Watch maker Franz Lorist has been fixing watches in Menlo Park since 1967 — yep, that’s 45 years! He shares space in the alley off Oak Grove Avenue with Michael Day, who restores and fixes clocks. We stopped in recently for a brief visit.
InMenlo: Why are you a watchmaker?
Franz: My father and grandfather were watchmakers, so is my brother, nephews and two uncles.
InMenlo: How did you get to Menlo Park?
Franz: I came here in 1963 from South Africa — I was born in Amsterdam. I had an uncle who was a scientific glass blower at SRI and stayed with him. I walked into a jewelry store in Palo Alto; their watchmaker had just left and I took the job.
After a stint in the armed services, I didn’t want to go back to that shop and ran a shop in Los Altos for someone else. But then I found this space for rent for 80 bucks a month. I borrowed the money from by Dad and was able to pay him back after the first week.
InMenlo: Is there a particular kind or brand of watch that you enjoy working on?
Franz: Ones that are broken and cost a lot of money to fix [laughing]. On high end watches like Patek, Piaget and Rolex, the purchase price is the cheapest thing — the maintenance is expensive.
InMenlo: What watch do you regularly wear?
Franz: I have about 20 watches. It depends on what I’m doing. [Editor’s note: the day we visited he was wearing a Rolex.]
InMenlo: Are you considering retirement?
Franz: No. This is my hobby shop with a cash flow. If I was retired, I’d just go fishing more — I go to Alaska for King Salmon and also fish the Delta.
Photo by Irene Searles