Alistair: Apart from New York, are there any other regions where watchmaking has traditionally been strong in the US and might again see a resurgence?
Nick: Lancaster, Pennsylvania can be thought of as the historical home for American watchmaking, as that is where the Hamilton Watch Company was. Very close by, in Columbia, Pennsylvania, is the National Watch and Clock Museum that’s operated by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors.
Alistair: And who is doing particularly interesting work in the US? Who should we look out for?
Nick: There are two makers I like to point out – one is Roland Murphy and RGM watches. Roland does amazing work. He does a lot of work with engine-turned dials. At one point he worked at Hamilton. He has a lot of historical experience, a wealth of knowledge. And the other person that I like to point out is on the other
coast, in Los Angeles, California – Josh Shapiro. His entry point has been engine-turning. He makes absolutely beautiful dials and he got a lot of inspiration from George Daniels, studying his books, and his watches and those by Roger Smith. He has had a lot of success with his engine turned dials and he’s now working on building more of the watch himself here in the US.
But, you know, it’s back to that issue. Where’s the supply chain? Either you’ve got to do things very differently or you’ve got to do them all yourself. Are you going to invest and build out your own workshop with all the tools you need to make all the movement parts? Both are big tasks.
Unfortunately, there are some brands that use a movement that is sourced from another country, put it in a watch and then advertise the watch as “assembled in the USA” or “built in the USA”. It is somewhat misleading to consumers. The consumer may think that this is a watch that’s made in the USA when it’s not. This situation has been happening in many different countries and industries. It’s not new.
Alistair: And it’s exactly the same here. But when we started the Alliance it was with the belief that to stand any chance of developing an indigenous supply chain, you have to get everybody inside the tent and then help by sharing knowledge and developing a strategy.
I always say, a single company is a customer, but with 61 companies we have the start of a market. And the interesting thing is, I don’t think there is a single maker in the Alliance who wouldn’t prefer to be doing more making here in Britain, if it was viable.
We’ve already got people doing some very interesting work within our membership such as Jamie Boyd with Wessex Watches and Lewis Heath with AnOrdain. They have successfully defined their brands with these stunning and distinctive dials made in-house. There are more pockets of activity where people really are trying to do more and more in-house. I think we identified in the Bellwether that almost everybody is designing their own watches. We need to use that as a jumping-off point to try and get more making in Britain. I guess for
both our organisations it’s about doing everything we can to encourage it.
Alistair: On that, can I ask what aspects of the British watchmaking sector you admire?
Nick: Well, of course, George Daniels and Roger were a major part of why I decided to personally study watchmaking. I got a copy of Watchmaking (by George Daniels) early on and read that book religiously. I still do. The one thing that really appeals to me is the historical aspect of the British horology. There were quite a few individual makers who contributed significant inventions. I think you can make the case that the majority of the important horological inventions in history came from British watch and clockmakers. You can study a maker like Mudge, who invented an escapement that is in practically every mechanical watch today, or Harrison who invented the marine chronometer and shaped the entire world because of it – that’s really what I admire about British horology, this huge amount of rich history. If you come to the Horological Society Library, we have an entire wall dedicated to the history of British horology.
Alistair: It’s always really lovely to hear that perspective. We often talk about the similarities of the British and US sectors today. Having seen our recent Bellwether report, does that confirm those similarities for you today?