Armenian Clockmaker Keeps Pace With Time

Gregory Janian and his clocks

BY TOM VARTABEDIAN

SOMMERVILLE, Mass.—Gregory Janian has time on his hands. Plenty of it.

One visit to his home will unveil a plethora of exotic and intricate time pieces each crafted by hand. Had it not been for a recent bout with carpal tunnel syndrome, the 86-year-old immigrant would still be churning out his clocks.

Big clocks and small. Winchester types. Clocks with revolving apostles and Gothic motifs with frescos.  Roman cathedrals have their place, along with hummingbirds, horses, an eagle-catching fish, florals, a great Barrington, and a dollhouse grandfather clock that’s particularly eye-popping. The scroll sawing and fretwork are impeccable.

He’s got 200 of them displayed throughout his home, all in working order, from top to bottom, side to side. Pendulums move. Hickory-dickory-dock, Janian serves up another clock. That’s been his mantra over the past two decades. He’s given away just as many as he’s kept.

“What you see here is a labor of love,” said his wife Alice. “He’s turned our home into a working museum. If anything, it’s become his passion during retirement. He’d go to his workshop in the morning and stay there for hours. Greg would lose all track of time working on his clocks. I admire his handiwork.”

Before the clocks came dollhouses. Not just children’s playware. Janian turned his miniature homes into collectibles and ultimately heirlooms with wiring and hand-made furnishings.  One was so big, a cherry-picker was hired to move the piece through a balcony. A Federal-style home came with 18 rooms proportionately formed.

When that fetish subsided, Janian took to inlaid wood pictures. A striking Last Supper reproduction with 500 wood pieces held its venerable place inside my mother’s bedroom. He complemented that with backgammon boards that found their way into the hands of relatives.

One was a memorial to my brother which was ultimately finished by his son working in tandem with Janian.

“Maybe I’m a bit of a perfectionist,” he admitted. “Whenever a project is completed, whether it was dollhouses, inlaid wood or clocks, the satisfaction runs deep.”

Like Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony,” Janian also has a masterpiece that’s currently in abeyance because of the disease that’s wrecked his hands. It’s a clock being patterned after one in France. He’s taught a granddaughter the art and hopefully she’ll finish it someday.

The clocks date back to the 1990s when Janian visited a museum in the Mid-West and seen a variety of them displayed.

 “I can do that,” he told himself, enamored by the challenge.

Janian began to secure patterns from woodworking magazines and proceeded to utilize his carpentry skills. The first one he ever crafted was an octagon clock which maintains a treasured place on his wall.

As a diversion, Janian veered off making tissue holders, angels, candy dishes, crosses and other decorative. They turned into gifts for every occasion.

“I get to appreciate the fruits of my labor every day from being surrounded by my creations,” he beamed. “Others have also derived pleasure from it. That’s very gratifying to me.”

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