About Me

I was born and raised in Cambridgeshire. After working for a number of years in banking, when I was 23 I headed off to the far East in search of adventure.

After spening 8 years in China, mostly running my own fine art business and having learned fluent Mandarin Chinese, I returned to Britain at the end of 2010.

When I came back I decided to embark a new specialised career path.

After some thinking I chose Watchmaking. It seemed to fit my skills:

  • I had a good eye for detail
  • I took pride in my work
  • I was very patient
  • I enjoyed technical things
  • I liked the aesthetics of watches
  • I enjoyed history and historical figures
  • I liked to do something different

Watchmaking seemed like a romantic choice of career. It was a real skill, and felt like a proper job. It also seemed that the British Watchmaking industry was suffering, and this appealed to me as it gave me the impression that this was something that I could get my teeth into.

Having taken my first exams in 2011 with the British Horological Institute I gained high graded passes in all areas, and thankfully over the course of my studying I have been able to maintain a good standard of results.

In recognition of my efforts, the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers presented me with the prestigious Harrison bursary to support my studies, which was later replaced by a bursary from the George Daniels Education Trust.

After spending one year at the School of Jewellery in Birmingham, in 2012 I moved to Manchester where I spent one year at the British School of Watchmaking studying the WOSTEP course.

I currently live in Bolton near Manchester where I work for an independent watch company.

After having finished my 4th year BHI exams I hope to be able to take the additional modules to gain the FBHI title in 2015/16.

If you’re interested in linking up, here’s the link to if you’re interested I’d rather link up on Linked In. Here’s the link)

I sent off my application to join the BHI about a week after I’d decided to become a watchmaker in April 2011. In June 2011 I got my name printed. I was put in the Leicester branch as this was the closest one to Peterborough.

In June 2012 I had finished my first year’s BHI exams and we had a group photo at the School of Jewellery’s final year show

I was really pleased with my first year results, particularly about the Practical Piece award. I had always seen this as the most difficult part of the course – and something I didn’t think I was particularly gifted at. Only 4 students passed the Technician grade that year out of about 20 that had entered

At the awards ceremony. This is something the BHI does really well, and they make a lot of fuss of you. I got my face chopped into two pieces in the magazine

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Thankfully I managed to do well in the 2013/14 exams too!

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Receiving my award from the British Guild of Watch and Clock Makers

results

For the 2014/15 exams, it marked the completion of my MBHI title qualifcation and I also managed to get the prize for the best overall results!

16 Responses

  1. Matt Webb says:

    Hi Colin,

    Really enjoying reading through your site. I think I have the same ambitions as yourself back in 2010 and it looks like the path you chose has really worked well for you. I’ll also connect on LinkedIn.

    Just out of interest, which company do you work for? I live in Salford and wasn’t aware of any companies around the Manchester area. Then again I’m very new to this.

    Cheers,

    Matt

    • Colin Colin says:

      Hey Matt, thanks for your message.

      Around Manchester there are two major official service centres. In the area of Salford there is LVMH in Walkden, which work with Tag Heuer, Dior and Zenith. Then in Oldham is part of the Swatch Group that deal with specific brands such as Tissot and Longines amongst others.

      Did you actually start on the watchmaking path, or did the whole idea stall? The nice thing about watchmaking is that it is never too late.

      Cheer

      Colin

    • Colin Colin says:

      Hi Adrian,

      Thanks for your message.

      The Hamilton 4992B movement does have a very short thread on it. If you are finding that it is too short, then you can just use a stem extension. This is basically a device that screws onto the end of the existing thread, and allows you to make the threaded part longer, or use a different tap size than original.

      If the stem is broken, then it is possible to make another to fit, but that generally isn’t a commercially viable option. Most of the time if you need a new stem then you can canibalise it from an old spares/repairs movement that is otherwise broken.

      I haven’t made a stem in a while, and so I’d probably need a day of practice, and then another day to manufacture it; which is the reason why it wouldn’t be commerically viable.

      A quick search on ebay shows that there is a stem for the movement available for $35.

      So I would suggest either use a stem extension, or give ebay a try.

      I hope that helps

      Colin

  2. Klaus Beagleman says:

    Hi Colin,

    What do you use to remove material from the balance wheel when poising after re staffing?

    Thank, Klaus.

  3. Hi Colin I found your realy interesting website looking for information on how to become a watchmaker. I would love to professionally work on vintage watches, but am afraid my age (I am 43) wil be a problem… Your thoughts?

    • Colin Colin says:

      Hi George,

      Age isn’t an issue with regard to coming into watchmaking. Generally being older is an advantage as some important traits such as self-discipline and patience develop with age.

      I was 32 when I changed careers, and was considered young. 43 isn’t an issue, as you have at least 20 years of work ahead of you, and within this industry the actual retirement age goes on until your health falters.

      It’s a great career choice, and if you’re passionate and inclined towards it – incredibly rewarding. If you specialise in vintage watches you will never be short of work as each year there are fewer parts available and fewer people available with the knowledge to repair them.

      Colin

      • Hi Colin and thanks for your kind reply. I will be following your guide to become a watchmaker avidly, as I do with any other bit of information I find on the Internet regarding the subject. Problem is, I live in Germany, and there are very little ways (or few places if you will) to become a professional watchmaker, many if not most of it involve relocating and paying a small fortune in school fees, a second rent (I have family and kids whom I cannot force to move right now) and all the rest, not earning money in the process. I have looked into online courses, but apart from the most known ones that are affordable and being online won’t force me to move out from my family, are not professionally recognized: I would only earn a certificate stating that I attended the course as a “hobby”. It still would be useful to grasp the basics of watchmaking, but it is no proper school. So I am stuck basically.

        It is a hard choice, full of unanswered questions and that a person my age just cannot make lightheartedly.

        I do have the possibility to become a “dealer” in vintage watches, buying and selling, and this is what I am actually looking into, since it is the nearest thing to watchmaking I can professionally do, and that could allow me to suport my family while at it. I started an onlineshop and am slowly populating it with watches that I find and repare myself. I guess I am not allowed to post the link here so I won’t.

        Only issue, is getting to be “seen” on the Internet, and even if I have experience (I own a webdesign company that does also SEO) it will take some time before I see the fruits of my efforts.

        In the end, I will continue to follow your blog, as I do with many others, and try and learn as much as possible. Sorry for the long reply.

        Regards.

        • Steven says:

          If I was you I would do the BHI distance learning course and find a local watchmaker that would allow you to work with him in your spare time and treat it very much as a hobby.

          By the time you got skilled enough to charge a professional fee and had enough customers to make a living from you would be well into your 50s and I’m talking if you went at it full time from now.

          I did the BHI in Birmingham University, have 8 years in the trade and I’m starting a business now and I really think I have the bare minimum experience necessary to go it alone. And even now there is not much money to be made for the learning and work you have to put in and the equipment you have to buy.

          • Yeah, we are pretty much on the same page on this…. I wiill just continue it as a hobby, and eventually seek to become a good dealer of vintage watches and accessories. Thanks for taking your time in replying to me, I appreciate it.

            Regards.

        • Colin Colin says:

          Hi George,

          I’d tend to be a lot more optimistic than Steven. You’re not going to get rich from fixing watches, but you can be comfortable and have a stable income.

          The key is to value your time and skill correctly and thereby charge the right sort of hourly rate, which should be between £20-50 depending on your experience, plus the cost of any materials. Too many watchmakers are too quick to do favours for friends/family, or do a partial repair of a watch free-of-charge because it wasn’t a noted fault when the work was first estimated.

          Learn to say no to jobs that look like they’re going to be a can of worms, learn to re-estimate work as required, and learn to value your time and skill.

          The most profitable part of watchmaking is often quick and easy jobs such as changing batteries or fitting a new bezel or bracelet.

          For repairs you probably only need to advertise a little on-line, most people don’t like sending their watches off in the post and would rather hand it to someone directly. So local advertising will work best for you. Use on-line message boards, which are free and help you build up a reputation.

          Watches are generally very tactile things, and so particularly if you’re going to look to sell unusual or vintage watches, people will want to see what it is they are going to buy and see it working. Ebay generally is a tough business place. Again a decent forum, where you can build your own reputation in a closed environment, could work out best for you if you want to stick to on-line.

          Do the BHI’s distance learning course. I did it 1 year full-time and 3 years part-time and got it all finished. I worked in the industry after 2 years studying, so before I’d finished and become “qualified”; there are so few people who’re actually professionally trained in the industry that even partially skilled makes you in great demand.

          I would say that you’d need at least 3 years of bench experience before you can go alone; which is real-world practice at finding faults, making repairs, buying parts, dealing with customers, finding pit-falls, and knowing what to charge – and of course learning to work to a speed and accuracy that you can be commercially viable and not have all your work returned back.

          Like everything, it all depends on how much effort you put in. There’s a huge shortage of skilled watchmakers, particularly vintage watchmakers, and so if you want to make a decent go of it then the only obstacle is you.

          Colin

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