Jeweller’s on time for third generation

MAKING watches is a timeless tradition in this family as the third generation joins the firm.

R & J Howarth, which has shops at Mawdsley Street in Bolton and Market Street, Little Lever, is teaching Oliver Howarth the craft.

The 16-year-old former Turton High School has been welcomed by his dad and grandfather, Michael and Roger Howarth.

Roger Howarth started watchmaking in 1949 at Greenoughs Jewellers in Newport Street in Bolton town centre.

He started his apprenticeship there and qualified in 1954 as the North West’s highestgraded student, making him a Fellow of the British Horological institute.

During his time as an apprentice he met his wife, Joyce, who worked at Greenoughs’ office.

In 1955, Roger did his national service in Malta and Libya, using his watchmaking skills as an RAF instrument technician.

After leaving the RAF with hardly any money, Roger decided to become a selfemployed watchmaker, working for local jewellers, which was the start of the business in 1958.

He said: “It was a struggle in those very early days, working 10 hours a day in limited space from home and bringing up a family.

“Due to a lack of space in 1960, we opened a workshop in Corporation Street opposite the Market Place.

“After a few years I expanded the workshop into a small shop area selling jewellery and watches, and in 1974 we decided to move into larger premises.

“Our first ‘proper’ shop was in Mawdsley Street, Bolton, and, at one stage, we had six family members working together.”

Oliver’s dad, Michael, now aged 50, also began his career there aged 16 after leaving Tonge High School.

He said: “I’ve never taught anyone before so it’ll be very interesting.

“Watchmaking takes a long time to learn and requires a lot of patience. It’s a very delicate job but Oliver has done really well so far.

“I’ve been a watchmaker all my working life and I’ve kept learning things. It’s an on-going training and there are always new developments to know about.

“Watchmaking is a term for watch making and repairs.”

Howarth’s no longer make original watches, but they often have to make or adapt parts.

Michael said: “We have to have traditional watchmaking skills, which include metalwork and even woodworking techniques that are needed for grandfather clocks and wooden cabinets.

“I always say that a good watchmaker can probably repair almost anything.

That’s because they find out why something is broken and then look into how it can be fixed.”

New recruit Oliver had a week’s work experience at the family firm in 2011.

He said: “Dad has been teaching me to do small watch repairs and fittings.

I’ve also started a course with at Bolton College studying IT.” The Mawdsley Street shop will hold an open day today to celebrate its 55th anniversary.

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