The Queen’s Clockmaker.
Steve Davidson has a fantastic job. He is in charge of the many clocks at Windsor Castle, one of the residences of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
But on two weekends of every year he has a truly unenviable job – the weekend in spring when he has to put the clocks forward and then in autumn when they need to be put back an hour.
How many clocks?
Including the royal residence itself, outbuildings and so on, Steve has to reset the time on over four hundred and fifty clocks. Some are tiny – more the size of watches – others are huge turret clocks that mean Steve has to climb into several clock towers on his rounds.
I imagine that very few of us have to manually change any clocks at all these days – our phones, tablets and computers do so automatically. I think the only clock that needs resetting in out home is the one on the cooker – and it really wouldn’t make any difference in our lives if it was an hour fast or slow.
So it’s hard to imagine what a marathon task Steve faces twice a year. It takes him the entire weekend, working for sixteen hours each day. To make his job even more difficult he has to climb up onto chairs and stepladders to reach many of the clocks.
Because he is changing the clocks for sixteen hours much of his clock-changing work is done when the castle is in silence and with only its dim emergency lighting (and a handy flashlight) to light his way. In a castle with such a long and varied history, that must be really quite spooky.
Not only is this work time consuming he also has to be incredibly careful. Most of the clocks he deals with are extremely valuable and very old indeed. Some were gifts given to the royal family from dignitaries hundreds of years ago.
Steve needs to have the knowledge and skills of an antique expert in addition to his horological knowledge.
For the rest of the year, Steve cares for, restores and cleans the clocks. Plus winding them of course. In fact, back in 2014 British newspapers were reporting that all that winding had caused Steve to have RSI (repetitive strain injury) in his right wrist. He was advised by his doctor to be sure to rest it and take three weeks off work.
He didn’t, of course. He continued working by using a castle porter. Steve accompanied the porter throughout his rounds and told him exactly what to do when dealing with the delicate antique mechanisms. But in addition, he made special tools for himself that meant that he could use his left hand instead of his right to perform his work.
Since then, everything has run like clockwork and is ticking over smoothly. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)