My H&I Story by Toby Barrett, Watchmaker

I began my watchmaking journey while studying a degree course in Horology at the renowned School of Jewellery in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. This was, and still is, a great place to study, full of talented students and very passionate lecturers and staff. It was a good introduction to the field of watchmaking, and certainly provided a solid foundation on which to build.

The traditional machines and tooling the school has available to the students is incredible. These machines have been used for decades, and will continue to be used for years to come with the care and attention the staff have for them. As soon as I started the course, I knew almost instantly that watchmaking was the perfect career choice for me; the more I began to learn, the more I knew I had made the correct decision.

On two separate occasions during my three years of studies I was able to intern with Cartier in London. This was hugely beneficial, and opened my eyes to what is expected of watchmakers in after-sales servicing. The level of cleanliness and attention to detail was something I hadn’t experienced before, and allowed me to understand and improve my general working practices, which I continue to use today.

Upon graduation I was incredibly fortunate to begin working in a brand-accredited workshop here in Scotland, and with the guidance from a talented watchmaker, this turned out to be the perfect introduction to after-sales servicing within a jewellers. I’d say was the main reason I am still in the industry today, and still enjoy what I do for a living. I truly believe having colleagues which are on the same wavelength, and see things from the same perspective, is always the ideal working environment for a watchmaker in a small workshop.

Shortly after this, I moved to another brand-accredited family-run jewellers based in the centre of Glasgow. I learned a huge amount during my time there, and had to adapt very quickly, as I was the most senior watchmaker they employed at the time. I was also tasked to train and develop trainee watch technicians. This was something I absolutely loved - it allowed me to revisit many aspects of my job and better understand what I truly wanted out of watchmaking.

After this extremely valuable experience, I joined Hamilton & Inches in the summer of 2018 and finally had a role I had wanted since I arrived in Edinburgh. Again, I was very fortunate, as at this time Hamilton & Inches were beginning to talk about creating a larger brand accredited watch workshop based within the historic building of 87 George Street.

Hamilton & Inches are very keen to invest in training for the watchmakers, and from the minute I joined the business, I have been offered a number of interesting opportunities to study in Switzerland. This has allowed me to further develop my skills as a watchmaker, which broadened my overall range of knowledge within servicing, whether this being the refurbishment of customer watches to a high standard, or understanding the faults and corrections needed for a watch to perform optimally. I shall always strive to provide the best possible watch service I can.

As soon as I moved to Edinburgh I knew Hamilton & Inches was the jewellers I wanted to become a part of. You get a real sense of the quality of products we sell as soon as you step inside our showroom and are greeted by our hugely knowledgeable and devoted sales team. Hamilton & Inches has always been at the forefront of peoples' minds when they’re looking for a quality watch or item of jewellery in Edinburgh, if not Scotland, and one sold with the level of service you would expect from an established luxury jewellers.

I am lucky enough to work amongst some of the best craftspeople in Scotland. This is evident when you walk through the premises and witness first-hand the multiple crafts we have in the building. When I mention where I work people are always incredibly interested in hearing what we are able to do in-house, and also how I became interested in such a niche profession.

Watchmaking is a varied and interesting career, which is constantly evolving; this always keeps me engaged. New watch collections and movement innovations are released on what seems like a daily basis, so there’s always something new to learn. There’s far more to watchmaking than most people are probably aware of. When I occasionally show people what it takes to service of a watch, many have simply never seen the inside of a watch, or quite how many components are used to create a complete movement. People often don’t understand how I have the patience to do this job week in, week out, but this is a hugely rewarding career and I certainly don’t see that changing for as long I work for a jewellers as respected as Hamilton & Inches.

Social media has definitely put watchmaking on people’s radar, and has made it far more accessible than it ever has been. Even prestigious Swiss brands, such as Patek Philippe, are understanding the importance of harnessing the interest younger people have in watchmaking, and to their advantage. Smart watches have also helped in this regard, which in turn has made traditional watchmaking far more appealing to younger people. We have seen an increase in interest in watchmaking from a younger audience in the past couple of years here at Hamilton & Inches as well. We’ve had younger applicants looking for an opportunity to work with us, I’m sure this wouldn’t have been the case even just 5 years ago.

In my opinion it’s the perfect profession for anyone looking for unique, life long career. I absolutely believe the watchmaking industry will change, but I think the role of a watchmaker will always be required. To what extent? Nobody truly knows, but I remain positively optimistic it will be an important one.

Find out more about the watch servicing department at Hamilton & Inches.