26 Apr A Quick Look At Struthers Watchmakers
One of the reasons I’ve stepped away from vintage watches in the past few years is that it can be very tricky to find a decent watchmaker. As if getting hold of correct replacement parts wasn’t enough of a problem, you also need to be confident in the skill of whoever is taking your beloved timepiece apart. I was quite surprised to find that there’s actually quite a few watchmakers in my local area, but I know from first-hand experience that the quality and thoroughness of their work can vary greatly.
However, if you’ve got a watch of great sentimental value then you’ve often no choice but to take a chance and let them tinker away.
Last year I found myself in such a predicament. My partner’s grandfather has a gold Eterna that was his father’s before him. It’s a simple dress watch that was awarded for 25 years’ service at Hoover Ltd., and bears a rather beautiful inscription on the back.
To put it mildly, it had seen better days. The watch was in dire need of a service, and as a “watch guy” I was entrusted with finding a suitable place to get it repaired. Having first come across Struthers on Instagram, I immediately knew that was where I wanted to send the watch. I could tell that they put immense care and effort into their work, so I popped in to see them at their workshop in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter.
Struthers is run by husband and wife team Craig and Rebecca, who started the business in 2012. What truly sets them apart from other watchmakers, besides their impressive workshop, is that they also make bespoke watches. To do this they recondition vintage Omega movements, and then house them in cases made from your choice of precious metal. As simple as that sounds, it’s no mean feat in watchmaking. Not only does a 60 year old movement need to be restored to “as new” condition, but the entire rest of the watch needs to be hand built and finished. If they can do that, then it think that’s a pretty good indication they’re more than capable of restoring an old Eterna.
Oh, and in case their work isn’t impressive enough, Rebecca is the first watchmaker in British history to achieve a doctorate in horology. That’s simply incredible.
When I arrived at their workshop to drop the watch off they were exceptionally welcoming. I got to have a look round their workshop and a good chat about watches in general. I left the watch with them for inspection, and after a few days they got back to me with an assessment and quote.
It turns out that the Eterna had been through the wars and, as you might guess, it needed a bit more work than a standard service.
I had the option to replace the crystal, but it turns out that the watch still had its original signed crystal, so I asked for that to simply have the scratches polished out.
However Struthers did replace the heavily worn original crown with another signed Eterna one. They also replaced the mainspring barrel and mainspring, touched up the lume on the hands, and replaced two damaged screws.
Where Struthers really went above and beyond is on the dial. When dials come loose it can be very tricky to reattach them. That’s because if you use a process involving heat there’s a high risk of damaging the dial itself. Fortunately for me Struthers know what they’re doing. They managed to reattach the dial to the movement without any damage to the dial itself.
The case was lightly polished, and it was a pleasant surprise to find that the dents in the case back could be removed without damaging the wonderful inscription.
When I collected the watch I couldn’t believe how much better it looked. I won’t go so far as to say that it looked new, but the condition was incredible for the watch’s age. I can also say that the owner was over the moon with the work, and was grateful to have the watch back in such a superb condition.
I think that when it comes to watchmaking you get what you pay for, and the level of service and attention to detail from Craig and Rebecca went above and beyond. As I said at the start, in my experience easy to find a watchmaker who’ll simply make do and basically bodge the job. But to find people like the Struthers is a rare thing. They’ve both the skill and passion that’s needed to make a business out of working on vintage watches of all shapes and sizes.
The lesson here of course is one that’s universal – you get what you pay for. If you’ve a watch you need servicing, seek out someone with the experience and reputation to do the job properly, rather than using whoever is the cheapest or most convenient.
As you might guess, I would happily use Struthers for future repairs, and I must apologise to them for not writing this up sooner!
If you’ve a vintage watch in need of fixing, you can get in touch with Struthers on their website here.