Video: Norwich watchmaker gets the timing just right
14:35 16 November 2012
It has always been in industry dominated by the Swiss but now a Norwich watchmaker has brought British craftsmanship to the forefront with the launch of his first watch collection.
Simon Michlmayr, who founded his watch and clock business in the city in 1986, has entered the competitive international watch market with an ultra-high specification timepiece – entirely made by hand at his new purpose-built Tempus Works in Upper Hellesdon –and costing upwards of £4,000 a watch. Meridian is the result of three years of design and construction but also the culmination of a lifetime of ambition.
“This was always my dream, my aim from day one, manufacturing my own watch,” he said, buoyed by the “exceptional” response to the collection at its launch at the Saatchi Gallery in London.
“I have been mostly doing repairs and restoration but in the past five years I have started making watches for other people to their designs and that is when I got the impetus to get on with it. It is massively expensive getting all the materials together. We have been building up to this moment for a long time.”
Mr Michlmayr, who lives near Wymondham, has teamed up with old friend and watch connoisseur and collector Richard Baldwin, from Norwich, who looks after the business side of the operation.
Together they set themselves the challenge of making a watch on English soil, using local craftsmen and components, and a timepiece that can be worn, knocked about and enjoyed and is sturdy enough to keep time through exposure to anything the elements can throw at it.
The watch currently uses a Swiss-made movement that Mr Michlmayr modifies in-house, but his next goal is to produce his own movement. “The crux of the watch is that it is all hand made.
“When someone wants to order a watch one of eight watchmakers will take it on from start to finish so each one is individual.
“We sold some pieces at the show but we hope now people will come to us and say what they want custom made.”
Mr Michlmayr, who has repaired and restored some of the county’s most important timepieces including Norwich’s City Hall clock, said there was currently only one other British watchmaker in the UK.
He learned his craft under the watchful eye of his Austrian-born father Freidrich, before completing his training at Hackney Technical College and then in Switzerland. And he uses the same lathe his father brought over to England in 1954.
Mr Michlmayr said he was delighted with the compliments he received.
“There were some amazing manufacturers there, all the big brands and the real top end of the market, but I thought ours looked really beautiful.”