The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Clock making

 

The making of all types of clocks.

 

Status Endangered
Craft category Instruments
Historic area of significance London, Liverpool, Birmingham and Coventry.
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK 12th century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 51-100 making clocks, turret clocks, carriage clocks and/or electrical clocks from start to finish including all parts (where viable).
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees 11-20 apprentice clockmakers (i.e. those acquiring the additional skills required to become a master clockmaker capable of making a clock from start to finish, and those whose level of skill means that they largely have to work under supervision even if they are earning money while training).
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Mechanical clocks first appear in Europe in the 12th century. The Salisbury Cathedral clock in Wiltshire dates to around 1386 and is often said to be the oldest working clock in the world. It is now believed by some the clock now currently in Rye is the earlier clock.

Early mechanical clocks did not have dials and instead relied on bells to chime the time. The origin of the word ‘clock’ comes from the Medieval Latin ‘clocca’ meaning ‘bell’. Their early development in Europe is closely associated with the Christian church as clock bells were used to mark the canonical hours for prayer. I have not had chance to improve this section.

 

Techniques

 

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

  • Case making/cabinet making
  • Casting
  • Dial enamelling
  • Dial painting and restoration
  • Electroplaters
  • Engine turning
  • Engraving (hand)
  • Wheel cutting
  • Glass cutting
  • Gong and bell making
  • Pinion cutting
  • Tool makers
  • Fusee chain makers
  • Gut line makers
  • Mainspring makers
  • Mercurial gilding
  • Scientific glass
  • Glass dome making
  • Enamel restoration

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Lack of awareness: Lack of general public awareness in career opportunities in the craft.
  • Financial issues: Lack funding available for clocks, turret clocks, carriage clocks and/or electrical clocks making apprenticeships past a technician level. There are limited current schemes that offer support to trainees past an introductory level. Those that do offer little financial assistance above a contribution towards the minimum wage rate for apprentices of £3.70 an hour (2018). Qualified technicians will already be earning the national living wage, however, will require a great deal of additional training typically taking a further 3-5 years to reach the skill level of a master clockmaker. This is extremely financially draining for small workshops who must cover the additional wages and the loss of earnings of the master clockmakers carrying out the training.
  • Health and safety challenges: particularly in relation to those working on turret clocks and public timekeepers. For example, glass work requires impact testing and water ingress checks. These additional checks are often costly and not economical which deters owners from having them restored.
  • Lack of access to allied crafts supporting the trade.
  • Aging population: particularly effecting conservation and restoration, there are more specialists with the skills required retiring than there are entering the trade.
  • In general certain antique clocks are not currently fashionable.

 

Support organisations

  • British Horological Institute
  • British Watch and Clock Makers’ Guild
  • Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust
  • The George Daniels Educational Trust and Committee
  • The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers

The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust award Scholarships to existing masters of craft to expand their skills and Apprenticeships both to those at an entry level as well as technicians who have secured a position with a master irrespective of age.

Some clockmakers have sought to plug the skills gap themselves by creating their own training facilities.

 

Craftspeople currently known

There is only one or two manufacturers of clocks that do it on a reasonably large scale. The others do it on an individual basis when a client is found.

Independent makers and micro workshops:

  • Cumbria Clock Company (turret clocks)
  • Sinclair Harding (clocks)
  • Smith of Derby (turret clocks)
  • George de Fossard (clocks)
  • Comitti (clocks)

Independent UK crafts businesses conducting conservation and restoration of vintage and antique clocks, turret clocks, carriage clocks and/or electrical clocks, including making parts for existing pieces:

  • Cumbria Clock Company (turret clocks)
  • Robert Wren
  • Smith of Derby (turret clocks)
  • W F Bruce
  • Michlmayr
  • Carter Marsh
  • A Gray
  • Clock Clinic
  • Motion Works
  • D Newell
  • C T Jobson
  • Rockley Clocks
  • J A Alcock
  • J E Allnut
  • S Jackman

 

Other information

There are also 200-250 professional makers earning their main craft income from the conservation and restoration of vintage and antique clocks, turret clocks, carriage clocks and/or electrical clocks, including high-grade and complicated mechanisms, and have the ability to make parts for existing timepieces. Plus 21-50 technician trainees (i.e. those acquiring the foundation skills required to gain entry-level employment in this craft at a service centre, and those whose level of skill means that they largely have to work under supervision even if they are earning money while training).

The current number of graduating clockmakers from all disciplines within the field is currently sufficient to maintain it at its currently level. However, there is no surplus and unless these numbers are maintained the skill will continue in a precarious position.

 

References