“We worked out how to manufacture every part of a watch in England and used them to manufacture a batch of watches. It’s exactly what a dozen watchmaking firms said could no longer be done in this country and we felt someone had to prove them wrong.”
So speaks Robert Loomes. If there is a bastion of British watchmaking he might just be it – that surely, is enough to justify his inclusion here alongside his wife Robina Hill, whose skills are essential to making Robert and his work as effective as possible.
And he knows it: “I tried to persuade my wife to come and work in the business because she had a management background and a career history of making oak trees out of acorns. She pointed out that whilst we had great staff, a fab building and an outstanding product, we still actually lacked any business that she could discern. Robina is now the majority shareholder and managing director.”
This leaves Robert to get on with what he calls the fun stuff, creating “extraordinary watches made by extraordinary watchmakers” as the company strapline runs. Put simply, if watches mean anything at all to you, you will be spellbound by Robert Loomes & Co.
Not that the Stamford guru would see it that way. To him, it’s all just what he does. As he says: “I don’t have a job as such, I just play about with watches. It’s great.”
In his quest to revive British watchmaking, his highlight of the past year is the fact that “we now have world-leading manufacturing and engineering support provided by no less than four English universities, all of whom would like nothing more than to be instrumental in resurrecting a serious manufacturing industry.”
Robert bemoans the fact that we are rebuilding that industry from scratch. “We have an outstanding heritage and education system. We have simply been slow, as a nation, to consolidate our industry.”
He is doing his bit, but then it comes naturally, as does his wonderful ways with watches. “I can see mechanics very instinctively. I can visualise how parts interrelate. With practice, in recent years I have been able to develop this down to what we do under the microscope. I can make an educated guess at a size change in microns and what consequences it will have for a watch.”
For a man who talks in fairly matter-of-fact tones it sounds almost mystical but his powers stop somewhere. His biggest demon he says is simply that there are not enough hours in the day. “As a watchmaker I’m pondering that one. There must be an answer.” If anyone can find it, he will.
Robert Loomes founder Robert Loomes and managing director Robina Hill were Entrepreneurs in the WatchPro Hot 100 2013 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers. To read a digital version of the book in full online, click here.