You may have heard that the watch industry is in crisis. While we live in challenging times, we are lucky at least that this is an interesting period. We’re seeing big businesses rethink, rebrand, and reposition themselves in response to new challenges; at the same time, smaller companies are either booming or busting at an alarming rate. Smaller companies are thriving due to unique offerings such as bespoke watchmaking.
Things were easier 20 years ago, but things are better today. It’s better because everyone in the industry has to be better and produce better items. There’s no room for laziness, no dead weight, no time for a brand to stand still. Everyone and everything in the industry has to evolve, to adapt to new demands, to raise the bar higher than it’s ever been set before.
The volume of high-spenders might have dwindled, but the amount of ‘super rich’ has gone up – a trend that looks set to continue. Now is the perfect time for small, creative teams to design and sell their unique wares to the people who would never be satisfied with off-the-peg horology.
Roger Smith has been making small numbers of watches for a discerning, deep-pocketed clientele for years. He’s perhaps the best-known English watchmaker of his generation, but four years ago a new company emerged on the British mainland that is poised to capitalize on favorable market conditions for bespoke watchmaking.
Struthers London is owned and run by Craig and Rebecca Struthers. Both trained watchmakers, Rebecca is a trailblazer in her academic field of Antiquarian Horology, and is the first person in the UK to earn a doctorate in the subject. Together, she and her husband assess each client’s individual needs and build-up a concept for them specifically. Work on each piece can take up to a year depending on the complexity of the design, but when you get into this realm of almost limitless personalization, you don’t mind the wait. In fact, in many ways, that’s part of the charm.
This kind of bespoke watchmaking service is exactly what the industry needs to remain interesting. In some ways, unique pieces are hard to value because they are tied to an individual rather than a generation-spanning story, or the perpetuation of a brand message. They perform an ever more-important function: They remind us that watchmaking is a joyful, artistic, and intensely personal passion. These items are truly treasure, and the mystic of the individual commissioning the piece, the integral value of the materials used, and the historical significance of the hand skills employed in their creation. So how much does it cost? Prices for a bespoke watch from Struthers London start at £30,000 (around $39,000 at the time of writing) – a small price to pay for a unique and personal work of art.
About the Author: Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.