Established in 1760 by James Gatward, Gatwards initially operated in the domain of timekeeping, specialising in watches and clocks, rather than focusing on fine jewellery as it is known today.

The historical context of Gatwards’ foundation is intriguing. During this period, the prodigious Mozart, at the tender age of six, was touring Europe. Versailles was hosting royalty, and Catherine the Great was on the verge of becoming the Tsarina of Russia.

Details about Gatwards’ early operations are quite scant. However, it is known that a formal apprenticeship was undertaken by Benjamin Gatward, James Gatward’s son, before he assumed leadership of the business. A fascinating personality, Benjamin married thrice and fathered a brood of 17 children.

When the reins of the business transitioned to John Gatward, Benjamin’s son, the global landscape was witnessing the American fight for independence and the tragic fate of Marie Antoinette. The impact of these events on a small town like Hertfordshire, where Gatwards originated, is a topic of speculation.

John Gatward was a prominent Baptist with a fervent love for angling. He was known to sneak out for night-time fishing trips or use the excuse of delivering a barometer for day-long angling escapes.

During the early 19th century, the town of Hitchin experienced significant growth. Seizing the opportunity, John established an ironmongery business, as evidenced by the Gatward name imprinted on several manhole covers in Hitchin until a few years ago.

A devastating fire in 1853 claimed the Gatward ironmongery and Mrs. John Gatward’s life, who had hastily gone back to retrieve her gold watch. The business was later reconstructed, which included the addition of a foundry extending back to Paynes Park.

Meanwhile, globally significant events were unfolding – Napoleon was invading Russia, and Beethoven was crafting melodies that would catapult him to fame.

After John’s demise, his other son, Cornelius Gatward, inherited the family’s watchmaking business. Cornelius’s tenure was marked by the acquisition of the current Gatwards building for an impressive sum of £1,300. Notably, he expanded the business to include jewellery sales.

Bradly Gatward, the last of the Gatwards to manufacture a clock, was most passionate about music. He was known to immerse himself in musical compositions, as long as there were enough funds to take care of his wife and six children for the week.

In 1935, Bradly’s son, Willson Gatward, took over the helm of the business. His tenure was marked by the apocalyptic clouds of World War II and the debilitating epoch of the Great Depression. The Gatwards workshops were repurposed during the war to produce small parts for an aviation instrument company.

Anna and Lisa Gatward, who were still in school when their father passed, stepped into the business soon after, with Anna serving for 52 years. Along with Jim Hunter, they now steer the company through present-day changes while maintaining the familial ethos.

Although various changes have transpired throughout its rich history, Gatwards would still be recognisable to its early generations. The tradition of stocking fine watch brands like Ebel, Longines, and Frederique Constant continues, despite no longer making the timepieces.

They pride themselves on their professional and well-informed staff that guides customers in their purchases. The directors also travel globally to source the most refined diamonds, gems, jewellery, and watches.

Continuing their dedication to high service standards, Gatwards, now under the stewardship of its 8th generation with the 9th generation in succession, remains committed to its roots as a family business.