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Tick Talk

by J.Peter

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Let’s talk about things that tick. 

I often get asked how I became a watchmaker.  At age 28 I am exceptionally young for watchmakers these days.  The average age of watchmakers in the U.S.A. today is about 46 I believe, most are ready to retire and a few youngsters are filling the gap, but not enough.I fix watches because it’s fun!


While in Peru I was standing on a corner waiting for the bus when along comes a thief and breaks my watch off my wrist and takes off running down the street.  It was a $13 Casio!  The hunt began for a new watch.  I wanted a pocket watch on a chain (to prevent further theft.)   I bought a $2 digital in the meantime.  Lots of the relojerias had all kinds of vintage mechanical watches around, and I eventually settled on a 17 Jewel Longines Pocket Watch in a sterling silver case.  While in Peru I also acquired two 17 Jewel omega pocket watches and a broken two register Valjoux chronograph in a beautiful silver case.

Back in the U.S. of A. the Longines hit the floor one day and I learned about balance staffs.  They break you see.  In my search for a new staff I got a $250 quote to repair the watch.  Probably not worth it, I paid less than $20 for the watch.

Years later with trained eyes $250 was probably a bargain that watch has much more wrong with it than just a broken staff. Anyway, I caught the bug.  Mechanical, ticking, time pieces intrigued me.

Before I figured out I could make a career of watchmaking I had forays in architecture ( 2 years of college) and computer science (B.S. from the Univ. of Arizona).  Now I’m a watchmaker!

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  1. Luke Cox-Bien
    Posted June 13, 2008 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I am interested in doing watchmaking, but am also wondering if there is a way to start without going to school for it.

  2. ellen
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I am 24 years old and starting a watch program in a week. Where did you get ur certifications and where r u working now? Interesting blog!

  3. J.Peter
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Ellen, try reading the next post. I am a graduate of the Lititz Watch Technicum. The about page will let you know I work for Beauchamp Jewelers in Albuquerque, NM.

    Good luck with your training. Are you going to St. Paul? This is a great profession!

  4. Posted July 4, 2009 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    Hello I,am a master-watchmaker from Germany. I had found your watchmakerblog today. I mostly repair mechanical vintage watches an historical clocks. Your Tuesday Tool section is is a nice idea – I will make a german version with my tools (in german) on my website and i will link to you for the good idea

  5. David Edwards
    Posted September 28, 2009 at 3:05 am | Permalink


    I have a question that is not exactly about watchmaking – but I don’t know who else to ask but a watchmaker. I have been looking to have a custom ring made, but the ring involves some miniature custom pieces which involve gear teeth, and worm gears, etc. The ring could not be made solely out of off-the-shelf watch parts, but would require some custom made miniature metal parts. What I don’t know about watchmakers is if they regularly fabricate custom gears and miniature pieces, or if that is a different discipline. Regardless, I do not even know how to locate someone capable of making the ring I have in mind. I went to several machine shops and they told me they are not able to make it. They suggested a watchmaker might be my best bet. I don’t know if you can help me, but do you have any suggestions about where I could find a watchmaker/artisan who might be able to deal with custom fabrication of tiny – and precise – parts? Thank you!

  6. J.Peter
    Posted September 28, 2009 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    As sad as it is, there are very few watchmakers out there who do cut custom gears. There are a few. More clockmakers do this kind of stuff. Worm gears? These are not common in watches or clocks so the tooling and knowledge required to make one would probably be different than for watch or clock gears. I would search the AWCI Referral database for someone who specializes in restoration including manufacture of parts. They are out there.

  7. Posted October 9, 2009 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    I stumbled across your blog while searching for what what other watchmakers have done with the trusty Unitas movement. Interesting 6498-review!

    I have a similar background as you as I have a Ms.Sc degree in Computer Science from 93 but am now trying to make a quite drastic career change…as a watchmaker…

    Best regards

  8. Johnathan
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I failed in last year interview to Nicholas G Hayek Watchmaking School Asia. I couldn’t impress the interviewer enough perhaps you give me any advice on how to deal with it? I’m preparing for d coming 2010.

5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] breaking. This sudden impact supposedly generates about 5,000 G-forces of deceleration. I know from experience that a watch falling from a desk onto a carpet floor can cause the balance staff to break (if not […]

  2. […] this? I think my blog lost focus. I share my experiences to let people know why I am a watchmaker, how I got interested in this wonderful profession, and why I keep doing it. Watchmaking is cool. You should be a watchmaker. Well, if you find this […]

  3. […] I missed the actual Anniversary of this blog by a couple of days. It’s hard to believe I’ve been at it for a full year! If you weren’t here from the beginning here’s a link to the post that started it all: Tick Talk. […]

  4. […] Tick Talk is the post that started it all and it gives a brief run down of how I got involved in this fantastic profession. […]

  5. […] be sure to read the comments as well since many questions have been asked and answered there: The post that started it all Lititz Watch Technicum Articles on […]

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