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West Dean College Student Case Study
A British clockmaker, engineering graduate, and West Dean College alumnus George de Fossard
FBHI, has just launched the world’s first solar time clock, which has 750 handmade parts and took three years to complete. The Solar Time Clock is the first super complex mechanical clock that can be set for longitude and latitude, thereby allowing it to tell the time virtually anywhere in the world. No other mechanical clock has ever been made with such a complication.
Speaking about his career path to becoming an independent clockmaker, George says, “I left school at 16 knowing that I wanted to work with my hands, so I served a five year mechanical engineering apprenticeship, gaining invaluable experience in machining, bench fitting and workshop practice. Then I studied engineering at university and worked in industry for a short while before deciding that I needed to get back to the bench and start getting my hands dirty again.”
He continues, “I studied for two years at West Dean College and in my second year, I spent my evenings and weekends designing and building my first clock. But becoming an independent clockmaker doesn't happen overnight, and when I left West Dean, I set up a restoration workshop in Bath. A loan from The Prince's Trust was invaluable in helping to pay for the tools and equipment required…”
It was through his determination and some good fortune that George was able to pursue his dream career further, “A combination of luck and perseverance over the following years secured me a number of commissions for new clock movements, which I worked on part time alongside my restoration work. Not only did the restoration side of my business provide me with a steady income, but it also meant that I was gaining essential experience in the art and craft of clock making and learning from many of the great past masters of the trade. As well as my day job in the workshop, I also regularly give talks to various British Horological Institute branches. It was following one of these talks, in which I presented a miniature longcase clock which my wife and I had made – my wife is an ex West Dean College furniture student – that I secured private funding for our most recent work: The Solar Time Clock."
To summarise his views on clock making past, present and future, George says, "I feel that the 21st century clockmaker has much to learn from clockmakers of the past, and if that knowledge can be combined with the materials, processes and techniques of the present, then the future of mechanical clockmaking is bright, secure, and above all, exciting."
Find out about horology courses at West Dean College here.
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