Stamford watchmakers Robert Loomes & Co are celebrating the results of a vast two-year European Union funded engineering project.
The project paid for a British university to help devise a full set of engineering plans for the firm: to manufacture their own mechanical watch movement.
Robina Hill, the managing director at Loomes & Co, said: “If we had bought this expertise in, it would have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. This is a major boost for Stamford.”
The funding depended on the firm persuading a “blind” panel of academics that their work was both world-class and innovative.
Robert Loomes, the technical director, spent two years developing micro components to prove this to the panel. He designed and manufactured an unique batch of watch balance components (the bit you can hear ticking in a watch).
Normally in a Swiss watch the balance is made up of three pieces of metal. Robert developed a technique allowing them to be machined as one single piece. This had never been done before.
The project has already resulted in Robert Loomes & Co recruiting extra, highly skilled, engineering staff to Stamford.
The panel had to be persuaded that the six-figure EU Regional Development grant was likely to result in both further Stamford employment in the future, and that it would result in Robert Loomes & Co moving up to “world-class” micro-engineering.
As Robina said: “Watchmaking might seem like a niche luxury product. The work we do here chimes with many other micro-engineering industries though.
“The same skills we foster here in Stamford can equally be put to use in medical implant robotics for example. Its not just about being good for Stamford, we had to prove this grant would advance Britain’s engineering capacity on a wider scale”.
Loomes & Co currently manufacture around 75 entirely British watches a year but depend on a limited stock of 1960s vintage British components for much of the watch mechanism.
The EU grant has effectively “fast forwarded” their plans to machine and produce their own mechanism.