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We are a culture obsessed with time. There are clocks everywhere, and most everyone wears a watch. A strict adherence to time is essential, as those timepieces dictate what time we wake up, what time we eat, what time we meet our friends. The trouble, of course, comes when those important timepieces break down.

Watchmakers are the people who build those intricate timepieces we wear on wrists and in our pockets, and put them back in working order when they break. Watchmakers work with jewelry stores, watch designers, or independently, keeping us all on track.

Some work with clocks as well, but working with watches is actually a more difficult profession. Their gears are much smaller, meaning the watchmaker's hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, and general skills must be more refined than the average clockmaker's.

Watchmakers repair many antique watches for which parts are no longer made. When they encounter this obstacle, they often manufacture the parts themselves, or send specifications to wheel specialists, who manufacture the parts for them.

Watchmaking is not a very common career. It isn't one that will make you famous or rich. But it is an ancient tradition that takes skill, patience, and leaves the watchmaker feeling satisfaction for a job well done.
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  Interests and Skills  
Successful watchmakers enjoy math, and precision work. They have good manual dexterity, mechanical aptitude, neat work habits, good eyesight, steady hands, and are patient, careful and organized.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Create watches according to clients' specifications
  • Build new watches from older time pieces
  • Ask the customer about the watch's past performance
  • Examine the mechanism, sometimes using a magnifying glass or loupe
  • Take the watch apart, check for defective rusty, or misaligned parts
  • Replace or repair worn or broken parts
  • Clean all parts using special solutions and ultrasonic or mechanical cleaning machines
  • Test and change watch batteries
  • Make parts for old or discontinued time pieces
  • Keep records of serial and model numbers, work performed and charges for repairs
  • Use a timing machine to check the accuracy of repaired watch
  • May repair damaged or older jewelry
  • May manage jewelry staff
  • May design and make jewelry
  • May look after administrative duties
  • The typical day for a watchmaker involves working closely with a variety of time pieces, from 100-year-old pocket watches to modern, battery-operated sport watches. They meet with people who have damaged their watches in some way and try to fix them quickly and economically, as well as design and build watches for clients and supervisors. Watchmakers don't get many chances to work outdoors, but they may travel some distances to repair watches, conduct seminars, and to learn about new techniques in creating and repairing watches. When working for themselves, watchmakers can set their own hours, but those with a company can have more regular hours.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Watchmakers often work alone, or along side jewelry store owners, jewelry and watch designers, and assistants. They can be found in home offices, jewelry stores, department stores, repair shops that cater to the public or are associated with a factory, and wholesale repair shops, or in studios and design offices belonging to their employer. Some work full-time, some part-time, and some on a freelance basis.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Watchmakers may train to work as clockmakers. They may get into jewelry repair, as well. Some may choose to set up their own shop, or specialize in unusual repairs. They can learn international jewelry arts, and apply this knowledge to their own work. They can also branch out into other crafts, like gold and silversmithing, weaving, and stained glass, write books and articles on jewelry.

  Educational Paths  
Watchmakers generally require a combination of formal instruction and on-the-job experience. Completion of a college or other program, or apprenticeship training in watch or jewelry repair or gemology is usually required.

Some prefer to find a skilled watchmaker and learn the tricks of the trade under their tutelage, while others pursue a course in horology (the science of measuring time by mechanical means). Studies such as this are important, and can be paired up with any practical training.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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Programs Offered:
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