At Silver Spring shop, time goes by -- Gazette.Net


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Take a moment upon entering The Watch Pocket Jewelers in Silver Spring.

Look at Seth Thomas from 1857, the Jefferson Golden House from 1960 and the Barrow Triple Decker from 1870. They’re clocks with a story to tell — pieces that shop owner and goldsmith Matthew Stohlman, 47, said were uniquely crafted.

“I started working here in 1994,” Stohlman said. “I’ve been here all my life.”

The Watch Pocket Jewelers at Four Corners in the Woodmoor Shopping Center in Silver Spring specializes in restoring and repairing modern and antique clocks.

The shop was opened in 1970 by John Stohlman, Matthew’s father, who taught him the watchmaking trade. John died in 2010 at age 78.

The place is also known for its custom made one-of-a-kind jewelry.

Matthew’s nephew, Eugene Stohlman, 25, decided to take up the family business.

“Which thrilled me,” Matthew said.

Matthew said his nephew decided he wanted to learn the trade, which is “drastically” different from what Matthew learned from his father. Today, there are better techniques and more qualified equipment.

“Not so much that the industry isn’t strong,” Matthew said, “but there’s so much other competition. If you want a particular part for a vintage watch, we used to go to the supply house and they would order [it]. Now, you go on the Internet and you can order directly from the manufacturer across oceans.”

Matthew said equipment such as the time machine, used to regulate time, were not around when he was learning the trade.

According to Eugene, the timing machine reads the vibrations coming from the watch, allowing it to tell you if the balance is too loose, the hairspring is hitting something or bent, or if the amplitude of the watch is correct.

“There are lots of other things that it does in helping to time out a watch,” Eugene wrote in an email. “But, the main thing is converting the vibrations into visual lines and amplifying the sound of the watch to help diagnose the problem if there is one.”

Previously, a watchmaker would fix a watch or clock, set it aside, and watch it for a week or two to see if the timing was correct.

“I thought the best thing for him to do is to go to school and learn the techniques that I learned. but be better than I am,” Matthew said. “Take advantage of the techniques and the equipment that wasn’t around when I was going through.”

The knowledge, he said, is pretty much the same.

Eugene Stohlman attended the School of Horology at the Gem City College in Quincy, Ill. Eugene took the 18-month program and a clockmaking course.

Matthew said his father helped him build a good relationship with his customers.

“People bring in watches and say, ‘My grandmother gave it to me, or my mother,’ but we have to be upfront and say, ‘It is not worth your money or our time, but if it means that much to you sentimentally, we will be more than happy to fix it,’” Matthew said.

Now, Eugene is doing the work, too, building trust with each person who walks through the door. “I want him to be better than I am,” Matthew said.

abarros@gazette.net