On 12 May 1854 a statue of James Watt was unveiled outside the Watt Institution and School of Arts in Adam Square. This statue now sits in pride of place at the entrance to the University's James Watt centre.
After the unveiling ceremony, staff and students celebrated in the Guildford Arms until 2 a.m. and decided to form a club "to sup together" on the anniversary of Watt's birth. The aims of the Watt Club were to honour the memory of James Watt, promote the interests of the School by encouraging people to enroll, and provide a fund for student prizes. By 1887 almost 1000 prizes had been awarded. In 1890 the Club agreed that "a medal should be given annually to the College". Today, Watt Club Medals are still awarded to outstanding students.
Today, the Watt Club is the oldest UK Higher Education Alumni association and fosters life long links with alumni throughout the world, with branches as far afield as Norway, Malaysia and Canada. The Watt Club is a social and professional network, in touch with over 50,000 alumni worldwide. Through the Alumni Fund, graduates and friends of Heriot-Watt can support projects to enhance campus life and, through scholarships and travel grants, create life-changing opportunities for individual students. One very successful initiative supported by the Fund is the Student/Alumni Mentoring Programme which provides support each year for the career development of current undergraduates.