Alastair Chandler, Company Director of The Clock Clinic has recently been made a Steward of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers for 2023. Stewards act as hosts at Clockmakers’ events, representing and assisting the Master and the Court. Being invited to be Steward at such an institution with a rich and illustrious history is an honourable position which Alastair is looking forward to taking up.
The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers is an ancient City of London Guild founded in 1631. Their motto is Tempus Rerum Imperator which can be translated as ‘Time, the Ruler of All Things’. It appears as an epitaph on the tombstone of former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, a liveryman of the company.
Although an ancient Guild, The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers is more important than ever today and supports the art of clock and watchmaking. It provides education and skills to aspiring and existing clock and watchmakers, apprenticeships, is at the heart of industry networks and offers members access to expertise and opportunities across the world. Furthermore, it owns the world-class Clockmakers Museum housed at the Science Museum, London.
Prior to the seventeenth century, clockmaking by native English craftsmen was mostly confined to the production of turret clocks. Domestic clocks and watches were mostly imported or were the work of immigrants from the European continent. Because turret clock making involved working in ferrous metal, clockmakers within the City of London tended to be freemen of the Blacksmiths’ Company. However in the plagues of 1598 and 1603, many clock and watchmakers lost their lives and as a result the trade consolidated and began to grow. The continued influx of newcomers led to resentment from those who had become established in London who came to set up in or near the City and who threatened their market. From 1620 onwards, groups of clockmakers attempted to set up their own guild. The Blacksmiths initially succeeded in opposing these moves. Eventually, however, the clockmakers succeeded in securing a royal charter, on 22 August 1631.
The Royal Charter gave regulatory authority to the Clockmakers to control the horological trade in the City of London and for a radius of ten miles around. The first paragraph on the (modern day translated) charter states “That a body should be set up for ever, ‘by the name of the Master, Wardens, and Fellowship of the Art or Mystery of Clockmaking of the City of London’, to include all English-born clockmakers, whether freemen or not, who live within the City, or a radius of ten miles around it.”
The original charter is still in the company’s possession and can be read here
In 1766, the Court of Aldermen granted the company its livery. The number of liverymen was originally limited at sixty but has increased in number over the years and is currently a maximum of three hundred.