How To Become A Watchmaker

How To Become A Watchmaker

Are you fed up with your job? Looking for a new challenge? Want to turn your passion for watches into a career? We have all the information you need.

By Sophie Furley

According to a new study by Ceridian, a human resources software and services company based in Winnipeg, 64% of Americans and 68% of Canadians are currently on the lookout for a new career opportunity. So, if you find yourself among them, or you are about to embark on your higher education studies, here are 10 English-speaking schools in the US, the UK, and Switzerland that will allow you to work in the watch industry.

North Seattle College, Watch Technology Institute – Washington, North Seattle, USA

North Seattle College’s Watch Technology Institute is one of only three watchmaking schools sponsored by Rolex in the United States and the only one on the West Coast. The institute offers an Associate of Applied Science degree (AAS) and a Watch Technology Institute Certificate in watchmaking.

Moreover, the program follows the Swiss American Watchmakers Training Alliance (SAWTA) curriculum, which was established under the guidance of Rolex and designed to effectively address the needs of today's watch industry. To obtain certification takes a two-year course with 40 hours/week tuition. With an additional 20 credits of general education coursework, students can complete the AAS degree. The cost per academic year starts from $3,000.

Gem City College of Horology – Quincy, Illinois, USA

Gem City College of Horology offers courses in watchmaking and repair and clock repair, giving students an understanding of practical watch work. No previous watchmaking experience is required, and students can begin training on any given Monday.

The watchmaking and repair course takes 51 weeks to complete, and the clock repair course takes 17 weeks. The cost of the watchmaking diploma is $28,500, and the clock repair diploma is $9,800.

Lititz Watch Technicum – Lititz, Pennsylvania, USA

To overcome the shortage of watchmakers in the USA in the 1990s, Rolex established Lititz Watch Technicum (LWT) in 2001. Today LWT offers a full-time program and a dual system apprenticeship where students can divide their time between education and hands-on experience.

The full-time program is an intensive two-year course (3,600+ hours), and new classes begin every September. The course is tuition-free, although students will need to purchase their own personal tools (approx. $7,000).

North American Institute of Swiss Watchmaking – Fort Worth, Texas, USA

The North American Institute of Swiss Watchmaking (NAIOSW) was founded to educate and train watchmakers for a successful career in luxury watch repair. NAIOSW has an eight-to-one student-to-teacher ratio and is a partner of the famous Swiss WOSTEP school (see below).

The Certified Watchmaking Course takes two years to complete, and there is also an Encasing Technician Course that takes four months. The school also has campuses in Hong Kong and Shanghai. All costs are covered by scholarship programs offered by prestigious watch brands.

Paris Junior College – Paris, Greenville, & Sulphur Springs, Texas, USA

Paris Junior College began teaching watchmaking in 1942 and offers three educational programs. There is a degree program requiring 60 hours of credits over four semesters, an Associate of Applied Science in Horology Technology that takes 16 months, and a certificate in watchmaking that can be completed in 16 months (45 credit hours) or 12 months (36 credit hours). Tuition fees are calculated by semester hour and can be viewed on the college’s website.

Veterans Watchmaker Initiative – Odessa, Delaware, USA

The Veterans Watchmaker Initiative (VWI) offers watchmaking courses for war veterans, especially disabled veterans, offering them the option to embark on a new skilled profession in the field of watchmaking.

The VWI offers an intensive six-week watch technician program and a 16-month watchmaker program, both of which are completely free of charge. The school seems to have taken up the mantle of the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking that, before closing in 1993, trained and rehabilitated disabled World War II veterans.

Watchmakers of Switzerland Training And Education Program (WOSTEP) – Neuchâtel, Switzerland

For students looking to train in the heart of Switzerland, WOSTEP offers a 3,000-hour watchmaker program for students over the age of 21 years of age. It is an intensive course offered in English with limited space.

Short-listed candidates are requested to take a two-day test at WOSTEP to evaluate their ability and manual dexterity as part of the final selection process. Applications need to be submitted by March for the August intake. The tuition fee is CHF 34,600.

The British School of Watchmaking – Manchester, England

The British School of Watchmaking opened the doors to its first WOSTEP 3,000-hour course students in 2006. In 2018 it introduced a shorter 1,800-hour course.

The equivalent to the Swiss CFC four-year watch repair educational program, the 3,000-hour course takes two years to complete with 40 hours of classes per week. The shorter 1,800-hour course takes one year but is equivalent to a three-year Swiss CFC certification. The total cost for the 3,000-hour course is £20,200. The price of the 1,800-hour program is £11,200.

Birmingham City University, Birmingham, England

Birmingham City University offers a Horology BA (Hons) degree. This three-year, full-time undergraduate course covers a wide range of topics from the history of watchmaking to conservation and restoration, rapid prototyping, and more.

The university has industry links to Swatch, Rolex, Christopher Ward, Time in Hand, Richard Higgins Conservation, and the British Museum. It also boasts partnerships with the LVMH Group and Cartier (UK) that offer placements and mentoring.

The above schools are just a selection of watchmaking schools. There are obviously many more schools out there that are reputable. But the aim of this overview is to give you just some idea of the educational opportunities in the field of watchmaking.

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