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How posh Westcliff clock shop owner is moving with the times
5:00am Saturday 2nd November 2013 in News
WE’VE all been guilty of clock watching at work. But for Paul Williams, there’s a very good reason.
As owner of his own antique clock shop, he’s surrounded by impressive and historical timepieces.
It’s About Time, in London Road, Westcliff, has been going for more than three decades selling antique clocks and repairing heirlooms for its customers.
The business was started by Paul’s parents, Robert and Veronica Alps, 34 years ago.
“It was an interest for them and our house was always full of clocks,” he explains. “You couldn’t move for them.
“They decided to open a shop when this place came up and I have always helped out.”
The shop looks more like a museum to a fabulous array of clocks.
Due to the value of some of the watches, customers have to make appointments to browse, or need to buzz from the street during opening hours. The shop stocks items from the 1680s onwards, and continues to buy second-hand antique additions.
“If you go back 300 years the clock was the latest gadget – the equivalent of an iPhone,”
“They were a status symbol and everyone wanted one.
“Clock makers were very highly regarded, alongside doctors and surgeons.”
That ancient art is now being kept alive through shops like Paul’s.
He has spent years learning how to repair and rejuvenate family heirlooms.
“All clocks can usually be repaired,” he says. “It's just a matter of cost. A clock worth a few thousand pounds is probably worth repairing.”
The older clock, especially the long case variety with their weighted pendulums concealed inside a decorative wooden cabinet, can keep time to within a few seconds accuracy.
Pauls says: “There are people who don’t want to get a battery operated clock from Argos. Often they are considered an investment – better than money in the bank.
“Sometimes a customer will have had a relative pass away and leave them some money and they want to preserve their memory with a special item. A clock is perfect because you can appreciate it and will remember them every time you wind it.”
Paul originally trained as a graphic designer and worked in London until the Eighties recession forced the business to close.
He took the opportunity to travel the world taking in Thailand’s islands, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia before returning to help his mum and dad in the shop.
The internet has changed the industry in recent years, he says.
The shop’s website is thriving, with customers browsing online from Hong Kong, Canada and America.
“When I first mentioned getting a website to my parents they thought it was silly,” Paul says. “Twenty years on and it’s not quite so silly.”
Customers can even take a walk around the shop using Google Streetview.
But what is it like being surrounded by clocks all day?
“Well, every hour and half hour they all start striking and it can get noisy,” Paul smiles.
“But it’s a bit like living next to a railway line. You start to not notice it after a while.”
For more information, go to www.antiqueclock.co.uk
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