Clockmaker tends sands of time

November 3, 2007 The Record by Michael Hammond

John Budimlic is expecting a number of phone calls this weekend as we turn our clocks back for the winter.

That’s because Budimlic does something not many people know how to do these days – he fixes clocks.

Already this week, the third-generation clock repair expert has heard stories of digital clocks adjusting to the time change a week early, which has caused many problems.

This year, most of Canada began extending daylight time by two weeks.

That means making the switch to daylight time a week earlier in March and returning to standard time a week later in early November.

Tomorrow, clocks should be set back an hour at 2 a.m.

Budimlic operates European Watch & Clock Experts with his brother Ivan. The two have a main office in Cambridge and operate stores in Kitchener and Guelph.

Budimlic chuckles when he hears the stories of computer networks and digital clocks having trouble with the new daylight time schedule.

“It boggles my mind that with the technology we have today, we still had better clocks before,” he said.

Some of the ornate grandfather clocks in his shop on King Street in downtown Kitchener are a good example of that. Some of the antiques, built in the late 1800s, still keep incredibly precise time today without the aid of electricity or computer software. They tick away faithfully using gears, cogs, flywheels and wire.

Budimlic’s shop emanates a calm rhythm of ticking timepieces throughout the day. Earlier this week, he was taking apart an antique Swiss clock. He was also adjusting a wristwatch that was off by five seconds a day.

There are a few clock masters still in business, although Budimlic admits it’s something of a lost art since most people simply rely on their cellphone or appliances to tell them the time.

Budimlic began his business in 1981 after training at George Brown College as an apprentice. However, his training began much earlier.

Growing up in the former Yugoslavia, Budimlic watched his grandfather fix clocks before the family business was passed on to his uncles. Budimlic and his brother then restarted the family business in Canada shortly after their family immigrated here when he was 17.

“Far more was passed down from my grandfather and uncles,” he said.

In fact, some of his earliest memories involve sitting at a table watching his uncles doing the painstaking work of taking apart and repairing clocks.

For those who still rely on a grandfather clock to keep time, Budimlic suggests that you not simply turn the hands of the clock back an hour this weekend.

Some clocks are not meant to have their hands turned backward. He suggests setting an antique ahead 11 hours or letting it stop for an hour to compensate for the time change.

If you’re not sure, Budimlic is expecting to hear from you.

“I won’t be surprised if a lot of people call this weekend.”