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Caliber Works Watch Repair offers unique service to South Minneapolis

Posted on 23 January 2018 by calvin

Like a lot of people, Tyson Niemeyer wasn’t happy working in the corporate world. She’d been at American Express for about seven years, she said, when her mother sent her an article from a local newspaper. Her mom knew she was looking for another professional path and the article, about St. Paul Technical School’s Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program, captured her interest.

“I took the aptitude test. They gave us a watch movement and had us take it apart and put it back together. I’d never taken a watch apart before,” she said. “I didn’t know how to hold tweezers. I know I put some parts in upside down.”

“I always like how watches looked but never opened one up before, and school seemed like a good idea at the time. It sounds flippant, but that’s how I ended up there.”

Image right: Tyson Niemeyer loves the stories behind the watches that she repairs. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

The school thought she had the right stuff and she was accepted into the two-year program, one of three women in a class of 10 students. When she graduated, she got a gig repairing watches for HUB Jewelers and as a watch repair freelancer for 20 small jewelry shops. When HUB closed, she started working from her chilly basement but found that the basement wasn’t good enough.

“I couldn’t stand the basement. It was isolating. I had to talk with people. The two dogs and three cats weren’t enough.” she said.

Last year, she started to search seriously for a space to open her own shop, touring empty storefronts, at first near 43rd and Chicago. “Those stores needed too much work to get them ready,” she said. And then, she found a spot around the corner from Todd Park, at 815 E. 56th St. It was just what she’d been looking for, she said. She moved in and last Aug. 1, and Caliber Works Watch Repair opened for business.

“It’s better than the basement,” she said of the sunny store with powder blue walls, shiny hardwood floors, and bookcases displaying decades of bound yearbooks from Horological Times (see Editor’s Note at the end of article).

Most days, Niemeyer sits at her desk fixing broken watches and clocks. Many customers come in seeking a replacement watchband or battery.

But, others bring in ancient clockworks that need healing.

“I really like it when I can take someone’s favorite watch and make it keep time,” she said. “Plus, I don’t like to see people toss away useful things.”

Although Niemeyer majored in studio arts in college, she claims she’s not an artist.

“I’m a mechanic,” she said. ”Some people can design watches, but my mind doesn’t work that way. I like to look what’s visibly wrong with watches. It’s similar to car repair. It’s diagnostic.”

Niemeyer’s current wife and business partner, Karyn Mickelson, runs the non-diagnostic end of Caliber Works, putting together publicity and advertising and keeping track of the financial end of the establishment. Niemeyer calls her the chief personnel, financial and marketing officer, part-time since, said Niemeyer, “She’s got a real job. She’s a teacher.” The couple also shares the care of their three children, 8th-grade twins, and a 6th-grader.

The shop also sells collectible watches, some from the 1970s, but others going as far back as the 1800s. Her private collection numbers about 1,400 watches. “People give them to me. Clients give me bags of watches that they don’t want to repair and I get some at estate sales.

One of her favorites is from 1876, picked up at an estate sale. “It still runs pretty well for a 142-year-old timepiece,” she said. “There is a keyhole in the back, and you have to put a key there an wind it up.” It’s a high-quality Rockford watch, originally popular with railroad workers and now admired by serious collectors.

“I love the stories behind the watches,” Niemeyer said.

One pocket watch, brought to her by an elderly client, belonged to the man’s immigrant grandfather, who might have come from Scotland. The watch is from England, made sometime in the 1700s.

“It’s got a different kind of movement called a fuse. This chain links around these barrels,” she pointed out as she displayed the piece. “That’s the power source. The chain is broken, so I’ll have to make it.” The chain is too small to see clearly without a strong magnifying glass.

“I’ve never worked on one before,” she said. “But, I have high hopes that I’m going to be able to do this.”
Caliber Works Watch Repair is located at 815 E. 56th St., in the heart of the West Nokomis neighborhood. It’s open Tues.-Fri., 10am-6pm and Sat., 10am-2pm. Call 612-822-8282 for more information.

Editor’s Note: Horology is the art and/or science of measuring time. Clocks, watches, clockwork, sundials, hourglasses, clepsydras, timers, time recorders, marine chronometers and atomic clocks are all examples of instruments used to measure time.

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