It was not rare that a request for repair would come into the shop every now and then. He enjoyed the skill a repair usually required. Sometimes metalworking, sometimes woodworking and sometimes repairs to the inner clockworks themselves was often required. The broad cross-section of skills that he brought to his craft satisfied his need for a varied experience.
And it was because of this new challenge that the young woman had brought him that the watch maker was almost subtly eager to finish his breakfast of egg, beans and bread; the sooner he finished, the sooner he might dig into his latest task.
It was as he sat at the modest rough-hewn wood dinner table in his tiny cottage that he glanced down at the pocket watch the young woman had given him. It was sitting there with the clamshell cover closed, its dull brass shining mildly in the morning rays eking their way through the aged, dirty window.
Taking a bite of his fried egg, he stared absently at the bauble, his mind wandering; focused on nothing in particular. His eyes lolled over its surface and in that moment the spark of a notion glowed to life in the back of his mind. A notion of familiarity. As this notion slowly grew in the barely-acknowledged recesses of his mind, he batted it away. Of course the pocket watch was familiar; pocket watches, almost by definition, take the same form. Hand-sized, curved, smooth, circular…The thought that the watch was ‘familiar’ was to be expected;he is a watchmaker! This was merely evidence of his training and experience speaking to him.
The young man put down his pewter fork and picked up the watch to hold it in his left hand. He turned it over and felt the smooth metal in his hand. Yes, familiarity borne of expertise in an rather esoteric and unique skill.
The young man turned the watch over in his hand again so that the top cover faced him. The etching and golden/orange filigree were still present from the previous evening. He followed the lines as they looped and curved. Inspecting the watch, he noticed that some of the etched lines also went to the edge of the watch’s top cover. Turning it over again he spied that those lines going to the edge did not continue to the back cover. Curious. A mark of poor planning perhaps? Was this cover original to the watch or perhaps from other work?
Turning the watch over again to look at the top cover, the notion returned. Had he seen these loops and curves before? Why did they seem so…expected, so familiar?
Entering his shop after the short walk from his home, he made his way directly to his work bench. The notion that this pocket watch was familiar somehow refused to leave his mind and he intended to determine once and for all why. He didn’t make this decision consciously, of course. Rather, it was an unacknowledged splinter in his mind that he could not remove.
So with this, he dove into his work to discover for the young woman the cause for the watch’s stubborn inaction.
Sitting at his bench, the young man arrayed the finely wrought tools he would need for the work to one side, lined up precisely; there was a certain ritual to preparing for his work and he reveled, relied, upon that ritual to set his mind and focus his thoughts. Quiet…Calm…Focus…
During his apprenticeship his Master emphasized the need for precision, exactness, neatnessin his work. His tools were laid out on his bench with the exacting presence of mind as a surgeon laying out his own tools of the trade. Paradoxically, this exactness and precision unfortunately did not extend to the remainder of his dusty, cluttered workshop.
After he slowly and precisely removed the pin from the top cover’s hinge and placing the top cover to the side, he gingerly set the pocket watch in a specially-constructed jig that was attached to the bench.
Setting his eyes upon the watch itself as it sat in the jig helpless yet resolute in its secrets, he set work upon the tight ring holding the crystal face to the base. It did not open easily; a sign of the same precision and craftmanship that the young watchmaker had cultivated in himself. But after some work, the ring finally yielded to his efforts and he carefully removed it and the crystal face to expose the watch’s innards. Placing the etched cover and cracked crystal watch face on the work bench, the young watch maker looked over the exposed gears and springs.
And it was now that the true beauty of the small machine revealed itself. The workmanship was exquisite and as delicate but as strong as a red spider’s thread. The gears and springs interlocked and influenced each other in dizzying, undecipherable ways. Where was the motive piece that drove all the other gears? He couldn’t find it!
Picking up a small, handheld magnifying glass the young watchmaker peered into the mechanism. He audibly let out a gasp as he began to grasp the intricacies of the machine on his bench. This was no ordinary pocket watch. The compact complexity was breathtaking, and he hadn’t yet removed one gear.
“How will I discover why this watch does not function when I cannot even find its motive force beyond the crown?” He attempted to trace the motion from the crown to the wheels and the mainspring but was able to hunt the trail of the motion through only a few gears before it was lost to the watch’s complex beauty. It almost appeared overly complex.
“This will take a might more effort than a mere spot of graphite to unstick old gears,” the young watch maker said to no one in particular. “Do I have the skill to disassemble such a work to find its fault?” He was doubtful.
The light from the aging day matured and slowly illuminated the shop as time passed. Throughout the day customers wandered into his shop; Some to buy, some to browse. Some to chat, some to complain. Through all of their visits, the young watch maker rarely left his bench. He dared not leave such a work (even in pieces) alone. This watch was special.
As the day progressed the shadows became imperceptibly longer on his floor. But soon, he could ignore the darkness and late hour no more. His eyes and his mind ached from the exertion of the scrutiny forced upon the mute mechanism. It was time to call it a night and return home.
The young man leaned back on his stool and arched his sore back in a stretch. It had been the longest day that he had ever spent that went by so quickly, so focused was he on his investigation.
Recovering from his stretch the young man placed his hands on the bench steeling himself to leave the puzzle for tomorrow when he glanced to his right where he had lain the crystal watch face, retaining ring and brass top cover next to each other. Staring blankly at the parts for a moment he noticed that theinside of the retaining ring had the same or similar orange filigree. So small was the etching so as to fit on the side of the retaining ring, it was almost imperceptible, but it was there, nonetheless.
Squinting now at the retaining ring, he picked it up and brought it closer to his face. “That’s interesting and unexpected,” remarked the young man.
Thinking to himself, he wondered why in the world anyone would spend the time to engrave a piece that would never been seen or appreciated? Why go through the monumental effort? This etching could only reveal itself upon the disassembly of the watch itself. The workmanship was fine and well-executed to be sure. But why engrave the interior of a retaining ring?
“The only person who would ever see this etching would be another watch maker,” the young man said to no one in particular.
Was the intended audience for a very select audience only? Other watch makers? What other hidden art did the watch contain?
End of Part Two