This week we had the pleasure of sitting down with Rebecca Struthers, one half of Struthers London. Rebecca and her husband Craig are the master watchmakers and founders behind Struthers London. Having spent many years as vintage and antique watch restorers they launched Struthers London to re-commission high-grade antique and vintage watch movements recycled from the past. In the interview we discuss how the Morgan Car Company partnership came to fruition, who have been her watchmaking inspirations and what its like to work with your husband.
Mono: Tell us a bit about Struthers?
RS: The Struthers watchmakers are my husband Craig and me, between us we’ve been in the industry for nearly 25 years and trained in vintage and antique watch restoration, illustration, design, antiquarian horology, jewellery, silversmithing and diamond grading amongst other things. In 2013 we decided to set up our own business designing and making bespoke watches using a whole range of vintage and antique movements, handmaking the cases ourselves using a combination of modern technology and centuries old traditional skills. Every watch we make is hand built to order and we offer contract commissions where a client can work with us to create a unique watch which we will never make again, giving them the satisfaction of knowing they will always have the only example of that watch in the world. At present we offer the most bespoke service in British watchmaking.
Mono: How did you get into watchmaking in the first place?
RS: I discovered watchmaking while I was training as a jeweller and silversmith at the School of Jewellery in Birmingham. I’d always loved the sciences and arts equally an had been incorporating kinetic work in my design for a while. I was 17 and had never heard of horology before, let alone considered it as a career. Some of the students in horology noticed my work and suggested I check out the course which I did. Watchmaking was the first subject I had found which combined everything I was passionate about so I started the course in 2005 and haven’t looked back.
Mono: Looking back, who (if anyone) has inspired you in the watch world?
RS: It’s corny but true, my husband Craig. We first met at university and he’s an exceptional watchmaker. Working alongside someone who inspires me as much as he does every day is integral to the way Struthers London runs. Outside of Struthers, my PhD supervisor and former head curator of clocks and watches at the British Museum David Thompson. We first met just after I graduated (for the second time) in 2008 and he has been an unwavering support to me throughout my career and research. His knowledge of the history of watchmaking blows my mind, if I can achieve anything close to his authority within our field it will be a real accomplishment.
Mono: When creating you own models, what was most important to you?
RS: Our creative process usually works from an idea/commission – aesthetic design – technical design and movement selection – prototype – finished piece. The aesthetic look of the watch is the most important thing to us, from the integrity of the form to the quality of the finish; which is why we always lead with the exterior design and concept then use our watchmaking know-how to realise the piece. For us designing a case to suit the movement isn’t what excites us, we love the challenge of coming up with really innovative designs then pushing our boundaries as watchmakers to find a way to make them work, like Stella. Stella was our first watch which won a Design Innovation Award and Goldsmiths Design Council Commendation, and was the first successful design for an automatic pendant watch.
Mono: What does the development stage of a new model look?
RS: We usually start with mood boards and sketches. Craig trained as an illustrator quite early on in his career, so we present all our bespoke clients with hand rendered paintings of design suggestions for them to select from. Our clients play an integral role in the making of their watch and have a great deal of input. We’ll always use our experience tells to help guide them and make suggestions, but so many things like dial designs and engraving can be made very personal and unique to each watch and its owner.
Mono: Tell us about the movements inside your watches?
RS: When we started Struthers London, we set out by restoring and modifying a whole range of vintage and antique Swiss, English and American calibres which we re-build into new watches. Training as restorers meant we saw a lot of the destruction that took place during the gold rush at the start of the recession. We saved thousands of rare movements destined for the bin from bullion dealers which we now care for here in our studio. Clients can select a movement from their favourite period or style in history, the year they were born or specifically chose a more unusual English or American model. We could make a movement from scratch if that’s what the client wanted, so it’s very much down to the commissions we receive.
Mono: Which other manufacturers out there do you feel are doing good work?
RS: In terms of design I really appreciate the style of Schofield, quality and finishing would be either Vacheron Constantin or Lange & Sohne. In terms of setting the benchmark for British industry, Roger Smith is the obvious choice.
Mono: What is it like working with Craig?
RS: Fortunate. We work so many hours that if we didn’t work together we would never see each other! It can be stressful as it makes it hard to switch off when we eventually do go home, we pretty much talk about watches 24/7. It’s a good job we both love what we do or we’d drive each other mad!
Mono: How did the Morgan partnership come to fruition?
RS: We approached Morgan after seeing Charles Morgan give a talk at the Birmingham Made Me expo in 2013. We found their design ethos and manufacturing ethics so inspiring we decided we wanted to build a watch around the Morgan principles, so headed over to the factory to harvest ideas. When Morgan found out, they introduced us to their Head of Design Jon Wells who loved the concept so much he asked whether we’d like to make the collaboration official. The rest as they say, is history!
Mono: Can you see further partnerships down the line?
RS: Not for a while, we’re in the process of training new staff which is taking up a lot of our time and the waiting list for our bespoke commissions is gradually creeping up. If the right thing came along at some point in the future we would always consider it, but it would have to show a strong synergy with our brand ethics and represent the quality and standards we set out to achieve.
Mono: Where can we get hands on with you creations?
RS: Prospective clients can meet with us at our studio in the Jewellery Quarter or with our agent in South Kensington.
Mono: What does the remainder of 2015 have in-store for Struthers?
RS: More watches! We have a couple of exciting unique builds finishing over the next few months, and the release of our new limited run English model in the Autumn.