Skills Needed by Clockmakers Were Many.
Clockmaker’s skills and knowledge to make a clock are many, and in the case of making a longcase clock, there are three trades each with specialised skills and knowledge to complete its production.
- Movement (mechanical parts)
- Case making
- Dial Making
The idea that in the old days a clockmaker or horologist made the whole clock from start to finish is a bit of a misunderstanding derived from the quaint idea that craftsmen of old were far superior to modern craftsmen because they used hand tools and worked on their own in a small and cramped workshop.
This may have been true in the very early days and generally practiced by one or two provincial clockmakers but by the mid seventeen hundreds, there were three trades involved in the clock manufacturing industry.
The clockmakers of the day focused on making the movement and farmed out the dial work to dial makers and the clock case making to cabinet and furniture makers.
Today a clockmaker is an artisan who makes and/or repairs clocks. Since almost all clocks are now factory-made, most modern clockmakers only repair clocks. Modern clockmakers may be employed by jewellers, antique shops, and places devoted strictly to repairing clocks and watches.
Clockmakers must be able to read blueprints and instructions for numerous types of clocks and timepieces that vary from antique clocks to modern timepieces in order to fix and make clocks or watches.
Although originally clockmakers were master craftsmen who designed and built clocks by hand. Modern clockmakers are required to repair antique, handmade or one-of-a-kind clocks for which parts are not available, so they must have some of the design and fabrication abilities of the original craftsmen. A qualified clockmaker can typically design and make a missing piece for a clock without access to the original component.
Clockmakers generally do not work on watches; the skills and tools required are different enough that watchmaking is a separate field, handled by another specialist, the watchmaker.
Origins and Specialities of Clockmaking
The earliest use of the term clockmaker is said to date from 1390, about a century after the first mechanical clocks appeared. From the beginning of the 15th century through to the 17th century, clockmaking was considered most probably the leading edge and most technically advanced trade existing.
Historically, the best clockmakers often also built scientific instruments, as for a long time they were the only craftsmen around trained in designing precision mechanical apparatus.
In one example, the harmonica was invented by a young German clockmaker, which was then mass-produced by another clockmaker, Matthias Hohner.
Movements Pre 1800
Prior to 1800 clock movements were entirely handmade, including all their parts, in a single shop under a master clockmaker. Examples of these complex movements can be seen in the many longcase clocks constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries.
By the 19th century, clock parts were beginning to be made in small factories, but the skilled work of designing, assembling, and adjusting the clock was still done by clockmaking shops.
By the 20th century, interchangeable parts and standardized designs allowed the entire clock to be assembled in factories, and clockmakers specialized in the repair of clocks.
As the art of making clocks became more widespread and distinguished, guilds specifically for this trade emerged around the sixteenth century.
One of the first guilds developed in London, England, was known as the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers; http://www.clockmakers.org/ The group was formed after a small number of foreign-trained clockmakers spent time working in London.
A requirement of joining the guild was to practice their craft and gain as much experience as possible, along with joining one of many other trade guilds, such as the Blacksmiths.
There are many Guilds and Institutes where clockmakers meet to buy, sell and get clocks to repair from customers, the IWJG (International Watch and Jewellery Guild) http://www.iwjg.com is one of the most prominent in the world.
In the UK the BHI (British Horological Institute) https://bhi.co.uk has been training horologists in clock and watch repair, and supporting the horological industry since 1858
BWCMG (The British Watch & Clockmakers Guild)
The BWCMG represent and support the British Watch and Clock Industry
The Guild is the representative organisation for Professional Horologists in Britain. They involve themselves in any issue that is relevant to supporting the trade. They work to help ensure that Watch and Clock Makers are able to earn a fair living for their efforts and that consumers get proper value for money when buying timepieces or when having them serviced and repaired.
If you earn all or part of your living from Horology, then you should be a member of
The British Watch and Clock Makers Guild.
If you are a consumer wanting to buy a Watch or Clock or have an existing one serviced or repaired, look for the Membership Certificate at any clock or watch repair outlet you visit.
Read more about the BWCMG here… https://www.bwcmg.org/history