New Stanton watchmaker brings history back to life
Tom Theis is huddled over a workbench, delicately repairing a Cartier wristwatch.
One hand holds a screwdriver, the other uses a pair of tweezers to keep the screwdriver turning straight as he twists in screws — so small that if they fell on the ground, they might never be found.
Clocks and boxes of old parts are strewn around and cover nearly every available space inside the Tom Theis Watchmaker shop in New Stanton. Antique cuckoo clocks chime in the background. Grandfather clocks clunk away, their heavy arms swinging to and fro, turning gears to move the hands.
At age 12, Theis started tinkering with clocks. Now, nearly 50 years later, he has built a life around timepieces — some of which date back to the 1700s.
His repairs have included chain-driven pocket watches that were more than 200 years old, cuckoo clocks and perpetual timepieces that use gas that is sensitive to temperature changes to force bellows to expand and contract, which in turn drives a chain which turns gears that drives the clock.
His specialty is high-end automatics. At any given time, you will find him working on multiple Swiss-made timepieces. Handmade watches like Patek Philippe really stand out in his mind.
“It’s the craftsmanship, the finish and the detail of the movement in a Patek,” said Theis, 61. “That’s why they have a waiting line for people to buy their stuff.”
Theis said he has enjoyed his work — and still does.
“It’s just I’m at the point where I have so much work, and I’m only human, I can only do it so fast,” he said.
A lot of watch repairmen may take a piece partially apart and clean it, “but everything I do is stripped down. It’s all done from scratch, and it’s built back up,” Theis said. “That way you cover your bases on any problems down the road. After all, it’s a watch. It has to keep time.”
Dan Speicher is a Tribune-Review photographer. You can contact Dan by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .