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Apprenticeship?

by Jordan Ficklin

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I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about my watchmaking school experience but is it the only way to become a watchmaker? Well, no. If you can find a master watchmaker in your area you could apprentice (assuming he is willing.) In today’s world this may be a great opportunity because the master watchmaker is probably well past retirement age and you may just be able to take over his shop and clients. Watchmakers in the western United States are few and far between and since that is where I want to live the apprenticeship thing just wouldn’t work for me.

I would caution anyone wanting to take this approach to be sure and seek out a Master watchmaker. The word master comes from the latin word meaning teacher. You want a watchmaker who has high quality skills both as a watchmaker and as a teacher. You might contact AWCI for a recommendation and ask around at different jewelry shops but be sure and check some references.

Sometimes I wish I worked with a master watchmaker, but alas, I do not. Lucky for me I do have an ever expanding network of watchmakers I can reach out to when I need a little extra help. Communication is key for aspiring watchmakers. When a trade is perceived as a potential lost art there should be no secrets. Share and share alike.

2 Comments

  1. Scott
    Posted November 24, 2008 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    I have spent a fair amount reading a lot blog information from people in the watch repair industry. I have a serious interest learning this craft, and have started down that road myself. To do this I have had to purchase books and tools from ebay that were published/manufactured in the early 1900′s.
    I personally would love to apprentice on a part time basis for a couple of reasons. 1) I am 49 and it is unreasonable to think I can unplug my life and current career to dedicate and pay for a 2 year college course. No one will support me/my family or make my house payments to do this, I am sure there are a few of you out there that understand this. 2) I cannot quit my current job to train in another field. Too late in the game for those of us wanting to become watchmakers at almost 50 years old. Finances are more critical at this stage of life.
    Now this whole issue becomes disconcerting because I don’t believe I can do the physical work I do for too much longer. By the way, I am writing this in bed after hip surgery 3 days ago. So it makes sense for me to go in the direction that requires less physical grunt, and more dexterity and skill. BUT…how can I make this happen? A rock and a hard place. I am willing to work part time apprenticing as a watchmaker, but who will want to do that? not many, if any at all. So those of you watchmakers out there reading this, please consider the person looking for a way into this field that has obstacles to overcome. We may have more to offer in the long run than those with less to lose. Thanks for listening everyone and I would like to hear your comments/opinions.

  2. C Carrier
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I am in a similiar situation as far as being too old to just drop what I have been doing for 30 years and go off to something that I would love doing. Bills have to be paid and responsibilities do not just disappear when you would like them to.
    So, instead, I have taken my own steps to make the best of my situation. I have taken two Time zone watch courses, they presently have 3. I have not become good enough yet to move on to the 3rd. I also have spent a considerable amount of time and money on tools, a dual swing arm stereo microscope, and built my own custom jewelers bench with over 30 drawers, with a butcher block solid maple top, and a special long adjustable chair for all that goes along with this. I also came across an ad selling all tools and parts of an retiring watch maker.
    I have been able to clean and determine the ailment of 11 of the watches that I got from the retiring watch maker. He had some very rare peices that I am really having a good time in the repair or at least the basic function of all these beautiful peices. I buy and read all that I can get my hands on. I just purchased George Daniels new 2011 book and Mr. Frieds book and read cover to cover. I have more than 100 watches in my collection. I will be servicing all of them eventually. I do love this, but breaking into a full fledge training situation is not something I can do until after retirement. Then it may be too late to Apply to Lititz as they would like to see someone that can give more years to the pursuit of the art.
    This would not be a vocation for me it would be my passion .
    Thanks for the blog.

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