Guild Visit to the British School of Watchmaking

Members of the Guild’s Board of Directors paid a highly informative and enjoyable visit to the British School of Watchmaking in Sale, near Manchester, in March.

Frank Boswell, Shuajb Berisha, Alex Photi and Christian Dannemann were very warmly welcomed by James Robinson, the General Manager of the School, who gave a thorough introduction about how the facility works, how it recruits its pupils, and how it is financed.

The BSOW teaches the Swiss WOSTEP 1800 and 3000 hour courses following a tightly prescribed curriculum. The 1800 hour course is a one-year course that is geared towards producing graduates who are capable of servicing complex watch movements and are ready to go straight into employment. Most students are already sponsored by a future employer when they start.

The 3000 hour, two-year course, includes the making of watch parts (balance staffs, etc.), decorating, plating, heat treatment, milling, and all the other skills needed to make individual watch parts.

Christian said: ‘We were very impressed by the level of student skills, one was making a date complication on top of an ETA movement and had also replaced the wire spring click with a nicely made ‘Geneva Seal’ quality click spring and click.’

Tom Keegan, BSOW Lecturer, with Guild Board Members, Shuajb Berisha, Frank Boswell, BSOW General Manager James Robinson, and Alex Photi.
Tom Keegan, BSOW Lecturer, with Guild Board Members, Shuajb Berisha, Frank Boswell, BSOW General Manager James Robinson, and Alex Photi.

Tom Keegan, one of the two lecturers, gave a tour of the two classrooms which are equipped with a watchmaker’s bench for each student, and a microscope in the middle to be shared. Each classroom accommodates eight students, so a total of 16 students can be trained at the same time. There is also a workshop with lathes, milling machines, a heat treatment bench, and all the little tools and contraptions necessary. All equipment is high-end and in impeccable condition.

After the tour, Directors were given the chance to chat to the students and were, again, very impressed by the level of knowledge and commitment.

Alex Photi, said: ‘To be invited to the BSOW was something that I could not miss. As a student of WOSTEP in the early 2000s, I have had some experience of what students are put through to make sure every skill, from practical to theory and including the making of tools and even watch parts, is properly covered.

‘The atmosphere upon entering the school was vibrant and exciting and it was great to meet Tom and James.  It is clear that the BSOW is a very advanced school of watchmaking in every aspect. The tooling and equipment are first class and the passion and respect the staff and students have for each other is clear to see,’ added Alex.

‘We had the pleasure of meeting students on both the 1800 hour and the full 3000 hour course and I chatted to some who have impressively made their own movement plates and even stunning Mother of Pearl watch dials. We were also told that one student had actually made his own tourbillion.

‘The degree of talent, at such an early stage of education, was fantastic to see. All showed excellent drive and ambition and I wish them all the best in their future careers.’

Christian added: ‘When we left the school, myself and fellow Directors were all in agreement at how impressed we all were by the dedication and knowledge of the training staff and the commitment of the students.’

Inside the state-of-the-art workshops.

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