When we think about excellent timepieces, two words come to mind: Swiss made. The Swiss are the masters of watchmaking. After Switzerland, you would probably look at countries like Germany, France, and the UK. There was that brief time when the watchmaking craftsmanship of the Japanese threatened the Swiss. But the Swiss decided to marry funk art and technical precision and gave birth to Swatch. And the world is back in its proper order again, with Swiss brand watches at the top.
What about America? Well, about a hundred years ago, America was a leader in the watch-making industry. Brands like Elgin, Hamilton, and Bulova were significant players. Part of America’s decline was its inability to transition from pocket watches to wristwatches. Production lines were “programmed” to produce pocket watches. Switching to wristwatches meant ditching that process and creating a new one, which can be very costly. To somewhat illustrate this decline, Bulova, the watch brand founded in New York in 1875, is now owned by the Japanese giant watchmaker, Citizen Watchmaker Co.
Career Prospects as a Watchmaker
Does this mean that there’s little or no space now to pursue a career in watchmaking? The answer is no. There’s been a resurgence in watchmaking in America. And pursuing a career in watchmaking, as some experts point out, is as good as any profession out there.
Watchmakers, like jewelers in Salt Lake City, are engaged in creative design making. And Swatch is probably a great example in the recent history of how creativity matters. As a profession, watchmakers, whether those based in Geneva or Salt Lake City, can earn as much as $39,000 annually, which is the median salary for this profession, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
In terms of employment prospects, new blood in American watchmaking is providing a new level of confidence in the employment market. Young companies like RGM Watch company and Devon are leading the charge.
Paths to Learning
Learning or being educated is the initial step to become a watchmaker. And there are only two routes to take. One is through a technical or trade school. Some colleges also offer a bachelor’s or an associate program. The other route is through apprenticeship. A dedicated master-student setup speeds up the learning process because the emphasis is on getting things done rather than understanding concepts first.
Knowledge, Skills, and Characteristics
Whichever route you will take, you need to enhance your experience and skills. You must also possess inherent characteristics that allow you to do your job well as a watchmaker. There are specific areas whereby you need to function at a high level. Experts in the trade have narrowed down the requirements into three basic things: hands, eyes, and knowledge.
Craftsmanship always involves the use of the hand. Thus, the term manual labor. A watchmaker’s success is defined by a steady hand and good eye coordination. You also need to get accustomed to using a magnifying eyepiece.
A watch is a precision device. You can’t produce an accurate device if it’s done in haste. You need to possess an infinite supply of patience, and ice must be running through your veins. You strive for perfection, and your ability to solve problems is critical. If there’s an obstacle in the process, you must be able to find a way to circumvent the problem.
With the resurgence of watchmaking in America, you have an excellent opportunity to become a horologist. Do you have what it takes?