Vanished Wales: Remembering the Tick Tock - the iconic Welsh factory in the heart of the valleys

The Welsh factory made more than 30 million watches and clocks that were exported to 60 different countries worldwide.

In the 1950s and 60s, if you had a clock on your mantelpiece, or a watch on your wrist, there was a good chance it was made in Wales

Nearly 1,500 people once worked in the ‘Tick Tock’, a huge watchmaking factory in the Powys village of Ystradgynlais.

Over 30 million timepieces were made there, exported to 60 different countries worldwide.

Mary Lyn Jones worked at the factory in the 1960s.

Mary Lyn Jones described the importance of the factory as "a godsend".

“It was wonderful. The whole economy of the area benefited from the Tick Tock,” she told ITV’s Vanished Wales.

“Buses were being driven into the factory, double decker buses full of workers. So you can imagine the volume of people that were going into the Tick Tock.

“It definitely made a difference to us. It was a godsend, really.” 

The business was run by Smiths Industries and it was the largest watch making site in Britain.

The intricate work at the Tick Tock was carried out with painstaking precision.

Janice and Angela Jones still remember life on the factory floor where they mastered the craft of precision watch making. The entire process ran like clockwork.

“The components were very little, and the bit you did was little, and you passed it onto the next person,” Angela said. 

“You didn't think about it. You just did it automatically.”

Janice continued: “All you wanted was to come out of school and earn money. And it was good wages at the time. 

“You could go out and buy things that you didn't have to ask your Dad for.”

The factory was a major employer in the local area.

But as the years went on, consumer tastes began to change. Digital watches were all the rage and the intricate timepieces made in Ystradgynlais were facing competition from cheaper imports. 

In 1980, the factory stopped producing clocks and watches. Time had run out for the Tick Tock. 

In the years that followed, the factory was used by different businesses before it eventually closed altogether.  

In 2011, the entire site was demolished to make way for a supermarket.

Mary watched as her old factory was torn down. “I remember when they were demolishing it. I wanted to cry. It was awful.” 

Angela continues to work with equipment she first used at the Tick Tock.

The Tick Tock has been consigned to history.  But another factory in Ystradgynlais is keeping its legacy alive.  

Caerbont Automotive Instruments make clocks for the car industry. It uses some of the same machinery from the old Tick Tock factory - and it even employs some of the former watchmakers.

Angela Jones now works there. “It's really nice to think that us older people with the skills are passing it on to the younger ones who are coming in. 

“The old Tick Tock may have gone, but at least it’s a link to the past and the future as well.”

You can see more on this story, and many other lost landmarks, in Vanished Wales. Tuesday 18th April at 8pm on ITV Cymru Wales. You can also catch up with the series here.