School of Jewellery graduates Rebecca and Craig Struthers use their amazing design and restoration talents to create award-winning state-of-the art watches
The Jewellery Quarter is home to Birmingham’s most talented designers and artists working in precious metals and gemstones to create some of the finest pieces you’ll find anywhere in the country. Among them is husband and wife team Rebecca and Craig Struthers who specialise in designing, making and restoring bespoke watches. Their company which can be found at the very heart of the JQ, is rather confusingly called Struthers London. “That’s where we initially set up the business because that’s where the market is, but we both studied in Birmingham and wanted to move back here – and, anyway, the costs of running a business in London are just astronomical, so it made a lot of sense to make the move,” explained Rebecca. The couple first met while studying at Birmingham School of Jewellery but drifted apart after graduating before getting back together again in 2010. “I was working in London at a restorers at the time and managed to help get Craig a job there too,” said Rebecca, whose family live in Perry Bar. “After awhile we decided to set up our own business and we’ve progressed really well ever since.” Very well indeed, as the couple who now live in Harborne have earned a host of leading awards for their work – including the prestigious Lonmin Design Innovation Award for their Stella platinum watch which is driven not by a traditional movement but by the motion of the outer case. They have also won a number of high-profile commissions, including designing and producing a bespoke piece for local sportscar firm Morgan of Malvern. The watches were unveiled before the world’s press on the Morgan stand at this year’s Geneva Motor Show.
What makes Struthers watches different from the norm is that they all feature movements restored and reused from old timepieces rather they creating or buying in new ones. “Restoration is central to what we do,” said Rebecca. “The precious metals used in old timepieces are very valuable to the jewellery industry because the raw materials are so expensive to buy these days. That means that watches are continually being melted down for their gold and silver. When we started, we thought it would be good to reuse the movements. This often involves a huge amount of restoration because many movements are very badly damaged – we use as many as five or six different movements to make one ‘new’ movement. “Some of can be very rare, dating back hundreds of years. We have one movement at present which is signed by J Billot who we know was a watchmaker in Paris around 1800. It’s an exceptional piece and is incredibly rare – I’ve never seen one before. We found it in a bag of old movements which we bought which would otherwise have gone to the bullion dealers for melting down which would have been terrible.” Both Rebecca and Craig are members of the British Horological Institute, the organisation of those who study the history of watches and clocks. Rebecca holds a degree in horology, jewellery and silversmithing, as well as being an MA in History of Art and Design. Master Watchmaker Craig is also an MA. Making a bespoke watch takes two to three months, but the couple’s award-winning Stella design was done and dusted in just 10 days! “It was quite an achievement,” said Rebecca. “I came up with the design which had to be a piece made of platinum in an art deco kind of style. Once we were informed that we had made the awards shortlist we had just 10 days to work out how to make it, and then actually make it.” The ‘making’ bit fell primarily to Craig. “That’s what tends to happen – I design the impossible and get Craig to make them,” said Rebecca cheekily. The couple’s various successes have seen the business flourish and as we spoke they were celebrating a new investor joining the team which will allow greater research and development. “To be honest, when I was studying at the School of Jewellery at first I’d never heard of horology,” said Rebecca. “But I’d always loved science and art and found learning about the history and restoration of watches fascinating. Now we get to merge traditional hand skills of restoration with cutting-edge technology to create classics ready to meet the demands of today’s watch buyer and owner.”