A Birmingham gold watch maker has fallen into insolvency nearly 150 years on from its launch – after racking up debts of more than £1?million.
The soaring price of gold and the effects of the economic downturn have dealt fatal blows to WH Wilmot, nine carat gold watch producer since the Victorian era.
All nine staff, including loyal employees with up to 45 years service at the Jewellery Quarter-based company, have been laid off and are still awaiting redundancy payouts.
Laurence Pagden, of insolvency specialists Benedict Mackenzie, said Hampshire-based owner Tony Shepherd was due to meet him to make arrangements for the watch-maker to be placed into administration.
“The company is insolvent and has ceased trading. Employee claims will be met up to the statutory limit through the government’s redundancy payments office,” he said.
“The workers will have claims for holiday pay accrued since January, pay in lieu of notice and statutory redundancy.
“The firm has been accruing losses and the support it was receiving from its holding company could not continue.”
Mr Pagden said WH Wilmot had piled up debts of more than £1?million to parent company the Saunders Shepherd Group, also owned by Mr Shepherd.
“This firm has been around since 1860 but unfortunately has now hit the buffers. Gold prices going up did not help matters either.
“There were no orders in hand to complete – most of the time was spent by workers cleaning machinery.”
Owner Tony Shepherd said: “The company is in the process of going into administration. This is a very serious matter for me – it’s been around since 1860.”
A source said: “The managing director of WH Wilmot, John Coupland, led employees to believe they might have a future if they completed an order for a large watch house by the end of January.
“After completing the order all the employees were made redundant without a penny in redundancy payment.”
Mr Coupland declined to comment on the claims.