Seán Richards

Horology - BA (Hons)

Seán’s decision to study Horology was motivated by his brother – who at the time, was also a student at Birmingham City University. During his studies, Seán’s passion for the subject flourished and enabled him to work alongside industry watchmaker Dr Roger Smith OBE, as well as manufacture his very own first watch.

“I always knew that I wanted to study at a degree level, I was just a little unsure about which course to apply for. Thankfully, my brother came across a noticeboard at Birmingham City University advertising BA (Hons) Horology and suggested I considered it as an option. I then came to an Open Day, which was a great experience because it gave me the chance to explore the specialist facilities and speak to knowledgeable staff and current students. This helped me feel sure it was the right choice, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the course now!

I’ve come a long way since then, before I started the course I was someone who enjoyed working with my hands, tinkering with things and generally being creative, but I didn’t know how to channel my interests and abilities. Once I decided to apply to study Horology, I bought a cheap mechanical watch, some tools, and set to work taking the watch apart. Knowing what I know now I really butchered that watch! But I really enjoyed the process, and it confirmed to me that I’d really enjoy studying Horology.

Now I’m in my final year, I really can’t imagine a more perfect course for me. The course is largely practical work which really suits me, I get a real sense of pride from learning new skills and seeing how far my work has progressed. One of my very first projects was to file a lump of brass into a perfect cube; I spent weeks on the project until I finally had something I was happy with. Now I am working on the final stages of manufacturing my very first watch, and it’s crazy to see how much my work has developed. I am extremely proud of the progress I have made and the skills I’ve learnt since that first cube!

One of the main things I’ve learnt from studying Horology is how vital is it to work to micron levels of precision. Making a watch from scratch is a massive undertaking, so a lot of people tend to prefer making clocks. However, I found that I’ve really enjoyed perfecting the many skills necessary to make a high-quality piece – the attention to detail and making sure each component is made perfectly and works together gives me a great sense of achievement. I have always been good with my hands, but Horology has taken that to a whole new level! There is no room for inaccuracy, and now I’m in my final year I’m finding I’ve developed the skills that lead me to make fewer mistakes, so the process has become much smoother which is really satisfying.

Prior to starting my final year, we were fortunate to have a lecture from expert watchmaker Dr Roger Smith OBE, and he announced that there was an opportunity for a week’s work experience in his workshop on the Isle of Man. After submitting a CV and application I was lucky enough to be chosen for the placement, so I spent a week of my summer gaining invaluable work experience with Dr Smith.

The whole experience was absolutely fantastic; I was put straight to work on some of the watches that were being made for real customers, and given that their value was over £150,000 per piece, I was definitely nervous! I was tasked with finishing some steel components used in the hand setting mechanism and I had to concentrate so hard to avoid scratching anything! Over the week I had the opportunity to work on several different components in the watch, from screw making to finishing springs. It really was an amazing week and I learnt so much in my short time there. Without the help and support from BCU, this unique experience would not have been possible – so for that, I am truly grateful.

The School of Jewellery couldn’t be located in a better place – over 40% of the jewellery in the UK is made there, so there’s nowhere better to be if you want to work in the industry. The location means you can get anything you need in the surrounding area, from tools and materials to advice from fellow watch repairers in the industry, so it really is ideal.

The School itself is like a little community within the wider jewellery community and it’s so supportive, I remember feeling really welcome when I first joined. I was extremely nervous and a little quiet, but everyone made me feel comfortable. My confidence has definitely improved over time, I used to be too shy to even answer questions at school, but now I’m happy to deliver presentations in front of my whole class!

Studying at BCU, I have been given a strong foundation of knowledge and the opportunity to build and expand a solid network of peers and friends, which will be invaluable for my future. I have had great exposure to the industry and learnt valuable skills that have helped to enhance the quality of my work and strengthen my CV/portfolio. After graduation, I hope to be able to work for a watch house in London, possibly somewhere like Cartier where a lot of Birmingham City University graduates have gone on to work. It would be fantastic to gain more experience at such a prestigious company, and even further into the future, I hope to get the opportunity to make watches, not just service them. I feel that with the skills and experience I have gained on the course anything is within my reach!"

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