The trace addition of Sn (0.01 at.%) to an Al-1.7Cu (at.%) alloy has been investigated using atom probe tomography (APT), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and high resolution transmission electron microscope (HRTEM). We have studied samples in the as-quenched (AQ) condition and following ageing at both 160 and 200 °C for very short ageing times so as to better understand the early stages of the decomposition processes. Our data reveal independent Cu-Cu and Sn-Sn clusters in the AQ condition, though we did not observe Cu-Sn clustering. We observed for the first time that some of these initial Cu-clusters develop into GP zones during subsequent ageing at temperatures as high as 200 °C. The Sn atom clustering results in precipitation of independent - Sn particles after aging for 30 sec. The GP zones consequently undergo reversion and this liberates Cu atoms which seem to participate in a cluster-assisted heterogeneous nucleation of the phase at the interface of the -Sn. For ageing at 200 °C, this process is complete within 180 sec.