and a great teacher. He was as eager to discuss photography with me as he was share his passion for his craft. In the two hours or so that I was there I got a good idea of how he spends his days. During that time he fielded calls from customers, made progress repairing a clock (with the help of his grandson, Thomas) and disassembled and cleaned a broken Rolex watch (the new spring is on order).

You’ll see be seeing more of Gaetan and Darling in upcoming blog posts. And I’ll be seeing Gaetan again soon when I pop by with my iPad to share the images with him. I will also have to pick up the antique pocket watch I dropped of for repair and cleaning. I think it’s in good hands.

What I learned:

  • Versatility: Gaetan’s shop is small and the workspace is tight. While I could have easily gotten great images with an ultra wide, a fisheye or a 50mm field of view, the 35mm FOV was just wide enough to capture the atmosphere of the shop, but narrow enough for environmental portraits and detail shots.
  • Continuity: In presenting a story like this, I learned that from, the single field of view equates to a single point of view, thus bringing continuity to the story.
  • Agility: By using a fast prime, I was free to move. With an aperture of 1.8, the speed of the lens (coupled with 1600 ISO) allowed me to shoot hand-held and easily move around and with my subject. It allowed me to remain relatively invisible as Gaetan went about his business.

Bonus fact: An uncoiled watch spring from a small Rolex wrist watch is approximately 12 inches long.

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  1. Pingback: Gaetan Demers | Lussier Photography

  2. I have visited Mr. Demers’ shop twice in the last few weeks. What a discovery, tucked away there in Lawrence! I am currently taking a beginning photography course, so I happened to take a couple of simple, automatic shots in the shop. Your photographs of it are wonderful! Thank you for writing your story about him & the shop & sharing it online.