|Watchmaking was a major industry in Great Britain for hundreds of years. Some of the most influential watchmakers in history carried out their profession in Great Britain, and many important developments in watchmaking technology were made here.
The industry can trace its heritage back to the 16th century, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It continued to grow and develop until the second half of the 19th century when it declined to a shadow of its former self, due to the massive influx of cheaper imported watches, and by the 1870s many watchmakers found themselves impoverished and starving.
Prescot in Lancashire was the major producer of the most important part of each watch, the actual watch movement itself, and was world famous for the quality of its work. Famous watchmakers such as John Wyke, John Wycherley and T.P. Hewitt operated from Prescot.
It would be the latter two men that would be major contributors to a short-lived revival of the watchmaking industry in Prescot, a testament to their innovation. John Wycherley pioneered the technique of using engine-powered machines in watch production in Prescot, and introduced a range of standardised sizes for watches. This meant for the first time watches had some interchangeable parts, meaning production was quicker, fitting the movement into a case was simpler, and repair work could be carried out with greater ease.
T.P. Hewitt invented the Keyless winding mechanism, and was one of the founding members of the Lancashire Watch Company, an attempt to rejuvenate the industry by using proven manufacturing methods developed in America. The Lancashire Watch Company enjoyed some success, but was forced to close in 1910, as it was unable to compete with the watchmaking industries of America and Switzerland.