by Dale Budgen

Ken Chan, Rolex World Service Accredited Watchmaker

As an Official Rolex Retailer, it is important to all of us at John Pass Jewellers that we provide our customers with the best possible service. To that end, we have recently welcomed Ken Chan, an Accredited Rolex Service Watchmaker, to our Newcastle-under-Lyme store. Here, we are pleased to share Ken’s story and watchmaking expertise with you.

You may not know it, but John Pass Jewellers in Newcastle-under-Lyme is your gateway to a worldwide network of Rolex-trained watchmakers. As an Official Rolex Retailer, we are a trusted and approved destination for genuine Rolex timepieces in the Midlands. But we have also gone one step further by ensuring that our Staffordshire store can offer Rolex servicing with the capabilities to repair and maintain your Rolex timepieces, both new and old.

To bring this dream to fruition, we started the search for an Accredited Rolex Service Watchmaker. These highly trained individuals have been through specific Rolex training to ensure they can disassemble and assemble a timepiece while following the Rolex Service Procedure – a code of conduct that ensures every timepiece leaving a Rolex workshop complies with its original functional and aesthetic specifications. No other type of watchmaker would do; we were searching for a Rolex aficionado.

Fortunately, in September 2021, our Managing Director Andrew Pass was introduced to Ken Chan, who had only weeks earlier moved with his wife from Hong Kong to the UK. Ken explains: “I wanted to explore the world, so I planned to change and move to another country. I travelled to the UK with my wife to start a new life.” In their early conversations, Andrew and Ken were in sync on the topic of watchmaking. Ken says: “I really like Andrew’s passion and how he feels about watchmaking… I think we have the same mission. I chose to work at John Pass Jewellers because of its vision.”

For Andrew, a third-generation jeweller from a long line of watchmakers, this was a personal journey and an important recruitment decision. John Pass Jewellers began life as a watchmaker in 1948, led by Andrew’s grandfather, but our roots in reviving and servicing timepieces can be traced back to the 1800s. In 2013, we took a step in reinvigorating this historic side of our business by opening our Newcastle-under-Lyme boutique and now, we’ve got a fully equipped workshop and a team of Rolex specialists on-site. “It has been an emotional and personal journey,” Andrew says. “John Pass was built from the watchmaking skills of my grandfather, and it is wonderful to reintroduce this back into our current, modern-day business.” At John Pass, we know what makes a great timepiece, which is exactly why we have partnered with Rolex for more than half a century. You might say that finding Ken was the final piece of the puzzle in this more than 100-year-old dream.

In 2015, despite never having trained or worked as a watchmaker before, Ken successfully secured a three-year apprenticeship at Rolex Hong Kong. “This was the start of my own journey in watchmaking,” Ken says. “I always liked watches and seeing the mechanical parts moving. I was curious in how they worked and how to fix them. I saw some of my friends working at Rolex Hong Kong during that period, so I decided to pursue an apprenticeship.”

Ken was immediately thrust into the exacting world of Rolex, which has its own standards that trainees must learn to adopt. “At the start of my apprenticeship, because I didn’t come from a watchmaking school or background, I didn’t even know how to pick up the tweezers,” Ken recalls. His teachers were able to pick up a small part of a watch movement with their tweezers, like a wheel, and flip it from one side to the other in a single flourish. This was what Ken was aspiring to. Within a month, he had spent so much time training his hands to move like a watchmaker that he was able to develop muscle memory.

After completing his apprenticeship in 2018, Ken stayed with Rolex Hong Kong for a further three years as a resident watchmaker. It was during this time that he was able to put his skills into practice and gather more experience. Considering Rolex has filed more than 500 patents in its history, there are a lot of unique aspects about Rolex timepieces that can’t be learnt overnight! Ken says: “Rolex has its own standard and a quality first attitude. There was a slogan I remember – after a watch is serviced, we don’t want it to be like a new watch, it should be better than a new watch.”

This focus on service isn’t new for Rolex – it can be traced back to the brand’s founder, Hans Wilsdorf. He wanted each Rolex to be an “ambassador for quality,” so when his timepieces arrived in a new country, he also set up after-sales services for that country. For our Accredited Rolex Service Watchmaker, Ken, this meant many more layers of training before he could secure the title in the UK. In October 2021, one month after arriving in Manchester, Ken was interviewed by Rolex UK – the London-based home of Rolex in the UK – and was required to do a bench test. “The bench test includes a technical test and a movement test, to see what you are able to do and what level [your skills are at]. If they think you are suitable for the role, you are trained to become a qualified Accredited Rolex Service Watchmaker,” Ken explains.

Once Ken passed this initial test, he was invited to join the team at John Pass in Newcastle-under-Lyme. In January 2022, he completed the final weeks of training at Rolex UK and officially secured the title that would allow him to formally work on our customers’ watches in our newly fitted, in-store Rolex workshop. “What I am enjoying most is my new environment,” Ken says. “I can continue to perform the highest quality work, keep improving and contribute to making John Pass Jewellers even better. I am really happy that I can continue my Rolex journey from Hong Kong to England.”

We are so pleased to have Ken as part of our team here at John Pass Jewellers. Having someone with his level of training and expertise in Newcastle-under-Lyme is an incredible asset and should inspire fantastic confidence in all our customers.