Home' Greymouth Star : June 17th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 5
PICTURE: Ben Aulakh
Long-ser ving Greymouth watchmaker Bruce Woodley with a recent project, a classic French clock he bought in a town near Paris.
Time is a precious commodity to all of us, and one long-time Greymouth watchmaker Bruce Woodley has played
his part in making sure everyone keeps on time. BEN AULAKH caught up with former owner of Bruce Woodley
Jewellers, to see how he has managed to make every minute count.
Woodley has made a
living out of helping
people stay up to
the minute, running
Jewellers in Greymouth from 1969 up until
he sold the landmark business, on the corner
of Mackay and Tainui streets, in 1992.
He has spent most of his life on the West
Coast, although he originally hails from
Napier, where he attended Taradale Primary
School and then Napier Boys’ High School.
A chance meeting one Sunday led to a
career in watchmaking.
“ We’d just got home from the Methodist
Church in Napier. A chap went through
our property to his place at the back of our
house. On the way through he said, ‘I ’ve
been looking for an apprentice at the end
of the year, are you interested?’ I scratched
my head, and that ’s how I started. I thought
‘ Yes, that sounds interesting’.”
That man was Garfield Holmes, who
took on Mr Woodley as an apprentice just
as he started a new jewellery business in
Napier. He spent 12 months there until his
employer went broke.
At this time his work prospects then
turned towards the West Coast when his
father, who was a draughtsman with the
Department of Lands and Sur vey, was
transferred to Hokitika. Mr Woodley said
he tried to get himself a job in Auckland,
where he had relatives, but with no joy on
that front he duly moved to the West Coast
with his family.
He picked up work in Greymouth with
Tennents Goldbuyers, when the business
was on Mawhera Quay, and stayed for
16 years. While there he finished his
However, after an incident at work one
day, he decided to pack in his job and head
out on his own. He borrowed $500 from his
father and with a bit of encouragement from
a couple of people, set up Bruce Woodley
Jewellers. He started out by working in
a shop window, before moving into the
Mackay Street premises now occupied
by Planet Funk. Then one day he was
approached by Barney Sutherland, who said
he was vacating his shop on the corner of
Tainui and Mackay streets, and so began a
long association with that site.
It was not all plain sailing in his new
home. He was working in the store during
the 1988 floods, with the water rising up to
the bottom of the counters. Mr Woodley
took refuge on the second floor of the
building, before being rescued through
the back door of the shop by an inflatable
As a result of the flood the store was
completely refurbished, including new
concrete floors. Mr Woodley went on to run
the business for four more years after the
floods, before selling to Robin Ross in 1992.
Even after more than two decades out
of the business, Mr Woodley says he still
cannot quite figure out how he ended up
as a watchmaker, but it was something that
gave him great satisfaction as a career.
“I just enjoyed providing a ser vice for
people. I didn’t do it for money, I did it
because I had a trade that I really enjoyed,
and I’m damned if I know how, but I took to
it like a duck to water and really enjoyed it.”
He and his wife Merle then set about
spending their time doing a spot of
globetrotting, heading to the United
Kingdom for a year, based in Kent in the
south-east of the country, then travelling all
around it. They spent another year travelling
around Europe in a camper van.
Despite being thousands of miles away
from his watchmaking past, Mr Woodley
got another chance to indulge his passion,
buying an antique French clock.
In a market in a small French town just
outside Paris, he came across the classic
French clock, set in marble, which he
bought for £100, though only after dashing
back to Paris Airport to get some money,
before heading back to the market and
securing his purchase.
After a bit of restoration it was probably
now worth between $2000 and $3000, he
Buying antique European timepieces is
not the only way the watchmaker stayed
involved with looking after machines,
despite his retirement.
Back in Greymouth a friend of Mrs
Woodley got him involved in the Bernina
Sewing Centre. After completing a course
on repairing the machines, he naturally
took to looking after them, as he said they
were not very different to a grandfather
clock. He was involved with that for seven
years, during which time he looked after
the sewing machines at high schools
in Westport, Reefton, Greymouth and
Despite having spent most of his life
involved in fixing or ser vicing mechanisms
of one kind or another, Mr Woodley was
certainly not cooped up in workshops. He
has always been a keen tennis player and a
golfer since taking up the sport 20 years ago.
He was also on the Greymouth Golf Club
Mr Woodley also loves collecting firewood
from the forest, enjoying a bumper crop in
the wake of Cyclone Ita.
The simple process of gathering,
stacking and drying the wood was another
satisfaction, he said.
Just take a look at the pile of wood at
the back of his house, with four large trees
stacked up and enough firewood to warm
about 20 homes.
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