Travelling back in time by restoring vintage watches


Modern technology is always improving, each upgrade an attempt to make life faster and more efficient. The march of progress is accompanied by incessant urges to make the most of time, be productive and live in the moment. Which is why many of us feel the need to just stop. Slow down. Relax. Anthony Chemaly has found a way to change the pace of modern life, by working with the hands of time itself.

Chemaly’s interest in watches began with a piece his grandfather gave him. He was in kindergarten and couldn’t read time, but he knew he had something valuable in his hands. As an adult, he couldn’t afford good mechanical watches and started looking into old pocket watches. He found some beautiful timepieces, filled with history and character. The only problem? They no longer worked. Wanting to repair them himself, Chemaly searched for watchmaking courses in Cape Town. When he found none, he turned to a clockmaker in his hometown of Hout Bay who was willing to train him. Soon, Chemaly was restoring pocket watches to working order and recasing them into wearable wristwatches. “The first conversion watch that I did was a 1900s Omega that I found in a local pawn shop,” he says. “It’s still my favourite watch and I’m so sorry I sold it.”

Chemaly works with the most intricate tools and parts to piece together what he considers more than just timekeepers. “The watches we do are all pieces of art that have a story,” he says. It’s a slow and careful process that necessitates exquisite precision and patience, but Chemaly finds immense joy in its discipline. “With all the changes that are happening in technology and the world moving in such a fast pace, I find great relief in being able to do something that just slows things down,” he says. Chemaly knows that no matter what goes on in the world outside, when he steps into the old church that houses his watchmaking tools, time stands still for a magical period – and a piece of history is reborn.