Greater Manchester watchmaking school dials up growth


A Manchester-based watchmaking school has doubled the size of its premises by relocating to a 6,500 sq ft building in Cheadle, Greater Manchester.

The British School of Watchmaking, a registered charity, has used a £270,000 funding package from NatWest, alongside its own investment, to purchase the premises after outgrowing its previous school of 14 years in Sale.

The extra space will accommodate an additional third classroom which can be used for everything from short courses for retail staff to brand accreditation training for watchmakers.

The school is an affiliate of the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Programme (WOSTEP) and the new premises will also accommodate a WOSTEP polishing course room, which would be the first in the UK. This would enable the school to teach a whole new polishing syllabus as soon as the new room is specially equipped.

The British School of Watchmaking was founded in 2006 and gained charity status in November 2019. It currently teaches two courses, the WOSTEP 3000 Hour Programme and the WOSTEP 1800 Hour Programme.

The school is run by General Manager James Robinson, who is also a qualified lecturer, alongside lecturers Tom Keegan and Brian Birkmyre. Plans are also underway to employ an additional member of staff to teach the polishing course as well as the other short courses.

To date, 99 watchmakers have now graduated from the school and all of this year’s students passed their final exams, despite the disruptions. This is testament to the dedication of the lecturers and the hard work of the students.

During the first national lockdown, lecturers taught pupils via Zoom ensuring they remained ahead of the syllabus. While back in the classroom, students then continued to be separated into class bubbles and taught on a rota-based system. With the third lockdown, the new January students have reverted back to Zoom teaching along with a slight adjustment to the syllabus.

Jon Weston, the school’s President, said:

“Thanks to NatWest’s help, the school has achieved a huge growth milestone. With the new premises accommodating an additional classroom, we have future-proofed the school for the next stage of evolution.

“Our goal is to increase the number of graduating watchmakers who will be tomorrow’s workforce, maintaining the treasured timepieces of the nation. This is very much a public service that needs investment and there is so much more still to accomplish here. The trustees, lecturers and the students are all committed to a strong future for the British School of Watchmaking.”

Select Commercial Finance Ltd introduced the school to Natwest Broker Business Development Manager Neil Southern and NatWest Relationship Manager Tracey Perry.

Tracey said:

“The school is an essential part of the watchmaking industry, providing the next generation of watchmakers with vital knowledge and skills. The team has transformed the new building in Cheadle into the ideal learning space for present and future students and we look forward to seeing the school produce many more graduates for years to come.”