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The 65-year-old joined the family-owned legacy jeweller McAuliffe Jewellers as an apprentice watchmaker in 1973. The business was established by his father, Tom McAuliffe, in 1956.
Robert had made the ‘‘tough call’’ to close the store to spend more time with family.
It had been on the cards for a while but that did not make it any easier.
‘‘It is a time of life decision and a step back from the volume of work,’’ he said.
The business had been in its King Edward St premises since 1965, having shifted from another site just up the street.
Mr McAuliffe has dealt with two or three generations of customers which he described as a ‘‘very special’’ part of the business.
‘‘It is very special to deal with people’s mothers and grandmothers who have been coming in.
‘‘Jewellery, in particular, is quite an emotional purchase and it is special to be a part of that,’’ he said.
Mr McAuliffe often saw older watches and jewellery he sold many years ago come back to be repaired.
A lower point of his tenure was when the shop was targeted by robbers twice in seven months, first in November 2016, in an early morning raid, then in June 2017 at night, demanding cash and gold.
Mr McAuliffe escaped and the robber did not take anything but it left him feeling ‘‘very shaken for a while’’.
Mr McAuliffe had seen the industry come full circle. When he first joined as an apprentice there were four watchmakers working in the store. Now it was just him.
‘‘A lot of luxury type watches are going back to mechanical type watches, which require qualified servicing and worldwide, actually, there is a shortage of trained watchmakers.
‘‘In New Zealand there are very few trainees,’’ he said.
Mr McAuliffe likes hearing the sound of clocks tick.
‘‘You wait to hear a clock chime because you want to check it but sometimes you miss it and then you have to wait for the next hour,’’ he said, laughing.
There were the odd bits of jewellery and a few clocks that people had dropped in to get repaired over the years that had not been picked up and Mr McAuliffe was working hard to track down the owners.
Once the business closed at the end of the month, Mr McAuliffe would continue to work part-time fixing clocks and jewellery from his home workshop.