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So you want to be a watchmaker?

by Jordan Ficklin

Some of the most common questions I get from readers of this blog are related to watchmaking school, what the admission process is and how they can become a watchmaker. This is exciting for me because there is a great need for watchmakers and one of my reasons for maintaing this blog is to encourage people to think about the profession of watchmaking. I’ll make an endeavor here to answer some of these types of questions.

Where does somebody study watchmaking?

Here is a list of watchmaking schools in the U.S.A.

How do I apply to a watchmaking school?

Click on one of the links above to go to the schools web page where there will be information regarding application. After filling out the application you may be contacted for a phone interview or a personal interview. You may also have to complete a mechanical aptitude test and a math skills test.

What are the watchmaking schools looking for?

Check out their web pages or read about some of my experiences, 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 LWT

I can’t go to school full time, is there any other way to learn the profession?

Learning to become a watchmaker requires thousands of hours of hands on demonstration and practice. This requires either hands on schooling or a lengthy apprenticeship with a master watchmaker. Unfortunately in today’s environment it is very difficult to find a master watchmaker willing to take on an apprentice. Historically apprentices paid for the opportunity to study with a master. In today’s world major corporations pay their apprentices but in the small environment of repair shops with one or two watchmakers the lost income from taking time to instruct makes it very difficult to take on an apprentice. If you want to apprentice with a true master you might consider offering to work for free or marry his son or daughter :) Just kidding!

For those of you looking to talk to some graduates of watchmaking school, or current students you should check out the LWT Students and Alumni page on facebook.

45 Comments

  1. Yaron Tausky
    Posted February 14, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I am interested in watch making as a hobby rather than as a profession. Of course, I don’t expect to ever achieve the expertise of a true professional, but could you suggest how to begin studying watch making on my own, please?

  2. WT
    Posted February 14, 2009 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    http://www.timezonewatchschool.com/WatchSchool/

  3. jeremiah
    Posted February 14, 2009 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    learning for free is often a choice that is dismissed far too often these days. learning a skill is your payment! i think i’m the only person i know who views knowledge as something of value.

    I would certainly learn to be a watchmaker for free, even if it were only 1-2 days per week and it took me 20 years.

    it’s not about the money, for me. doing something I enjoy doing is no more rewarding to me if I do it for money.

  4. Edward D. Boykin
    Posted February 15, 2009 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    i am as i have written in the past a retired machinist and i guess a hobbiest, have collected many vintage watches and have learned to fix much,being 65 this month and having worked all my life, this fills my time and my need to be productive. have done everything short of disassembly ,cleaning, and reassenbly of a complete mechanical movement, this is my goal this week, ive been at this for over a year and my passion grows as i have accumulated many valuable movements in need of attention, found a website, titled how to clean and oil a mechanical watch. it takes you step by step. will attempt this feat soon, it suggests a pocket watch movement to start with, as i have many this is my plan. will keep you posted on an old mans passion and progress thanks Eddie Boykin

  5. J.Peter
    Posted February 15, 2009 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Thank you all for the comments. — As for watch repair as a hobby you’re all on your own. I don’t know anything about that. Certainly if you want to play around with some old inexpensive watches for fun, by all means. I did that kind of stuff myself before I became a watchmaker. Just be aware that you may do as much damage as good, especially in the beginning. I can’t blame you for wanting to work with watches, it’s fun! Hobbies you enjoy can sometimes make good jobs as long as the don’t turn into something you despise.

  6. Cameron
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Where is the Richemont Watchmaking School going to be located?

  7. J.Peter
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    The Richemont school will be at their facility in Dallas, Tx.

  8. Philip
    Posted February 16, 2009 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    J. Peter,
    I have a phone interview with LWT this month. Any hints as to what kinds of questions I should expect? Thanks again.

  9. Posted February 16, 2009 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jp, I have been following the last 2 years of WOSTEP and of the schools in Switzerland quite intently. My one BIG question to all of them…’Where are the Trainers’??
    They just do not have access to them! In the US, people are saying, enough is enough BS..and going their separate ways. SAWTA looks like a nice programme, but too heavily reliant on Rolex. I daresay, that Richemont will be the same..too reliant on Cartier. In my opinion, Cartier SAV used to be a force to contend with, not anymore! After they started exchanging movements for servicing, their prowess went out the window. A junior technician can do servicing with Richemont. Whereas, the idea is great, about exchanging movements- quality wise, Switzerland can then concentrate on servicing on a more uniform quality worldwide, but, the watchmaker’s skills and prowess are virtually eliminated! Rolex, on the other hand, need hands on experienced watchmakers, and no amount of BS’ing will do. You have to get the quality right.
    The SAV games some watch companies play, in my opinion, the real games have just about started, Cheers for a very interesting position on this!
    Prem

  10. Rob
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Hello,

    Very nice page and Thank you for all the info I have read here. Mr Peter…I have wanted to be a watchmaker for some time now. I applied at Lititz and had my phone Interview, now im going in March 2009 for in the person interview. I just would like to say you and your bloggers inspired me even more to persue this. I hope I make It… Im 40 and want this really bad. I feel I have the nitch for it! I love times peices Watches,clocks it is so fun. Thx Rob L.

  11. J.Peter
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    The questions are going to be pretty general. They want to know why you want to be a watchmaker. What you see yourself doing when you graduate. They want to see if you can communicate professionally. I wouldn’t be too worried be yourself.

  12. Rob
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Sir.

    Rob

  13. Jim
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Hi there –

    I am curious.. what is the starting salary for a job like this? I’m guessing 40-60K range depending on your geographic location (bigger cities paying more). In this economy though, it’s pretty scary to think about. I can’t imagine people are buying any luxury items right now, but maybe there are still people getting them serviced.

    I want to love what I do as much as the next guy (if not more), but I don’t want to be poor either.

    Thx!

  14. J.Peter
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Jim, You are spot on. I also have pretty good benefits to go with that. There are plenty of watchmakers in the 6 figure range once you have enough experience that you can work on high end restorations and such.

  15. Jim
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much.. by the by, I’m going for my testing at LWT end of March.. we shall see how it goes. How is the math on the written test? The phone interview went very well.

    If anyone else is going for Friday March 27th, I’ll be in town March 26th PM. It might be cool to grab a drink or some food. James.colangelo@gmail.com

    Jim

  16. Steve
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Hi there, I’m studying horology in the UK at the moment and am looking to get a job in the watch servicing field. My course is not aimed specifically at this area so I shall be looking for a job with which I can get some suplementary training. Could you give me any tip or pointers or maybe addresses of where I could land a job like this?

    Cheers, Steve.

  17. J.Peter
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Steve, what exactly is the focus of your coursework?

    The best place to gain additional training is to get a job in a service center, either for a brand of one that maintains trade accounts. If you don’t have the skills to go out on your own it would be difficult to find a position where you will learn additional skills. Possibly if you could work with a master watchmaker you could learn much from him/her.

  18. Rob
    Posted March 18, 2009 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Hi,
    Just wanted to let everyone know that I’m going to Lititz On March 27th for testing and such.I am a little nervous about it… but I will be ok. I am USMC Vet and have been on alot of oral type boards but WOW! this seems to be more nerve racking for me, I just want it so bad! I will let you all know my grateful expeirence I have from trip when I return. Either way it will be an honor to be among so much knowledge.
    Thx for the great sight.
    Rob

  19. abe
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Senario:

    Interview for a prestigious watch manufacturer…

    Why do you want to work for _____ ?

    rspv

  20. Nikki Smith
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I have a statement and a question…My husband and I own 2 jewelry stores in California, our oldest son is our jeweler in our Paradise store, our second son is our watchmaker and is currently working for Tourneau in Las Vegas and has attended your school there in Dallas — his name is Nathan William Smith – he will be attending another class at your training center this July. That was my statement, now for my question: Is there a chance that our third son, Micheal Andrew Smith, can attend your training center? He just graduated from High School and is interested in going into the same profession as his brother. If there is a chance of his being admitted, could you send any materials available to us at: Sierra Gem Co., 1390 Myers St., Oroville, Ca 95965 or e-mail is SIERRAGEMCO@Att.net
    Our fax is 530-532-0265 or…Nathan can pick up any materials for us in July when he comes out for your classes. Thank you for your time in reading this and we hope to hear back from you in one form or another.
    Nikki

  21. Mitch Richardson
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    I am interested in becoming a watch maker , Is thee any way to do this online ??? I am a General manager at a watch repair company . We do monor repairs instore , But send some out . Currently I an do Batteries , crystal replacements , hand alignments , replace hands on most watches . sizings and band repair .Change gaskets H2O testing . .etc .. A lot of it i send to our watch center .

    I would not have time to go away for school . I live in the Boston area ..

  22. J.Peter
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I am in no way affiliated with any watchmaking schools. If you read the post you will find contact information for each of he schools.

  23. J.Peter
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    The best way is to go to a full time school. Second best, an apprenticeship. I don’t know of any on-line ways to learn the tasks to become a professional watchmaker. For the hobbyist, there is timezone.com

  24. Tom G.
    Posted August 13, 2009 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    This is a great site. I live in Rhode Island and have become unemployed (carpenter). Watches have been a passion of mine for many years, and my grandfather was a watchmaker. Not til lately have i been seriously considering it as a career. I have been researching schools and was wondering if anyone had attended the OSU program. They double watchmaking with some general education courses. Also i know they accept financial aid there. I would really appreciate any input. thanks

  25. Tom
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    hi
    i am living in los Angeles, california. do you know any watchmiking shools in california.

    thank you

  26. J.Peter
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    The only ones I know about are the ones in this post.

  27. tom g
    Posted November 14, 2009 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    I begin watchmaking school in january. In september i flew to oklahoma to go through the interview and admissions process. not til three weeks later did i find out i had been accepted. i am so excited. i know it will be a lot of hard work..but its for something i love. I have many old movements and cant wait to bring them with me.

  28. raiyan
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    hey…i was wondering if there is any watchmaking workshops or short courses on it in switzerland?

  29. J.Peter
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    I’m not aware of any short courses in Switzerland except perhaps some brand training for qualified watchmakers. WOSTEP has a 3 year school in Switzerland and a 6 month “Complications course” for graduates of their two or three year program. Beyond that I don’t know of anything, but I haven’t really researched it much.

  30. Mlawson
    Posted May 27, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I’d just like to learn to clean and service older mechanical watches, both out of interest and as a way to preserve some beautiful (but sticky) old watches. Is the Timezone online program the best one for that purpose?

  31. Posted June 7, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    I am wondering if anyone has gone though the assessment at the nicholas g hayek school. I am just curious about the type of things they want you to do. What kind of math am I looking at? What about the mechanical part of the assessment? should I be practicing? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  32. Maya
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Hi,
    I was thinking want to study of watchmaker course, I have no experience of watchmaker, I am female hard hearing impaired… I am worried if the job need someone who have experience and good in communicate or what? Please email me at missbosnian_babe89@hotmail.com

    thanks,

    Maya

  33. J.Peter
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Maya, I don’t see any reason that being hearing impaired would impede your ability to be a watchmaker. In many ways it may make you more attuned to the intricacies of the watch. Your disability may make it harder to study watchmaking but if you can find a school which will accommodate you (any of the state sponsored schools, would probably have to) you could be a great watchmaker.

  34. Joe Urias
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Hello,

    I am a Computer Technician who has always had a passion for timepieces; I consider them all works of art. I am looking to pursue my dream profession of Watchmaker. My question is will any of the schools mentioned above offer room and board? I currently live in San Diego, CA. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  35. J.Peter
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Certainly the private schools do not offer room or board. I imagine some of the state run schools, especially OSU may be able to offer room and board.

  36. Jeff
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    I am looking for a watchmaker to take on an apprentice in Indiana. Any ideas where to start?

  37. J.Peter
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    I would contact AWCI and see who the master watchmakers in the area are. Then you would contact them and see if any are willing.

  38. Posted April 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    The Seattle CC link is broken, this may be the current one: https://northseattle.edu/programs/watch-technology-institute

  39. Posted October 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I would like to make and repair watches for an extra income and there are needs for it in the westcoas area

  40. Nicu
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Hey Peter. I have a lot of questions to you regarding watchmakers. I am interested to know if it is enough to learn at a mechanical engineering university in order to become a watchmaker? Or mechanical engineering has nothing to do with watchmakers? Do you have a link for all the universities in USA and Europe where I can learn for this job.

  41. Vee
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    My father is a watchmaker. He’s been into his craft for 25 years. he started in Russia, loved it, but could not support his family there on the small salary it offered. After a while, 10 years, he was able to get himself and his family here to America. He began working for a watchmaker making $3/hr (in 2000) until his employer raised his wage continuously for a while and then sold him his business. My father recently got certified as a Rolex technician, the only one in the capital of our state, how about that. He’s a humble guy though, never wants me to tell people how much he’s making, perhaps he still has the Russian mentality of not telling other if you’re doing well financially. Once a guy wanted to learn from him and offered to pay $100/hr but my dad had to decline because it would take a lot of his time and money. He makes about $8000/month gross, not bad, but he spends LOTS of time doing it. I’m actually considering taking over the business, because dental school is waaaaaaaaay too expensive. But also because its a beautiful craft.

  42. Adam m
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    Sorry to bring up an old thread but this popped up on google when I was searching watch repair schools in America. I have always been fascinated with luxury mechanical watches. I was a bench jeweler for a local jewelery designer from new orleans called Mignon Faget about 10 years ago and did it for 3 years before the layoff. I ended up joining the new Orleans fire dept and did it for about 10 years. Now I hurt my back and can no longer perform my duties in a stressfull situation. I have decided to either become a master jeweler or a watch maker. After talking with professionals it looks like horology is the way to go. It seems like there is a need for watch techs and a decent salary that comes with this profession aswell. I’m kinda in a bad situation now with a family and house note and need to decide what to do. Sorry to ramble but it seems that there is alot of experience and knowledge here. Thanks for listening.

  43. Rebekah
    Posted April 29, 2012 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    I want to take on watchmaking as a career but I’m not sure where to start. I live in Australia and I can’t find anywhere to learn and I can’t go overseas to study because I’m still a teenager. Do you know of any places I could study or anywhere that offers online courses? Please help if you can.

  44. Mike
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Hello, I have recently picked up the hobby of collecting vintage timepieces which in turn sparked my interest in fixing them. My friend at work has been fixing watches and clocks for at least 30 years and he basically taught himself and said he is very willing to teach me which is awesome from a hobbyist point of view but I was thinking about possibly turning it into a career. Is there some sort of a certification I could take at some point after learning the art of watchmaking?

  45. J.Peter
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    In the US the industry standard for certification is the CW21 from AWCI. Before taking the certification exam it is highly recommended to attend some courses at AWCI so that you are aware what the expectations are.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Talk, regarding how to become a watchmaker, in his post before Valentine’s Day aptly titled So you want to be a watchmaker. In a comment written by one of our readers,  just prior to that post, Philip also asked how the [...]

  2. [...] of our most popular posts here on the blog have to do with watchmaking schools, of which there are very few left in the [...]

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