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Working at Suffolk's clock face

PUBLISHED: 11:26 14 October 2010 | UPDATED: 17:57 20 February 2013

Working at Suffolk's clock face

Working at Suffolk's clock face

Lizzy Pennock finds out what makes horologist Robert Drake tick

Lizzy Pennock finds out what makes horologist Robert Drake tick

A quiet house in Capel St Mary hides a secret. Horologist Robert Drakes workshop at the bottom of his garden is his haven and also his workplace, where he services and restores all kinds of clocks, watches and barometers. For almost 40 years, Robert has worked with the delicate mechanisms of time machines and its a passion that all started with his father.
Its all my dads fault, says Robert. He was a watchmaker and when Id finished college, he threw me in at the deep end.
As one of the very first full-time students of horology at Hackney Technical College, it was there that Robert learnt the skills needed to become a horologist. After gaining his qualification, it was the family business of John Winter Drake Jewellers that Robert worked in before starting his own business in 1973, dealing with trade shops until the early 90s when he opened Timewise in Ipswich. Timewise specialised in sales and servicing and was moved to Brantham after seven years. In 2002 the business moved once again to its current location, a workshop in his garden in Capel St Mary.

Sometimes on TV programmes theyll have a grandfather clock ticking away and Ill be annoyed because I know its the wrong kind of tick!

Here Robert works in the heart of the community, a feature that he appreciates immensely. It is clear that he is well known and liked in the village as we are occasionally interrupted by a friendly phone call or someone knocking at the door with an enquiry.
The only thing Id like is a bit more space! he says grinning, looking around at the many clocks delicately ticking on the wall. Its not a nine to five job, its very labour intensive and like most hand skills, you dont do it to earn tons of money but the glow on a customer's face when they have something precious restored to them makes it worth it.
For Robert, the more challenging the project, the more satisfaction gained. In his years in the business, the more interesting projects tend to be unusual items such as a 1718 Italian grandfather clock that only struck six hours and would strike one again at seven o'clock.
According to Robert its the challenge that really keeps you going and what he really enjoys is having to figure out the workings of the original clockmakers mind, a skill that involves patience and dedication. Im a great admirer of the great clockmakers, says Robert. You can understand why so many people have such a fascination with time and these machines, the craftsmanship and detail is just amazing.
The increasing trend towards digital clocks does not worry Robert as he believes that horology will never die out, but simply evolve. Its still time, still telling the time, but in a different way, he says, though you cant beat mechanical watches, theyll last longer and will be about for years to come.
What is sure however is that as long as there are watches, clocks and barometers, Robert Drake will be in his garden workshop, peering over a minute cog with precision and dedication, a dedication that often overlaps into his home life.
Sometimes on TV programmes theyll have a grandfather clock ticking away and Ill be annoyed because I know its the wrong kind of tick!

For more information, visit Roberts website at or phone 01473 311872. His workshop can be found at 9 London Road, Capel St Mary, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP9 2JR.


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