Keeping our clocks and watches working

Keeping our clocks and watches working

Abby Wardill, British Horological Institute trainee
On Saturday, we announced that we’re funding the British Horological Institute to train a new generation in how to restore clocks and watches. This will address a nationwide shortage and help to ensure the UK’s historic timepieces don’t stop for good. Here one of the BHI’s current trainees, 27 year-old Abby Wardill, tells us what life is like as a modern-day horologist.

I was born in Yorkshire but now live in Henley-on-Thames where I am a watch assembler at Bremont Watch Company. Bremont is the leading UK designer and manufacturer of watches, passionate about engineering innovative mechanical timepieces on British soil. Bremont have an extensive core range, a number of limited edition pieces and create special bespoke watches for military crews/squadrons, as well as specialist marine chronometers, highly accurate devices which help sailors find longitude whilst at sea.

I was educated as an illustrator and worked as a freelancer before I went into watchmaking in May 2015. I saw the advertisement for a watch assembly technician whilst looking for a more stable job. Interested by the idea and curious as to whether I could turn my hand to watchmaking, I applied for the job at Bremont. I was given a bench test and hired soon after. Bremont trained me as I worked and taught me how to assemble watches to the highest quality, using the best techniques. The patience and attention to detail I learnt as an illustrator are skills that transferred well to watchmaking.

Since then I have come to love the intricate and beautiful nature of the work and have never regretted going into this industry. As a watch assembler, I put all the components of the watch together. Starting with a kit of parts (this includes the movements, dials, hands and all other components), we assemble the watches from start to finish individually. Working in this way, rather than the assembly line seen in other companies, gives a great sense of satisfaction and pride. It is great to see the finished products, knowing the skills taken to produce the watches. My favourite part of the assembly process is the cleanliness and casing up at the end. It's these fine details and seeing the work come together that I love the most.

Bremont is a corporate member of the BHI and sends its entire staff for training on BHI Short Courses. The courses take place over several days in the workshops at Upton Hall and are conducted by experienced tutors, who are highly regarded experts in their specific field of horology. We are learning both practical and theoretical skills such as how the watch movement works.

I am really enjoying the course and it is great to spend so much time with the other students who are from a wide range of watchmaking backgrounds. It gives a great opportunity to learn from each other's experiences. The tutor is incredibly knowledgable and helpful, providing us with lots of personal attention and hands-on support. He works hard to ensure everybody is able to keep up and nothing is left unexplained. Following the course, I hope to continue the learning process and work towards the servicing and repairing of Bremont chronometers and thus further my career in horology.

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