A Birmingham City University [BCU] horology [the study of watches and clocks] student was treated to a trip to the historical home of Swiss watchmaking, after winning a major competition sponsored by British watch retail giants Christopher Ward.
Marcus Laing, a student at BCU’s School of Jewellery, enjoyed a week-long trip to the picturesque town of Biel, Switzerland – complete with a grand tour of Christopher Ward’s manufacturing facilities.
The competition saw second-year BA Horology students at the university enter unique watch and clock designs as part of an end-of-year module.
Laing used cutting-edge Computer Aided Design [CAD] technology available to all School of Jewellery students to create a fresh take on a simple table clock, a design so innovative that his course lecturers encouraged him to enter the competition.
“The lecturers recommend students’ designs that they think should apply and mine was one of them. When I found out I won I was very pleased and really looking forward to the trip,” said Laing.
“The trip started with a tour of the Swiss towns where the industry began, from there I was taken to the Christopher Ward atelier [private workshop/studio] in Biel where I was given a tour of the manufacturing facilities they use in the production of their watches, before going to the International Museum of Horology.
“The biggest takeaway I had was spending the day with the Christopher Ward technical director understanding the process behind their watches, an industry example of what we do at BCU giving me great contacts to work with going forward.”
Andrew Henry, Technical & Quality Manager at Christopher Ward, spoke about how impressed he was with Marcus’ winning design, his trip to Switzerland, and the company’s link to Horology at BCU.
He said: “Marcus’ winning horological instrument could be viewed by some as a simple table clock, however, we were impressed with the uniqueness of the design and imaginative construction.
“For the trip we aimed to showcase all aspects of the industry, visiting, and touring different factories and ateliers including our own.
The ever-growing watch production and manufacturing infrastructure that has been built in Switzerland is a sight to behold, and we believe it can only be truly appreciated through experience, which is what we wish to offer the up-and-coming generation, preparing them in the best possible way for a career in the industry.
“The BCU School of Jewellery is a wonderful building steeped in tradition offering an educational route into the jewellery industry, but the fact that the BA Horology course is the only one of its kind being taught at a university in the UK is a huge motivator for us as a company that wants to help encourage and guide the renewed energy in the industry.”
Those strong links to the watch and clock industry with companies like Christopher Ward, coupled with the BCU School of Jewellery’s commitment to blending traditional practices with modern technological advancements in making and design provide students with an excellent platform to develop as horologists.
Jeremy Hobbins, Deputy Head of the Institute of Jewellery, Fashion and Textiles said: “We recognise the Horological industry is both traditional and cutting edge. Therefore, we introduce and develop those skills and methodologies through digital design and manufacturing techniques to handcrafted bespoke component manufacture, and a combination of modern and traditional techniques.
“Whilst we specialise in developing an understanding of how clocks and watches work, and how to ensure they carry on doing so through specialist repair and restoration/servicing techniques, we also embed a range of transferrable skills in the degree that ensure our graduates leave with a range of skills.”
Christopher Ward is not the only well-known watch company with links to Horology at BCU, with a selection of graduates and alumni forging careers at brands like Rolex and Cartier, among others.