Skip navigation

Distance Learning

by aimeri

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 British Horological Institute

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:

Timezone Watch School

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.

Jewelry & Watch Repair School of New England

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.

Videos/DVDs/Online reference

Harvey’s Watch Repair Video

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

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.

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Posted September 25, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Really great information! I’m in a nearly identical situation… a programmer who does programming because that’s what I’m good at… but watchmaking has always been a passion and I would LOVE to look into distance learning.

    I’ve looked at BHI before, but the distance (I’m in Texas) seems like too much of a hurdle when I need to take tests. How does that work?

    Otherwise, I appreciate the other links. Timezone Watch School seems like an interesting choice, as I would need tools and I can’t devote myself to it more than as a hobby. Would using their program make any appreciable difference if I wanted to eventually make it a career? As in, would it count toward anything, or would I just have to start over with someone like BHI?

  2. Posted September 25, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I think that essentially you would have to start over unless you get a certification, but if you do get a certification then this is a moot point eh?
    BHI will let you ship the parts so they can examine your work, and they also want you to pair up with a certified watchmaker so he can check your logs and sign them off.
    If you really want to follow the career, I would be inclined to suggest BHI over any of the others. If you want to pursue it as a hobby, then any of the others should do. I can’t recommend Timezone Watch School since I haven’t heard too much about them yet.

  3. Chris
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    J. Peter, you mention that the tools supplied aren’t very good. Timezone’s tools are supplied by Otto Frei, and appear to mostly be name brand (bergeon, dumont, etc). If these are poor quality, what would you suggest? I’m not defending one way or the other, but I am curious. And yes, they are definitely only teaching you how to disassemble and reassemble a watch.

  4. Posted September 25, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Hi Philip,

    I’m glad that Aimeri pointed out certification in his comment. It is possible to train yourself, or by distance, and then take an exam to become a Certified Watchmaker or Clockmaker through the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute once you are confident in your abilities. You will have to make sure that you are acquiring proper techniques for the trade in your training, however, if you have any hope of passing. Fortunately, the AWCI offers several ways to ensure that you are educated properly, including traveling courses (that come to you) and courses taught on premises in Ohio.

    The NAWCC also offers travelling workshops in the USA and Canada, as well as several other courses, which could be followed up with official certification.

    An online clock course you might like to include in your list, Aimeri, is ClockClass.

    With regards to living in Texas, Philip, you are actually very fortunate to have not just one, but two full fledged watchmaking schools in your state: Paris Junior College & The Institute of Swiss Watchmaking, which I believe is owned by the Richemont Group and is WOSTEP certified, like Lititz. The IOSW is also tuition free, like Lititz, if you are one of the fortunate few to be accepted into the program.

    A full listing of American watchmaking schools is available on the AWCI website. Information in English, regarding Canada’s only currently running watchmaking school can be found here; we’ve also written a blog post about it.

    The BHI course is very thorough and will give you a great handle on the necessary skills required to be a watchmaker if you are successful in completing it. I have worked through the majority of the documentation in the preliminary grade and it is extensive. If you work at completing the BHI course part-time, you can expect it to take you several years to complete (which is part and parcel of why it is a good course). My one qualm with it (many other courses and even some schools!), however, is that it hasn’t kept pace with the industry and some of the information is outdated, particularly if you will be working on modern mechanical watches. If your primary focus is on restoration, it is a fantastic course.

    If I may put in a little plug for an open-source watchmaking project that myself and several of my classmates started back in watchmaking school,, is a useful resource for whetting your appetite. It began as a wiki project in French, but the English side has now outpaced it. It’s been a delight to watch the content grow. A big part of the reason we started the site was because we were frustrated with the lack of up-to-date information out there and our inability to get our hands on it easily. It’s impossible for any one watchmaker to be on top of everything, which is why we decided to make it open-source and license all of the text and images under Creative-Commons, Share-Alike, so that watchmakers from all over the world can contribute.

    Our school was not up to date on current practices, which is what prompted me to write this article on modern lubricants for my school, which is now the class handout for the lubrication module of the course. That article eventually branched out to form this page on lubricants, which has grown to detail other modern lubricants such as Lubrifar. Lubrifar is a good example, too, of a modern lubricant that is little understood by most practicing watchmakers, I have yet to find a watchmaker who can describe the use of it practically and cohesively for me, all of the watchmakers I know in the “big three” service centers in Canada (Rolex, Swatch Group, & Richemont Group) all tell me that they wash the Lubrifar off of escape wheels before they lubricate the escapement. Rolex also uses two lubricants in their barrels that I am not yet familiar with, and would love to see an article on Alliance Horlogère for if anyone knows what they are. One is blue and applied to the mainspring, the other is clear and applied to the barrel wall.

    Epilame is another modern weapon in the watchmaker’s arsenal that not enough watchmakers in after sales service are familiar with. Bernhard Stoeber, VP of Service at Rolex USA, wrote a great article on it in the April 2009 issue of the Horological Times. I hope to see similar information up on Alliance Horlogère soon, either when I have time to write some or someone else.

    On that note, as you’re both well versed in IT, if either of you has any experience with PHP or MySQL, I would love some help improving the site. I dabble in programming, but Photoshop is much a bigger “hobby strength” for me. There are a lot of ways I could see Alliance Horlogère be made even more useful for professional and amateur watchmakers alike, but I simply don’t have the know-how to be able to implement. My email address is jedwards ( at )

    Back to appetite whetting, some other good resources on Alliance Horlogère are:

    Assembly of a Simple Watch Calibre (video)
    Assembly of a Rolex Calibre (video)
    Assembly of a Modern Chronograph (video)
    Lubricating Cap Jewels (video)
    The Barrel

  5. J.Peter
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    The comment about tools was really a reference to these DVD courses that come with tools. I don’t know exactly what the TZ tools are. Bergeon and Dumont are generally good tools although Bergeon’s quality can be hit or miss. There are certainly better screwdrivers on the market than the Bergeon ones.

  6. Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    If nothing else, what I liked about the TZ website was their catalog of tool kits. They may be pricey but I have no tools of my own whatsoever, and as much as I appreciate the opportunity to have a mentor to teach me, I do feel like I need to practice more, and setting up a work bench at home could be very beneficial, but I wouldn’t know even where to start buying tools.
    I have started a little savings, that my wife has agreed on not putting on our family budget, so that whatever much I make on the side, after paying taxes, fixing peoples computer, I can apply towards my own tools and courses on watchmaking. It is going to take a while since I don’t work too much with that on the side, and I dedicate much o my free time helping the members of my church with their computer problems (which I do for free as a ministry).

    I guess what I was trying to say was that I find it useful that they sort the needed tools in bundles and I think that suppliers should do that as well. Since they don’t and I don’t know where to start, I will start via the easy route. Might take me a little bit longer to afford it, but I am willing to wait and save the money to get the needed tools.

    I am glad that this was a helpful post to some of you, and I want you all to know that I am personally thinking about trying every other of the sites I mentioned. I am not too big about words, and I think that experiences count a lot, so after I’ve tried some of them, I will write about them again.

  7. Chris
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    It sounds like it might be helpful to have one of our wonderful watchmaker’s write a piece on the basic tools/supplies/books that every wishful thinker should consider having on their workbench. Or perhaps several pieces? Thoughts? Thank you all for writing what you do write.

  8. Posted September 25, 2009 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    I started my career change to watchmaking when I was in my early 30s. First I joined the NAWCC and found a local chapter. I started tinkering and reading everything I could.

    I purchased the Chicago School of Watchmaking Course and followed it through, and it was very good, but dated. I borrowed every video on repair that the NAWCC library had to offer. I took out countless watchmaking books too. (the NAWCC library is great asset and you can borrow books, tapes,and dvds though the mail.)

    Then when I was able, I went to the NAWCC School of Horology and graduated from the watchmaking course. I went to school all week and then worked all weekend. At that point, I could overhaul your old pocket watch or 1950 Bulova, but I was still really not prepared for actual service work.

    My move to modern watches, automatics, and chronogrpahs was a slow and cautious one. Being able to find the proper technical information was half the battle. You need to know what order parts are taken out and put in. You need to know exactly what oil goes where and how much. You also need to know what parts get cleaned and what parts don’t.

    I am still going to school and taking continuing education courses at the AWCI, and they are great. They recommend you have some experience under your belt before you take AWCI courses.

    Am I ready for the Certified Watchmaker 21st Century Exam? Well, just look at the passing rate. There are only a handful of people in the world who have taken this and passed it. I think the 3 day test costs about $1300 and a re-test is $300, so you want to pass this thing on the first try.

    Finally the advice part: If you really love watchmaking, and if an hour at the bench passes like 10 minutes, you can succeed at this. Great watchmakers live and breathe this stuff, just like Breguet did.

    I am a hopeless watch nut.

  9. Posted September 26, 2009 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Hi Aimeri, Jon, Jp,
    Very well researched project! I think in all, an excellent and qualitative reporting. As a former member of the good ol’ BHI, I can safely say that there are good blokes out there that will guide you to a sound tutelage on long distance training. Their only drawback being they do not have a clue as to modern servicing standards, this is something that a Watchmaker has to learn by himself, whether with or w/o the Industry as a whole, in the sense that novel new methods of servicing.
    Jon, as you alluded to in your post, yes, many watchmakers do not have a clue to describe ‘Lubrifar’ because it is a term that is used whilst time pieces are first produced in Switzerland. There is a basis, for using Lubrifar, and it’s practicalities are well highlighted in production houses. I will not go into long discourses about Lubrifar, instead, I will pm you a rather nice compilation that I made on Lubrifar.
    This will enable you to understand it better, and of course correctly explain it to your site perusers.
    As far as the oils that Rolex use in their barrel assemblies, there are some that use a heavy duty blue grease called MR1/ however, as per 2007, Rolex have outmoded this particular grease and instead use ‘Tepa’ which by the by, is a Rolex product, this application is a rather tricky one, and I was taught to hold the empty barrel on a pegwood stick, with the pegwood sticking out from under the barrel, and into the barrel arbor hole. That way, the ‘Tepa’ tube, which has a syringe like nozzle, can then be used to apply the lubrication to the outer walls in generous quantity. (Phew!!) Not only that, the barrel arbors use D2, where they meet the serface walls of the barrel. This is your modern day Rolex barrel assembly.
    Back to the research, yes whilst in the USA, not a lot of the above mentioned websites and training institutes have trainers that know about all these processes, and there are many. So in turn, the students will not, or do not get an oppurtunity to learn to do watches the now critically short of learning steps needed for modern watch service and repairs. Mind you, this takes time too! In short, my only advice is, watchmaking is not an easy career, it will not be at least 2-3 years (if you are extremely lucky) that you will get to work on quality ETA time pieces, and for some, Rolex calibres et al, big list takes the dickens of a time to be able to perfectly understand watchmaking- a slow and never ending process of learning, will be sometimes compunded by right or wrong practices. Which you will not be aware of until confronted by the issue or watch at hand, for instance, in escapement- or balance wheel section. So, take your time to understand the very basics of what you are embarking on- at the very least, concentrate very hard on the stuff you are doing now, instead of digressing into several issues, you will need to learn new tricks when you reach an x or y platform. This is the essence of watchmaking!! Cheers,
    Prem C.

  10. Posted September 26, 2009 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Wow, what excellent responses. This entire post with the comments has been a great knowledge share.

    I agree with Chris, if there is some concern over the quality of tools, I would love to see some recommendations on what tools to use, and maybe even some posts talking about the bare basics of what they are used for.

    This blog is really great. Thanks to everyone for giving your time to be so thorough!

  11. Posted September 28, 2009 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    I’ve been worrying about the fact that I just could not find references about modern complicated watches. I really want to be able to create watches, but I do need to learn how to service modern watches since this is what I will be doing for a long time before I even have the chance to create a watch.

    I agree that having a post about the essential toolkit for a watchmaker with pointers on where to get them would be extremely helpful in the long run. I don’t want to put pressure on J.Peter or J.Edwards for this but whenever you guys have a chance, this would be a very much wanted topic.

  12. Posted September 28, 2009 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Now, not being really knowledgeable on the matter I risk making a fool of myself, but I did a search on ebay for watchmaker kit and found a few options. I do know that this is none of these are perfect, far from it really, but until I am proficient enough I probably should not risk creating my own kit. Maybe you more experienced guys could have a look at some of these items and give your opinion on it. Here it goes:

    And my favorite one, but probably too expensive. For the price, I could probably create my own:

    So, what do you guys think?

  13. Posted September 29, 2009 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    I can’t say that I would endorse purchasing any of those kits, Aimeri, unless your focus is on low to mid-range quartz watch repair. We’ll see what we can do about posting more information/reviews of basic tools for watchmaking.

    Continuing off my previous comment a bit, I should mention as well that a big reason I enjoy this blog so much is that it touches on modern SAV practices in a way that is hard to find elsewhere on the web. Another resource (offline more than online, though definitely available over distance) for up to date watch repairing practices that I should have mentioned before, as well, is Prime Time, which is run by Prem.

  14. Posted September 30, 2009 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    You are absolutely right J.Edwards. I have this tendency to think: “Well, I’m just an apprentice so I don’t need the best tools around just to get started.” but a wise friend of mine once told me that no mater how good you are, if your tools are mediocre your work will be mediocre too. Of course he was talking about saxophones but I think the same principles applies here.

    I do want to work with high-end watches, even if at the moment I don’t have the skills for it. I know that when I go to watchmaking school they will have me buying more tools and I will learn everything about them, but I need to be able to start now, therefore the need for decent tools. Thank you for opening my eyes to that reality.

    Again, I appreciate a lot all the expertise that you guys bring to people like me and many others looking for encouragement and knowledge.

  15. Nolan
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    I started by going to a watch repair school that was run by a technical college right after I graduated from high school. There was a grand total of 4 of us who actually applied ourselves and went all the way through the program that was a year long. It really was a very basic course, which I found out what all I didn’t know when I went to work at a large jewelry store right out of school.
    Most of the instruction was some lecture and practice, practice, practice. A mentor situation would really be ideal to get some direction and you go home and practice.
    I would suggest buying a cheap pocket watch just because it has large pieces and you can see how the pieces work easier.
    I would suggest a good loupe or binocular magnifying lenses I used a Optivisor
    here is a link to a picture of what I mean
    it’s easier to use without trying to learn how to use one eye with a single loupe.

    I wasn’t in a high end shop it was basic cleaning of regular watches , rarely ever even saw a Rolex, and battery replacement, watchband work and the like. I may be burned at the stake for this…but for opening snap back cases, I used a sturdy pocket knife. and for most screw back cases, I used a pair of small needle nose pliers. But I did have a case wrench to use if needed.

    On the issue of buying tools. Get as good of a set as you can and they will last a long time. Cheap ones will be replaced many times.

  16. Posted September 30, 2009 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Nolan, thanks for the optivisor idea. My mentor has one and I’ve worked with it. I sort of liked the idea of being able to use both my eyes to see the movement, but the magnification on his optivisor was less than useful, at 2x I believe.
    Now heres my question to you all: Loupe or Optivisor? I like the variety of magnification I can find out there, but I hate being limited to the focal points for the loupes going 7x and up. I have a 10x loupe that needs a focal point of 1”. Hardly enough to work with, really. I’ve found some optvisors that have 10x at a focal point of 4” which sounds quite good to me, but then again I’m afraid I will be spending money with something that will not be ideal. I believe that this debate is probably a matter of choice, but I would be interested to hear your experiences.

  17. Posted September 30, 2009 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Or maybe I was wrong and what I did find was the #10 plate which is 3x for the optivisor, which would take me back to the loupes, but again, which one? What is the best focal point for a watchmaker with good vision?

  18. Greg
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Aimeri, your friend is right about cheap tools. I’ve been wrenching all my adult life. First as an jet mechanic in the Air Force and as an auto mechanic. 30+ years. I found through experiance,that the cheaper the tool the more frustrating the project was. And if the tool broke for lack of quality, the profanity did not lack. Get the best tools from the get go, the last thing you want is to believe your not a good watchmaker when its the tools that suck. I like Snap-on tools over all, then Mac.
    J.Edwards and J.P. if you could let us know what is the number one tool brand, that would be great.
    Don’t worry about the cost of quality tools, because the most exspensive tool in the box is the one you don’t use.

  19. Posted October 1, 2009 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Thanks Greg! I suppose I was not really thinking when I thought about buying cheap tools. I decided that I will invest on good quality tools and will not buy them bundled. My wife, who is a very sensible person, suggested that I could buy tools a little by little, but investing on good quality ones. Right now I am trying to decide on what loupe I should buy.

  20. Posted October 2, 2009 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    Thank you very much for the post! It is really informative.

  21. Posted October 3, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Great point, Greg! Unfortunately, there isn’t one single brand that I would call the number one tool brand – unless Rolex’s brand-specific tooling and SAV supply could count. As J.Peter has already mentioned, Bergeon’s quality is hit or miss. I like much of what VOH and Horotec have to offer, as well, but they can be hit or miss at times as well. For instance, I find my Horotec tweezers to be too soft and prefer duMont or Fontax. Bergeon has advertised a promising looking new set of tweezers out on the market, made from a specialized alloy, however I have yet to try them.

    Nolan, can I implore you to please consider using a caseback ball at the very least. It will keep you from marking any caseback and will offer you a little more torque. Not only that, but it will save your tweezer tips.

  22. J.Peter
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Okay, I’ll bite. There will be a basic tool list post coming up within the week.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] recent post on distance education sprouted a lengthy conversation that eventually touched on the subject tools, with several of our […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *