As most of you know, I’ve just started my journey on watchmaking, and I have much to learn. This is exciting and frightening at the same time. It is exciting because I really love watches, pocket watches, clocks and anything time keeping related, and realizing that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life was like lifting a weight out of my back.
But it is also frightening because my whole career so far has been on IT, and I thought IT was what I would do for the rest of my life, not because I liked it but just because that was what I knew and was good at. Also, having a family to provide for, changing careers like that is a very big leap of faith and not knowing what the future holds for me is a scary thought. I can’t just leave everything behind and start working on a new trade that I am not even trained for. And while my wife is going through college I can’t stop working to go to watchmaking school. Even though I plan on going to the Litiz Watch Technicum, I won’t be able to do that. I was fortunate enough to find a mentor who will teach me the basics and get me started, but from what I’ve heard, this is not true for everybody.
I know that there are other people out there in the same situation as I am, and it dawned on me that a good way to get started on learning watchmaking is to pursue the online education path. Upon doing some research I’ve found some good resources for online courses or long distance learning. It may not be the same as going to a nice, renowned watchmaking school, but it is a good first step, either in preparation for watchmaking school or in preparation for the AWCI exams. Note that practical experience with watches will be crucial in your learning and I do suggest buying a few working and non working watches off of ebay and your local flea market so you can get some practice. If you can find a watchmaker that would be so kind as to at least check your work for you, that would be invaluable as well.
Please have in mind that I am not affiliated, nor endorse any of the following institutions and I am listing them here for our information as a community. If anybody has had any experience with them, please write back and let us know.
Distance Learning Courses/Online courses
The BHI offers a variety of courses on clockmaking a watchmaking, as well as technical drawing and much more. You can follow their distance learning program all the way through and get a certificate from them, or you can take just the technician level which will give you a good understanding of how clocks and watches work. They have two different prices, one without tuition where they will only send the material to you and it’s up to you to study and learn the material, and the other with tuition where they will make tutors available to you and grade your work as well. The downside is that they are located, you guessed, in the UK. From all the options that I am listing here today, the BHI was the only institution that I’ve had any contact with and they’ve been really helpful and gave me good advice as far as career path, training and certifications.
The address for the distance learning courses is: http://www.bhi.co.uk/education.html#DLC
They have a clean website, verging simplicity but very easy to navigate which I think of as a plus rather than a minus. They offer a free lesson and I thought it was very interesting and clear, although it looked like something we would post here on ethics and work environment. Their price sounds reasonable for what they offer and the tuition fee covers the material as well. There is not much that I can say about them, but I am planning on trying them out, then I will post here my experiences with them.
Their site was a little bit confusing at first. They have a few issues with the site structure and probably should look that up, but on their contact information they offer good solid contact info, so I honestly think that they are legit, and the problem they have is only with their website. What I really liked about them was their commitment to provide full support to the student, including providing material. From their website on tuition: “The cost of tuition includes everything you need to successfully complete the course in which you enroll: an instructional VHS or DVD, a brief but detailed text supplement, a complete tool kit, and all materials needed to complete the repairs assigned to you. We also make ourselves available to our students for project assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week”
They are more pricey than all the others around and I am not sure that I will have the opportunity to try them out, but if I ever do, I will let you guys know as well.
Harvey is offering one thing and one thing only: 4 Hours of DVD Instructional Video. And at a price that is not too expensive either. For the more visual learner (like myself) this could be a valuable tool. I would have really appreciated if he had uploaded a sample video so that we can at least have an idea of the quality of his material. I find it hard to shell out $35 bucks on something that I don’t even know if it will be good or not and just take his word for it that it’s worth it. I will try to contact him to see if we can get that sample and then I will let everybody know what I think of it.
These guys are a hairspring suppliers/watchmaking video producers/watchmakers and although their website is very plain and simple, they have some very interesting information there, including pictures of the restoration of a D. Quare Repeater from the 1700’s. And of course they have a good wealth of videos on CD for sale. The titles were very promising but then again, without being able to sample the material would be hard for me to make the decision of buying their cds. I am hoping that somebody will chime in and let us know if this would be worth it or not, and if I manage to get a hold of them and get a sample I might be tempted, in a near future, to get at least the one about pocket watches repair. The link to purchase the videos is http://184.108.40.206/watchmaker/cd/cdsales.html
I thoroughly disliked their website. I did like their offer though. 8 DVDs, plus access to the online videos plus material for practice. Sounds like a pretty good deal, but I could not find any reference to them, so it made me kind of skeptical about it. I am willing to give them a try, but it won’t be now, and whenever I’m ready to do it, I will definitely be using the secure credit card service from paypal.
that’s it folks. I hope this helps people in the same situation as me.
Editor’s note (J. Peter): The BHI course is the only one of these I could really recommend if you are planning on making a career out of watchmaking. The rest of these courses are designed for people who want to work on watches as a hobby. The tools they supply are low quality and their goal is mainly to get you to be able to disassemble, oil & reassemble a watch. What it really takes to be a watchmaker is to understand how watches work and be able to use that knowledge to diagnosis problems in a watch and resolve them. The best way to accomplish this is thousands of hours of at the bench training with an instructor or mentor introducing problems into a watch for you to discover. As an example, in watchmaking school we spent six weeks manipulating hairsprings – Full time. That’s over 200 hours working with a single (yet extremely critical) part of the watch.
If you just want to experiment and see if you might like watchmaking as a career, one of these courses would certainly give you the tools to experiment and see if you think it is fun – but of course it is fun when there are no customers to satisfy.
Author’s Note (Aimeri): I should have pointed that out more clearly at the beginning of my post, but I am glad I did not, that way we get to have the opinion of a much more experienced watchmaker on the subject. The whole point of those websites is to whet your appetite on watchmaking and perhaps making you more interested in pursuing the career of watchmaker. Also, they can give you a very BASIC understanding of watch movements. Please, don’t take those videos as the final word on how to be a watchmaker.