UK’s first clock makers’ training centre opens at Smith of Derby

March 6, 2017 News

We’ve opened the UK’s first training centre dedicated solely to helping secure future generations of clockmakers.
Inspired by the desire to help train its apprentices and continue the traditions of our family-owned business, we’re also looking at ways of working with schools, colleges and education establishments to help provide a platform for clockmaking and engineering expertise.


The training centre, within our Smith of Derby clock works in Derby, features a full-scale turret clock with both traditional and technologically advanced operating equipment, creating a unique environment for skills development.

Tony Charlesworth, Technical Sales Manager with responsibility for overseeing training, said:


“With the exception of the British Horological Institute, there’s no course or qualification in the art of clock making, and we feel it is vitally important to keep traditional clock making alive for centuries to come.”

Tony, who himself began as a clockmaker apprentice at Potts of Leeds, one of the oldest clockmaking companies and which now forms part of our Smith of Derby group, said:

“Being able to train our apprentices within a simulated clock room is new, exciting and has huge potential.
“It is cramped in most clock towers and not always the perfect environment to learn; by recreating the clock room it allows our apprentices the space to learn more effectively and efficiently.
“We are constantly investing in R&D so we are able to match the traditional with all the modern technology that goes into clockmaking and maintenance.
“And we are looking at making the training available not just to ourselves, but for the benefit of people wanting to learn not just clockmaking, but engineering and doing so in a different environment.”

Our history of training and apprenticeships goes back to its roots, with John Smith I, who started the business, himself an apprentice clockmaker to John Whitehurst III.
He said:

“Clockmaking is a highly skilled trade, using both intricate traditional hand skills combined with the most up-to-date technology. Young people have the enthusiasm and the energy to learn and are the future of the company. It is a process we have always believed in and stood by through the generations of our 160 years’ history.”

Mitchell Eaton, 20, joined our Smith of Derby apprenticeship scheme two years ago, and said that the wide-ranging training he is receiving and support is invaluable – apprentices work in every department of the company from traditional engineering skills to planning and production. He said the exposure to all areas of the business

“gives me a much better understanding of how the business operates”.

He said:

“The workshop facilities here were already great and with the new training centre have only got better. Being able to take apart and reassemble clocks, from the latest modern technology right through to the old manual clock systems, is a fantastic aid to learning.”

Sam Schoonderwoerd, 19, has been on the scheme for seven months, and said that he felt there was no better place to learn.

“I like the wide variety of options we have here, from actually building clocks to the sales and marketing elements, from being office-based to going out on the road with the engineers and up buildings fixing and assembling. It’s such a huge opportunity to learn not just about clocks, but about business.
“Since I left school I have always wanted to pursue something in engineering, and this is proper mechanical engineering.

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