March 17, 2022
KUALA LUMPUR – BACK in 1956, Wong Hean Seng was only 15 years old when he began learning the art of repairing watches and clocks from his uncle.
Young Wong yearned to learn about watches when he saw his uncle perform repairs at home.
He frequently visited his uncle in Gopeng, Perak, some 24km away from his Ipoh home to gain knowledge on watch repairs.
After completing secondary school, Wong worked at several shops in Ipoh repairing watches.
He then set up his own business – named Soon Seng Watch Dealer – at a small space by the staircase of a shoplot in Jalan Masjid some 30 years ago.
Tucked away in a quiet part of the city, his confined work area consists of a wooden table attached to a display case containing a few types of clocks as well as his tools and other equipment.
Now 81 years old, Wong sits on his red plastic chair diligently repairing watches and clocks from customers, who are mostly his regulars. At his little space, there is no air-conditioner or fan, and when the sun shines directly at his corner, he closes half of the shop’s shutter.
He is used to the heat and carries on with the repair works carefully, with much patience.
“I don’t have any signboard. Many people look for the green shutter when they need to find me.
“My way of advertising my small business is displaying some clocks on the shelves of the glass case, and since the shop is located by the roadside, motorists passing by know what I do.
“When the shutter is down, they know that business is closed for the day,” he said while servicing a customer’s old watch.
Wong said his five children – who are all graduates and married – constantly told him to stop work and stay home.
However, the grandfather does not want to be idle and prefers the daily drive from his house in Bandar Baru Putra to the city centre to meet friends for breakfast before opening his business for the day.
“I will work for as long as I can because I feel more comfortable and alert doing so, instead of just sitting at home the whole day.
“My wife is always worried about my well-being and often urges me to stay home but I refuse to do so,” he added.
Wong said he had not passed on his knowledge of repairing watches to his children because they were not interested. They had told him that they could not earn a decent living by repairing watches.
He said his children were working in various fields in Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
“Only my wife and I are at home. I get bored most of the time so I do what makes me happy… repairing watches.
“In these difficult times, I don’t charge money to those I know who are suffering. I understand the hardship,” he said.
Wong said many youngsters found out about his business through word of mouth and seek him out to get their watches repaired.
“Some people like collecting old watches and when there is a need for repair, service or to replace parts, they are more confident if I carry out that task.
“Many are happy with my workmanship as well as the lower fees I charge compared to much bigger shops,” he added.
Wong said that during this Covid-19 pandemic, he always advised his customers to stand further from the shutter and made sure they had a mask on at all times.
“I am not getting any younger and I need to take care of my health. Since my space is really confined, I need to be careful.”
He said it would take him minutes to repair watches with minor issues, but some jobs required up to five hours as he needed to separate all the tiny parts individually.
He opens his shop from 9am to noon, Mondays to Fridays.