Dubliners Paul Lawlor and William Lawless have been doing time for over 30 years but they haven"t committed any crime. They are watch and clock menders, the last of a dying breed and one of Dublin"s dying trades. Climbing the narrow stairs to their repair shop at the very top of 21, Wicklow Street can leave you wheezy but it"s worth the trouble just to hear the scores of clocks and watches ticking and chiming.

Paul and William breathe new life back into them using steady hands, a keen eye, and a lifetime of skill, care and knowledge. Where their expertise lies is in repairing the workings of older mechanical timepieces made up of cogs, springs and spindles.
Many of the old parts and movements have been keeping time a lot longer than their owners have been alive.


But with the advent of the electronic quartz watches the demand for the work of the traditional mender has dropped. Nowadays it"s all batteries and circuits. Watches and clocks don"t tick-tock anymore. "There"s nobody doing this sort of work anymore," says William.
"We"re getting watches and clocks from all points of the compass," he explains. "I"m sure if there were others out there doing this work we wouldn"t be getting people sending clocks from so far away." The two tradesmen trained more than 35 years ago and have been at it since. "One thing about fixing timepieces is that it"s actually very time consuming," Paul says as he picks up a tiny cog in a pair of tweezers.


"There"s clocks here that were ticking before we were born," remarks William. "And when they leave here many will keep going until after we"re gone, but I don"t know who"ll fix them the next time they stop." William concentrates on the clocks, which can sometimes be more than 200 years old.

And Paul has the more eye-straining task of working on the miniscule moving parts of the watches, most of which come from jewellers and watch shops after being handed in to be repaired. Some would say there are worse ways of doing time, but for Paul and William they know that whenever they eventually stop working it will be hard to find anyone to carry on their craft. On the bench is a Swiss made pocket watch that is over one hundred years old. Every moving part of the works that has kept time for many generations is laid out under Pauls peering eyes, and he is checking each cog and spring for wear. William is busy at a small lathe. "We have to make some of the parts from scratch because they can"t be bought," he says as he crafts a new shaft ensuring it matches up exactly.


Having worked with the mechanical movements of such tiny and complex devices you would think there is nothing more Paul and William could learn, but the opposite is the case. "There isn"t a day goes by you don"t learn something," says Paul. "And in ten years we"ll still be learning," he adds.