Wolfram Koehler grew up with a grandfather clock in his father’s office. Towering over him as a young boy, it was a point of fascination. “Watches and clocks always interested me,” he says. “I always hoped to have a clock like that.” He ended up inheriting that grandfather clock. And he literally knows it inside and out.
Koehler is one of the few horologists, or watchmakers, in Southwest Florida. He can repair anything from grandfather clocks to pocket watches, and can even handcraft unique timepieces. Originally from Germany, he’s been working professionally as a watchmaker for about 15 years, operating a storefront in Fort Myers and working closely with his partner, Franziska.
Much of his work deals with older pieces that he can take apart to fix whatever is wrong, but he does do custom watches for special occasions. He once created a set of about two dozen watches for U.S. Sugar that incorporated pieces from an old factory, such as an old railroad tie (which became the numbers on the face). He also once restored a 1700s American-made musical grandfather clock, a rare piece that had to have the entire mechanism restored.
Even with the advent of the iPhone and Apple Watch, there’s still an interest in clocks and watches, Koehler said. Some watches are treated like a piece of fine jewelry; some elaborate grandfather clocks are considered an investment like fine art. The catch: A good horologist is hard to find. He finds that people will come from all over the state with watches and clocks in need of repair or restoration. “Fortunately, we are extremely busy,” he says. “People find us from everywhere. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer people like us around.”