Skip to main content

In Conversation with Rebecca Struthers, Designer, Watchmaker and Historian

Katie Harrell 3 minute read

As a multi-award-winning Designer, Watchmaker, and Historian, Rebecca Struthers is half of the founding husband and wife team behind Struthers Watchmakers studio and workshops.

Her latest book “Hands of Time,” has been named as Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week,’ and continues to capture what it really means to be a master of horological craftsmanship. We were lucky enough to sit down with Rebecca and discuss her early life and career, how she got into watchmaking and of course, her captivating new book “Hands of Time.”

Delighted to be speaking with you today and thank you so much for agreeing to take part in this interview. Could you introduce yourself and explain what is it you currently do?

Thank you for having me! When I’m not researching and writing books about time and watches, I run a workshop in Staffordshire where we restore vintage and antique watches as well as making our own from scratch using old machines and traditional techniques.

How did you originally get into the watchmaking industry? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do?

I’ve been obsessed with figuring out how things work for as long as I can remember, although, I didn’t discover watchmaking until I was 17. I’d left school early to pursue a more creative education and started a BTEC in jewellery and silversmithing. It just so happened that they taught watchmaking in the same building. From the moment I set foot in the workshop I realised what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Can you discuss the first watch you ever designed and how you felt about this achievement?

The first watch we ever designed was for a competition to design an item of Art Deco inspired jewellery where platinum was the hero of the piece. We designed a pendant watch with a self-winding movement and remade the rotor in platinum. The whole thing was mounted in a sphere of rock crystal that span in a gimble to allow the movement to wind. We won based on our drawing and had 10 weeks to make it! It was scary and exhausting but we learned so much along the way.

Have you faced any challenges when entering or working within the watchmaking industry?

Watchmaking can be a very expensive career to get into, the equipment we need isn’t cheap. When we started out, we had to buy vintage and antique machines as boxes of bits or in need of restoration. We started restoring and rebuilding our tools alongside our watches and now have a beautiful stable of old machines. Now we’ve grown and established ourselves, they’re such an important part of how we work, we wouldn’t shift to modern production methods. They all have names and feel like part of our team.


How do you find being female in a very male-dominated industry? Has this ever been a struggle for you?

Moreso when I was younger. I wasn’t taken very seriously at all as a student, both by some of the other students and some of the tutors. I very nearly didn’t graduate. Struggling to find my place within the workplace after is what inspired me and Craig to start our own business. It’s taken 20 years but I think the doubters are finally realising I’m not going anywhere! I’ve also had some brilliant support from male colleagues over the years, Craig is my greatest ally.

Could you give us a bit of a backstory on your book, “Hands of Time,” and what readers can expect?

Hands of Time is a watchmaker’s journey through 44,000 years of history to explore humanity’s relationship with time through some of the objects we’ve created to measure it. From bone carvings, sundials, sandglasses and water clocks - to the first watches, quartz timepieces, atomic time and even sundials on Mars. As objects that we wear, and spend so much time with, watches are rich devices that can tell us about the world they were created in as well as the time. I’ll be sharing some of the remarkable and personal stories about some of the incredible watches I’ve handled and worked on over the years.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always loved writing as well as watchmaking. I studied my PhD (the subject was the first mass-produced watch forgeries and their impact on the trade) alongside running my business. I really enjoyed that and wanted to turn it into a book but struggled for years to find the right angle. Hands of Time was the moment it all came together, and the research from my thesis forms the backbone of chapter 5.

What type of reader do you think the book appeals to?

Aside from pre-converted watch geeks, the reader I had in mind when I wrote this book was one of the people in our lives who think we’re mad for our passion for watches. I love them, as I’m sure your audience love them, but we all know there are a lot of people who don’t get it. This book is an adventure story that demonstrates what wonderful objects these little machines are and the amazing stories they can carry. My hope is that it will convert even the most convinced non-watch person and maybe even inspire a few people to take up the craft.

Do you have any stand-out career moments?

Both this book and the completion of our first in-house movement, for which we’ve made virtually every component ourselves on our old tools, have been amazing moments. They’ve coincidentally happened at the same time, which is super exciting, although we could really use a holiday at some point!

And finally, what does the next 5 years look like for Rebecca? Are you working on any exciting new projects or partnerships?

We’re reducing the number of watches we make at any given time and limiting our reservations to 10 years of builds, creating 3-4 watches a year. Making so few watches means we can really pour everything into them. They’re all unique and have stories.

And of course, we have a project starting with the Watches of Switzerland Group this year, completing next autumn, that I’m incredibly excited about. It’s top secret at the moment but we can’t wait to share it! I’m looking forward to talking a little bit more about it with Mark Toulson, Global Head of Watch Buying for the group in our upcoming podcast “In Conversation with Rebecca Struthers, Designer, Watchmaker and Historian,” out June 2023.

To pre-order a signed copy of Hands of Time and to receive 10% off, use the code HOT10 and shop now at Booka.

Respect for your Data: Capturing personal information from you helps us provide the best possible service, we respect and do all we can to protect your privacy. For full details of your rights in relation to the information collected, how we use it, who we share it with, how long we keep it and how to end any use of that information by us, please read our Privacy Policy.

Back To Top