Laing: The Oldest Jeweler In Scotland
It was somewhat of a serendipitous coincidence. I had just been in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, a few hours on personal business when Twitter informed me that someone had mentioned Quill & Pad – from Edinburgh.
It turned out to be two young watch-fanatic sales associates from Laing, a branch of Edinburgh’s oldest jeweler. They had been perusing Quill & Pad’s Instagram and tweeting about it.
Since I was in the area, I went to visit the Laing boutique in the picturesque city the next day. The store, which in May 2015 celebrated the 175th anniversary of the Laing family being in the business, carries a number of interesting watches and even a pre-owned watch section.
But that’s not what impressed me most. What has caused me to put this little visit in our heartbeat category is twofold.
For one, the obvious passion that these two young sales associates have for timepieces. It’s inspiring to see the next generation gain such an appreciation of horology.
And for another, the gorgeous clock in Laing’s showroom.
The clock is signed “J.R. Laing” (James Robert Laing) and “Glasgow,” but beyond that I haven’t been able to find out much more about it. I do know that the current generation of Laing brothers have split the family business: Michael Laing OBE, having joined the family business in 1979, is chairman of the Edinburgh branch (which has two stores in the capital city, two more in Cardiff, and one in Southampton). His son Richard, representing the sixth generation, joined the business in 2014.
Michael Laing’s brother, Stuart, owns Laings of Glasgow with three shops in that city. He is also the chairman of Houlden Group, a large U.K. purchasing collective for independent jewelers. Laing’s daughter Wendy and her husband Joe also work in his side of the business, likewise representing the sixth generation.
Though I haven’t yet found out too much about the clock, which displays a subsidiary date in addition to the hours, minutes, and seconds, another large point of interest for me in the Edinburgh shop was a certificate pointing out that J.R. and W. Laing were the official chronometer makers to the admiralty from 1887 through 1938.
In this Daily Record article, Michael Laing explains that the family business was begun in 1840 by an “ancestor who became a watch and clockmaker. It was a strange decision at the time because . . . Scotland wasn’t a place associated with watchmaking.” It still isn’t, which is perhaps why I found this serendipitous visit so interesting.