For anyone who thinks that clockmaking is a dying art in Britain, you should probably head over to Emley in West Yorkshire where you’ll find a thriving and recently expanded workshop producing clocks so beautifully complicated that even boss Robert Bray questions sometimes how they manage it.
“I sometimes wonder how on earth we manage to make them,” exclaims Robert, who says that training his staff, many of whom are close family including his son Domonic, to work on his creations is his proudest achievement.
Robert is fully committed to safeguarding the future of the British clockmaking industry by training up apprentices, something he finds highly rewarding. “Apprentices are particularly fulfilling, seeing them on day one almost clueless and watching them grow in confidence to such an extent that they are able to make decisions and produce work that lives up to our exacting standards,” he says.
Robert is sufficiently qualified to be leading the way for these young upstarts. Since taking over Sinclair Harding in 1995, a clockmaker founded by Mike Harding and Bill Sinclair in Cheltenham in 1967, he has since gone on to become a full member of the AHCI and been elected vice-president of the British Horological Institute, a body that presented him with the BHI Barrett Silver Medal in 2010.
But he is also focused on the future of his own personal business and says his long-term aim is to become completely self-sufficient, a goal he took a step closer to with the acquisition of a small business that produced fusee chains. He adds: “We are also actively trying to make people more aware of our brand as we sometimes feel we are a well-kept secret in the UK.”