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Fire-hit watch repairers reopen at a tough time

Business devastated by serious blaze 15 months ago faces ‘a struggle like everyone else’ as it welcomes customers back

23 October, 2020 — By Tom Foot

George Cassar, back in business with his son Gary at WTC Watch Repairs

TIME stood still for many during the coronavirus lockdown.

But watch-repairer George Cassar and his wife Pauline have been busy preparing to reopen, 15 months after a fire destroyed their family-run business in Clerkenwell.

The Tribune reported in July last year how 80 firefighters were called to Back Hill as smoke billowed out of the building.

WTC Watch Repairs, which Mr Cassar has run for 41 years, and a neighbouring off-licence were both severely damaged.

“We lost everything – our materials, machinery, tools, spare parts – some we had accumulated for years and years, and the floor,” said Mr Cassar.

“Today [Monday] was our first day and it takes time to get back into a normal routine. Life has changed a lot since the fire. It’s absolutely dead around here now, hardly anybody about.

The fire at WTC Watch Repairs in July last year. Photo: @LondonFire

“We are struggling like everybody else, but we are doing lots of repairs by post.”

Mr Cassar, who was born in Malta, came to the UK in 1963 to start a watch repair company.

He said: “Even when I was a kid, aged 12 years old, I knew what I always wanted to be. I have just loved it and I still do now.

“After all those years, I still get a buzz from it. You feel proud when you finish it. I get such pleasure from doing it.

“I enjoy my work and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Otherwise what’s the point in working?

“You would imagine that having a mobile phone you wouldn’t need to look at the time, but people still love to wear wrist watches.”

The workshop has reopened this week with Mr Cassar back with his son Gary, but without his original partner Graham Embers who had escaped the building on the day of the fire.

“He had been with us for 30 years,” said Mr Cassar. “Now we are one man short.”

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