Stephen McDonnell was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1972. He has been interested in watchmaking ever since he remembers, tinkering and "repairing" his grandfather's clocks as a precocious four-year-old. While growing up, McDonnell's passion − which he describes more as an addiction − never abated, however as watchmaking was not a particularly well-known career path in Northern Ireland, he always thought that it would remain a hobby while he worked in another field.
After completing a degree in theology at Oxford University, McDonnell returned to Belfast and gradually fell into repairing clocks for a number of watch and clock shops. This led to the realisation that watchmaking might well be a career after all. After completing a one-week Rolex course − until then his experience had been virtually exclusively with clocks − McDonnell moved to Neuchâtel, Switzerland in 2001 to do a six-month course at WOSTEP (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program). Upon completion, he was offered an instructor position at WOSTEP, which he held until 2007 when he decided to set up as an independent watchmaker.
McDonnell became an accomplished, though self-taught, movement designer, which provided him with a very rare skill set as watch constructors rarely have hands-on practical watch experience.
McDonnell moved back to Belfast with his wife and two children in 2014. He now works from his own comprehensively-equipped workshop, enabling him to make anything he needs for prototyping. An absolute horological perfectionist, McDonnell likes to control all aspects of the development process from conception through to 3D design, construction, the creation of technical plans, and prototyping.