Lev Hidekel was born in 1950 in Polotsk, Belarus, then a part of the Soviet Union. As a fifteen-year-old high school dropout, Lev was forced to learn a trade by his father, Zalman Hidekel.
Zalman connected him to uncle Misha, a horologist, war veteran, and uncle to the town at large. For months, Lev spent each and every day laboring and learning under Misha, and waiting for his approval. Finally, after a year of apprenticeship, Misha gave Lev his blessing to open his own shop.
Over his career, Lev has fixed more than 182,400 watches, not counting battery changes and minor repairs. There’s little he loves more than the sound of the first tick of a just-resurrected watch. Lev ran his shop for two years, until he was drafted into the army. During his two years of service, he fixed watches for the top brass in exchange for favor protection.
Lev had never owned a watch before learning the profession; his father bought him one at the age of 15, which was later stolen from him during his army service. After his discharge, Lev went back to running his successful shop. His services were sought out by businessmen, gangsters, and commoners alike.
In 1990, when his son decided to join the Zionist enterprise in Israel, Lev was dismayed. He agreed to emigrate, but it hurt him to leave behind the life that he had built. His father, a true Bolshevik, was heartbroken by the decision. Lev still remembers the day he returned his shop keys to the government, the crushing grief that left him in tears.
Lev and his family brought with them several containers. He had packed all his watchmaking equipment, but never dreamed he would be able to reclaim his former glory in Israel. Like so many other Soviet experts and expats, Lev traded his prestige for anonymity and a minimum-wage job in a grocery store. Unlike most, he never completely set aside his trade. Lev fixed watches on the side, and after three years of saving, he was able to buy a new store from another Soviet emigrant. The new store has been Lev’s pride and joy for over thirty years, and has drawn clientele from throughout the country.