Cool Britannia — Struthers Watchmakers

Cool Britannia — Struthers Watchmakers

In this new series of Cool Britannia, UK Editor-in-Chief Ross Povey continues his interviews with the owners of UK-based independent brands that are forging a new era of British watchmaking like never before. Over the past decade, UK-based independently run watch brands have blossomed to cater to the incredible surge in demand for watches both in Britain and around the world.

Today we meet husband-and-wife team Craig and Rebecca Struthers who founded Struthers Watchmakers in 2012. The partnership of the master watchmaker and antiquarian horologist is focused on the continuation of traditional watchmaking through the handmaking of parts, use of heritage tools and machinery, and practicing of rare craft skills such as the making of watch cases from sheet metal. Ably assisted by ‘watch dog’ Archie Struthers, the Struthers are watch restorers by trade who between them have studied and qualified in watchmaking, goldsmithing, silversmithing, fine art, gemology and history of design.

Craig and Rebecca Struthers (Photographer: Andy Pilsbury)
Craig and Rebecca Struthers (Photographer: Andy Pilsbury)

RP: What is your first watch-related memory in life?

Craig Struthers: My very first was of a plastic LED 007 watch another kid was wearing in the playground in Keswick. This was in the ’70s and I was fascinated by it.
Rebecca Struthers: Ironically, for a pair of artisan watchmakers, mine was of a Casio Baby-G! It was my first year of secondary school and one of the girls in my class had one. I was super jealous, but we couldn’t afford one at the time. I’m a Casio nut to this day.

RP: Was setting up the brand always your plan? Did it happen by accident or was it just ‘meant to be’?

RS: We’ve never seen ourselves as a brand so much as independent watchmakers. It’s just the two of us, and making watches was very much an accident! It all started with a design competition we entered as a bit of fun then accidentally ended up winning.
CS: We’re restorers by training, which is what we initially specialized in. We’d collected a few vintage movements over the years that didn’t have cases. For the competition, we designed a platinum watch around an old Universal Genève movement, which we then had to make. Learning to make cases eventually evolved into making our own movements too.

(Editor’s note: You can listen to Rebecca Struthers here discussing why they love restoration so much)

Project 248 by Struthers Watchmakers
Project 248 by Struthers Watchmakers
Project 248 by Struthers Watchmakers
Craig Struthers (Photographer: Andy Pilsbury)

RP: Tell me about the early days of running the brand.

CS: Exhausting, but I’m glad we stuck at it. It’s hard when you’re both in it as it means there’s no steady income to fall back on. But on the bright side, the hours we were working meant we still got to see each other!
RS: The early days were really hard. We started out with a £15,000 bank loan, which rapidly ran out. The rest was a combination of hard graft and trying to learn from our mistakes as quickly as possible! It took around seven years to get the business into a comfortable position.

RP: What was the biggest challenge you faced when setting the brand up?

RS: Cashflow. If you don’t come to the business with money, or have investors behind you with deep, open pockets, it’s really hard to balance making ends meet with designing and making new watches.
CS: Time management! At one point we were juggling between restoration, making watch cases for restored vintage calibers, making completely one-off bespoke pieces, and also making our first in-house watches, which was too much for two people. We cast the net wide when we set out to keep orders coming in. We’re still catching up with ourselves, streamlining what we do now that we have a comfortable waiting list.

The Kingsley D&F Edition - by Struthers Watchmakers
The Kingsley D&F Edition - by Struthers Watchmakers
The Kingsley in 36mm
The Kingsley in 36mm

RP: What has been the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt?

RS: It’s better not to do a job than to do it undervalued. We’re makers, not business people, so it’s easy to get caught up following exciting ideas that will ultimately be loss-making.
CS: Getting better at the business side has been a huge learning curve. It’s not just about making watches — without good business planning, it’s easy to fail.

RP: What has been your biggest achievement?

RS: Definitely completing our first in-house movements. It’s taken over six years, but we’re finally reaching the end of the first five builds.
CS: We’ve made every component except the jewels and hair- and mainsprings, collaborating with artisans like anOrdain who enameled our dials and Florian Güllert our engraver. The whole thing has been made virtually without computers, on vintage and antique tools and machines, and with hand tools. It’s been a massive undertaking — essentially our school watch.

RP: Do you have a ‘house style’ or USP?

CS: We look back to look forward, so all our watches are inspired by vintage and antique styles.
RS: Plus, virtually everything we make is done with old equipment. They’re a kind of hybrid between contemporary and heritage design, and also, modern engineering theory with antique machines.

The Carter by Struthers Watchmakers
The Carter by Struthers Watchmakers
The Carter by Struthers Watchmakers
The Carter by Struthers Watchmakers

RP: Who or what inspires you?

RS: It sounds cheesy, but I have a few people who inspire me. The only thing that unites them is they’re all brilliantly talented people who stay true to themselves without compromise. I include Craig in that!
CS: I’m inspired by restoring or rescuing something and giving it a second chance — that could be watches, motorcycles or animals!

RP: What is your view of the current watch market?

CS: There’s a lot of interest in the tiny independents, which can only be a good thing, certainly for us.
RS: We started out in the middle of the 2008 recession and made our in-house watches through a pandemic, and weirdly, not much seems to have changed. If anything, we’re getting busier. I think a lot of restorers and independent makers are experiencing the same thing.

RP: Is British watchmaking important on the global stage?

CS: British watchmaking has a lot to offer. We’re pretty much all independents (both large and small) and microbrands — meaning there’s a lot of exciting and innovative work going on, and it’s all very individual.
RS: We make a lot of noise for a small bunch of businesses, that’s for sure!

For more information about the Struthers and the work they do, visit www.strutherswatchmakers.co.uk

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Ross Povey

Ross Povey, the founder of TudorCollector.com is regarded as the world’s leading expert on vintage Tudor watches. Although an expert on Rolex and Tudor watches primarily, Ross’s work covers the entire field of horology and he is currently Editor-in-Chief of Revolution magazine in the UK. He writes for and has contributed to some of the most influential horological publications, including; The Telegraph, The Rake, Bulang & Sons, Watchonista, Hodinkee, QP and is the co-author of the book Daytona Perpetual, a celebration of the automatic Rolex Daytona released through Pucci Papaleo Editore. Ross is also an international speaker and regularly hosts watch events in the UK and Europe.

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