Her-ology: Talking clocks and watches with Anna Rose-Kirk

The winners of the Young Talent Competition 2016. Photo courtesy of the AHCI. 

The winners of the Young Talent Competition 2016. Photo courtesy of the AHCI. 

Anna Rose-Kirk is an English clockmaker from Birmingham. In 2016 she was listed in the WatchPro Top 100 Trailblazers and won the F.P. Journe Young Talent Competition. 

Timepiece Chronicle:Hi Anna! So tell us a little bit about yourself and how you first got into horology. 

Anna Rose-Kirk: I currently live in London after studying for my degree in Horology in BIrmingham. I originally discovered horology about 10 years ago when I was in my final year of sixth form. I realised that Horology combined all the skills and passions I had in the best way I could think of: working with my hands, being creative (although with my creativity always had limits so this mathematical creativity solved this problem) history, astronomy, physics. When you leave 6th form they want you to have worked out the next few years of your life so I didn't take it up straight away, and went off to do a year of art and a year of religious studies before giving that all up to save some money in order to finally commit to what I knew was the only job for me. I finally got around to starting in 2012 when BCU launched the first ever horological degree. 

ARK: The revamped course was such a great grounding for a horological career. In the first year you get to work on both clocks and watches to give you the opportunity to work out which side of things you prefer and then you specialise in the final two years. You learn practical skills, servicing skills, theory, business as well as having the benefits of being situated in a bustling school of jewellry which has loads of great tools and machinery to mess around with. The course is really more diverse than the job that comes after, especially if you go into a brand service centre or a commercial workshop where you don't necessarily have the time to spend making broken parts.

Anna receiving her finalist award from Mr. François-Paul Journe.

Anna receiving her finalist award from Mr. François-Paul Journe.

TC: How can horology and watchmaking schools better encourage women to apply?

ARK: I don't think that Clock and Watchmaking schools need to make horology more appealing to women and I certainly don't think there is anything that they are doing that would dissuade women from choosing the subject. The issue is that they need to make a larger group of people aware of the subject because I think it's more the type of job that you know whether you'll be good at it or not rather than one you can be persuaded into. Perhaps if it was made aware that woman do do horological jobs, that would persuade more girls to sign up.

TC: Your Horizon Clock is was won you a place at the F.P. Journe Young Talent Competition. What is unique about the clock and what was your inspiration for it?

ARK: My Horizon clock is my final project and the culmination of my degree at Birmingham. It's main purpose is to show the times of sunset and sunrise as well as the normal function of telling the time. At the same time it shows the lengths of the days throughout the year and the path of the sun across the sky. It was inspired by cultures that relied on nature as a clock and it attempts to remind those looking at it how the origins of time are linked with the orbit and rotation of our planet and moon.

Anna's Horizon Clock that won her a finalist place in the F.P. Journe Young Talent Competition. Photo courtesy of the ACHI

Anna's Horizon Clock that won her a finalist place in the F.P. Journe Young Talent Competition. Photo courtesy of the ACHI

ARK: People used to be able to look up at the sun or the stars and pinpoint approximately how far through the day they were and this is all the accuracy that was needed and I liked the contrast of how we use clocks and watches now with such precision and how our timekeeping had become so separated from nature. One the most important things to know was how long would be to sunset, and the end of day light hours to finish work and get home safely but in the modern world, life continues after dark with no consideration of the rhythms of the day.

TC: Long time readers of Timepiece Chronicle will remember that one of our first interviewees, James Harris, also went to BCU. Earlier this year, you and James were named in the Top 100 Trailblazers by WatchPro, what was that like?

ARK: To be named in the WatchPro 100 was an interesting experience and I was surprised to be chosen as I have no connection to watches anymore; the watch and clock world can become quite separated! I was happy to be included alongside my tutor Jeremy and my colleague James as I think the award then represents Birmingham and what the degree offers the watch industry. There is now the pressure to prove my worth in the magazine!

The movement of a Rebecca Struthers watch. 

The movement of a Rebecca Struthers watch. 

TC: The stereotype is that clock and watchmaking is seen as a male dominated profession, does this stereotype actually hold true under scrutiny? 

ARK: My experience of the horological world is that there are more men than women however there seems also to be a steady stream of women studying and entering the profession. In some ways it is a benefit to be a woman as you stand out and people are interested in what you are doing and I have never encountered any bad feelings towards me. I do have customers thinking that I am the secretary quite regularly and asking if they can talk to the men about their clocks. One customer even cancelled a house visit because she didn't 'want a woman'!

TC: I know your focus is on clocks but are there any watch brands that you think make good women's watches?

ARK: I really don't know much about watches but I do think that most watch brands could make great women's watches if they gave them a chance. I loved going to Baselworld and shows like SalonQP but it seems that women's watches are just about bling and mother of pearl. Why not just make a slightly smaller version and let women appreciate the watch for what it is.

TC: Ah, mother of pearl, the go-to choice of dial for unimaginative watch brands! Is there any advice  you'd give to women looking to study horology?

ARK: The advice I would give to anyone studying horology would be that it takes time to get where you want as everyday is a learning day. I don't think there is any gender specific advice that is needed.

TC:  Which women in watchmaking do you admire?

ARK: I admire Rebecca Struthers who has her own business in watch restoration as well as creating her own designs for watches along side her husband. She won the woman of the year in the Eve's watches awards, and will be the first person ever to get a doctorate in horology, beating all the men of the last few hundred years.

TC: What watch are you wearing right now? (If you have a photo that would be great)

ARK: I don't really wear nice watches! Just a quartz one. Before I started my job as a clock restorer, I never wore a watch but I needed one to ensure all the clocks I was fixing were keeping time, and now I can't live without one so will probably invest in one soon. When I graduated I won a prize from LVMH which was a Tag Heuer watch however as it was a men's watch I don't really wear it. My dream watch would be an astronomical Christian Van der Klaauw orrery but I would settle for a vintage timepiece, not too small.

TC: I've been reading upon Christian Van Der Klaauw recently actually! His Planetarium is an absolute wonder! Anna, thanks for taking the time to talk with me.