Greg Breeden’s new Watch Works shop on the west side doesn’t have much competition from other watch repairmen, and he’s pretty blunt about why.
“It’s because they all died off,” Breeden says. “Seriously, I would almost bet there was 10 or 12 watchmakers in Wichita at one time. Hell, I had a heart attack last July, and I could have died, and then there would have been nobody left.”
That’s not quite true, but close.
Allen Ames, who repaired watches out of Gessler stores for 43 years, is now working from home repairing watches that customers bring into Melanie Rene’ Jewelry.
That’s the store where Breeden used to work. He’s long wanted his own shop, though, and this week he opened one at 601 N. Ridge Road just south of Hobby Lobby in a strip center next to Norm’s Barber and Style Shop.
“It’s a landmark,” Breeden says. “Norm’s has been here forever.”
For now, that’s an important landmark because Watch Works doesn’t have a sign yet, though it soon will.
Since he was in high school and took a jewelry making class, Breeden has been interested in watches.
In 1975, he graduated from Gem City College in Quincy, Ill., a two-year watchmaking school.
At the time, he says the school had 100 benches for students to learn watch, clock and jewelry repairing along with hand engraving.
“Now they’re down to 10 benches in that school,” Breeden says.
“Nobody’s going into that profession.”
Breeden says he’s not sure why.
“I don’t know because there’s definitely a demand for watch repair.”
Breeden says he has a backlog of about three years for some watches.
A lot of those are the kind of watches handed down through generations that perhaps have been sitting in a drawer waiting to be fixed but still mean something to people, Breeden says. That’s why he says repairmen are still needed.
“There’s another generation out there.”
Breeden hired Nathan Beals to be his quartz repairman, and Beals plans to eventually go to school – quite possibly Gem City College – to be trained in mechanical repairs as well.
In addition to offering repairs, Breeden will sell new and antique watches and watch bands.
“Nobody wants to carry watch bands,” he says. “They’re a hassle.”
Breeden sells a number of watch lines, including German lines, one from Miami “and Lego watches, believe it or not.”
He also has his own brand, called Watch Works, which are Swiss-made watches with his logo.
“They’re really high-grade watches.”
Now that he has his own shop, Breeden also has his extensive collection of watch parts all in one place.
“I got tons of old parts,” he says.
When he worked for the jewelry store, Breeden says he had parts at three different sites.
“It was becoming a problem,” he says. “It just became a headache for me.”
That and the economic crash a few years ago helped motivate Breeden to begin thinking of his own store.
“It finally dawned on me that I can’t grow any further without getting out on my own.”
Then, there was his heart attack. On his way to the hospital, Breeden says he began thinking of what a mess he’d left on his bench and that no one would be able to sort it out.
“There was a lot of things that went through my mind during that 20-minute ride, let me tell ya.”
Breeden says he decided he better get organized and get his own shop.
“The heart attack made me think, dude, if you’re going to do this, you better get it done.”
The store will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
It’s been a more than 40-year wait for his own store, Breeden says.
“It’s just life,” he says. “Life kept me from achieving that.”
Now, not unlike the proverbial kid in a candy shop, Breeden is a 63-year-old delighting in his own watch shop.
“It’s something that I’ve dreamed about for a long time.”