10 years ago British watchmaking was in a predicament. With the sale of luxury watches continuing to grow, and the number of qualified watchmakers worldwide continuing to decline (over 50% of the trained watchmakers were over the age of 50). It became abundantly clear that there wasn’t the flow of new talent coming through to replace those retiring. This called for drastic action.

In 2006 the British School of Watchmaking was founded. No mean feat given that as an independent institution it would receive no government funding. As a result, the School is entirely financed by a number of leading jewellers and watch houses (brands such as Patek Philippe, Rolex and Breitling). From 2006 to 2010 six students a year were selected for the School’s two year, 3,200 hour course. Five years later in 2011 the School expanded to eight students a year (limited by physical space more than anything). And now over 50 have graduated, all of whom have taken up watchmaking positions throughout the world.

One of the most exciting aspects of the course is the School watch. Every student has the opportunity to make one with an ETA 6498. As you would expect, the work on the watches is very much a reflection of the various techniques taught during the course. What was great, was to see was the passion the watchmakers have for their creations and how quickly they strapped them onto their wrists! No surprise given the students get to keep the watch, provided they meet WOSTEP’s standards.

Some wonderfully creative watches were on show. It’s important to note that these watches were created by the students in their spare time — it wasn’t something they had curriculum time allocated for. From moon phase complications, to retrograde seconds, skelotonised dials to geneva-striped finishing — it was a feast for the eyes of any watch geek. It was a real joy being shown these creations, by their creators, and hearing about their sources of inspiration.

Having gotten to know a few of them, it’s fair to say watchmaking is now sexy. This group were young, tattooed (some) and all vibrant. One particular student, sponsored by Patek, had even had a celebrated career at Dyson as an engineer before making the switch. The state of British watchmaking is in a far better state than it was a decade ago thanks to the hard work and dedication of those at the School and its supporters. Its fair to say that the future looks bright for those graduating as well us those of us hoping to have our watches serviced to the very highest standards in the future.