Loomes & Co are a small family firm of watchmakers. Based in Stamford, half way between London and York on the old Great North Road.
The Mermaid dates from before 1588. It sits inside England’s first ever conservation zone. The plain 19th century facade disguises the sprawling building behind, which includes Stamford’s original town gaol.
Now it houses four floors of horological expertise devoted not just to watch making but also the repair and restoration of fine clocks and watches.
Robert Loomes, FBHI grew up in a family business steeped in horology. Robert served a traditional apprenticeship with his father, Brian Loomes, HonFBHI, himself a well-known technical author who has written numerous books on clock and watchmaking. Robert grew up surrounded by clocks and watches and by tales of Thomas Loomes, perhaps a distant relation but a very eminent seventeenth-century watchmaker. Robert has served as a director of the Horological Institiute and he is a enthusiastic Liveryman and past-steward of the Clockmakers’ Company.
In 1654 Thomas Loomes took over the Mermaid workshops in Lothbury in London. There he ran the world’s largest firm of clock and watchmakers. He played a significant part in the English Civil War, serving in the Parliamentarian cause under the radical Colonel Paul Hobson. It was a political stance that did not serve Thomas well at the restoration of the Monarchy – he was arrested in 1662 for harbouring Hobson and another, “two of the most dangerous fellows in the North” and held prisoner in the Tower of London. He was also a highly skilled watchmaker, as this complicated example shows. Alas Thomas died childless. How odd that today, Robert continues watchmaking. Equally odd is the recent news that we have other distant cousins living in Leicester who used to work for Gents, the public clockmakers there.
With a background predominantly in repair and restoration work, We were convinced it was possible to design, sketch and manufacture every component required for a watch in England. More than this we set about creating a workshop and a team who could do most of it under the one roof in Stamford and then hand build each watch. We still sketche each component by hand to start with, before we start the meticulous process of turning a sketch into machined components.
In the true tradition of English Watch making, Loomes & Co run their workshops in the same manner as Thomas would have. A highly skilled staff of twelve are each individually responsible for one aspect of our watch making – from machining components all the way up to the final assembly.
In the end, all the conponents go to the watch room, where two of Britain’s finest watchmakers, both with over twenty years’ experience, meticulously build each watch.
Watch making is often seen as a “behind closed doors” business. We are immensely proud of our watch making and are happy to show it off. Loomes & Co is a team of extraordinarily gifted watchmakers and artists. When it comes to designing and prototyping it is fair to say that every single member of staff has been involved in the production of our watches.
We still build British watches the way it has been done for generations but with a 21st century eye to engineering. One of our staff is a part-time examiner for the British Horological Institute for example, where they teach a very traditional sort of horology. Our senior engineer on the other hand, is a master of cnc machining which allows us to cut supremely accurate components in the building.
Each watch we make takes hundreds of hours to build. From engraving the plates and jewelling the mechanism to polishing the cases until, as a journalist recently wrote, “it sits on the wrist like liquid metal”. There is an obvious subtlety and style to a hand-made watch which can never be had from a mass-produced one. There is a reason we don’t skimp on hours and it is because the finished product looks amazing on the wrist.
We now have the capacity to machine eighty percent of the components we need in the building. Come and meet the guys and girls who make it happen. They’ll no doubt be happy to tell you how proud they are to manufacture a British watch in Stamford.
If you have any questions no matter how trivial please let us know and we shall be happy to answer.