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How to Become a Professional Watchmaker

Despite the name, most watchmakers don’t spend most of their time making watches. They can be found designing custom pieces for existing watches, testing prototypes in factories, and performing cleaning and maintenance on watches of all ages.

Regardless of the specific field or company, all watchmakers go through extensive training and years of on-the-job experience to ensure that your watch is designed, assembled, and repaired with the highest standards.

How to Become a Professional Watchmaker
(Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels)

Signs You May Be Cut Out for Watchmaking

If you’re considering a career in watchmaking, it’s essential to know whether you have what it takes. Watchmaking is a very individualized career with a specific set of skills, and while it takes years of training, it also requires some innate traits and talent.

1. You Have a Passion for Timepieces

It takes a lot of schooling and dedication to become a watchmaker. Before deciding on this career path, make sure it’s what you want to do. (We’ll talk more about getting your feet wet in the world of watchmaking below.) If you have a passion for all things watches, you’re off to a great start.

2. You’re a Problem Solver

The dozens of tiny, intricate parts inside a watch mean that any number of things could be the cause of a watch malfunction. As a watchmaker, you’ll need to be able to apply critical thinking skills and spend lots of time puzzling out what could be making a watch act up.

3. You Have Strong Eyes and Nimble Hands

You can be a watchmaker and still need to wear glasses, but you’ll absolutely need to have a talent for noticing tiny details. Everything in watchmaking is measured on a micro-scale, so you can’t repair or make watches without being able to see all the minute parts and understand how they work together. And because you’ll be working with these parts, you should have steady hands that can handle them without breaking anything.

4. You’re a Master at Patience and Perfection

Watches take seconds to break and hours to repair. To be a watchmaker, you’ll need the patience of a saint—and you should be a bit of a perfectionist, too. If even one piece of the watch is out of place, the entire watch’s function will be compromised. Before you finish making or repairing a watch, you’ll need to make sure that everything has been done perfectly.

How to Become a Watchmaker

If you think you check all the boxes for a watchmaker’s traits, your next step should be to make sure it’s the path for you. The American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute offers five-day courses to introduce potential future watchmakers to the world of horology. The Institute also provides a one-day “Build a Watch” class for anyone interested. Both of these options are the perfect way to ensure you’re on the right career path.

Once you’ve decided to be a watchmaker, you should know that there are two ways to learn what you need to know.

1. Become a Watchmaker’s Apprentice

An apprenticeship tends to be the more common approach. As an apprentice, you’ll get hands-on experience right from the start. You’ll learn everything there is to know about common repairs, and you’ll likely get to work with some very expensive, high-end timepieces. It won’t all be Tudor watch repairs, though—the challenges of a watchmaking apprenticeship can be significant. Finding a watchmaker willing to take you on as an apprentice can be extremely difficult, and you won’t be paid for your time.

2. Go to Watchmaking School

Watchmaking school will teach you everything you need to know about watchmaking, which will be a more comprehensive education than you’d get as an apprentice. It will also provide you with incredible networking opportunities.

The downside to watchmaking school is that there are only a handful of them worldwide, and each school only accepts a very small number of students. If you get accepted, you’ll almost certainly have to uproot your life and go into considerable debt to pay tuition.

No matter which path you choose, it will take years of experience and hard work to become a successful watchmaker.

A Trustworthy Watchmaker

Once you’ve completed your watchmaking education, you can specialize in different areas. Many luxury watch brands, such as Rolex and Cartier, only allow watch repairs by technicians who have been specially trained on their specific brand. If you choose this route, you’ll need more training, but you’ll never be short on job opportunities.

You can also earn specialized certifications from the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute to further your training and work options.

Regardless of the area you end up in, you’ll have completed years of intensive training and become an expert in watchmaking. Because of all this education, you’ll know how to handle every kind of watch repair, and you’ll be able to show your customers why it’s so important to bring their watches to a trusted, professional watchmaker.

At Times Ticking, our team members have taken the long but worthwhile journey to becoming certified watchmakers. After working on more than 600,000 watches, we can vouch for the deep satisfaction that comes from creating and repairing watch parts and immersing ourselves in the world of horology. We salute any future watchmakers who aspire to be part of this rewarding industry.