Time to shine for former Rolex parts factory

A new co-working and flexible office hub has opened for business in Birmingham in a historic former factory once used to manufacture Rolex watch cases and other high-end jewellery.

Called ‘The Jointworks’, it is housed in the old Saunders and Shepherd building in the Jewellery Quarter following a £1 million restoration project.

The work has been led by local entrepreneur Andy Hartwell and his business partners who took on the regeneration project to provide a new and bigger home for his own companies, web development and marketing agencies Substrakt, Substrakt Health and Impakt.

The 10,000 sq ft building, which was acquired in 2019, also has hotdesking and private office space for rent on an ad hoc basis or via subscription.

There is capacity for around 100 people and additional space to host events along with cycle parking and showers at the grade II-listed complex in Albion Street.

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The renovation project was designed by 2G Design and Build which worked with heritage specialists to restore the three-storey building to ensure the retention of original features such as crittall windows, heritage tiles and Welsh slate roof tiles.

The firm has also taken space and opened a shop there alongside other new tenants including PR agency Big Cat and video production company Method in Motion.

Mr Hartwell said: “It’s been great to see new life breathed into this beautiful heritage building. It’s been transformed from a derelict jewellery factory into a modern, bright and airy place for people to come and co-work, collaborate, spark new ideas and build new business.

“We’ve kept the existing open plan structure and layout but there’s also a nice mix of quiet working spaces, social spaces, private offices and meeting rooms. It’s all been thoughtfully designed.

“I feel like we’ve made the perfect office space and I can’t wait to open and be full of industrious people again. Especially after the pandemic, I hope it’s going to be a catalyst to get everyone back working together.”

How the building looked prior to regeneration
How the building looked prior to regeneration

The grade II-listed site at 62-64 Albion Street was built in the 1880s and has been used for a host of manufacturing purposes including making parts for the iconic Rolex timepieces.

The units were designed by William Tadman Foulkes, the man behind Rugeley Town Hall, and used by a string of different companies including WH Wilmot and Saunders and Shepherd for making watch straps, bracelets and other jewellery parts.

Production ceased on the premises in 2009.

Funding was awarded to the project by the Townscape Heritage Initiative, part of the Heritage Lottery Fund dedicated to the repair and regeneration of historic UK sites and buildings.

BusinessLive – West Midlands