Who is The WATCH Lab ?
The WATCH Lab is a family owned and run business. The Partners are brothers Jonathan Barker and Jeremy Barker. The company was started by Jonathan in October 2000. Having spent many years covering the UK and Channel Islands in the jewellery trade selling brands like Ellesse, Adidas, Cyma and FILA, Jonathan got to know the watch business very well. He saw how the industry grew and changed.
History of The WATCH Lab and the UK’s repair marketplace
“Not many years ago,” says Jonathan, “there were just traditional watch brands and most people owned just one watch and a ‘watch was for life’. The Swiss brands such as Rolex, Omega, and Longines were all strong at the top end of the marketplace. The everyday priced watches which most people bought were dominated by the traditional watch brands such as Rotary, Seiko, Avia, and Pulsar. Then in the early 90′s came the watches revolution! The fashion brands moved into their marketplace. Started in the main by Gucci, the public began to understand that not just the heritage watch houses could produce beautiful and aspirational timepieces. Fila was the next non-watch brand to follow then Ellesse and the rest I guess is history”.
Jonathan continues, “Whilst dealing with all of the multiple jewellery high street chains and the independent / private jewellery sector, it became glaringly apparent that as more and more watches were being sold, the support and repair sector was just not there. Years ago, jewellers used to have watchmakers on their premises but no longer. They were retiring and not being replaced simply because the watchmaking schools were closing down too. In addition to this, there is virtually no watch repair training being carried out in-house by the multiples such as Ernest Jones, H Samuel, Beaverbrooks or indeed the private jewellers.
So, watch ownership had gone through the roof, every fashion brand in the world began producing timepieces (& changing their ranges twice a year) and the Swiss Houses got stronger and stronger. The problem with all this growth in the marketplace is that with the exception of the manufacturers themselves (who are usually slow and expensive), there are very few places to visit and receive a decent quality watch repair.”
Birth of The WATCH Lab
Opening its first branch in Liverpool October 2000, the Company from day1 employed a Rolex Accredited Watchmaker to set the standards for all of their watch repairs. They experienced instant success by tapping into a marketplace that was wide open for someone at last to ‘do-the-job-properly’. Within 12 months the Company had opened further branches in Leeds and Preston. After a successful multi-site management career with McDonalds, Jonathan’s brother Jeremy joined and The WATCH Lab to enable growth more easily.
Jeremy’s skills in multi-site management, staff training, systems & procedures, staff morale and retention helped the business develop into what it is today. “Recruiting and retaining the right people’,” says Jeremy “is the key important factor in any business. I am a passionate believer that employees should be managed, motivated, well trained, feel valued, get rewarded and are always treated with respect by their employer. This I am pleased to say is something I feel we get right at The WATCH Lab and is shown by our low staff turnover and most importantly a happy and contented team” Click here and listen to BBC Radio interviews with some of The WATCH Lab’s team.
Currently operating from 9 prime shopping centre positions, the company has come a long way. It has not been all plain sailing though. The company has had two disastrous branch openings which halted its mid life expansion plans. They opened and failed in the prestigious and very expensive Birmingham Bullring Shopping Centre . They also had to close a shop in Stockport.
In 2012, The WATCH Lab has large UK population coverage, a trusted and easy to use postal repair procedure, solid IT systems including internet based EPOS, mobile CCTV access for security and video links to Head Office and their Master Watchmakers. Add to this Investors In People status, accounts with almost all the watch brands, Head Office Accreditation by Omega, Longines & Rado and around 1.5 million repairs to date, the Company is well and truly established and trusted in the UK’s jewellery trade as the first place to turn to for ‘Quality Watch Repairs’.