"You are lucky to be able to see a Leica being dismantled," the man said as we descended a flight of stair into a dark workshop. Scattered around the room was shelves of Nikon SLRs, Leica boxes, and pieces of Leica bodies. Ever since I picked up my M3, I had always been a big fan of the camera (I care not about the battles between brands - I love Nikon, I use Canon, and adore Leica, Mamiya, Zeiss, and everything else), so when I was allowed to peek - and document - the process of repairing a classic Leica M2, I was filled with glee. "Come here and take a look," the man said as he sat down and put his assignment - an M2 - on the desk; he had shifted some boxes around him just enough to make space for me to stand. "Now let's see here...," He mumbled a little as he lowered his magnifying visor; after which, he began to work. What followed was almost two hours of concentration as he slowly, carefully, and tactfully disassembled the camera. Screw by screw, part by part, the Leica began to look less like the famed sleek minimalist body that it had been known for, and more like a piece of random machinery.
The work was not fast - one does not go fast when dealing with a camera older than I am - but it was thorough. Along with the repairs, the man also changed the leather ("Vulcanite - I don't know why Leica used this trash; it's very poisonous," as he put it), and did some maintenance with the lens, a 50mm collapsible Summicron.
"Done! Another happy customer," The man said as he marveled upon the finished camera; it looked brand new by then. As he walked us upstairs back into the shop, I wondered how many Leitz Cameras and lenses had this man worked on? how many times had he thought to himself, "another happy customer"? and as he walked outside, and tried to shoot with the leica, feel the tiny whisper of a click from the fabric leaf shutter, how many times had he tested a camera by shooting it outside the shop? The number, however many it is, will grow, perhaps past the hundreds. It was an otherworldly experience, seeing a man fixing a piece of wonderful mechanical engineering like a Leica, with such finesse, and such pride.