The Guardian Timepiece



The Guardian Timepiece was commissioned by Birmingham Assay Office to commemorate the first meeting of the Wardens’, more than 245 years ago.

The project was supported by generous donations from past and present Guardians of the Standard Wrought Plate, as well as valued benefactors and sponsors. In addition, numerous Birmingham experts and luminaries gave freely of their skills, time and enthusiasm. The Guardian Timepiece was inaugurated in July 2018 at the new Assay Office premises in Moreton Street, in the heart of the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter, at a reception attended by the entire staff and respected supporters.

Designed collaboratively by Martyn Pugh and Wally Gilbert, with research by modern-day alchemist Dr Simon Plant of the University of Birmingham, the Guardian Timepiece is based on the structure of Au147 - a gold atom synthesised by the University’s Nanoscale Physics Research Laboratory.



As part of our new global brand identity its’ PR function will be significant, demonstrating that we are building on our heritage as an organisation that will last a further two and a half centuries. The Guardian was designed and developed by a team of talented Birmingham designers and makers, who through collaboration represent the depth and breadth of Birmingham metal-working skills. 
Together they have created a highly visible, major statement artwork that reflects the Birmingham Assay Office's activities, ambitions, and status.


Create a suspended open structure with moving time related components, inspired by appropriate atomic/crystalline structures, developed using mathematical concepts/algorithms. The structure would need to be light in weight, have longevity and and the fabrication should utilise a combination of cutting edge and traditional techniques and materials.



The structure consists of icosahedral shells whose forms are ancient platonic solids that contain golden section geometry, thus representing timeless mathematical and atomic constants. The colours representing the four precious metals of gold, silver, platinum and palladium. Suspended in the white space of the Assay Office’s three storey foyer, the structure coalesces around the nucleic golden clock element surrounded by a rotating silver disc, which displays the numerals incrementally.

Driven by twin remotely controlled electronic mechanisms, the time is visible from 360 degrees both inside and outside the building.

Using aluminium, titanium, bronze, acrylic, stainless steel and silver-gilt to achieve both strength and lightness, the Timepiece has been constructed through more than 2,000 hours by a team headed by Birmingham Assay Office Warden Martyn Pugh, using a combination of cutting edge and traditional techniques that celebrate the skills of the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter and the Midlands.

Inaugurated in July 2018, this five year project has created a timeless functional artwork that represents Birmingham Assay Office’s
core precision scientific skills and values in the innovative tradition of its founder Matthew Boulton and the Lunar Society,
whose members initiated the Industrial Revolution that ushered in modern era.


This project was only made possible thanks to the generous donations of our Guardians, both past and present:

CHAMPION: Kay Alexander MBE

GUARDIANS: Stephen Alabaster (Alabaster & Wilson Ltd), Frances Anderson, A.N. Andrews, The Rt Hon The Earl of Aylesford, Ross Bellamy TD, John Bettison, Carol Brady MBE (CPCM Consultancy Ltd), David E Clarke DL, Tim Clay (Succession Group Ltd), Lady Penelope Cobham, Baroness Christine Crawley, David & Jan Doyle (Jewellery Brokers), Patrick Fuller, Bill Good, John Gray, Kate Hartigan, Noel Hunter OBE, Martin Kenrick, Sharon Lea, Wade C. Lyn CBE (Cleone Foods), Simon Meddings, Helen Miles & Ian Bain, A. David Owen (Rubery Owen), Dr Norman Price OBE, Helen & Simon Rea (Glazzard Architects), John Todd, Margaret Ward, Stephen Whittaker (Fellows Auctioneers), John Franklin Wood 

SPONSORS: Weston Beamor Precious Metal 3D Printing, Cookson Precious Metals Ltd (facilitated by Asa Harrison & Stuart Wibberley)

Special thanks to all who contributed their ingenuity, skill and considerable personal time to deliver this unique project:

TEAM LEADER: Martyn Pugh
DESIGNERS: Martyn Pugh & Wally Gilbert
DESIGN RESEARCH: Dr Simon Plant (Nanoscale Physics Research Laboratory, University of Birmingham)
DESIGN GRAPHICS: Adam Humphries, Robin Pugh (Digital Trickery)
MAKERS: Martyn Pugh, Becca Williams, Wally Gilbert, Nick Wardle (A Wardle & Co), Daniel Wilmot (Faculty of Science and Engineering, 
University of Wolverhampton
), Keith Adcock & Frank Cooper (School of Jewellery Technology Hub, Birmingham City University), USM Ltd,
Brazier Metal Spinning Ltd, Andrew Law (Badger Anodising Birmingham Ltd), Scene In Silver, 8x4 Media Ltd, Marc Ciambriello, Mainco Wire Ropes Ltd, Kevin Grey, Brian Eburah, Suki Singh (Birmingham Assay Office), William Smith & Son Ltd, RMG Fabrications

MECHANISM: Smith of Derby

MATERIALS: LA Metals Ltd, Rapid Metals Ltd, Argex Ltd, John Keatley Metals Ltd, Maxwell Jones,
CBH Fasteners Ltd, Westfield Fasteners LtdLoctite Ltd
ADMINISTRATION & SUPPORT: Marion Wilson (AnchorCert Academy Director), Kelly Fisher (AnchorCert Academy),
Julia Sweetman, Becca Williams, Hannah Pugh, Living Content Ltd, Stuart Kettell



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