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by Tony

The class of 2010 will be part of the new SAWTA program.  SAWTA stands for Swiss American Watchmakers Alliance.  SAWTA is owned by Rolex and the purpose of this is to train highly qualified watchmakers.  The current curriculum through WOSTEP is good but it limits watchmakers to certain extents.  SAWTA works in partner with WOSTEP and the AWCI.  WOSTEP and AWCI are basically two separate entities and SAWTA  is a big umbrella bringing them together.  As most know, WOSTEP has a certain number of tests that need to be passed to obtain a WOSTEP certificate.  The tests are being able to make a winding stem, pivot gauge, and a couple other things I believe. I can’t remember offhand but I’m sure someone will chime in on that.  With that, a student can just keep on practicing making stems and pivot gauges over and over again until they become so good at it, they can do it with their eyes closed.  This shows a level of skill but the brain isn’t functioning, so to speak.  It becomes an action and you just make it like a robot.  SAWTA on the other hand, will give out tests that will require analytical and problem solving skills.  We have no idea what the test will be on and will find out the morning we get into class.  It is a bit nerve racking but we will have learned all the proficiencies needed to pass the test.

Also, from the 2011 class and on, by passing the SAWTA exams, you will automatically acquire the AWCI certificate as well.  I don’t know too much about that but all I know is that we have to take this test as well after graduation. So next year, consider yourself lucky! 

If anyone has anymore questions or input, please chime in!

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  1. J.Peter
    Posted December 8, 2008 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the insight Tony. So you will still have to complete all of the regular WOSTEP exams? In addition you will have additional exams?

  2. Perdita
    Posted December 8, 2008 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    The current tests are: the winding stem, the pivot gauge, the going train, the escapement, and the hairspring, plus the final. Currently I am trying to get to the hairspring test, but it is going pretty painfully slow.

    I am curious: how often do you have to prepare a hairspring in the real world? From the collet up? I feel frustrated not knowing if this is just another pointless exercise like the pivot gauge was.

    It is really frustrating to be in the last class that will be doing everything the old way, AND being told we are not going to be as well trained as the new students. We’ve been told how hard the ACWI test is, how important it is, and that it is nearly impossible for experienced watchmakers to pass. (We had a guest teacher tell us a lot about this.) To know that 2011 will simply get it when they graduate (along with everything else) is upsetting.

    I have to say, right now it feels like the ’09 class was a mistake to join. I feel like we were deliberately kept in the dark about this, because you know they have had it in the works for a while. While it is true that someone had to be last, it is frustrating to actually be that person.

  3. Tony
    Posted December 9, 2008 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Yes, our class will have additional exams with the WOSTEP exams. We will also have to take the AWCI exam after graduation and the fee for that rose too!

    Perdita, I agree with you on the frustration it gives. I’m not sure where you heard that we’ll be not as well trained as past years? To my knowledge, I believe we could be a very advanced class. Yes, we’ll take more exams but in the end it will be better for us. I’m not too excited about the AWCI exam though. I don’t understand why they’re making us take it although we’re through SAWTA now.

  4. Posted December 9, 2008 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    I find it quite surprising that the CW21 certification isn’t packaged with in with the SAWTA certification that the two of you will be receiving. I can understand how frustrating it must be for each of you, knowing that you could have had the full package next year.

    Perhaps the reasoning simply comes down to the fact that the cost of undertaking the CW21 exam wasn’t included with your initial “tuition” fees. Everyone has to make a living, and the examiners at the AWCI are no different. SAWTA, on the other hand, is Rolex funded. They already have a substantial amount of vested financial interest in the schools that will carry this certification, and being at the helm of that certification now gives them more leverage to draw out the qualities that they want to see in the graduates. Just as the certification costs for the CW21 have gone up, I won’t be surprised at all to hear that “tuition” (in one form or another) will go up for next year’s class as well.

    I have to agree with Tony, as well, Perdita, in that I don’t think that you will not be as well trained as next year’s graduating class. In this profession, so much of the responsibility for learning comes down on the shoulders of the individual. School is just the launching pad. You may not be as well certified, per say, but that does not mean that you will be less educated.

    As for hairspring manipulation in the real world, if you want to excel in this vocation, I recommend that you apply yourself assiduously to these exercises. You will value the time that you had to practice now greatly down the road.

  5. Perdita
    Posted December 9, 2008 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    I will not be getting the SAWTA. That will be the current first year students (I am an ’09). My teachers and our guest teachers have made it clear that we are not going to get the same education the future classes will be getting.

    I refer to what we’ve been told: the whole reason for the new program is to fix the issues with the old one (that I am in). For example: we don’t learn how to replace crystals. We don’t learn polishing. We’ve been told employers find the old (my) program lacking in these skills, and it is frustrating for them and for us. Some of the students have been able to get into things a little, but as a class, we are given no instruction, and all my time right now is taken up by hairsprings so I don’t have much opportunity to pursue this individually.

    I don’t know. I have to say, the hairspring stuff has me really down right now. I’m far behind the class due to circumstances that I feel were unfair to me specifically, but I feel it would be inappropriate to go into details. Hopefully things will improve next quarter (tomorrow is the last day of this quarter. I am very ready for a break!)

  6. J.Peter
    Posted December 10, 2008 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Perdita, don’t worry. The WOSTEP curriculum will prepare you well for the real world. Yes the new SAWTA curriculum appears to be better but what you are getting is still excellent! Trust me, as a fellow WOSTEP graduate you are getting a good education. I too am slightly jealous, but I wouldn’t trade it for the head start I have.

    As for hairsprings, you won’t ever form a complete hairspring from scratch but the skills you are using to form the hairspring are the same skills you will use to manipulate hairsprings in the real world and this is a task you will practice nearly every day.

    Get as much out of your schooling as you can. Your teachers are very knowledgeable.

  7. Posted December 14, 2008 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jp,
    Seems to be a quandary with Institutions, Industry and Teaching at loggerheads! As a complete outsider to these causes,I believe that watchmaking knowledge is never ending.. Jp is correct in as much as saying- listen well to your teachers, and follow the rules! One short step today, and you will be ruminating the consequences years from now!
    (To Perdita) Hairsprings are a proverbial messy affair….our family owned company perfected (in 1982-3) the glued hairspring technology- and soon, nearly all of the Swiss watch companies followed suit! Since then, significant rules for the hairspring changed overnight- mind you, the Industry until then were colleting and rivetting hairsprings by hand, using small dart shaped pins, for nearly hundreds of years before then.
    Suffice to say, that part of Industry, colleters- and reglage, died almost overnight. There are going to be manifold changes in the Watch Industry nowadays, CNC machineries make more redundant.
    However, it is seriously better to be learning the basics, for these basics, however tedious, will form the watchmaker of tomorrow that can perform the hairspring tasks from scratch!
    Hairsprings are the heart of the watch, and pretty intricate, I am thankful to the honorary and legendary Professor Pierre Girardet of Technicum Neuchateloise fame, to have personally trained me for …six months…today, I can do hairsprings blindfolded…(almost …LOL)
    Good luck on those hairsprings, they are a very intricate part of training, and you must keep your eye on the ball.
    Cheers and good luck,

  8. E. Jones
    Posted January 24, 2009 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    According to my professor, WOSTEP’s board in Switzerland voted, at 10:30am this morning (the 23rd of January) unanimously to reject SAWTA. The future remains very uncertain…

  9. Tony
    Posted January 24, 2009 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Really? That’s news to me! Hopefully I’ll find out more at school next week. I wonder what’s going to happen.

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