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My Idaho: Lost art of the watch repairman

Posted at 7:44 PM, Apr 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-03 21:44:28-04

Learning a trade or craft and excelling at it could bring a lifetime of satisfaction and rewards. But what happens when less and less people stop using the trade you were trained in?

Meet Ira Goldstein who's been working on watches at his small but modest shop in Eagle off of Old State Street.

"I always loved watches as a kid and then I met this watch maker about 29 years ago," Goldstein said.

Big watches, small watches, watches you still have to wind, and watchs than can still fit in a pocket. But what concerns Ira is the future of his trade.

"I think trades in general, aren't mentioned enough in high school," Goldstein said. "I think it's always pushed on the kids that they have to go to college that computers are the thing you do and there's a lot more ways to make a good living doing that."

The state's largest school district does have what's known as the Career Technical Education Center at Meridian High School that offers students different trade options. But fixing watches normally doesn't come up on any list.

"There's just a shortage it's not like a mechanic or a dry cleaner on every corner," he said. "How many? Three of four for the whole Treasure Valley and that's close to a half million people."

And those same kind of numbers are reflected nationally. Ira sees a glimmer of hope that the next generation of watch repairman are out there somewhere.

"I have a lot of young people who come into the shop that are actually getting into mechanical watches and they're starting to buy them," he said.

Besides having the patience to work meticulously on a watch.

"You have to have mechanical skills and be able to figure things out it's like a little tiny car engine almost."

No doubt the iPhones have had a drastic effect on the sales of watches, but Goldstein thinks there's something bigger going on.

"One big issue with that I think is really sad in the schools today a lot of schools are taking the analog clocks out of the classroom and replacing them with digital clocks," he said. "In the future these kids won't even have any idea what an analog clock is or how to use it and why is that a bad thing? I mean it's not something you need to get along, it's just one of those things it's good to know it's part of the history for sure."