W. Downing

W. Downing was founded in 1905 and is one of only three stampers left in the Jewellery Quarter.

Drop forges and fly presses played an integral role in Birmingham’s manufacturing industry during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They allowed for larger scale production of metal goods to an extraordinary level of precision and consistency, good enough even for watchmaking. Similar processes were used across the British watch industry, such as in the manufacture of cases at factories like Dennison, an iconic player in Birmingham’s industrial heritage. In the days before Computer Numerical Control, or CNC as it’s more commonly known, techniques like pressing and forging would have been the most efficient way of producing large quantities of watch dial blanks ready to be engraved, printed or enamelled.

The process behind making the dies to stamp each pattern is known as ‘die-sinking’. Traditionally, each die was hand carved by a master engraver out of a weighty block of steel. Created as a pairing of male and female positive and negative designs, these dies would be fitted into a drop forge or fly press which then cut and form the sheet of precious metal placed between them using brute force. It’s a skilled job,  and yet, this once iconic British industry is now limited to just a few workshops around the country.

Preserving the past is at the core of Struthers London’s design ethos, which is why they are proud to say that every Struthers watch dial has been blanked using this process before being hand finished and the feet fitted in house.

Every time you see a Struthers watch dial, you know the blank will have been made by Bob or Mark at W. Downing in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, UK.

 Bob

Bob

 Mark

Mark

Photography © Andy Pilsbury 2016

andypilsbury.com