The man who sets the record straight

The man who sets the record straight

Quebec is full of clocks that gather dust and ask only to display the passing time. While watchmakers are scarce, Michel Proulx is one of the last to know the secrets of clock mechanisms.

His passion even leads him to the living room of his clients to take care of these objects from another time.

“It’s a beautiful and interesting job, I’m going to do it as long as I have the ability, it will keep me busy until the end of my life”, launches this ex-sales director converted to watchmaking there in 10 years.

If his clientele is old enough, he has noticed a resurgence of interest from previous generations since the pandemic.

“I have more calls from young people since COVID. They used to call me just to find out how much their clocks were worth! He laughs.

And they are often not worth much.

“It often has a sentimental value more than a monetary one. Rather, it should be specific clocks, limited series for example, ”explains the expert.

Mr. Proulx recently worked on one of them. It belonged to the watchmaker of the French kings Louis XV and Louis XVI, a certain Lépine.

“My client had never found anyone to restart it. I did it ! I was quite happy. We couldn’t put a price on this clock, ”says the enthusiast.


The man who sets the record straight

Photo QMI Agency, Joël Lemay

For 10 years, this craftsman has calculated to have repaired some 2000 clocks “which are all at least 100 years old for the most part”.

To learn the trade, he studied at the National School of Watchmaking in Trois-Rivières, the only one of its kind in Canada. But we mainly learn how to repair watches.

“I learned by working,” he says.

He started off quietly, taking a night job at a pharmaceutical company. With word of mouth, his name began to circulate, enough to leave his position and focus on his passion.

Even today, he does not have a website, but a simple presence in the online yellow pages. It also advertises on Google, betting on certain keywords.

And business is going very well.

“I still have 15-20 clocks in the workshop and I have 30-40 clients on my waiting list. Almost no one does what I do anymore. And in addition, I move! “

Mr. Proulx lives in Rigaud, near Montreal. He calculates that in his perimeter of action, that is to say a radius of a hundred kilometers around his home, there must be “at least a million clocks”. “The majority sleep in boxes or collect dust and do not work,” says the expert.

Securing the future of the profession

The man who sets the record straight

Photo QMI Agency, Joël Lemay

To ensure the next generation of the profession, there is Robert Plourde, from the National School of Watchmaking. The professor is entering his 40th year and trains around ten new watchmakers per year.

“It’s a training that lasts two years in everything and everywhere,” he says.

Since the late 1980s, he and his school colleague have been the only ones to offer this type of training in the country.

They train young and old alike who “either reorient themselves or want to do it part time for fun”.

And they come from everywhere: rest of Canada, United States, Peru, France, Switzerland, Madagascar.

In short, succession is assured, and you can get a clock without fear of not being able to have it repaired!

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