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Woman Outshines Male Competitors

Woman Outshines Male Competitors
January 10
19:46 2020

Woman Outshines Male Competitors

By Marion Ali –

“Sometimes the best man for the job is a woman.” — Late British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

A Facebook post a few weeks ago, acknowledging the remarkable work of a watch-repair woman, prompted this feature article. The author said that he had initially taken his watch to a watch repairman and that when he got back his timepiece, it was no longer working and when he decided to open it, he found that a part in it was completely damaged. He decided to take the watch to Victor’s Watch Repair Shop at #65 Freetown Road to see if it could somehow be salvaged. To his surprise, the young woman who received his watch assured him that she could fix it. In record-breaking time, she did and gave him back a functioning watch.

That woman, Honduran Erica Guillen, 29, explained to us that she had to replace a damaged coil in order to get the watch working again. She shared with us that this was not the first time that people have complimented her for her work. Erica jokingly shared a few other occasions when watch-repair men from other shops would take jobs from their customers for her to fix for them. And when eventually those same customers found out about her prowess with fixing watches, they told her that she actually charges half the price her competitors charge. That was when she came to realize, along with those customers, that her rivals in the business had taken those jobs to her and then charged their customers double to cover the cost of her work and for them to make a profit for themselves.

Erica’s occupation merely happened upon her. She migrated to Belize and got employed as a wreath maker at the age of 17, but had to return to Honduras for health reasons three years later. When she came back to Belize upon recovery, she learned through a relative that Victor’s Watch Repair Shop had a job opening for an attendant. The person would receive broken and malfunctioning timepieces, including clocks, and store them safely after the watch repairman and owner of the shop, Victor Canizales was done repairing them, and until the owners returned to reclaim their possessions. Canizales needed the attendant because his mobility was severely restricted.

Erica told the Reporter that she started to pay keen attention to the repairs as Canizales brought digital and automatic watches back to “life.” Her interest in that grew and she decided to sit beside him each day and become an apprentice. That lasted for about a year until one day he tested her abilities and told her to build a clock from the usable parts that came from others that had served their time. When she did, she surprised not only herself, but her mentor, who relied on her from that day onward as his assistant. She started off repairing clocks and as she honed her skill, he started entrusting the more difficult jobs of automatic watch repairs to her.

She said that for eight years while she repaired watches along with Canizales, people who dropped off their timepieces at the shop never knew that she was the one who actually repaired their watches because she worked from a corner of the shop, away from public view.

But that changed nine months ago when the elderly man suddenly died and his children, all of whom have other jobs and know nothing about watch repair, decided they wanted to keep the business going in memory of their father who made watch repairs a 50-year-long profession. They did not only keep Erica on board, but offered her a salary increase to carry on the business for them. She agreed. She shared with us that when people who now go there asking for “the lee ole man” who had in previous years fixed their watches find out that he is no longer around and that she has been doing the same job that he was, they are also pleasantly surprised.

The occupation for her is like a wish come true for her late boss, Erica told us. He had offered youths countless times the opportunity to learn the trade and he paid them while they got their training, but they soon left saying that the trade bored them and demanded too much of their patience. But she took an interest in fixing mechanical parts that others felt was too challenging to sort out or became confused with trying to fit back all the parts in their correct places in watches. Some watches can be fixed in less than an hour, while others with more complicated issues can take up to a month when certain parts need to be replaced or rebuilt, Erica shared. She said she always tries to find or adapt parts that are compatible with the watches she repairs so that the job looks neat.

Looking ahead, Erica plans to teach her six-month-old son the trade from an early age so that he can follow in her and her mentor, Victor Canizales’, footsteps. She said that despite the strange circumstances under which the business now operates – with bosses that know nothing about watch repair – it is going fine. There are more customers coming to her for business since the word got out. But she said that if her new bosses decide one day to close down the shop, she will open her own watch repair business because this is a trade that she really enjoys doing. And while it is a profession that is predominantly male-oriented, she does not understand why that is because all it takes is someone who is willing to learn and who takes pride in the work.

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