Volunteer: Ash Wells

Ash Wells is a great example of an inspiring older person who continues to live a full and interesting life well into his retirement. He is really enjoying this stage of his life. At 70 years of age, he is active and connected, has many hobbies and interests and enjoys being involved in several organisations as a volunteer. He also continues to work on a basis that suits his him and appeals to his interests. He particularly enjoys the laid back nature of this stage of life and feels lucky to be in reasonable health and able to fully participate in life. He feels sad when he seems people of a similar age are not able to do this, which encourages him to give back and keep doing things while he can.

Ash had an incredibly successful career as a watchmaker and businessman. After attending St Josephs and Nelson College, he became an apprentice watchmaker to Louis Kerr Jewellers in 1966. Ash felt this family business was slowly winding down so, once he was qualified, Ash headed to the bright lights of Wellington to work for Robert Harrap, based at Clements & Holmes Jewellers. The store expanded and moved into a larger workshop doing trade work for many stores in Wellington and further afield. Ash took over from Robert in 1976 and formed Capital Watch Services.

Ash stayed in Wellington for around 30 years owning and operating Capital Watch Services. The business has played an important role in training the next generation of watchmakers and in total 12 watchmakers learned their craft there before taking their skills around the world. Watchmaking has changed dramatically during the time Ash has been involved. When he first trained, watches were mechanical but changed to being quartz, then digital. Watchmakers declined during this time but now there is a swing back and all top quality watches are now mechanical. Capital Watch Services is now the only watch repair shop in Wellington.

Ash and his wife Carol moved back to Nelson 20 years ago. They retained ownership of Capital Watch Services but also bought Craighead Jewellers in Hardy St. Soon after they moved to a better placed shop in the Trathens Building in Trafalgar Street (called Tempus Jewellers). Ash says that Nelson was a hard place in which to run a business due to the variations in the economy, and high rents. It also has a lot of seasonal workers so the winter months were hard as people lacked the income during this time which had a big impact on retail.

Ash closed Tempus Jewellers around four years ago, but has continued to be actively involved in watchmaking. He is still the Managing Director of Capital Watch Services and commutes to Wellington either weekly or fortnightly to help and stay in touch with the business. Ash also has a small workshop at home and selectively does work which he finds interesting – a bit of antique work and general watch/small clock repairs. He does some restoration for collectors or for sale. Ash has worked hard on NOT collecting clocks and watches but he does have a few which he describes a ‘technically interesting’ due to their mechanics. He prefers the rare and obscure enjoying the workmanship in such pieces.

It should come as no surprise that Ash has an appreciation for the mechanical. He has a love of motorcycles and over the years has owned over 50 motorcycles and classic cars. He currently owns three motorbikes – a Triumph Thruxton R and a couple of Hondas. As he has become older Ash has downsized his bikes. He used to have a Ducati which was very big and fast but now prefers his Honda at 1200cc (still big and fast!), which he describes as ‘beautiful’ and ‘so reliable’.  Ash spent several years restoring a Triumph Stag car. He has owned a sleek white Jag which he recently sold and now has a zippy black MGRv8. He has also restored several bikes, building one from two wrecks. He also owns a Motocompo which is a 50cc fold up motorcycle aimed to fit in the boot of a Honda City. These were only manufactured  from 1981-1983 so are a real collector’s item.

Ash still goes out riding on a regular basis, he really enjoys the opportunities and lifestyle that owning a bike offers, pointing out that as there are so many different motorcycle groups in Nelson there is always someone to go out riding with. He recently described his prized possession as his motorbike over and above his unique watches and clocks!

Three years ago Ash and Carol moved to a 5 acre property in Enner Glynn and they are slowly building up an extensive garden and fruit trees. They are able to grow a range of fruit including avocado and he even has a banana plantation! They are looking at becoming more self-sufficient.

Ash is a member of Nelson West Rotary, recently having got an award for the best attendance. Through Rotary he heard that Age Concern was looking for drivers for our AgeConnect initiative. Ash volunteered and has been a driver with AgeConnect for a couple of years. He also drives for Red Cross and the Hospital. He started doing PetConnect with Duke, a very handsome Japanese Spitz but handed this over to his wife Carol who now does this.

At Age Concern we have been inspired by Ash’s approach to retirement. Retirement can be a challenge for some, particularly men because of the sudden lack of social contact and having something to do. However Ash has a rewarding balance between ongoing work, hobbies, interests and giving back to the community, including driving for Age Concern. Thanks Ash – we really appreciate all you do.

Thanks to Jewellery Time who featured an article on Ash in its June 2018 edition.




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