The scene sounds like one from Karate Kid — a teenage boy takes an apprenticeship at a watch and clock repair shop in Hong Kong, but goes years without actually touching a watch.
For the first three years of his apprenticeship, 15-year-old Denny Lee cooked for staff who worked in the repair shop, cleaned the shelves and washed staff clothes.
The things he learned came from sneaking a glimpse at people fixing watches.
“You can’t stand to watch for too long or else they’ll kick you out,” laughed Lee, who had to help support his mother, father, brother and two sisters. “At first, I had no choice. I didn’t know anything about it. Later on, I found out it was quite an interesting job.”
From there, Lee knew he wanted to fix watches, clocks and jewelry.
After immigrating to Canada in 1987 and a short three-stint at a clock repair store in Calgary, he eventually moved to Victoria and opened Lee’s Jewellery, Watch and Clock Repairs in Fairfield.
Lee operates out of his storefront on Fairfield Road, maintaining and servicing new and antique timepieces.
His reputation has earned him the responsibility of maintaining the iconic 100-year-old clock located at the Young Building at Camosun College, as well as the electric clock at Langford City Hall.
“Working here, I’m happy and all the customers are happy,” Lee said, adding there are not many clock repair shops around anymore. “I enjoy seeing people’s happy face’s when they come pick it up. That’s very important to me.”
But after more than 30 years of serving the community, the 65-year-old is ready to retire and is looking for someone to take over the beloved business.
With two grown children already in well-established professional careers — one as a teacher and the other an engineer, Lee hopes to find an heir to continue his love for the job. If he can’t find someone to purchase the $200,000-business, Lee will semi-retire.
“I wish someone will take over. I am willing to spend three to four months training them one-on-one, face-to-face on how to actually do jewelry, watch and clock repair,” Lee said. “There still needs to be people to service Victoria. It’s not an easy job. You have to take a good attention to look at everything. Everything is very delicate.”