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Unusual careers: Peek inside the intricate little world of a watchmaker

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Hannah Keegan
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Work/Life is Stylist’s regular column about the professional routines of successful women. Here, watchmaker Emma Elizabeth Boulton takes us through her one-day diary, from morning latte to lights-out. 

Emma Elizabeth Boulton, 33, is a watchmaker and after-sales trainer at Tudor. She lives in southeast London with her cat, Gloria.

MY ALARM GOES OFF…

At about 6am, but I snooze for half an hour. I’m not a breakfast person, but I’ll grab a coffee when I get into town. I work in quite a corporate environment, so I tend to wear a jacket and dress. I love LK Bennett and Zara. A lot of the time I’m wearing a lab coat anyway, so that hides a multitude of ironing faults. I’ve got a 40-minute train journey into central London. I’m a big sleeper, so I like to make myself comfortable and get some more shut-eye.

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I’M RESPONSIBLE FOR…

Training watchmakers and technicians to work on Tudor watches – from mechanical repair to bracelet refinishing.

I GOT MY JOB…

By starting as a receptionist at Tudor. I thought it would be a temporary thing, but as soon as I saw the workshop, I had to get involved. I was captivated by all the tiny components and the level of skill and concentration required to service and repair the watches. It seemed so magical, like everyone had these little universes on their workbenches. I worked my way up through various technician roles, and I was fortunate to be sponsored to attend a training programme for two years at the British School of Watchmaking. I joined the training department three years ago.

She trains others to repair luxury timepieces.

MY TYPICAL DAY…

Is very varied. Even though the courses I teach are quite structured, I could be working with watchmakers who have 30 years of experience to refine their skills, or with people who have never handled a watch before. For new team members, I break down the different elements of the watch, go into a bit of watchmaking theory, as well as the mechanical elements of it: taking it apart, using the right lubricants.

 I’ll have lunch about midday. I’ll try and take an hour if I can, but that’s not always possible. We have a chef on site, so we’re really spoilt. Today, it was all-day breakfast. I spend some time in Geneva, too, whenever I need to receive more training. This could be when there’s a watch with a new movement that I need to master. I’m often in the office well past 6pm, because once the trainees have gone, there’s still marking to do and preparation for the following day.

A steady hand and precise tools are essential.

MY MOST MEMORABLE WORK MOMENT…

Isn’t so much one moment, but more being able to help people achieve their ambitions.

THE WORST PART OF MY JOB…

Is being exposed to so many watches every day – it’s like being a kid in a sweet shop.

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THE BEST PART OF MY JOB…

Is that it’s really varied. And from a slightly selfish point of view, I work with a lot of talented watchmakers who I get to learn from. Oh, and the trips to Geneva aren’t too bad.

AFTER WORK…

I like to get out of central London and run through the woods to get some peace and quiet. I don’t have a television, so sometimes I’ll read. For dinner, I tend to just grab a salad. I’m not a very good cook; I’m not the most domestic of women in general. But I really enjoy gardening. I’ve got a tiny garden with a greenhouse that I might potter about in. I like to be in bed by 10pm, but I actually have to set an alarm on my phone to tell me to go to bed, because I get sidetracked. 

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My Plan B: Antiques dealer

I think I would probably be an antiques dealer. I love vintage watches and I have my own collection of vintage watchmaking tools. I’d probably be running a junk shop somewhere – maybe in the south of France, just outside Cannes.

Photography: Holly McGlynn

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Hannah Keegan

Hannah Keegan is the features writer at Stylist magazine.

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