His passion for clocks keeps on ticking


Graham Smilie poses with some of his clocks at the Chimes of Tyme, his shop in Valleycliffe. He has been collecting clocks since 1975. Photo: Bronwyn Scott.

By Bronwyn Scott
Published: July 1, 2013

“If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re forgotten.”

That’s the motto for Graham Smillie, a clock collector with a shop in Valleycliffe called Chimes of Tyme.

Of course, there are clocks everywhere here, and with some of them going back to the eighteenth-century, it’s no wonder they require a little bit of TLC.

“This spring here,” Smillie says, holding the clock up into the light, “is probably 170 years old.”

clock-2-web“Some man handmade that spring. That gives me goose bumps when I think about that.”

It all started in 1975, when he was working at a forest product company. He had four shifts per week, and a generous three-day weekend.

One day, wiling away his free afternoon, an idea occurred to him: Open up an antique clock store.

His mother ran an antique store on Vancouver Island, The Wee Curio Shop, and his father, a wartime mechanic, always had an affinity for clocks.

“Our house was full of antiques growing up and stuff was always changing,” he remembers.

As he tells the story, about seventy clocks line the walls and fill table space.

While he’s drastically reduced his collection, he still has about forty additional clocks at his house.

That home collection is made up of much smaller carriage clocks, including a spring-driven clock that was designed for travelling in the nineteenth-century.

The historical aspects of his clocks, where they came from or their inner mechanical workings are some of the qualities of clocks that drive his interest.

In the beginning, however, his love of clocks was driven by money.

“I just about sold out all the clocks on the first day I was open,” he said.

“You know, at that point it was dollar-generated.”

But his love of clocks evolved from there.

While he speaks freely of his passion for the ticking timepieces, he acknowledges “it’s kind of an oddball thing, when you think about it.”

clock-3-webBut he’s not the only oddball out there.

Smillie is one of about eighty-thousand members that belong to NAWCC, the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors.

The mainstay of Smillie’s collection is a clock that dates to about 1640. Its history enthralls him.

“It’s been through the plague, the great fire of London, and it survived all that history,” he said.

“Imagine if that could talk.”

Although Smillie decided to retire in 2000, he’s still collecting clocks.

“I thought I’d had my fill of it. But, I’m back doing it again. I don’t know what else to say .”

Chimes of Tyme


  1. Lou says:

    I have several small mantle clocks my Dad had when
    he died in 1981. He also was a clock man and repaired clocks for all the
    nrighbours without charge just to see them work and do the work
    We are moving from New Westminster soon and do not know what to do
    with these clocks or just what significance they may have if any.
    Three of them are chimes and the others are old clocks.
    Any suggestions?
    We live now in New West at KdeK Court

    • Bob McC says:

      Lou, I expect you may have heard from Graham but just an FYI, I am a neighbor our yours just across the tracks in the Plaza 88 towers. I also collect and repair clocks and watches although not to the degree Graham does.
      If you would like any of your clocks looked at with a view to repair, I would really enjoy the opportunity. Like your Dad, no charge – I do it because I love it.