AWA Web Site Promotes Watchmaker Education

The Internet is being used by the American Watch Association (AWA) to combat a serious problem in the U.S. watch and jewelry trades—the sharp decline in trained watchmakers. The AWA has created a Web site (www.watchmakereducation.com) to connect prospective students with schools that provide such training.

There are an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 trained U.S. watchmakers, half of whom are expected to retire in the next 10 to 20 years. But North America’s 11 watch training schools graduate only about 80 people each year, little more than half their enrollment capacity. Watch industry experts say four to six times that many graduates are needed annually for the foreseeable future.

That’s why AWA—the lobbying group for America’s watch brands—is promoting watchmaker training, says Emilio Collado, AWA’s executive director. “It’s essential that our member companies and their authorized retailers have trained watchmakers, to provide quality maintenance and service,” he tells JCK. “But with the loss of 50% or more of existing watchmakers in the next several years, we’ll need a much-greater-than-average infusion of new ones and, therefore, greater enrollment of qualified students.

“So, we’re trying with this new Web site—coupled with our individual member companies’ efforts to provide funding, technical expertise, and equipment to watchmaker schools—to play a part in meeting this demand.”

The Watchmaker Education in North America Web site includes a mini-course on watch and watchmaking basics (written by watch industry journalist Norma Buchanan); a report on the shortage of U.S. watchmakers; and information on watchmaker certification and on the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program (WOSTEP), the international standard for watchmaker training. There is a list of watch schools in the United States and Canada to “help students and high school guidance counselors locate qualified schools,” says Collado.

The site has been up since September and is already getting about 100 hits per month.

To increase awareness of the site, AWA has contracted online search engines Google and Overture to put it at the top of the response list for people seeking information on “watchmakers” or “watchmaking.” AWA has asked its 65 member companies as well as the American Watch Institute (AWI) to link their own Web sites to it. And AWA has asked Jewelers of America to link the site to JA’s Web site and include the AWA site in JA’s new outreach program to attract young people to careers in the jewelry industry.