SWAMPSCOTT — Time marches on to the tick-tock cadence of dozens of clocks crowding the shelves and display floor in Phillips’ Clock Shop.
Time pieces as small as an ornate Zappler clock the size of a cigarette lighter to ponderous grandfather clocks costing as much as a new car are available to buy — or, in some cases, only to view — in the Essex Street store run by Lynnfield resident George C. Phillips III and his wife, Marilyn.
With their pug, Banjo, keeping them company, the Phillips sell and repair all manners of timekeeping devices and extol the virtues of watches and clocks as gifts and keepsakes in an age when a quick glance at a mobile device tells most people the time.
“We don’t plan on retiring. We love the clocks. It’s relaxing listening to them at night,” said Marilyn Phillips.
George Phillips considered himself mechanically-inclined even before he married Marilyn and started learning about clocks from his father-in-law. An East Boston native, he attended Boston’s North Bennet Street School and worked at the former Jordan Marsh department store in Boston where he eventually landed a job in the clock department.
“I opened my own little shop in 1974 in Winthrop,” he said.
The Phillips moved to Swampscott to enroll their three children in local schools and opened their Essex Street store in 1995. Their business is a mix of clock sales and watch and clock repairs that has survived changing consumer tastes.
Chelsea Clocks, the nautical-themed creations that George Phillips said almost every American president has received as a gift, remain popular sales items.
Grandfather clocks (known in the trade as hall or tall case clocks) are enduring acquisitions that younger customers are eyeing and buying in order to balance or accent a hallway or main room in a new house.
Pocket watches may sound like leftovers from the 19th century but the ornate timepieces are favorite gifts with younger buyers purchasing the watches for groomsmen gifts.
“Millennials are interested in them,” said Marilyn Phillips.
Her husband doesn’t just sell clocks and watches: he is a 51-year member of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors who pores over the intricate mechanics of tiny timepieces with the aid of small, glasses-mounted magnifying lenses called “loupes.”
Customers like Julia Babushkina of Nahant have come to appreciate Phillips’ attention to detail and refusal to let even the most exotic watches defy his repair skills.
Intent on preserving the Soviet-era watch bestowed on her father in the 1970s, Babushkina took the watch with its inscription made out to her father to Phillips, who assessed the type of repairs it would need and the necessity to obtain the right parts.
Undeterred, Babushkina and her son tracked down a watch similar to her father’s and they plan to bring it to Phillips to provide repair parts.
“We get a lot of challenges,” he said.
With more than 300 pocket watches in his collection, Phillips can trace the origins of American watch production to the first 19th-century factory in Waltham, and he talks with pride about his Zappler clock, made in 1820, with its ornate craft work and tiny pendulum arm.
He speaks with the same enthusiasm about hulking grandfather clocks crafted from 19 different types of wood and outfitted with beveled glass doors.
His personal watches are a Rolex Presidential and an Omega Stainless Steel.
“That’s the kind James Bond wears,” he said.