The business of keeping timepieces working

Published November 19, 2021, 10:15 AM

by Faith Argosino

• Restoring antique clocks is like stepping back in time to see how a craftsman made the mechanism to measure time

• This is the story of a clock repair shop established 30 years ago by a father, and today is run by that man’s son, and grandson

• It will take about five minutes to assess what’s wrong but at least two weeks to fix an antique clock, says Bello of Belizario Clock Repair Shop in Rizal

• The work is so meticulous that he and his son handle only five to 10 clients a week

Bello Belizario (Photo taken from Belizario Clock Repair Shop Facebook page)

Timepieces – clocks, wristwatches, even sundials –more than measure the passing of time. They carry sentimental memories which increase the value of the piece as time passes by.

The longer a timepiece “lives,” the more delight it will bring to its owners and also to people who have dedicated their occupation to understanding how craftsmen a few hundred years ago made clocks that are still ticking today.

That is the delight that has kept the passion to restore antique clocks in the hearts of father-and-son Bello and Heber Belizario whose shop name simply states their business: Belizario Clock Repair Shop.

Bello’s father, Honorato, started the shop in 1954, and when he passed away at 90 years old in 2016, he left behind a name for good craftsmanship. Bello continues his father’s legacy today, with his 26-year-old son, Heber.

Bello, 60, a licensed civil engineer who graduated from the Far Eastern University, has been working with timepieces for almost 30 years now. He started repairing antique clocks after his father passed the business to him in 1994.

The work is so meticulous that Bello said they handle only five to 10 clients a week.

“When I was in college, I would assist my father in the business. Before we only fixed watches. Once in a while, when a repair job for a clock came, I would repair them. When my father retired from the scene, I focused on clocks since it sparked my interest as an engineering graduate,” he said.

For almost three decades, you can say that Bello has been around many homes and antique timepieces.  One very notable home he’s been to is Malacañan Palace where he fixed two grandfather clocks during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

He’s also serviced the watches and timepieces of many celebrities and politicians, noting that there are more politicians who had booked his services.

With the length of time he has been in that business, Bello also has been privileged to work with the oldest clocks in the country, one of them at the University of Santo Tomas.

“The oldest would be those clocks I made are from UST. I wonder if Jose Rizal even encountered it ang lakas ng kalembang niya every hour (I wonder if Jose Rizal even encountered it. The clock’s loud bell sounds every hour),” he said.

Today, the shop focuses on clock restoration and repair and the sale of timepieces, mainly clocks, he said.

“Our services are focused on clock restoration and repair. We also collect and sell timepieces, but they’re also clocks and not wristwatches. It’s because clocks, especially the grandfather clocks, add richness to a room. Ika nga it’s classy. Saan ka makakahanap ng de-hila o de-susi na bagay nowadays? (It’s classy. Where can you find clocks that have keys or pull system to run them these days?),” he said.

The man who had devoted his life to master timepieces said that assessing a clock and its problems will take only about two to five minutes.

“Depending on the condition of the clock, the usual process would be first, the dismantling. Clock parts have to be examined per piece to repair those in need of it. We then have to clean and lubricate them so that their movement would be smooth. After the repairs and cleaning, we’ll assemble them again and observe their movement for days,” he said.

According to Belizario, fixing 18th-century clocks and bringing them back to life gives him delight, like stepping back in time. It is like taking a peek at yesterday and appreciating the ingenuity of the clockmaker, he said.

The most difficult and longest clocks to fix, he said are those from the 18th to early 20th century, and the atmos clocks (Jaeger Le-Coultre). While the easiest and shortest to fix are the younger and battery-powered clocks.

Atmos is the brand name of a mechanical clock made in Switzerland by Jaeger-LeCoultre that does not require manual winding. It derives the energy it needs to run from variations in the environment’s temperature and atmospheric pressure, and it can run for years without human involvement.

He observed that clocks should be maintained every two to three years. That’s why he keeps in touch with their clients to ask about the condition of their clocks. It’s not only to keep business going, it’s more to check on a treasured piece which they have restored to function as it was made to hundreds of years ago.

These days, it’s easy to have a watch, or digital clock fixed. You can bring them to a watch store where there’s a man behind a glass-lined booth at the far corner who will open the watch, check it, and then advise on what needs to be done or replaced (likely the battery).

For clocks that are heavy and fragile, one has to find a clock repairman to do home service. Belizario Clock Repair is popular in that segment of the business. They do home service and give a free assessment on the condition of the clock for clients in Metro Manila.

 
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