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Watchmaking is like Craft Beer

by Jordan Ficklin

Did I grab your attention? I probably did.

Let me start by saying I don’t know the first thing about brewing beer, or drinking it for that matter, but I heard an intriguing story on NPR this morning which pushed me towards drawing this connection.

The story is about how Aspiring craft brewers hit the books to get science chops. Apparently anyone can make a little microbrew in their kitchen with very little investment. I have friends who do it. With the right kit and a little know-how I hear they can even make some decent beers, but I gather that it is also easy to screw it up all together, or just end up with a mediocre beer. If you want to have the kind of consistency that Budweiser produces it takes considerably more investment. If you have to throw out a little batch it isn’t the end of the world, but if you are brewing beer as a business you can’t afford to throw out a batch.

So how is it all like watchmaking? Well with a few tools most anyone can set up shop in their basement and start taking apart and putting together watches. With practice they can even do an okay job (i.e. the watches will run) but if you want real consistency and high quality it takes some real learning. It isn’t the end of the world if you scratch a bridge on your own vintage pocket watch, but if you are fixing watches for money you can’t afford to damage any components in a customer’s timepiece.

The brewing industry is seeing a blossoming of college-based brewing programs to fill the need of the microbrewing industry. Why don’t they just hire the self taught home brewers? Because as Brian Steele says, he is looking for individuals with a “deeper and more intense knowledge and training of fermentation sciences.” The watchmaking world is seeing the same. As consumers become more aware of what goes into servicing a timepiece they are looking for individuals with a more intense knowledge and training of horology. Watchmaking which was once taught by apprenticeship and on-the-job is now taught in 2 year intense training programs in a formal setting.

Whether you fix watches or you brew beer, anyone can hang up a sign. If you want to do the job right you better get an education, formal or otherwise!

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One Comment

  1. Ed Zaitz
    Posted April 9, 2015 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Good to hear from you. Although I agree, I find that they are two crafts best left separated.

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