A Love Story


About 14 years ago I received a call from an elderly woman in the midwest. She was so relieved to finally find us after exhaustively searching for someone to restore her antique watch.  She had taken it to every jeweler in her small town only to be told repeatedly that it could not be repaired.  She lived in a nursing home and one of the caregivers offered to take her to the library to help her use their computer to access the internet, something that was in it’s relative infancy at the time, but supposedly useful for finding specialized businesses throughout the country. Surely someone out there in the worldwide web would be able to help.  She started by searching the brand name of the watch. “Central” was stamped across the dial and so with a few clicks she found us.  We’ve had a number of people contact us over the years looking for information about these Central watches.  I told her, as I had explained many times before, that Central was not actually a watch manufacturer, but more likely a store or brand name that had simply been added to the dial of a generic watch.  We had no ties to them, but we did have the ability to restore any time piece.  She was disappointed to find that she had not found her Central watch but thrilled to take me up on my offer to repair it.


    A week later I received her Central watch.  It was in horrendous shape. The movement had rusted, the band snapped, the dial discolored and loose in the case, hands bent.  I had doubts it could be saved.  I gave it to my husband, Steven, who looked it over, shook his head and said, “This couldn’t be in any worse shape if someone had buried it in their backyard for 10 years.  It’s worthless even if I could fix it.  Tell her to forget it.”  Steven is meticulously honest and always upfront with customers when they ask whether or not a watch is worth it to repair relative to the value of the piece.  Time and time again, I have seen him explain how the money would be better invested in a new watch.  Time and time again, I have seen customers push the watch back across the counter with the words “Fix it anyway.”  Sentiment is priceless and there is something about the ticking, beating heart of a watch that brings memories back to life.  


    I reluctantly called the owner of this Central watch and explained what Steven had determined.  She was quiet on the other end. After a long pause she told me her story.


    My husband and I were married for over 50 years.  When we were young and had been dating for just a little while he gave me this watch.  He was so bashful and nervous he couldn’t even look at me when he handed it to me.  Neither of us had any money at all so I knew he couldn’t afford a nice gift like that.  It was just beautiful when he gave it to me, the prettiest thing I’d ever had.  It was such an overwhelming moment, the most love I had ever felt in my life.  It was the beginning of everything, our life together, our family.  One of my best memories.  My husband passed last year after being sick for a long time. My daughter never left his side.  She just took care of everything for both of us.  I have been trying to think of a way to express my gratitude to her and just can’t come up with the right gift.  Then I had this dream, I think it was my husband coming to me, you know.  I dreamed about the moment he gave me that watch and I knew that was what I had to give her.  I have to give her that moment, so I need to give her that watch.  I believe there’s a reason your name is written on that watch.  I was supposed to find you.  I know it’s in rough shape, but if you could find a way to help me, I’d be so very grateful.


    I hung up the phone, handed the watch back to Steven who knew immediately what he had to do. Fix it anyway. Over the next few weeks, the case was refinished, the band replaced, the dial refinished, the hands replaced, the movement dismantled, cleaned and painstakingly repaired — all with the utmost respect for the watch and the story behind it.  The result was breathtaking. From what was essentially a tattered box of old rusted watch parts, a delicate treasure emerged. I waited for what seemed like forever for the watch to be delivered to the customer.  She called me and with a shaking voice, thanked me over and over again.  She could not believe how perfectly it had been restored.  It was as if we had turned back the hands of time and returned her to that moment with her husband.  It was exactly what she needed to give her daughter.


    We all have jobs, things we do to make a living.  If we are very lucky, somewhere in the course of that work, we get the chance to help someone, to fill a void, to touch a stranger’s life in a lasting way.  I never heard from her again, but I’ll never forget her or her story.  I like to think that when her daughter wears that watch, it brings her closer to her parents, the great love they shared, and helps her tell their story over and over again.