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Certified Watchmaker

by J.Peter

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When I graduated from the Lititz Watch Technicum, I left with an LWT Diploma, a WOSTEP certificate, and the title of AWCI Certified Watchmaker for the 21st Century. So what do they mean?

My WOSTEP Certificate means that I successfully completed 3000 hours of coursework approved by the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program and passed the intermediate and final exams. I completed this coursework at the Lititz Watch Technicum from 2004 to 2006. The goal of the WOSTEP program is to prepare watchmakers for after sales service of quality swiss made timepieces. It is recognized throughout the Swiss watch industry. The coursework and exams require proficiency in micromechanical tasks such as filing, sawing, turning, and burnishing as well as proficiency in watch cleaning, lubrication, timing, adjusting, hairspring manipulation & forming, theory & ideas. Students are tested in each of these areas culminating in a final exam administered on an automatic, chronograph & quartz wristwatch.

The LWT diploma is unique to the Lititz Watch Technicum and requires that the student complete (in addition to the WOSTEP requirements) a school watch project (see LWT post), a thesis project, and a significant number of “real world” customer repairs.

The AWCI Certified Watchmaker is probably the most recognized certification in the United States, but it has a shady history. This certification has been around for many years but it lacked respect in the past due to its administration methods. This certification was totally revamped and the Certified Watchmaker for the 21st Century (CW21) was born. This new certification process (which I completed) is strongly supported by the American Watchmaking Industry, especially by Rolex USA. It is designed to assess the skills of watchmakers and determine whether they have the knowledge and skills to work on high quality modern watches. It specifically tests on automatics, chronographs and quartzes. I cannot write about the specifics of the exam but details are available from AWCI. Since I know many individuals who have taken this test (some who have passed and some who have failed) I feel it is a very good assessment of a watchmaker’s skills and I would encourage all watchmaker’s to take it.

When first faced with the decision as to whether to take the CW exam or not I was torn. I already was slated to receive the WOSTEP certificate and the LWT diploma, but I decided to support the exam as a way to qualify good watchmakers in this country. I’m glad I did. Many companies have supported this certification. Rolex offers spare parts accounts to watchmakers who receive the certification and who have a professional workshop. Recently they have even extended tool accounts to some of these individuals. In the latest Horological Times it states that Rolex will require all their spare parts accounts to have an AWCI CW by 2010. If it is good enough for Rolex, it’s good enough for me. I still hold out hope that other companies will follow suit. Availability of spare parts is a serious issue for watchmakers today, maybe I’ll write about that next.

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