Watchmaking

Although good quality clocks and watches had been made in Coventry since the latter part of the 17th century, at the height of the industry between 1860-1890 watches were mainly being assembled from parts made throughout the city and from component makers in Prescot, Lancs. In 1874 Whites directory lists 130 watch manufacturers, but also lists these same companies as watch finishers. Only a small number of balance, escapement, movement and other  specialist parts makers were listed. It was this hand finishing aspect of the industry that brought about its decline, when cheap mass-produced clocks and watches began to flood into the country from Switzerland and America. Although the overhead expenses were small in many of the houses with top shops in the Butts, Spon End, Chapelfields and Earlsdon where most of the parts were made, nevertheless by 1894 soup kitchens could be found even in these districts. Only Williamson and Rotherham and Sons really moved with the times, the latter installing in 1880 a complete plant of watch making machinery after careful study of the methods and tools in use in Switzerland and America. By the turn of the century many of the previous watch workers had been absorbed into the now booming cycle industry. The few companies which remained used their expertise to diversify into making accessories such as speedometers and gauges for the motor cycle and car industries.