For 25 years, Robert Scott has lived in a house on Florida Road four miles east of town where he also repairs clocks and makes jewelry.
After more than a quarter century, he said it’s time to sell Clock Repair and Restoration.
Scott has been self-employed for more than 30 years, and as one who never cared to have colleagues he likes it that way.
“I’m a gardener and a homebody,” he said. “It seems when you work with people and you tell them too much, they start to use it against you. I like having a business where I set my own hours. I like being able to go work on a clock at 8 p.m.”
Scott was living in a trailer park in Hermosa on his first day of business in the late 1980s. He hung a sign in front of his home advertising his trade and got a job within hours to fix a giant clock used at swim meets.
He wasn’t sure what to charge.
Business has been steady ever since, and expanded regionally over the years to include customers in Telluride, Crested Butte and Lake City. “It’s an unlikely trade,” Scott said. “In Durango, if you get a good thing going, you can draw business. And clock repair has a veil over it; it’s intimidating.”
Though he studied watch repair and gemology at Paris Junior College in Texas, Scott taught himself the inner-workings of clocks.
“I’m a mechanical guy. I could figure things out by trial and error, and I’m pretty good at it,” he said. “It was laziness – I didn’t want to have to rush off to work.”
A Massachusetts native, Scott “heard about” Colorado as a teenager and moved to Boulder in 1968. He picked professions usually based on those that allowed him to work for himself.
McPhee Reservoir brought him to the Western Slope in the early 1980s when he got a construction job building the dam. Throughout the project, Scott lived in Dolores but subsequently moved in 1984 to Durango, where he was an avid member of the local rock club.
Working with agate, jade and other gems he bought or found throughout the West, he learned to cut, polish and cast stones, selling jewelry to supplement his income. Clocks came later because there was demand but little competition.
After a quarter-century of keeping his work at home, Scott’s house is cluttered but bright. Alive with ticking clocks – most for clients, a few his own – the house is filled with colored rocks, all manner of metal machinery related to Scott’s trades, dinosaur bones, a 1950s-era piano, and evidence of his hobbies: gardening and reading. Red geraniums clamber toward the sun, shining through the south-facing window.
A frog clock croaks from the bathroom and a disgruntled Jack Russell Terrier, Gracie, follows Scott from room to room.
A hot greenhouse just outside his front door is busting with cacti and tomato plants, and on the back patio, a white rowboat Scott built in 2003 hangs from the rafters.
Hundreds of clocks have passed through the front door over the years: Japanese cuckoo clocks, Swiss clocks that wind by changing temperature, tall grandfathers from the 1700s and baroque-era Morbiers.
Musing in front of the bookcase in Scott’s living room, a bronze woman sits atop an 1830 French clock – one of the few that he owns.
At least to an outsider, there’s a certain, vaguely Dickensian poetry to the clock trade, but Scott’s pragmatism seems somewhat immune to it. “As I get older, I see time slipping by, but it’s not the clocks that remind me of it,” said Scott, who said he’s “just a kid” at 68. “I do have my aesthetic side. Clocks have their place in history, and they’re around a long time – I enjoy that. If they were cars, they’d already be gone.”
Scott said clocks have taken over his house, and he’s ready to have his space back. When he sells the business, he intends to travel the U.S. and Canada and continue working on jewelry.
He said the new owner, whoever that is, will get a steady career and the freedom to work without a boss – if they can handle the bonging and gonging that resonate through his house. “I guess I’m a bit eccentric. I mean, most people would back a dump truck up to this place and throw everything in,” Scott said.
“I’m comfortable with it. It keeps me interested.”