What started as a fascination with looking at watches in catalogues and magazines has led to Stephen Couldry becoming a highly skilled watchmaker and handling watches for a living. .
Stephen works in a newly completed workshop at Michael Jones Jeweller on the High Street in Banbury. He has recently returned from a year out in London where he worked for the prestigious German company Wempe, and more recently Watches of Switzerland.
Stephen commented: “There are very few watchmakers based in the UK and I am fortunate to be able to work on top quality watches. Here in Banbury we offer a range of services including: fitting batteries, water testing, bracelet adjustment and polishing as well as full watch services and maintenance including changing gaskets and seals and fully re-sealing. If, having dismantled a watch, we need to replace parts, we will of course, use genuine components only. We offer these services from the beginning to the end of watch ownership and of course we are happy to work on watches that were purchased elsewhere. “
Most of the watches Stephen works on in Banbury are Swiss brands such as Omega, Breitling, Rolex and Tag Heuer.
“I like Rolex watches, their build quality is excellent and their movement is a pleasure to work on. I also very much like the A.Lange and Sohne watches – I used to work on these during my time in London.”
Stephen’s career started as an apprentice at Michael Jones Jeweller in Northampton 10 years ago, and has seen him move to start his own workshop for Michael Jones Jeweller in their Banbury branch after a short time in the capital.
Stephen commented: “When I was small I had a fascination with watch catalogues and I used to get a watch most Christmas times. I would take the back off these watches and be intrigued by the mechanisms.
“I remember that the job for an apprentice watchmaker was advertised at the Gold Street branch of Michael Jones in Northampton and my dad said to give it a go. I applied and was lucky enough to get the position.
“I started in 2006 and worked under Phillip Rosedale for 9 years who I learnt a great deal from. I recently spent a year in London to expand my horizons and to have the opportunity to work with different watches, but when the opportunity came up to come to Banbury with a brand new workshop, I jumped at the chance to work back in the Four Shires”.
During his time working on watches, Stephen has seen some interesting homemade or under par repairs.
“Most of the repairs we carry out here involve luxury watches and these require maintenance similar to a car needing a service. This is a skilled and very precise job but occasionally we find loose screws and plates or even find homemade repairs inside. Edges would be ‘burred’ to make a tighter fit, screws can be shredded and sometimes components may have been replaced upside down! You wouldn’t take your Aston Martin to an unauthorised garage and the same should be for your watches.”
“With the advent of the internet, people think they can carry out their own repairs. This is not the way to proceed – it’s like someone buying a very expensive car and then trying to service it themselves.”
The most reliable watch?
According to Stephen, you can’t go wrong with a Rolex.
“The mechanism is beautifully made and the parts are still available even for the old vintage models – that being said, most watches, as long as they are looked after and they are serviced correctly should last many generations.”
(Article first published in the April 16 issue of the magazine)