One on one with Rebecca Struthers, antiquarian horologists

Rebecca Struthers
  1. When did you know you wanted to be a watchmaker/designer?

I discovered watchmaking completely by accident at 19 while training as a jeweller and silversmith. I’ve been aware of art and design since I was a very young child and I’ve spent my whole life creating things, as have I with science and understanding the world around me. Watchmaking gave me a way of combining all of my passions. Some days I’m a designer, some I’m an engineer; I get to see my ideas run from concept to the created object and invent new adaptations along the way. It’s an incredibly satisfying career!

  1. What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment my priority is finishing my PhD! When I complete next year I’ll become the first watchmaker in the UK to hold a doctorate in antiquarian horology which is a huge honour for me. Understanding the history of our industry plays an integral role in the way we design and make our watches, we use the past to inform the present to design objects with aesthetic and physical integrity that we know will stand the test of time.

  1. Who are your favourite designers?

That is an incredibly tough question for someone who loves design. For watches I love the artistry and creative approach of Vacheron Constantin, the engineering of Lange & Söhne and the integrity of Roger Smith. We take a lot of inspiration from traditional jewellery, the artistry and quality of Cartier and Tiffany in the 1920s was mind-blowing; today I love designers like Shaun Leane and Nikos Koulis who play with that vintage craftsmanship combined with contemporary aesthetics. Then there are automotive designers like Marek Reichmann and fashion designers like Christopher Kane. We’ve just bought a print by US master calligrapher Jake Weidmann entitled Craftsmanship for our studio. We get a lot of interdisciplinary inspiration!

  1. Could you tell me how and when did you hear about the Walpole CRAFTED program and what it is?

We were introduced to the Walpole CRAFTED programme by Vacheron Constantin who we met at the Class of 2014 Royal Academy exhibition. We have subsequently worked with a couple of CRAFTED graduates and loved the concept of creating a forum for small fine craft businesses like ours to get together and share our experiences, receiving mentorship from experienced business people in different fields but our same market. Being alone in your workshop it can be quite isolating if you’re not careful. Networking with others creates a more positive business environment, not to mention introduces us to a whole group of extraordinarily talented master craftspeople we can now work with and be inspired by to add depth and integrity to our own work.

  1. What made you apply?

We’re a very social brand and we have a huge amount of respect for masters of allied crafts. We might be good watchmakers, but ultimately we would never be able to compete with the skills of engravers, furniture designers, leather workers and so on who have equally dedicated their lives to achieving excellence in their field. By calling on their skills to help us create the experience that goes with commissioning a Struthers watch allows us to concentrate on excelling in watchmaking. Walpole’s CRAFTED programme helps build those networks that allow us all to thrive alongside each other, so not applying was out of the question!

  1. Who will be your mentors and what do you hope to achieve working with Walpole?

We have been partnered with Robert Ettinger, CEO of Ettinger London who have been handcrafting leather luxury goods since 1934. Robert’s experience in scaling up a fine-craft business without losing the integrity gained through hand skills and ethical manufacturing will be invaluable to us. At present, Struthers London is just my husband Craig and I and our production is currently limited to 10 watches per year. Ultimately, within the next few years we want to be making our own watches, movements included, from scratch in-house but to do that we need to train new watchmakers to work on our personalised time pieces and free us up on designing our first movement. It’s a challenging transition, but something every business like ours will have to go through.

Struthers London

  1. Are there any new collaborations you are planning to do, if yes can we get some clues about the other party?

Not so much collaborations, but we have just commissioned a pen by Jack Row (view collection on SourceCulture) to use for our ledger. We’ve designed it together so whilst very identifiably Row in form, there are subtle nods to Struthers and the heritage of English watchmaking hidden within the design. That should be finished early next year and we’re really looking forward to seeing the finished piece!

  1. If you had some time to relax, how would you spend your perfect day?

Tragically, my perfect day would probably be spent discovering something new in my research and writing, which in turn I would find relaxing. A successful day’s research in the studio followed by a glass of single-malt at home sat by an open fire with my two cats is pretty much the dream.

  1. What was your 2016 New Year’s resolution/s?

Submit my PhD thesis, then go on holiday.

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