Merced County Times Newspaper
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‘Old World craftsman’ back in business on Main Street


I am not trying to give unfair business advantage to one person, or say anything about anyone anywhere who repairs watches.

I call him Mr. Ortega. That would be what I would call him even if I knew his first name.

Ortega’s Watch Repair is located at 741 W. Main Street, in downtown Merced across from McAuley Motors (free plug). Hi, Barry.

The hours are roughly 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, and open until noon on Friday. Dark on Mondays, like many restaurants. The new phone number is 209-349-1930. It is Mr. Ortega’s cell phone, so no midnight calls please to inquire about battery replacements. Yes, Mr. Ortega does that, so you do not need to call.

I met Mr. Ortega almost four years when the death of my dear cousin, Edward, left me with an old Rolex, and an even older Movado. The latter will be 64 years old this May. It has an inscription on the back with the date that cousin Edward graduated from Ole Miss law school and was a gift from his parents.

By the way, these are watches I am talking about. Anyhow, they both looked like they had been dragged behind horses in a Roman chariot race.

They were returned to me looking almost brand new. You will have to trust me because I cannot show photos here, but I have them. Thank you, Mr. Ortega!

Mr. Ortega is a member of a dying breed, and I want him to continue plying his craft in Merced for a long time. He is what I call an “Old World craftsman.” Someone who would do shoddy work only at gunpoint, and probably not even then. He would say, “shoot me!” Unfailingly polite and pleasant, and obviously there to make you happy by doing the best job he can possibly do.

I met a guy like Mr. Ortega many years ago who worked for the passenger rail service in Austria, but I couldn’t understand a word he said. Except, “dummkopf,” which I think means, “please return to your seat, sir.”

Before writing this article, I asked Mr. Ortega if he would give me a future discount. He also said, “dummkopf,” so maybe I off on my translation.

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