The humble wristwatch is a beautiful invention that has remained timeless throughout the decades and centuries. Despite the development of technology and the introduction of other timekeeping devices including smartwatches and smartphones, the watch still reigns supreme as both a practical and aesthetic accessory. Now a status symbol of success rather than a simple timekeeping tool, watch owners continue to seek out the talents and craftsmanship of the world’s watchmakers for the creation, repair and maintenance of their treasured timepieces.
Although it is often considered a dying trade as fewer people pursue this field, the need for watchmakers has not reduced and the industry is crying out for budding watchmakers to step up to the table. There is no denying that the profession and passion of watchmaking is one that requires a great deal of skill, knowledge, expertise and unique watchmaking tools with watch owners trusting their prized possessions in the hands of established watchmakers. Whilst training and education are one way in which you can develop your craft and establish yourself as a watchmaker, there are many other avenues you can follow and nothing enhances your skills more than constant practice. If you are toying with the idea of pursuing watchmaking whether as a career or a hobby, you may be wondering where to start and how to progress along your watchmaking journey. If this is you, you have come to the right place as we detail every road and step you can take on the continuous adventure of becoming a watchmaker.
If you are just starting out tinkering with watches and wanting to take your passion for watchmaking to the next level, signing up for a watchmaking training course is a great first step. A beginner’s course to watchmaking enhances the initial skills you may have developed by working on your own timepieces at home whilst getting tips and tricks from professional watchmakers. The courses often confirm whether your interest in watchmaking is a minor curiosity, a strong passion or something you really want to pursue. If you do decide to continue your watchmaking journey, a beginner’s course to watchmaking sets you up for more advanced courses and should you choose to pursue a career in watchmaking, it establishes a foundation to progress onto a watchmaking apprenticeship or horology school.
Embarking on a watchmaking apprenticeship is one way to develop your skills and expertise in a hands-on environment. A watchmaking apprenticeship is a very traditional route to take, allowing you to learn and practice alongside a trained and established watchmaker. Choosing a watchmaking apprenticeship over horology school allows you to benefit from one-to-one and personalized training where your education is adapted to how you learn and develop. As you are typically the only apprentice and working in a professional watchmaking environment, there is also often more opportunity for hands-on practical watchmaking allowing you to practice your skills more. You can find watchmaking apprenticeships across the world which all offer incredible training but the most intensive training programs can typically be found with Swiss-based companies.
Whilst there are many watchmaking apprenticeships available, one of the most esteemed is with IWC Schaffhausen. Based in Switzerland, this 3-year apprenticeship is one of the most intensive watchmaking training programs you can find and year on year, produces some of the most talented watchmakers. The apprenticeship is a highly in-depth process and can lead to a permanent position at IWC Schaffhausen after successful completion.
Also based in Switzerland, you can take on an apprenticeship with one of the most prestigious watch brands, Patek Philippe. Each year, Patek Phillippe offers 3 apprentice roles based in Geneva where you will complete a 21-24 month process to course accreditation. As part of the course, you will also receive French lessons providing you with skills to work for a Swiss company in the future. Successful applicants also receive a remuneration package and a guaranteed job in the UK upon completion of the apprenticeship at the Patek Philippe UK service center.
As an alternative to a watchmaking apprenticeship, horology school is also an option for continuing your professional development. A benefit of choosing horology school over an apprenticeship is that the theory side of the training is greater, providing you with an exceptional academic knowledge on the world of horology. In addition, in contrast to apprenticeships which are exclusively in-person training, you can study select courses through horology school via distance learning allowing you to complete the qualification online and from anywhere in the world.
The British Horology Institute is one of the primary destinations for horology school allowing you to study either in person or via distance learning. In addition to short courses, The British Horology Institute offers a Level 3 Technician Grade qualification setting you up for a watchmaking career. The certification includes multiple short courses with tutor feedback followed by examinations. The course and examinations are fully flexible allowing you to complete at your own pace.
Once you have passed the Level 3 qualification, you can progress to Level 4 and Level 5 for advanced professional development. As a Level 3, you can seek employment as a technician or a sole trader whilst Level 4 and Level 5 provides greater career options including working for high end retailers and for museums restoring historic timepieces.
Offering two different certified watchmaking courses, The British School of Watchmaking is renowned for producing exceptional watchmakers. Both courses are full-time with the 1,800 hour course taking one year to complete and the 3,000 hour course taking two years to complete. Each course includes examinations with 3 intermediates and a final examination for the one year course and five intermediates and a final examination for the two year course. Both courses are fully accredited and recognized across the industry with the 1,800 hour course equivalent to a 3 year Swiss CFC program and the 3,000 hour equivalent to the 4 year educational program.
As an alternative to horology school, you could also choose to attend university which offers the same incredible training but with the university lifestyle. Birmingham City University offers a 3 year Bachelor’s degree in Horology with a course detailing everything from the history of horology, theory and practical elements. As it is a university-based course, applicants are required to meet all entry requirements to Birmingham City University including the relevant grades, UCAS points or international equivalents for admission.
Whichever avenue you choose to pursue, both an apprenticeship and horology school will set you up as an extremely talented watchmaker. The route you take is completely down to personal preference, how you prefer to study and what you want from the experience but both will establish you in the world of watchmaking. To know more about the interesting fact about watches and watchmarkers, head over to the blog.