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Talking Watchmaking Schools on Off Hours

by J.Edwards

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Recently, I started a podcast alongside silversmith and guilloché expert, Chris Manning. In Episode 4 of the show we touched on the subject of watchmaking schools. The range of schools and other avenues of study we spoke about was far from exhaustive, but sparked a surprising amount of interest, as well as suggestions from listeners for schools that weren’t mentioned. I’ve begun adding these schools to the show notes, for prospective students considering pursuing the craft, and would love to hear from you in the comments below about the schools, courses, or training resources you would recommend.

The George Daniels Co-Axial Escapement

by Jordan Ficklin

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The American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute has begun releasing historical videos and lectures on their youtube channel.

The latest is a lecture by George Daniels presented at the 30th Anniversary of AWI in 1990.

Making Hands at Urban Jürgensen

by J.Edwards

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The fine folks over at Monochrome Watches recently posted a behind the scenes look at what goes into crafting the hands that grace the face of some of Urban Jürgensen’s timepieces. It’s well worth a look. You can catch the full article here.

As an interesting point of comparison, below is a video captured by Daniel Rincon, showing Kari Voutilainen assembling one of the hands for his watches, upon which the hands for Urban Jürgensen’s watches are based:

Support Watchmaking & Clockmaking Education

by Jordan Ficklin

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Have you ever struggled to find a watchmaker or clockmaker? There is a huge need for watchmakers and clockmakers in the United States right now. You can be a part of the solution by supporting the AWCI Education-Library-Museum Trust.

AWCI ELM Trust Fundraiser Dinner
Eaglewood Resort & Spa
September 30, 2016
Itasca, IL

The American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute invites you to join us for an evening of fine food and horological conversation as we raise money for the AWCI Education, Library & Museum Trust (ELM Trust).

Join watchmakers, clockmakers, collectors, and members of the horological industry along with special guest Michael Kobold on Friday, September 30, 2016 at the Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Itasca, IL, a northwest Chicago suburb. Talk watches, clocks, or whatever interests you and enjoy a wonderful meal all while helping to ensure the future of watchmaking and clockmaking education in the United States.

Tickets for the fundraiser are $95 and can be purchased at Tickets are limited to the first 150 people.
“There just are not enough watchmakers in the United States right now. If you have ever struggled to find a qualified watchmaker to service your fine timepiece, then you understand the importance of supporting horological education in the United States,” says AWCI Executive Director Jordan Ficklin. “The need for highly skilled clockmakers is even greater.”
“Before you know it, the evening is over and you’ve made new friends who share your passion for watches and clocks,” says Aaron Recksiek of Mt. Olympus Clocks in Salt Lake City, Utah “and you are supporting a good cause.”

Each year the ELM Trust holds their annual fundraising dinner in conjunction with the Annual Convention & Educational Symposium of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute. Visit for convention details. For more information about AWCI, the ELM Trust, to volunteer or donate, contact AWCI, (866) 367-2924.

If you can’t make the dinner we invite you to support the ELM Trust and their mission through a donation. Donations may be tax deductible.

About AWCI
Established more than 55 years ago, the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWCI) is the professional organization for watchmakers, clockmakers, and horological professionals in the United States. Our mission is setting service standards and educating the horological community. We provide continuing education, certification, professional services, and technical information so our members can provide the highest quality service in all 50 states.

About the ELM Trust
The ELM Trust was established in 1971 and is a 501c3 organization whose mission is to advance the art and science of horology through activities in education, including:

  • The support of watchmaking and clockmaking schools,
  • The Henry B. Fried Library, which houses more than 3,500 horological texts,
  • The Orville R. Hagans History of Time Museum, which maintains in its collection more than 1,000 timepieces and horological tools,
  • And by encouraging and assisting students in their horological studies.

The ELM Trust accepts cash donations as well as collectible timepieces, and horological tools. All donations are tax deductible and 100% of donations are used to advance horological education in the United States.
Each year the ELM Trust donates thousands of dollars to help outfit horological classrooms and bring the art of horology to more individuals. They work in conjunction with the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the Harold J. and Marie Borneman Greenwood Memorial Fund to distribute more than $5,000 in scholarships each year to students enrolled in recognized horological programs in the U.S.

BaselWorld 2016

by Jordan Ficklin

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Basel World 2016 began today. If you follow other watch blogs and forums you have been inundated with pictures of beautiful timepieces. There is so much more to Basel World than the latest watches.10415670_10153498413872894_6290537148742805944_n

If you are looking for some behind the scenes videos and pictures from a Vaucher factory tour and from areas like the tool section you should like AWCI on Facebook and follow as Dave Kurdzionak shares his experiences. There should even be 360 degree videos of the Hall of Time if you have Google Cardboard or similar device to view 360 degree videos.

Genuine or Generic Parts – You be the judge

by Jordan Ficklin

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On the Left is a generic automatic axle made in the U.S. for a popular high end brand. On the right is a genuine axle for the same caliber. Which one do you want in your watch? The one that is polished, round, with a shoulder to retain the oil, or the one that isn’t?

Leica Picture

Surface Finsih

Leica Picture

The shoulder at the bottom is critical to retain oil and is almost non-existent on the generic part

Leica Picture

Surface finish on functional bearing surfaces looks hammered on the generic component

Looking down on the pivots, this time the generic is on the right. It isn't even round.

Looking down on the pivots, this time the generic is on the right. It isn’t even round.

Leica Picture

Pictures taken witih a Leica digital microscope

Stem Extraction

by J.Edwards

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Magnetism is typically the arch-nemesis of a mechanical watch. However, there are times that a powerful magnet can prove valuable in a watchmaker’s work. Here’s a quick timesaving tip that employs a strong, neodymium magnet to extract a broken fragment of a winding stem, from an otherwise perfectly functional watch, without needing to take any of the movement apart. Simply take a short piece of steel wire rod of a similar diameter as the stem (one of the replaceable tips from a bracelet pin remover works well) and affix it to the magnet. Depress or unscrew the setting lever as you normally would to remove a stem from the watch movement, insert the magnetized steel rod into the hole for the stem and remove the broken fragment. 

 Removing a broken stem from a vintage Omega using a magnet 

Be sure to demagnetize the watch afterwards. 

Watchmaking is like Craft Beer

by Jordan Ficklin

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Did I grab your attention? I probably did.

Let me start by saying I don’t know the first thing about brewing beer, or drinking it for that matter, but I heard an intriguing story on NPR this morning which pushed me towards drawing this connection.

The story is about how Aspiring craft brewers hit the books to get science chops. Apparently anyone can make a little microbrew in their kitchen with very little investment. I have friends who do it. With the right kit and a little know-how I hear they can even make some decent beers, but I gather that it is also easy to screw it up all together, or just end up with a mediocre beer. If you want to have the kind of consistency that Budweiser produces it takes considerably more investment. If you have to throw out a little batch it isn’t the end of the world, but if you are brewing beer as a business you can’t afford to throw out a batch.

So how is it all like watchmaking? Well with a few tools most anyone can set up shop in their basement and start taking apart and putting together watches. With practice they can even do an okay job (i.e. the watches will run) but if you want real consistency and high quality it takes some real learning. It isn’t the end of the world if you scratch a bridge on your own vintage pocket watch, but if you are fixing watches for money you can’t afford to damage any components in a customer’s timepiece.

The brewing industry is seeing a blossoming of college-based brewing programs to fill the need of the microbrewing industry. Why don’t they just hire the self taught home brewers? Because as Brian Steele says, he is looking for individuals with a “deeper and more intense knowledge and training of fermentation sciences.” The watchmaking world is seeing the same. As consumers become more aware of what goes into servicing a timepiece they are looking for individuals with a more intense knowledge and training of horology. Watchmaking which was once taught by apprenticeship and on-the-job is now taught in 2 year intense training programs in a formal setting.

Whether you fix watches or you brew beer, anyone can hang up a sign. If you want to do the job right you better get an education, formal or otherwise!

Apple Watch

by Jordan Ficklin

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You probably heard. Today Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the coming of the Apple Watch and I am incredibly excited. You can learn more about this game changing product by visiting

Even as a watchmaker who loves all things mechanical I am extremely attracted to this watch. I think that Apple once again has done everything right and well sell millions of these watches. My only disappointment is that as someone who doesn’t use an iPhone I may have to invest in one in order to enjoy this watch.

First, let me say: I am going to call this a watch even if others may refer to it as wearable technology. Clearly, it is a watch. Apple has consulted with “horological” professionals from around the world and recently brought on board Patrick Pruniaux, previously of Tag Heuer, to help them with this project. It tells time, it goes on the wrist, and if you watch the movie about it they are appealing to all the things that watch enthusiasts go crazy for. They have tried to build a personal connection between the user and the watch so that it becomes a part of the individual wearing it.

As a watchmaker I have a few questions about this wonderful and amazing product:

  • Watches are worn all day and for many activities. This watch is even promoted for fitness activities and in time it will become dirty. Who will clean this watch?
    • Will you return to the Apple Store for cleaning?
    • Will you go to a jewelry store for cleaning?
    • If you go to the Apple Store who will train the Genuis Bar Technicians how to deal with this product?
    • If you go to the jewelry store who will train the jewelers and watchmakers on this product?
  • Watches become damaged.
    • Perhpas even more than iPhones watches get smashed up, scratched, and knocked around. Crowns fall off, crystals crack (yes, even Sapphire)
    • Who will perform repairs like replacing crowns or crystals (screens) on these watches?


Your customers will gain the highest quality of service if you provide basic product knowledge and parts to watchmakers to service your product. They are already well equipped with the skills and dexterity. With some basic training the american watchmaker will welcome your product to the market and help it gain its rightful place among watches instead of exiling it to the wearable technology segment.

Have the brand sponsored boutiques changed the customer service experience?

by Jordan Ficklin

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Way back in June 2011 Nichols Hayek Jr told Joe Thompson of WatchTime magazine in an interview that U.S. watch retailing was amongst the worst in the U.S. He proposed a change in the customer’s experience with more knowledgeable sales people and fewer discounts in brand sponsored boutiques.

This week I am in Las Vegas where there is no shortage of brand boutiques and I set out to find out (a little bit by accident) whether this has changed any at all. My first stop was a Breguet boutique. The first thing I noticed was that all the watches were running and set to the correct time. I was impressed and I mentioned it to the sales staff who assured me they wind them each day because they pride themselves in their timepieces and they strive to take proper care of them. I took the opportunity to find out a little bit about their repeater. They had a beautifully skeletonized repeater on display and I asked to hear it chime. I was told the watch was in Platinum and only $239,000. They invited me into one of their little salons and brought the watch to me. I activated the repeating mechanism and was surprised by it’s tiny and ‘tin’ny sound (hopefully because the whole thing was still covered in protective plastic.)

I turned the watch over and began to examine its components. The first thing that jumped out at me was that this “platinum” watch was stamped .750 (Strike 1 – the watch is 18K, not platinum) The finish of the components seemed questionable to me so I asked for a loupe and was provided one. I may have high expectations, but for $239,000 I expect flat polished (mirror polished / black polished) screwheads and steel components for that price. Not so, the screw heads had an “ordinary” polish. The steel components had a line finish but even that seemed somewhat inconsistent and many of the small springs had no beveled edges whatsoever.

The bridges were all hand engraved and I wondered if for this price maybe they were in precious metals so I asked what material the bridges were made of. The sales person had to go ask another who said that the bridges are usually made of brass because it protects against corrosion. (Strike 2 for my ‘ambassador’ / Plus 1 for the manager)

Intrigued by my experience to this point I decided to inquire as to what caliber was found in the watch that most appealed to me, the Chronographe Classique with a beautifully printed snail tachometer on the dial. Once again the salesperson did not know, neither did the manager so they pulled out the catalog (caliber 533.3, FYI). Well, this was strike 3. Even with a single brand and only a handful of watches the sales people still can be quite easily stumped. I had to return to the Internet to find out what I really wanted to know and that was that the 533.3 is based on the Lemania CH 27 as I had suspected it might be.

Mr. Hayek, you have your boutiques, but you don’t have your customer service yet. I propose you put some real watchmakers who are passionate about the art in your boutiques, or choose retailers who have passionate watchmakers who can speak intelligently about your product. It is a miracle we can sell these watches at all. There can only be 2 kinds of buyers: those with so much money they must have the latest, greatest, and most limited timepieces, and those who have done enough research on the Internet that they need not rely upon the sales people to answer their questions.

My next boutique experience was in a Rolex boutique, sponsored but not owned by the brand. The sales person there knew which models were new from Basel this year but unfortunately couldn’t tell me what calibers were to be used in the new Cellini models although she did know they were going to be automatic. A google search reveals multiple confirmations that they will be built on the 31xx architecture and so are only partially “new.”

My best service experience of the day: In an independently owned retail shop with a multitude of brands from many different companies where the sales people genuinely seemed passionate about watches and not only knew about the product but volunteered to tell me all about it even after I had disclosed that I wouldn’t be purchasing anything today.

Has the experience changed. I don’t think so. It seems highly unlikely that the boutiques will provide any better experience for the consumer than the independent retailer did. Oh, and as for discounts . . . I was in no position to buy but I have heard many individuals tell me that you can get a discount at the boutiques. Sorry, Mr. Hayek, I hope the boutiques are generating a better profit because they haven’t delivered on your promises.