Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Workday Wednesday - The Watchmaker

When the itinerant clockmakers and watchmakers came to the parish, he observed them as they went about their work of repairing timepieces. He likely asked questions and examined the tools with which they worked. He fashioned tools of his own and began to refurbish the clocks and watches that others could not fix.

This is how my grandfather J. J. “Jack” Spurlock (1876-1940) learned the basics of the trade in which he would engage for the rest of his life.

Soon after being enumerated as a watchmaker in the 1900 census for Bienville Parish, Louisiana, Jack headed north to sharpen his skills through a training course at the Canadian Horological Institute in Toronto. The institute offered several programs of study. Since he had already acquired the basic skills required for the trade, he likely completed a six-month “finisher’s course.”

By 1905, he was a partner in the firm of Spurlock and McMillan in Nacogdoches County, Texas. After his marriage late that year, he entered into a partnership with his father-in-law and formed the Spurlock Martindale Company in Jacksonville, Cherokee County, Texas.

After several years doing business in Jacksonville, he headed west. In 1913, he worked as a watchmaker in Maricopa County, Arizona. By 1918, he had arrived in California.

Living first in San Diego, he found employment as a watchmaker with J. Jessop & Sons. According to an announcement in the trade publication “The Jeweler’s Circular,” he opened a school in San Diego to train watchmakers in 1919. Sometime during the 1920s, he moved north to Los Angeles where he operated a retail watch store and repair business under his own name until his death in 1940.

He was an active member of the California Horological Association, serving on its Technical Committee and as Vice President. In 1939, he published a book titled Split-Second Chronographs and Timers.

Source: "Finds Pleasure at the Bench,"
Horology: The National Magazine for Advancement in Timekeeping, August 1938, 31.

© 2011 Denise Spurlock


  1. Interesting story. Reading it makes me painfully aware of how little I know of my family's work history.

  2. Thank you, Wendy. My grandfather was estranged from his children so learning about his life and work has been a challenge!