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Watchmaking is Monotonous

by Jordan Ficklin

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When I was preparing for graduation from watchmaking school I interviewed for an internship with Rolex. I remember one of the questions they asked me was why I wanted to be a watchmaker. I said something like, “I like the creativity involved and getting to see so many different watches and how they accomplish the same thing in so many ways.” They essentially chuckled and told me watchmaking wasn’t like that at all. Watchmaking is monotonous. It’s true.

This past week I corresponded with a young watchmaker preparing for graduation. He was looking to work in a repair center for one of the brands but had heard that for many months he would be stuck on a single caliber doing on assembly and disassembly. I had to let him know that it’s true. Some brands like JLC have nearly 100 calibers they service but the major brands have much fewer. Rolex essentially has 6 calibers in production, but most watches have one of two different calibers in them. Including older calibers Rolex service centers work on about 11 calibers. Most technicians work on only 5 of those.

In the retail world I get to see a little more variety than you would in a service center. It is still very repetitive. 50% of what I work on are one of about 5 Rolex calibers. I also see some ETA calibers and some vintage stuff. For now, however, I see manual winds, automatics, quartz watches and chronographs. I was really excited recently when a customer brought in a vintage 5 minute repeating pocket watch. He wasn’t willing to pay what it would take to service it however so I didn’t get to work on that one, but I did get to drool!

Lucky for me I enjoy the somewhat monotonous nature of my job. I hope I will be able to work on more complicated and high end pieces as my reputation spreads and my skills constantly improve.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my job! I’m good at it. I enjoy it. I work with great people, and there are often new and different problems with the watches even if it is the same caliber I have been doing every week for a couple of years. I bring this up for the benefit of anyone thinking about pursuing a career in watchmaking.

P.S. As my wife points out most jobs are some what monotonous. The point of education is to prepare us to do a specific skill set well. Your day to day operations will fall within that skill set. The wider your skill set the more variety you can have in your daily jobs. I for example know more about computers than anyone else at my work will admit. I therefore handle computer problems on almost daily basis as well as repairing watches. I also like to help customers and when the sales floor is busy I step out to help out there as well. All of this breaks up my day and provides some polytonie (variety).

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