6 June 2011, Clink Street, London
In addition to making watches, we're interested in supplying watch movements to other watchmakers, too. It makes sense to start local, so I've met up with several of the UK watchmakers now - Chris Ward as I already mentioned, Accurist, Nite, ClicTime etc. Two related issues have taken me by surprise.
The first is the appeal of our movements being made in London, not Genève. London has a long history of watchmaking, with most innovations happening within a couple of miles of Fleet Street, and it means a lot to people that we have started making movements in this country again. Our raison d'être is changing - people like what we make not just for what we make, but who we are. Londini invenit et fecit, as Joseph Knibb used to engrave on his timepieces. London designed and made. (This was not just a London tradition. Guiljem Blaeuw, cartographer to Tycho Brahe, used to write Amstelodami excudit on his maps, for example.)
The second is a real, practical problem. Swatch have become very dominant in the industries supporting watchmakers, and have in their wisdom decided to restrict supplies to customers outside the Swatch group. Astute strategy for them, no doubt, but a pain for us. We're having to learn how to do everything ourselves. Londini invenit et fecit is not just a desire, it is becoming a necessity.
Take dial-making, for example. Supply of dial blanks from Switzerland is no longer guaranteed, so we're learning how to do it from scratch. We're experimenting with making acid-etched dial blanks at a facility in the East End, not far from Tower Bridge, and then taking them to Tenbury Wells near Birmingham to get them coated with enamel and printed using a pre-war offset litho machine. I'll let you know more as we develop these techniques.
A sheet of dial blanks
Our first dial off the press.
(It looks a bit tired now - it's been in and out of its case a couple of hundred times.)