I attended the Lititz Watch Technicum from Sep 2004 to Aug 2006. It was a wonderful experience and I recommend it to anyone who wants a career in watchmaking. The facility is truly amazing and the instruction is the best available. The program is constantly changing so I can’t tell you exactly what it is like today, but they follow the WOSTEP program which involves 3000+ hours of horological training. I attended classes Mon-Fri from 7:30 to 4:30. We spent 6 months working on micromechanical tasks (manufacturing parts) culminating in the completion of our “school watch” project.
The next 18 months are spent disassembling, assembling, oiling, cleaning, and repairing mechanical timepieces. The school is fully funded by Rolex, but stands independent. We spent most of our efforts working on ETA timepieces.
In addition to the schools supplied training movements each student brought in 30 outside timepieces for repair. Although funded by Rolex, there is no guarantee of a job from them, in fact they rarely hire their own graduates. The hope of the school is that you will go work independently (hopefully in a Rolex Jeweler.)
While at school I had to support a wife and son, which was pretty difficult. Lititz is a small town in the heart of Pennsylvania Amish Country and there are not tons of jobs available. I worked part time in the evenings at the Mercedes Benz dealer in Lancaster in order to (partially) support my family. Needless to say I incurred some debt.
Housing is relatively cheap in Lititz. 2 bedroom apartments can be found from around $500 –1000 / month.
LWT is a European style academy and you will be expected to work hard for the full 8 hour day. You are not allowed to miss class for any reason and there are very few days off. They encourage you to stay late and work on projects, and if at all possible I recommend you do so. I wish I had not had to work while in school because I could have learned even more. You can however complete your work during the scheduled day if you are focused. LWT is looking to train professional watchmakers, not hobbyists, and professionalism is the main thing it takes to get into the school. You need some mechanical aptitude, a strong interest in watches and watchmaking. You need to be able to communicate well both verbally and on paper. Previous watch experience is not necessarily a plus. They don’t want to have to break bad habits. Even if you have previous experience you will be expected to complete all the tasks from the beginning. After completing the application you will participate in a phone interview. If you get invited to come out to Lititz you will complete a mechanical aptitude test and a problem solving and reasoning test, as well as a small math quiz. Yes, some algebra may be required. Then you will have to complete some sort of mechanical tasks, perhaps filing, sawing, turning on a lathe, and some watch work. These tasks are just to see if you can follow instructions and have the potential to become a watchmaker. If you have the opportunity to ask questions, do so. They really like to see that you are anxious to learn. Think of questions for the staff as well as fellow students before you go.
Watchmaking is an exciting profession. I love it! Immediately after school I began as the only watchmaker at Beauchamp Jewelers in Albuquerque, NM. I make plenty to support my family. We have since hired another watchmaker. There is plenty of work out there and I encourage you to join the profession if you can.
I enjoy talking about my experiences at watchmaking school so if you want to know more just post a comment and I’ll respond.
UPDATE: Due to many requests I have made a new post about watchmaking math. In addition any questions about the current curriculum or costs of attendance, or questions about admissions policies should be directed to the staff of LWT at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions about my experiences at watchmaking school just post a comment and I’ll respond.
For those of you looking to talk to some graduates of watchmaking school, or current students you should check out the LWT Students and Alumni page on facebook.
For more about my watchmaking education continue with posts about micromechanics. –>Micromechanics, Part I