Lincoln Hamilton

Horology BA (Hons)

Growing up, Lincoln was fascinated by clocks, but she presumed that the Horology trade would no longer exist. After doing some research, she came across the Horology degree course at BCU, and immediately applied. After embracing everything that the course had to offer as well as excelling in her new skills and experience, Lincoln is now working in her chosen industry as a Clock Cataloguer.

“I have always been fascinated by mechanical devices, especially clocks. I knew that a person who made and repaired clocks and watches is called a Horologist, but I assumed this was a trade that no longer existed.

But after doing some research, I discovered that, not only was Horology still an active profession, but that there was a course at Birmingham City University for it, which was the only degree-level Horology course in the world. I applied very shortly after.

My proudest achievement during my time at BCU was the first time I cut the wheel teeth for an escape wheel. To do this, I made a fly cutter, which is a sharpened and hardened plug of silver steel which had been shaped on one end to match the tooth profile of the wheel to be cut, a wheel blank and a mandrel, which is the holder for the wheel blank to make sure it doesn't move while the wheel teeth are being cut.

All these objects then had to be set up in a milling machine, with guidance from a tutor, and the wheel blank was slowly advanced for each tooth. Because it was my first time doing this procedure, I was concerned it would fail completely. When it was finished, and the wheel was useable, I was so proud of what I had done; taking some bits of metal, shaping, and machining them to produce a working clock wheel. Although I cut many wheels, and pinions, as I went through the course, there was something special about making my first wheel.

I graduated in 2020, which meant I had to account for Covid-19 when job searching. Luckily, I had learnt a wide range of skills at BCU, and I was able to adapt and work independently from home during the multiple lockdowns.

I started off as a Workshop Assistant at BCU, and nowadays, I work as a Clock Cataloguer at Bonhams Auction House. I have been very happy with my career so far, and every day I am happy that I pursued Horology as a career.

In my job, there is no ‘typical’ workday. I might be meeting with clients to examine their clocks, doing research to try to track down a specific clock or the horologist who made it, or I might be examining and writing about a clock that has been entered into the next sale.

Since graduating, my proudest achievement has been the research I did on a clock by the less well-known horologist, Mathieu Planchon. Planchon lived around the turn of the 20th century in Paris and seems to have been one of the first Antiquarian horologists. He had a profound interest in horology before 1500 and would frequently make models of clocks from the 16th and early 17th centuries which contained 'modern' 19th century movements.

He wasn't trying to pass these clocks off as original; he wanted the antique aesthetic with the better time keeping afforded by 'modern' clockwork. He was also the first European horologist to seriously examine and describe the non-standard clocks being made in China and Japan. He also published the first antiquarian horology book which described, in detail, clocks and timepieces made before 1500. He was quite renowned in his day, but a few decades after his death, he was all but forgotten. I was able to find out about him from consulting French and English trade journals, French newspaper articles and correspondences from the time.

This was long, patient work, which eventually unearthed the biography summarised above. I'm proud that I can revive these forgotten horologists through my research, and hopefully keep their memory alive.

In my role now, I have been able to enhance the skills I learnt at BCU. From my time working independently at home, I have been able to adapt and modify the techniques I acquired at the School of Jewellery, to fit my own workshop. I have also expanded my research procedures through my work with Bonhams.

The Horology course was instrumental in helping me get to where I am today. It is not only the contacts and techniques I learnt through the course, but also the vocabulary.

Horology, like any other skilled profession, has a dictionary of terminology that is used. On my course, the vocabulary was introduced gradually, so that it became second nature to correctly use terms such as 'blueing', 'pinion', or 'arbor'. This means that I can competently discuss any aspect of horology with other professionals, which is very beneficial in my career.

I would advise current BCU students to make the most of their time at university; talk to the tutors as they are both extremely knowledgeable and happy to chat. Try out different techniques for doing things, as you have some very rare machines at your disposal in the School of Jewellery, such as the rose engine, that are difficult to try outside the school.

Above all, spend time in the library. The School of Jewellery library has a fantastic Horology section, which includes common books that most professionals know about, to rarer, more specialised works that aren't widely available. So, make full use of it.

To me, I AM BCU means that I am part of a tradition at the School of Jewellery that stretches back to 1890.

From 1890, people have been studying at the School of Jewellery and going on to practice a trade that they can make their own. Whether that trade means they make bespoke work, repair treasured family heirlooms, or advance the understanding of those who have come before them in their trade. I am very proud to be part of that tradition.”