The UK watch industry must address the skills gap


Future-proofing the British watch industry is an issue that needs attention as a growing skills gap threatens to engulf the trade.

This is a subject that many people in the trade have been discussing for the past few years. The rise of quartz – and perhaps the perception of the life of a watchmaker – meant that precious few young people have entered into the trade in recent years, and as the average age of a watchmaker in the UK escalates towards retirement the issue has become more pressing.

But there are some in the industry – the British School of Watchmaking and the Birmingham School of Jewellery, for example – working towards changing the perception of a career in watchmaking and there are training channels being set up to help young people get into the business.

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Enticing young people not only ensures the survival of the watch repairs and manufacture business in the UK, it makes it a more vibrant, exciting industry that is buzzing with potential. This is something that the major watchmaking groups recognise and many have pledged financial support to help grow the younger contingent within the business in the UK.

Bremont is keen to see British watch manufacture flourish and this month founder Giles English talks to the magazine about the brand’s long-awaited plans to move manufacturing to the UK, which you can read more about in the July issue.

Britain might be tiny in turnover terms when compared to other watch sales markets, such as the Far East, but it is a trendsetting market that sets a prestige. But with the eyes of the big brands often falling on emerging markets it is up to the trade based in the UK to push and develop the market in which they operate.

Karl Massey at Prestons is one retailer who recently took the initiative to revolutionise the UK market into his own hands when he travelled to Geneva to pursue his dream of opening the first UK Rolex shop outside of London. He succeeded and now Leeds does not only hold a Rolex UK first, it holds a world first as the store in the city is the first Rolex boutique in the world to have a champagne bar – a touch introduced by Massey himself.

While Switzerland might be the watch world capital and the big spenders might be found in foreign markets, the UK is a rich retail market that is ripe for investment and cultivation and there is no reason why this can’t be achieved from within.

This article was taken from the July 2012 issue of WatchPro magazine, out now. To view a digital version of the magazine click here.



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