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A Clock Lover Never Has Enough Time

February 16, 2003|MARA SCHWARTZ

"Many people like to smoke, and other people like to drink," says Ricardo Brill. "I like clocks." Since 1960, Ricardo and his wife, Elsie, have been fixing ailing clocks, watches and other timepieces at their Hollywood Boulevard location, Elsie's Watch and Jewelry Repair. The great-grandparents, who have been married for 57 years, still serve many of the same customers from when the store first opened.

Ricardo began working with clocks as a 12-year-old apprentice in Argentina. Since then, he has amassed 2,500 timepieces, several hundred of which create a soundscape of ticktocking, chiming and cuckooing from the walls of the store. "His life is the clocks," says Elsie of her obsessed husband. "He can stay day and night. I could bring a bed, and he'd stay here."

"People ask me, 'What will she do when you die?' " says Ricardo. "She'll put my tools in a box, and I'll work over in the cemetery." Below, a few of Ricardo's favorites.

1. Brass and wood German elephant clock with swinging balance. Ricardo's favorite, which he brought from Argentina. He paid about $2 for it as a teenager.

2. Brass German clock with lion and cupid, about 70 years old. Ricardo purchased it, broken, in a New York thrift store and fixed it. "The best clocks," he says, "are from Germany, England, France. And in Connecticut, many years ago, they made beautiful clocks. But today everything is plastic. They don't do work like that."

3. Argentinian trick magnet clock. With moving BBs that indicate time.

4. German ballerina clock. Ricardo gave this to Elsie when he first met her. The ballerina dances to "The Blue Danube Waltz."

5. 1761 French hanging iron clock with oversized pendulum. Ricardo purchased it from a seller in Riverside for $150.

6. American round wood hanging clock with iron weights. Circa 1810. Abandoned by a client. "Some people don't care," says Elsie. "Sometimes the part cannot be found, or it has to be made and it's expensive to make it, so they leave the clock."

7. Wooden Art Deco clock from Germany, circa 1910. "Today there is no price for what is antique," says Ricardo. "If you buy it for $1,000, and you like it, you're happy."

8. 1960s German cuckoo clock with dancing couples.

9. Blue cardboard clock made in 1914 with thermometer, manual calendar and pencil holder. "There were no computers many years ago," says Ricardo. "They'd put this on their desk, and every day they'd come in in the morning and change the day and date."

10. American-made brass clock with figure of woman with cornucopia, manufactured by Ansonia Clock Co. Dated June 14, 1881.

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