Saturday, May 5, 2007

Grande Complication

For Larry Foord, horology isn't just a passion, it's in the blood.


Larry Foord, is the webmaster of the popular website, Uncle Larry's Watch Shop. He entered the horology business fifteen years ago, but has been collecting and dealing in clocks and watches since his early 30’s. After going into semi-retirement and making his hobby of horology his new career, Larry has been providing watch supplies, parts, tools and books to watchmakers and collectors alike, since 1995.

Operating his business out of Woodstock, Ontario, Larry is also an appraiser on the Canadian Antiques Roadshow, a spin-off the long running BBC Antiques Roadshow. Larry is a self-taught watch repairer, is enjoying a new career providing materials to watch repairers worldwide and appraising timepieces on television, as well as being a member of NAWCC Chapter 33 located in Toronto, Ontario.

My favorite part of this interview was in closing this installment of Grande Complication, Larry has provided a delightful story which goes a long way to proving that watchmaking is quite possibly genetic and runs in the blood.

Curious? Then read on and enjoy.

PR: So, let's start off with the basics; how old are you and where were you born and raised?

LF: Raised on a farm in St. Catharines, ON, but moved here (to Woodstock, ON) in my youth and consider it to be "home", we are 62 years old.

PR: Were you trained in watch repair? What was that like?

LF: Self trained, primarily with the Chicago Watchmaking School home study course, and enjoyed every moment of "learning".

PR: What was your first professional position and with whom?

LF: Have always been self employed, semi-retired at 50 and went into the horological business as a means of keeping food on the table most nights since I really couldn't afford to retire.

PR: How did your childhood education, or experiences effect your interest in horology?

LF: Although I was always into "mechanical things" my horology interest really didn't begin until about 15 years ago.

PR: What did you do professionally before deciding to run your horology business full time?

LF: When I retired about 12 years ago, horology became my retirement/full time occupation.

PR: What made you decide to begin an horology business?

LF: It was a logical step, turning a hobby/interest into a business.

PR: Do you see a difference in the terms watch repairer, and watchmaker; or is there a difference?

LF: Watchmaker is very much a misnomer, in today's terms it is used loosely as someone who fixes watches. Sadly the true "watchmaker" has, for the most part, disappeared from the scene.

PR: What was the first watch you owned? Do you still have it?

LF: My first watch was given to me by grandfather, it was a elongated Bulova...sadly it was lost during the divorce settlement (or she says).

PR: What was the first watch you ever repaired?

LF: I don't remember, but I do remember the mainspring almost got my eye!

PR: How did you become involved with "The Canadian Antiques Roadshow"?

LF: They must have been desperate...they called me, and I decided to go. All things considered, it was truly a lifetime experience...not being an expert, but to have my fifteen minutes of fame on TV and to interact with so many people and see so much cool stuff.


PR: What has been the most exciting timepiece you've appraised on the program?

LF: Honestly there are so many, but I think the one I liked best was the young lady who had a watch of her grandfather's that had mostly letters instead of numbers, she almost fainted when I told her it was a 1/4 Century Club Rolex from Eatons (given to employees for 25 years service)...it was giving out these wonderful surprises that makes the Roadshow fun.

PR: What was the craziest thing that has happened while taping the program?

LF: Probably the most insane was a guy who ended up at my table with a "weather station" and refused to leave when I told him he was at the wrong table...it took the producer and some security people to "encourage" him to move.

PR: Has becoming a TV personality affected your life in any way?

LF: Not really, it is mostly the endless demands for autographs and pictures that eats up my time...seriously, there is no effect, it was just fun to do.

PR: Any opinion on the decline that mechanical watches and Switzerland in particular, saw during the sixties and seventies?

LF: I think we are seeing somewhat of a resurgence in mechancial watches, certainly more people appreciate them now, and the collector market is no doubt growing.

PR: Was it the fault of the Swiss makers, or the cheap, accurate imports that entered the market? Who is to blame for that downturn?

LF: I don't know that it is anyone's fault, time changes, simple as that.

PR: What do you think fostered the upswing in the eighties?

LF: Probably the public, or a portion of it, tired of the "throwaway" quality of quartz watches.

PR: How did the downturn and upswing affect either your business, or your collecting?

LF: Really didn't, because my entrance into the market really began in late 80s/early 90s.

PR: How do you feel about the ever increasingly complicated watches we're seeing these days?

LF: Love it, I just love complications.

PR: Do you feel these will be a boon to new watchmakers, or a hindrance with their highly technical nature?

LF: It probably scares people off, but the true watchmakers will certainly delve into it, and learn.

PR: Where do you see watch collecting heading?

LF: I feel pretty confident it will always be there, there might be some softening of markets but that could as easily be a correction in the market. Sadly, the majority of collectors (likewise the NAWCC, its regional, our local chapter) have white (or no) hair; we need to bring youth into our world.

PR: Will you be going along for the ride, or will you go on to other things?

LF: I'll always be there for the ride, too old to change now!

PR: Are you where you pictured yourself as a young man, work wise?

LF: I really don't know the answer to that, I tend to live for today, without regrets for what didn't happen yesterday, and very accepting of what the future will bring to me.

PR: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

LF: Likely still doing the same as I am now...my focus is almost entirely on tools now (for profit no doubt, but I do enjoy seeing the tools go back into new watchmaker's hands,) and (this is a deep dark secret) I really only work half days.

PR: When not working with watches, how do you spend your time?

LF: I have many interests...I am a ham radio operator, motorcyle enthusiast, ex-antique car restorer (probablay too old to revive that), computer gamer (primarily MMOs), genealogy, a grandfather, and I love to travel...not enough time, never is.

PR: How long have you been a member of NAWCC?

LF: Fifteen years.

PR: What is your favorite watch, either that you've owned, or have seen?

LF: Tough questions, and while I very much like complications, I think vintage (true vintage) Rolex are my favorite.

PR: What is the silliest question a client has ever asked you?

LF: Since I am still in business I can't sort one of the many, and I live in fear he/she might read this.

PR: Are watch repairers a cloistered lot? Are "outsiders" welcomed?

LF: I'm inclinded to say that they are not, but "outsiders" might have trouble "gettting in"...sad isn't it?

PR: What advice do you have for people like me, who wish to make this a new career, or a hobby?

LF: There is no doubt that anyone can make a new career from watchmaking, the demand is certainly there. This applies to clock repair too. I stopped doing repairs about four years ago, and the calls still come in.

PR: What is your best kept secret, or tip for repair work?

LF: My best tip, is work hard and be honest...that formula will guarantee success.

PR: And lastly, bow ties: hand tied, or clip on?

LF: I have enough money so I don't have to wear ties!

And since you didn't ask this question I am forced to volunteer it...since it raises the issue that horology might be genetic. My father, from who I was estranged almost all of my life, went into watchmaking in his early fifties, as did I. His father did not, nor did his grandfather...but his great-great-grandfather (I am almost sure, but can't prove it yet) was James Foord, watchmaker, operating from Sussex, England for most of his life!

Thanks to Larry for sharing his insight and experience with us. Every person has any number of directions they could take in life. Fortunatley for watchmakers and collectors, Larry Foord entered the field of horology and horology is all the better for it.

To contact Larry, or to purchase supplies, parts, tools and books, please visit his website at:

http://www.execulink.com/~lfoord/index/horology.htm

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