Meet the craftsman with lots of time on his hands

Time on his hands. You won’t find many shops like Guaranteed Watch and Clock Repair at the top of Holyrood Road. None at all, in fact. Because everything’s on tick, writes John Gibson.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 13th September 2011, 1:44 pm

Its owner, Brian Laydon, has been tinkering with timepieces for more than 50 years and was first taken on as an apprentice in a Broughton Street repair shop at the start of the 1970s.

He reckons he is on the right side of the tracks from his birthplace in Mayfield.

He was schooled on the south side, at Sciennes and James Clark’s.

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“When I left school my first job was in my dad’s grocers shop,” recalls Brian, 54. “From groceries I went into watch and clock repairs. I served the obligatory apprenticeship with William Grant down Broughton Street.

“I then had 18 months working at home before I first bought a shop of my own. You could say it was something of a hovel, opposite John Knox’s House in the Royal Mile.

“At the time, it was said to be the smallest shop in Edinburgh. To be frank, no water, no gas, no toilet. Raw sewage down below.”

Brian manages a wry smile at his recollection of those privations experienced by a self-sufficient businessman.

“I stuck it out for three years until I found larger premises in neighbouring Blackfriars Street. I flitted from there to where I am now, in nearby Holyrood Road.”

You would think the job would be a strain on his eyes as he studies the intricate mechanisms, but he doesn’t wear glasses and says he’s actually short-sighted. “I’ve got steady hands. I’ve been abstemious all my life except for a whisky at New Year.”

He is essentially his own man, rustling up his breakfast fry-up on the back-shop cooker after picking up his Hornigs’ black pudding and haggis on the way to work.

“It’s a daily route with me. We live in Portobello, and I collect my black pudding and bangers from the butchers in Porty’s High Street.”

Brian takes care not to allow his black pudding to spill from the rolls and gum up the works on his timepieces, many of them chiming on or near the hours. He winds them once a week.

His marriage has produced a son and two daughters. But his children have not followed him into his line of work, with his son working for the police and his daughters in health care – one as a health visitor and the other working at a nursing home.

“Most of my customers, from high society to the hoipoloi, are good at waiting. It can be nearly a year before some of the finicky parts I have to order are delivered.”

Brian Laydon’s life, 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, isn’t easy.

His wife cannot abide the tick of a timepiece around the house.