“No two days are the same”⁠ – Thoughts after a year at the company

June 5, 2023 Uncategorized


Phil Cockell⁠

We spoke with Clock Engineer Phil Cockell to get an insight into what brought him to clockmaking and how he has found the experience of working in horology since joining the company in April of last year.⁠

Phil: “I’ve been working for Smiths for just over a year now. After graduating from University I worked at a Pharmacy where I enjoyed the work, but was looking for something that tied in more with my interests, so I got in touch with Smith of Derby asking if they might have any jobs available. ⁠

A lot of my interests are mechanical in one form or another; be it Steam Locomotives, Land Rovers or time pieces. My father is a carpenter and it’s remarkable the skill he has. I grew up watching him fix all sorts of things and I guess some of this has rubbed off on me.⁠

My Grandparents have six or seven antique clocks in their house and when I was about 15 they asked me if I could take a look at a 1742 Long Case Clock, which had stopped. I hadn’t worked on a clock before but gave it a go and managed to get it going again.⁠

Whilst I’d had an interest in clocks, when I approached Smith of Derby I didn’t have much experience. Fortunately, the company provide a good deal of training in the Clockworks and outside on the road and after a year I’m feeling like I’m in a really good place for knowing how to tackle most mechanical clock problems.⁠

What I’m loving is that no two days are the same. Looking at two clocks, even if they have the same manufacturer like ‘Thwaites & Reed’, each of them is likely made by a different person and therefore they’re going to work in a slightly different way. You get to a clock identical to one down the road and yet they behave entirely differently.⁠

I’m always inspired by the level of workmanship on all the clocks we service. When you take a step back and you know all of this in front of you was hand-made, it’s impressive. Each individual part on their own, you’d look at it and think “how can this lead to accurate time-keeping?” but when you put them all together, somehow the whole thing works.”

As part of my early training, I had a great experience down with Paul working on the clock at St Ia Church in St Ives, Cornwall. I had the best of both worlds in a way; on the first visit, we stripped the clock and cleaned it, and then on the second visit we recommissioned it. This included installing three of our Autowind units and our Pendulum Arrest Regulator. It was great being there and having an experienced clockmaker talk you through it all.

And then there’s the bonus I suppose of living in the age of mobile phones! Even if I’m up a tower on my own, I can give another clockmaker a call and they might ask you to hold the phone up to the clock so they can have a listen – you can usually tell what’s wrong with a clock by listening to it.”

About the author

Nicholas Whitworth: