AWCI creates two new watch jobs to counter decrease in watchmakers

The American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute, aided by retail and watch trade advisors, is creating two new watch job categories to meet rising demand by consumers, jewelers, and watch brands for people able to service fine watches, and to lessen the impact of the sharp decrease in trained U.S. watchmakers.

The two new in-store job categories are “Watch Specialist” and “Watch Technician.” Training and certification requirements for both are now being developed, and will be unveiled at the 2007 JCK Show in Las Vegas, said Jim Lubic, AWCI executive director in a JCK interview.

The need and definition of the two new jobs grew out of several meetings in the past year, plus a three-day session in late April at AWCI’s headquarters in Harrison, Ohio, with representatives of major watch brands, chain stores, jewelry supply houses, a watch battery firm, independent jewelers, and AWCI certified watchmakers.

Recent years have seen an unprecedented growth in sales of mechanical watches and other fine timepieces. This has stoked a rising demand from retailers—including many who want to re-establish in-store watch departments—consumers and service centers for trained watchmakers. However, there’s only a few hundred left, compared to over 30,000 three decades ago.

That’s led to another problem. Thousands of untrained, often self-taught people try to repair valuable, complicated timepieces, but inadvertently damage them in the process.

The new job categories should help with both problems, say AWCI officials.

* The Watch Specialist will be a store’s most knowledgeable watch person. He or she will have expertise ranging from knowledge of watch history and materials, to operating complex timepieces. The specialist will also oversee warranty policies, and watch repair and maintenance programs. Training (about six weeks) and testing for certification will be done through the mail and Internet, and at regional trade shows.

* The Watch Technician will be trained to do basic hands-on watch service tasks, from battery replacements and bracelet adjustments, to watch movement and crystal replacement. (However, he or she won’t disassemble movements or reproduce hand-made components, which remain the domain of a Certified Watchmaker.)

Training for certification to be a technician (about three months) will involve technical expertise and require more formal, structured instruction at AWCI or qualified colleges or other institutions around the country. The training course will be broken into short segments to fit a retailer’s schedule.

Either or both jobs can be done by members of a jeweler’s sales staff or the jeweler himself. The customers and retailer will get a well-informed watch salesperson, says AWCI, while the store’s certified watchmaker—if it has one—will have more time for serious repairs and servicing, because the technician can handle simpler, basic jobs. The category of watch technician should also provide more people for the country’s hundreds of independent and brand-related watch service centers. AWCI officials hope some Watch Technicians would go on to become Certified Watchmakers.

The new job categories, their training requirements, cost and certification criteria will be unveiled to the watch and jewelry industries at the 2007 JCK Show in Las Vegas, at AWCI’s “Watchmaker of the Future” booth. 

“The JCK Show will be the big start,” says Lubic. “We’ll have information on the watch technician and specialist categories, the investment a retailer must make to get or hire these trained people, and the career potential for people in those jobs. The booth itself will be designed to look like a modern watch repair shop.”

This will be also the start of ongoing marketing of the new categories to the industry, that will include presentations at other major shows and on AWCI’s website (www.awci.com), and some recruiting by AWCI members.

For more information, contact AWCI at info@awci.com or call (866) 367-2924.
These new job categories continue AWCI’s efforts to strengthen U.S. watchmaking. In 2005, it unveiled a major revision of its watchmaker certification program, designed for the 21st century and the culmination of years’ work by horologists, who volunteered their services. AWCI is also working with several U.S. watch schools to develop a uniform curriculum to train U.S. watchmakers.

AWCI’s action is prompted by concern of its officials, and others in the U.S. watch trade, about the ongoing decrease in U.S. watchmakers, who are essential to jewelers, watch shops, suppliers and repair centers for servicing and repair. Yet, the strong U.S. market in upscale timepieces has only increased demand for people who understand and can work on timepieces. But the country’s watch schools and programs only graduate about 50 new watchmakers annually.

Some brands have reacted on their own in recent years: Rolex and Swatch Group both started their own U.S. watchmaking schools, and some have made major donations to U.S. watchmaking programs. The American Watch Association created an informative website on becoming a watchmaker (www.watchmakeducation.com).