We live in a fast-paced society. Digital readouts tell us how many seconds we have to cross the street and we count the minutes waiting for the microwave to heat our meal. People are too busy to give us the time of day.
Then there’s Lloyd Posavec, who wants everyone to know what time it is. For 34 years, Posavec has been pursuing his passion for fixing clocks and watches at Time Dimensions, 7217 Roosevelt.
Love for machines ran in Posavec’s family. His grandfather came from Croatia to work as a machinist, while his dad became a mechanical engineer. Growing up in Berwyn, Posavec learned how to repair bikes, cars and lawn mowers. He was taught to respect machines and maintain them.
After graduating from Morton East High School, Posavec went to work as an apprentice for a watch-maker named John Richter. He found that the job fit his “desire for precision.” He explained that watches are very delicate instruments, containing parts that are machined to ten-thousands of an inch. Dexterity and vision are everything in this trade.
Posavec wears custom-fit glasses with two magnifiers attached. He is deliberate and gentle with his hands. “Nothing is forced. Everything is by finesse.” (He also knows how to finesse customers by providing high-level service). During his seventy-hour work week at his shop, he is not distracted by the ticking of grandfather clocks, mantle clocks and cuckoo clocks that surround him. To Posavec’s ears, their chimes sound “like a cash register ringing.”
On a typical day, he’ll work in solitude from 8 a.m. to noon, before opening his door to customers. He has attracted most of them by word-of-mouth and they keep coming back, even after they move to remote suburbs. Where else are they going to find a watch-maker as skilled as Posavec? They certainly won’t find a man who cares so deeply about his craft.
Posavec recalled a woman who needed her mantle clock repaired in time for her Christmas Day party. He had it striking and chiming again but the main spring had a defect and broke, damaging the clock’s fragile mechanism. Posavec worked on it Christmas Eve until 5 a.m. When the woman picked it up, he stayed quiet about the mishap. He was just relieved that the spring had broken in his shop, not in her home.
Providing old-fashioned service in an old school profession has given Posavec solid footing in an industry that has suffered major shifts. Quartz watches, which debuted in 1979, had plastic parts put together by machines. The only way to fix them was to replace the movements. “I’m a repairman,” Posavec insists, “Not a parts changer.”
Cheap Chinese-made watches were even worse. Only 20 percent of them could be repaired. Finally, the idea of wearing a watch seems outdated thanks to the proliferation of cell phones. Posavec, though, foresees wrist watches making a comeback. He has a customer in his 20’s, who couldn’t get over the convenience of glancing at his wrist. “I never take it off,” he told Posavec, “It’s so useful.”
Twenty-somethings may be rediscovering timepieces but they’re not interested in learning how to fix them. Posavec would like to train an apprentice but can’t find anyone who wants to put in the painstaking hours. He needs someone who is “overly-precise and meticulous” to complete time-consuming tasks. He finds that young people are attracted instead to fast-moving fields in technology. They want results in nanoseconds, not hours.
Posavec will put in twenty hours rebuilding a grandfather clock. He has a backlog of repair jobs but can do easy fixes, like replacing a battery, right on the spot. His special projects included restoring a watch from 1805 and rebuilding a clock from the early 1800’s. These were labors of love.
He also loves his location in Forest Park. It’s convenient to downtown Chicago, I-290 and the Blue Line. The village also provides a “small town environment” where people feel free to stop by his shop for a chat. He credited a Forest Park man in his 90’s for giving him advanced warning of the Recession. Posavec took his advice to cut back on costs and survived. Longevity, though, was not achieved by only accepting pricey overhauls, like some watch-makers. Posavec built his business on small $30-40 jobs.
When it came to naming his long-standing business, Posavec, as usual, was a deep thinker. He called it Time Dimensions, because time is the Fourth Dimension and “clocks and watches give it shape.” It’s comforting to know that in our hurry-up world, there are still craftsmen like Posavec, who know how to take their time.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.