Friday, December 24, 2010


This face belongs to Yew Cheong, the friendly watch seller and watch doctor. The wrinkles and the eye bags registered on the face signify the years in time that has passed by him. The face of a man who makes his living selling wrist watches, wall clocks and alarm clocks in a small shop tucked in between a jewellery shop and the many fruit outlets along the main road of Bidor.

Bidor, a little town near Tapah in the district of Batang Padang, Perak is famous for its crunchy guavas and succulent mangoes. Bidor is also the place in those days for cheap petais sold by the Orang Asli.

Yew Cheong has been involved in the watch business for more than 50 years. Starting his trade in the old Hugh Low Street, Ipoh, he then moved on to Bidor in the fifties where he opened his watch shop and stays put till now. Besides selling watches and clocks, he also provides repair and maintenance services. At time he also buys pre-owned and vintage pieces as a community service.

I had the opportunity to get acquainted to this marvelous man years ago when I frequented the town while managing my development projects.

Stopping by at his shop for short chats on watches while surveying for vintage watches owners dumped at his shop was a regular routine then. The first purchase made from him was a wall clock. Followed by a few quality buys including Pagols, Rados, Orient and Seikos secured at decent prices.

Watch owners from as far Teluk Intan and Kampar dropped by his shop to trade-in old watches in exchange for some new fancy pieces.

Some owners hard pressed for cash departed with their watches including some sentimental units.

Yew Cheong never turned away owners no matter how battered the watches might be because he knew the owners were cash desperate. I guessed his long association with the Bidor put him in good stead to really know his community and picked the right people to help.

It has been a while since I last saw him. On the way from a project nearby, I decided to pay him a visit yesterday. The old man looked excited to see me. Nothing much has changed. The old cheap stock of watches and clocks are still there. Some vintage wall clocks sent for repairs some time back are still visible at the back of the shop, an indication that perhaps work are falling back.

Upon my enquiring, Yew Cheong lamented that after half a century maybe it is time to hang up the tools. He said at 70 years plus, the body is aching, the hands are trembling and the failing eyes can take no more.

Yet when talking about old watches, his eyes lit up again while showing me a traded piece of Longines quartz with the fading words "KHIDMAT SETIA 1989" scripted at the case back. He insisted on me taking the watch at the same price he paid to the original owner desperate for cash. I just obliged…

Even at this advanced age, he is still serving his community as the watch doctor, seller and financier with a smile.

He sure knows how to restore watches and put life back to old vintage watches but whom does he turn to during this advanced age of his aching body, trembling hands and failing eyes…

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