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Watch & Clock Makers form an alliance to make British horology great again

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Britain’s watchmaking business has come a long way in a decade, according to two founders of a new Alliance of British Watch & Clock Makers, which is launching today.

Mike France, founder of Christopher Ward and Roger W. Smith, who is considered this country’s greatest living watchmaker, have joined forces with the aim to highlight great watch and clock businesses operating in the UK today, and to look at ways the industry can be expanded in the future.

“British watch and clock makers are ready to be recognised as a business sector, with the guidance and encouragement of their own trade body. There is a unique moment in time during which this sector can find exponential growth, if it does the right thing, and that time is now,” Mr France suggests.

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Both Mr Smith and Mr France were keen to stress that the Alliance of British Watch & Clock Makers will be a modern organisation capable of representing every type of British business designing and manufacturing watches today. “We are not wrapping ourselves in ermine,” Mr France stresses in a statement that this is a body with an eye on commercial success as much as Britain’s horological history.

The inclusivity of the alliance is exemplified by its founders, which along with Christopher Ward and Roger W Smith, also includes contemporary designer Mr Jones and historic clock maker Robert Bray-Sinclair Harding.

Roger W Smith, makes around a dozen six-figure-priced watches by hand at its Isle of Man workshop while Christopher Ward owns a factory in Switzerland that makes around 30,000 watches per year.

Both ends of the spectrum will be represented by the alliance, which has four main aims:

  • To promote British watch and clock making around the world
  • To provide a powerful voice for the sector
  • To champion British provenance
  • To encourage British supply-chain, jobs and technology

Founders concede there is a very long road ahead before the modern British watch and clock making industry earned a place alongside Switzerland, Germany or Japan, but every journey begins with a first step.

“It’s an exciting time because we have this real opportunity to forge our own vision of how watchmaking should be in Britain today in the 21st Century. If we can all start sharing our experiences, learning from each other, working out ways we can help each other, there’s no limit to what we can achieve,” Mr Smith urges.

The first order of business is to conduct an audit on the current state of watch and clock making in Britain today. The alliance believes there are up to 70 companies active in the industry today, and will report on how each of them fits within a wider ecosystem.

This Bellwether Report is being compiled by KPMG.

There will be quarterly gatherings, with the first taking place in January next year, tackling issues like education, supply chains and best business practices.

Two types of members will come from the trade, which is open to all British-owned and managed watch and clock making organisations. Trade membership is free.

There is also a club for British-based industry partners, suppliers and all watch and clock collectors and enthusiasts from Britain and around the world. Club membership is priced at £55.

Horology students can gain Club membership for free.

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