Horology, Clocks and Related Objects

The horology courses at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation give you the opportunity to develop the skills and competences to work towards becoming a professional horologist or horological conservator, or to undertake further professional development in horology.

Perhaps you have previously studied engineering, maths or chemistry or are looking for a career change and would like to pursue a subject with a more specific application. Our courses offer the chance to gain practical experience of clock making, conserving and repair.

Take a Virtual Tour of the clocks facilities and college.

Depending on the level you wish to study, there are a range of courses to choose from.

Levels 4 & 5: Foundation Degree (FdA) specialising in Horology
The foundation degree in horology starts with the basics of clockmaking skills and over the course of two years prepares you, no matter what your starting ability, to begin a horological career or to continue on to further study on our professional development or graduate programmes.

Level 6: Graduate Diploma in Conservation Studies
The Graduate Diploma introduces horologists to complex technical repairs and decision-making. Through a grounding in contemporary methodology and conservation science, this course prepares students for a career within the heritage sector. Graduates of the programme usually transition to the MA Conservation Studies. 

Level 7: MA Conservation Studies
The global industry standard for conservation which continues to introduce more challenging practical proficiencies and a supplementary in-depth view of materials science relevant to the conservation of historic objects.

Objects from historical and private collections are provided for you to work on, to acquire and practise both established and developing techniques. Recent examples include a wide range of projects from longcase clocks to clocks with balance wheel escapements such as carriage clocks and chronometers as well as antique watch repair. In keeping with professional standards, treatments are discussed and agreed with stakeholders, with reference to the current and historical context of the item, its technical makeup, and a scientific understanding of its materials.

Professional Development Diploma
For those looking to improve their new-making skills, or concentrate on more esoteric and specialised repairs and restoration, the PDD in horology is the ideal pathway. This course is not accredited by the University of Sussex, so makes few academic demands of the student. Instead, the format allows for a great deal of customisation, giving early- or late-career horologists the opportunity to develop the skills they are most interested in. Students are supported by the College’s well-equipped workshop and the 25+ years of horological experience brought by the team of tutors.

After you graduate and career progression

Graduate Diploma students often choose to further their studies on the MA Conservation Studies which includes a six week work placement. The College’s extensive links with museums, conservators and professional bodies in the heritage sector opens up an impressive range of work placement opportunities. Placements have included The Clockworks in London and Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum.

Graduates have gone on to work as clockmakers, designers, repairers, restorers, sellers or advisors. There are many areas of specialism within and associated with the profession and graduates occasionally go into watchmaking or automata. Some alumni work independently, whilst others pursue positions as conservators or curators in heritage institutions. Many high-level institutional roles are occupied by College graduates, including at: 

  • The British Museum
  • Royal Museums Greenwich
  • Wien Museum in Vienna
Read more in our interviews with alumni


Our well-equipped specialist clocks workshop* has a professional standard range of hand and machine tools for the production and treatment of clocks. Facilities include:

  • Individual work benches for each student
  • Access to the full range of metalworking and woodworking facilities in the adjacent departments
  • Digital photography facilities for the production of photographic records and documentation
  • Area for cleaning and testing completed work

The College Art and Conservation Library has thousands of specialist books and journals and all students have access to specialist databases in the IT suite.

* Coronavirus update: Workshops may need to close outside teaching hours for thorough cleaning. 

Find out more about our facilities

I am an electronics engineer by profession, having worked in electronic product design all my life. A growing interest in collecting and restoring antique scientific instruments influenced me to leave modern product design and to retrain in the conservation of historic objects. After deciding to retrain in the conservation of clocks and related objects, the course at West Dean College has given me a recognised academic qualification in a field that will enable me to gain work in the heritage sector. 

Highlights of the course for me have been the excellent workshop teaching, working on historically significant clocks and our visits to historic collections where we’ve been able to handle some extremely early and rare clocks.

John Chapman, Graduate Diploma student


Malcolm Archer

Subject leader and short course tutor

Malcolm's extensive experience in private practice, as well as the heritage sector/museums, lies behind his in-depth understanding of the profession. He brings a comprehensive knowledge of traditional craft skills, theory and contextual history. He also has an interest in new and innovative ways of applying conservation to mechanical objects.

Tim Hughes

Subject Tutor, Clocks (and Related Objects)

Tim Hughes MBHI, clock maker, trained at West Dean College and works as a clockmaker and scientific instrument restorer, and as external consultant at Bellmans Auctioneers. He has received several awards, including the Trustees' Prize while at West Dean College and a QEST Scholarship. 


  • Foundation Degree Arts - Clocks

    Equip yourself for a career in clock making and working with dynamic objects by acquiring the practical and technical skills, the theory, principles and techniques used in historic horological manufacture. You will make your own clock before working on a range of historic clocks; this bench-based activity is integrated with theory and professional practice. Learn how to combine and use this knowledge when making treatment decisions as a professional practitioner.

  • Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies

    The Graduate Diploma provides the theoretical and practical knowledge and experience necessary to start your career as a conservator and to begin to develop an area of specialisation. The programme is designed to be accessible from both the humanities and science study backgrounds. 

  • MA Conservation Studies

    The MA Conservation Studies equips you with the high level specialist skills sought by the conservation sector. This rigorous and highly respected programme draws on an extensive sector network, nationally and internationally, including industry bodies such as Icon.

  • Professional Development Diploma in Horology

    The Professional Development Diploma in Horology offers you a course of study some of which will be negotiated with your tutor and centres on building upon previous skills and experience across either a specific project, set of advanced skills or a research project.