Eternal Tools Interview with Ray Bates, The British Clockmaker. Clocks, Chronometers and Automata

1. When did your interest in horology begin, and who or what inspired you?

My High School Science teacher was a watch collector and thought I'd be a good candidate for an apprenticeship opening at R.L.Christie in Edinburgh where he had his watches maintained. I took the opportunity and served a 5 year apprenticeship as a watch and clock maker. Then I got a degree in mechanical engineering to round things out. I also served my National Service in the RAF as an instrument mechanic.

2. Do you have a shop or home workshop that you work from, tell me about it?

We have two shops, one is the machine shop and the other the bench shop and testing area. Our home is an old mill and we live in the middle!

Here's a nice video about Ray and his Clockmaking business...

3. What are your favourite timepieces and why?

English bracket clocks. They represent the highest level of British craftsmanship, along with longcase clocks

4. What tools could you not live without?

The milling machine that we use mainly for gear cutting. It is a hybrid Hardinge horizontal machine with Bridgeport vertical head, and Mumford CNC rotary controller for indexing.

5. What do you find the most frustrating or difficult repair job or task?

Cheap mass-produced clocks, especially American. We refuse to work on them!

6. Do you feel concerned about the future of the watch and clock industry and if so why?

It looks bleak for the watch repairer as long as the Swiss control the parts issue. Qualified skilled clockmakers make their own parts and there is a strong need for such capabilities. The biggest weakness is the failure of craftsman to price their work properly so as to sustain a business and make a decent living.

7. What's next? Any interesting projects or dreams you wish to fulfil?

Continuing to build the business with the incentive of my son continuing what I've built over the last 50 years.

Visit Ray's excellent website at: