At twenty-one years old Jacob Russell has become the youngest Fellow of The British Horological Institute in the country – a remarkable achievement by any standard.
Jacob Russell, who has always lived in Sussex, recently completed his Worshipful Company of Clockmakers Apprenticeship as a watchmaker. Charles I established The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in 1631 by Royal Charter. Today it is the Master and Wardens of the Company who award the Fellowships on behalf of The British Horological Institute. Jacob was awarded a Fellowship for his award winning practical work, carried out during his apprenticeship.
Horology refers to the art and science of making, servicing, repairing and restoring timepieces and measuring devices. Today’s watch and clockmakers need to combine the traditional, practical, dextrous specialist skills and techniques with an ability to embrace new technology.
Jacob’s Grandfather was passionate about watches and he inspired a love of horology in his grandson.
From a young age Jacob collected watches. He says “The aesthetic, history and function of watches delights me. I love their physical quality and the fine engineering involved in watchmaking.” Jacob explains how he learnt how watches work by taking apart and rebuilding examples from his own collection.
Whilst still at school Jacob helped at West Dean College where he was encouraged by the Senior Tutor in Horology, Matthew Read. Jacob served his apprenticeship under Geoff Allnutt, himself a watchmaker. Jacob works for Geoff in his business, J. E. Allnutt & Son, West Street, Midhurst. The firm and its staff are highly respected as restorers and retailers of vintage watches and antique clocks.
Geoff’s passion for clocks and watches was also apparent at a young age. He grew up working alongside his father. Geoff is passionate about bringing young people into his profession and is quick to praise Jacob’s exceptional achievements. He expresses a generous pride in seeing his young protégé develop and grow. I, too, believe in the importance of training future generations in our professions and I admire the investment and pleasure Geoff has made and takes in Jacob.
The watches seen at J. E. Allnutt & Son range from the antique to contemporary super-high quality English examples.
Jacob shows me a remarkable pair cased gentleman’s open-faced pocket watch with a gilded fusee, striking movement. He explains that the watch belongs to a private collector and is by Nathaniel Barrow who became a Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in 1661. The watch dates from around 1685. It is wonderful to imagine this watch in use in the final year of Charles II’s reign. The mechanism is beautifully worked and engraved. The tortoiseshell outer case is equally fine and is inlaid in silver with a landscape. The restraint in the engraved dial and the case further highlights the confidence and skill of this 17th century watchmaker.
This beautiful object gives us a real sense of place in the procession of time and human history. Jacob is clearly bound up with this story in an exciting way.
Jacob concludes “I love the variety and challenges of my work, each day is different – a different watch, a different problem. It’s exciting when you can save a movement from the brink.”
Jacob Russell and Geoff Allnutt can be contacted at J. E. Allnutt & Son on 01730 813495. To find out more about courses, apprenticeships and training visit The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers website www.clockmakers.org.
By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.