11 January 2023

Clockmaker Dom Tancredi is surrounded by time but has none to spare

| Chris Roe
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Man and clocks

Dom Tancredi has plenty of clocks but little time. Photo: Chris Roe.

If you stroll through South Town Walk at the southern end of Baylis Street, you can’t help but notice the window filled with beautiful ticking timepieces at Dom’s Watch and Clock Repair Service.

Dom Tancredi describes himself as a man “surrounded by time, but with none to spare”, and sure enough, as he tells his story, a steady stream of customers stop in with cracked watches, flat batteries and antique mantle clocks.

“I’m usually about a year and a half behind in clockwork and most clockmakers or watchmakers would be in a similar state,” he explains with a weary laugh.

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Born and bred in Wagga, Dom began learning his trade as a ‘horologist’ more than 40 years ago.

“I started my apprenticeship back in 1980 with a local family watchmaker who specialised in both jewellery and watchmaking and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he says.

“Most clocks you buy now are all plastic parts, made in China or with Japanese movements, so they’re replaceable but not serviceable.

“It’s all the antique stuff that’s my main interest. Anything old is good.”


Dom says not to throw out antiques that can be fixed. Photo: Supplied.

Dom says it’s still a joy to work on finely made timepieces, some dating back centuries.

“The older stuff going back to the 1700s is really nice to work on and then I’ve had some really high-quality Swiss ones that I enjoy working on,” he says.

“You don’t see them very often, but that sort of stuff really comes apart well and almost falls back together.”

As with many traditional trades, horologists are becoming increasingly rare, but it’s not for want of clocks to fix.

“There’s no limit to the amount of work that’s out there, but it’s more that there are so few people left to do it,” he says.

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Dom says taking on an apprentice is expensive and there are few with the required patience for the job.

“I’ve had staff in the past, but the cost of having even one staff member for a small business like this is pretty hard,” he says.

“I’ve had a lot of kids coming and asking me, but I’m not interested in someone that just wants to do it for a few years and then go do something else.

“It’s really hard to find that person who is going to be here for a long time.”


Quality clockwork takes time. Photo: Supplied.

In the meantime, Dom is chipping away at the dozens of clocks and watches that fill the shelves in his shop.

“If I look around at all the work I’ve got to do I’d probably curl up in a ball, so I try to just remain as calm as I can and do what I can to work my way through it,” he says with a wry grin.

His final message is to gently remind the digital generation to appreciate the craftsmanship and history in the clockwork of the past.

“If you’ve got an old clock, think about getting it repaired rather than tossing it out, particularly if there’s some family connection there,” he says.

“Some of those old clocks have been sitting on mantelpieces for 150 years and that’s pretty cool.

“If they could talk, it’d certainly be interesting!”

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