Andrew Law takes in a deep breath and steadies his hands.
Peering through a magnifying glass, he carefully picks up a miniscule piece of metal with a pair of tweezers and begins the pain-staking task of filing it into the working mechanism of a watch.
The 21-year-old is hoping to become the fourth generation of his family to go into the watch-making business.
His great-grandfather founded the family’s jewellery firm in Northern Ireland, and thanks to a BA (Hons) degree in Horology, Andrew hopes to keep the business alive.
The degree, taught by Birmingham City University, is believed to be the only one of its kind in the world.
Based at the historic Birmingham School of Jewellery, the horology degree teaches the art and science of time measurement – skills developed over three centuries.
The renowned school has forged links with some of the industry’s biggest and most respected watch and clock makers – including Cartier in London and Georg Jensen of Denmark.
Andrew, who is in the final year of his degree, has recently completed a seven-week placement with Louis Vuitton, which produces TAG Heuer watches.
“It was an amazing experience,” says Andrew, of Selly Oak. “They let us experience every aspect of the workshop. I found it really inspiring.
“I think I want to work in the watch servicing sector initially and then go into restoration, you have to know watches inside out before you can begin to restore them.
“When I am older I might take on the family business. I like the whole delicacy involved in watch-making.
“Some of the components we work with can be just a few millimetres small. It can be incredibly frustrating, but really rewarding when it comes together.”
Rosie Kirk, aged 25, is also in her third year of the degree and is specialising in clock repair. She did a placement over the summer at London’s British Museum and hopes to one day own her own clock restoration business.
“I think the inner-workings of clocks are beautiful,” says Rosie, who hails from Kent and now lives in Ladywood. “My time at the British Museum was fascinating, I even got to help with the conservation of some of the clocks, which is such delicate process.”
Jeremy Hobbins, course director and deputy head of the school, says: “The clock and watch restoration business is a vibrant one and we have graduates now working all over the world.
“We are highly concentrated on the mechanics and workings of watches and clocks and teaching how to repair and restore them.
“We also equip students with basic business skills so they have an understanding of marketing and putting a business plan together or securing a loan to start their own business.
“It’s a terrifically difficult skill to master, the hand control they need to develop to handle such tiny components is a major task in itself.”
He says the students also benefit from being taught at the School of Jewellery, which was founded in 1890 and is the largest institution of its kind in Europe.
“To be based in Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter, where an estimated 40 per cent of British jewellery is made today, provides premium exposure to industry practice with an excellent source of industry contacts,” he adds.
“Most importantly, we are training new generations historic skills, which would otherwise be dying. It is such a privilege to be able to play a part in keeping the industry going.”