April 2019 Update

After a long break from not updating this website, I thought I’d let you know what I’ve been up to recently. My first hand-made watch is finished! It’s been over 7 years since I started on the path to become a watchmaker, but I can finally say that I am one now – having made my own watch.

The final touch is the dial, which is at the dial makers at the moment. I had hoped to make the dial myself, and I may at one point in the future. For the moment I just wanted he watch finished.

I will do a full post about the watch and what parts I’ve made made and adjusted, but roughly the watch it one third hand-made, one third customised, and the final third original. There’s still a lot to do though, but it is very satisfying to just have it finished.

Some of the parts that are 100% hand-made include: 4 wheels, 13 screws, the case, a second mainplate that sandwiches the new wheels in place, the winding stem and the balance staff.

The case is all hand-made
The bridges are all given a hammered finish, the screws have been blued and the click, crown wheel and ratchet wheel have been hand-made
This is the final watch but with a temporary paper dial until the finished dial is printed and ready

At the workshop where I worked as a watchmaker I was promoted to be the Service Centre Manager around this time last year, and then in February this year I was promoted again to be the Head of Service Centre and Technical Services. As we are part of the largest watch and jewellery company in the world, this has afforded me lots of opportunities.

One of the most rewarding of those opportunities is that I now have two of my own apprentices who I am training to become watch technicians and another two watch technicians who are training to become watchmakers. I have designed a 5 year course for them to follow, which will take them from zero background in the industry to being a commercially capable watchmaker able to work on all modern, and some vintage, watches.

Making a ring
Checking for gaps of light

I also have big news in that I got married in October 2018. I was lucky in that I was able to use some of the same metal working skills I had learned when I was training to become a watchmaker to make our wedding rings – giving them a very personal touch.

Wedding Photo
I was able to wear wear my watch – and of course our rings – on our wedding day

Hopefully in the next few months we will be moving into our new home The benefit of which is that I will have my own dedicated workshop; with the potential to expand in the future. There are still many parts of my watch that I am not satisfied with and I will continue to work on improving it.

14 Comments

  1. david pierce

    Colin,
    You are a great inspiration to those of us who are watchmaker wannabees sitting on the sidelines. It is always uplifting to see someone throw their hat into the ring and follow the dream. that many of us who have jumped into the world of watches can only think about.
    david

    1. Colin

      Hi David,

      Thank you for your kind reply. I have been fortunate enough to have had some real encouragement along the way and so it would be very rewarding if I could pass some of that on. Watchmaking is a career where it is never too late to jump off the sidelines – you’ve no excuse 🙂

      Colin

      1. Julian

        Please do keep updating the site. I am sure there are others out there who will be inspired by your efforts and achievements as I am myself.
        As an over fifty I would dearly love to be on that watchmakers path, however family and finances are large hurdles to overcome.
        Please continue with the posts and remember inspire us and inform us this does not need to be a dying craft.
        God bless all the best to you and your new bride.

        1. Colin

          Hi Julian,

          Thank you for your kind message.

          I am glad that you can find some encouragement from my updates. There has thankfully been even more positive progress in just the couple of weeks since my last post and I will hope to report on that soon.

          If there is anything I can help with to get you started on your watchmaking journey, please let me know.

          Colin

    1. Colin

      Hi George,

      Yes, it’s the only really sustainable long term solution to the shortage of watchmakers. I find there’s a lot of interest from young people in wanting to take up the career; each time I’ve advertised a position I’ve had 20+ applicants in the first week.

      Colin

  2. Pip

    Colin,
    Firstly, congratulations on your marriage, the photo is amazing. (I have to say though, it does look like you are punching above you weight there mate!) I have vicariously followed your watchmaking progress on your site and am really happy to see you post again after a long gap. Looking forward to the next round of informative posts – I’m learning watchmaking but can’t financially give up the dayjob to follow the passion; building up the skills for when I reach retirement age though and enjoying working on my own watches and those of friends. Maybe starting BHI next year if other commitments allow.
    Anyway, just wanted to say that I’m glad to see you back.

    1. Colin

      Hi Pip,

      Thank you for your message. Yes, I have done well for myself! My motto for everything is always “aim high” 🙂

      It’s encouraging that you find the website useful, and hopefully you’ll find the motivation to start on your own career within the industry soon.

      Cheers

      Colin

  3. Tina

    Hi there, what a great photo – such a beautiful lady……and you are very handsome too!

    Anyway, back to business…my son is 13 years old and absolutely obsessed with collecting/repairing/making watches. He has a huge collection of watches ranging from typical childrens’ watches to his recent birthday present of a 1970’s Omega. He is currently making a watch, purchasing parts from the internet and for his first attempt, it is quite impressive! He wants to become a Master Watchmaker and we are lucky to live very close to a Horological Institute which we will hopefully be joining. I want to encourage and support him into this career and would love to know what you think would be the best thing for him now and in the future as regards courses etc. We have formed a great relationship with a local Goldsmith/Watchmaker and my son and his Dad often visit him to discuss his latest purchases etc and he is very encouraging and extremely patient – a quality which seems to be fundamental in this career.
    If you get the chance, I would appreciate your thoughts……Thanks so much

    1. Colin

      Hi Tina,

      Thank you very much for your kind message.

      That’s great that your son has in interest in watchmaking. By far the biggest contributing factor to how well people do in this industry is passion, which is sounds like your son has in bounds. Working on any sort of hand-skill that requires precise movements can only be mastered through practice, and so it is important that your son gets as much practice in as they can.

      Most of what a watchmaker does relies heavily on muscle memory, making tweezers, screwdrivers and gravers become an extension of their hand. You can’t cheat your way to that, and so it is just a case of doing a task and then repeating it 100 times. My advice would be to buy a movement online, such as a Chinese made 6497 movement (they’re here for £36, https://www.cousinsuk.com/product/chinese-movement-list?code=CHI3600M); and then take it apart and put it back together dozens of times. Get used to how to handle the parts, how much pressure to put on the screws, how to fit the springs; and fundamentally understand how the watch works. This movement is quite big and so it should be easy enough to work on.

      I’d definitely recommend that he joins the BHI, particularly if you live nearby. I am not sure if there is an age restriction on any of their courses, but that could be something that you should look at.

      Colin

  4. Jason

    Excelent update.

    I’m in total agreement with you, loads of people my age interested in watch making. Would be nice to have a fully British made movement in production one day

    1. Colin

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks. Yes, it would be great to have a British manufacturer of watch movements. That may be some time off however, as simply put the Swiss do it too well. To want to make a British watch you have to be almost a bit belligerent and ignore the largest group of experts out there and all of their state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment. Bremont, perhaps may be able to do it. They’ve previously quoted a figure of £20 million investment to manufacture their own movement I’m not sure if that’s accurate but it certainly will be a lot of money, and at the moment there will be little financial benefit to doing do.

      Things may change in the future though; it will probably rely on a shift in government policy or a very wealthy benefactor.

      Colin

  5. david pierce

    Colin,
    I remember from your original site the disappointment you felt when the BHI gave a prestigious award to someone who was more in tune politically and less in tune with watchmaking skills than yourself. I believe I commented that your real credentials are here on your website and not with a politically motivated award from the watch school. What you have done so far with your skill, knowledge and focused work ethic has more than proven them wrong. The cabinotiers who command the most respect have all earned it through the quality of their work and not by flashing a paper credential in someone’s face. Accomplishments are now viewed by a new generation which judges things differently than the old way.
    david

    1. Colin

      Hi David,

      Thanks for your message. This is still the same website as before, I just had to change the layout of it; the previous theme had a security flaw in it and someone had hacked it and the site would occasionally redirect people to gambling websites, very frustrating but I’ve now fixed the problem and updated the theme in the process.

      Yes, I do remember your comment to encourage me to soldier on. I have reread some of my previous musings and it is always interesting to see where my head was over the past few years, sometimes there is a great sense of cringe – but that’s part of learning, improving and growing. It is funny how things work out really, as I was disappointed that I was not going to have the opportunity to become a Fellow of the British Horological Institute following my exams; and the fact that I had won the 1st prize for my work at every stage.

      Last month however I was made a Fellow, which has been a massive boost to my confidence and a big motivator. This was in recognition of the watch I have made, the training I am providing in work and this website also. So, in the end I got the recognition and title that I had set my sights on, it just came from a different direction.

      I really appreciate your encouraging comments, I have a lot planned and am working hard towards achieving my next goal which ironically was also my first goal – to have my own company that makes watches. Just a month after I started on my studies as a student of watchmaking in 2011 I started this company, the Great British Watch Company, and although I have not made a commercial watch yet, that goal has always been at the back of my mind. Whenever I’ve taken a step in a direction in this career I’ve always tried to make sure that it’s a step that also is towards achieving that goal. Hopefully I can have that goal achieved before too long!

      Cheers

      Colin

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