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Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette
Jim Parker works on a customer’s timepiece Friday at Churubusco Watch & Jewelry.

Turning back time may mean springing for expensive repair

Wanting to turn back the hands of time? Think again – you could literally stop the clock.

When it comes to changing clocks in the spring and fall to adjust to daylight saving and standard times, turning the hands of grandfather or mechanical clocks in reverse could result in costly repairs, said Jim Parker, a watchmaker and clockmaker and owner of Churubusco Watch & Jewelry on U.S. 33.

Mishaps happen rarely, and even though clock manuals say it is OK to turn the hands in reverse, Parker cautions against it.

Winding the hands backward could damage or break a small pin inside the clock, he said.

“The pin only costs a few cents, but the clock has to be taken completely apart, and repairs and labor could be $100 or more,” he said.

It’s more likely to happen in the fall, when clocks fall back an hour, than when they spring forward in March, Parker said.

With grandfather or mechanical clocks, it’s better to fast-forward the clock hands in order to fall back one hour, Parker said.

That means if awakening at 8 a.m. and the clock needs to fall back to 7 a.m., you will have to wait patiently through 80 chimes if the clock activates every hour and half-hour.

Talk about a waste of time.

The day after a time change, Parker and his wife, Ceil, who manages the shop, experience a rush of drop-in customers.

“It’s incredible the number of people who stop by and want us to change their watches or clocks,” Parker said.

“Most of them are digital and all have different setting sequences, so sometimes we are as confused as they are,” he said.

In the small town where they have lived and worked for years, the Parkers know most of their customers on a first-name basis and exchange pleasantries while changing the time on watches and clocks at no charge.

As a 40-year clock and watch maker, Parker is on top of time, but even he occasionally messes up during a time change.

Last year, Parker set his watch an hour ahead in anticipation of the time change and went to bed, leaving the watch on a counter. Later, Ceil saw the watch and set it an hour ahead.

When Parker arrived for his dentist appointment later that day, he was told he was much too early.

“I had to go home and kill some time before going back,” he said, laughing.

The large clock tower in Berne is electronic and changes automatically, but Mayor Bill McKean decided to set the clocks in offices and council chambers an hour ahead on Friday, March 7, so they would be correct when employees reported to work the following Monday, a day after the time change.

“I set the clocks ahead an hour while Gwen Maller, the clerk-treasurer, was out to lunch and forgot all about it,” McKean said.

Later, McKean overheard Maller exclaiming that she had so much to do and she couldn’t believe how “the afternoon was just flying by.”

“That’s when I remembered to tell her I had changed the clocks,” he said.

At Hickory Center Elementary School in Northwest Allen County Schools, the man behind the times is head custodian Dave Garman.

Even though some of the school’s clocks are electronic and automatically switch with the time changes, Garman is responsible for manually changing about 60 clocks throughout the school and one tower clock in the foyer.

“In the spring, the tower clock is easy enough, but in the fall, I have to turn it on manually and let it run until I reach the time I want,” Garman said.

Clocks aren’t the only things that need reprogramming after a time change.

Garman also synchronizes the controls of the heating and cooling system, the water softener and a door that has a timer on it.

“I also have to make sure the fire alarm and security alarms have the right time, and the generator time needs to change so that when it exercises, it’s on the same time,” Garman said.

It usually takes a good hour – time after time – to walk the building and reset all the clocks, he said.