New Watch Technician Training Is AWCI’s ‘Future’

The American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute is developing two programs to train entry-level “watch technicians” for jewelry and watch stores in elemental watch knowledge, JCK has learned. Eventually, it hopes these will counter some of the impact from the decrease in U.S. watchmakers.

“This is our future,” said Jim Lubic, AWCI executive director, in a JCK interview. “It will boost our membership; get people into the trade at the entry level; give AWCI a wider reach in the retail jewelry industry; and, hopefully, get more people interested in going on to the WOSTEP program.” Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program is a comprehensive two-year program developed by the Swiss watch industry and now taught at five U.S. schools.

AWCI, the world’s largest watchmaker association, in Harrison, Ohio, is a nonprofit trade association dedicated to the advancement of horology. It provides educational and technical services for its 6,500-plus members and referral services to the public.

AWCI hopes to have the programs—tentatively called “Watch Technician 1” and “Watch Technician 2”—finished by year’s end. It’s working with certification professionals and representatives from the retail jewelry, watch, and watchmaking sectors to design the lessons. “We want a good cross section of the trade to get their input,” Lubic said.

He stressed that WT training isn’t for watchmakers or people wanting a comprehensive watchmaker education.

WT1 will provide basic watch data, such as product knowledge, band sizing, and some information on terminology and technology. “This is for a salesperson,” said Lubic. “They can’t open or work on a watch with this, but their knowledge of watches from it will make them valuable to retailers selling high-grade timepieces.”

WT2 will teach people to replace batteries; troubleshoot quartz and mechanical watches (using proper equipment); provide price quotes on repairs; and do some very basic work, like exchanging a quartz movement or a stem and crown replacement in a mechanical watch.

“This would also be advantageous at point of sale and will let a trained watchmaker attend to the heavy work in watch servicing and repair,” said Lubic. “Whether a person is a WT1 or WT2, the consumers and brands will be better served, as will retailers, because that person could increase sales.”

The courses would be a mix of Internet and correspondence lessons, with some hands-on training for WT2. They would be completed within a few months at most, Lubic says.

This isn’t AWCI’s only recent effort in watch training. In 2005, it unveiled a major revision of its watchmaker certification program.

AWCI is also working with the six U.S. watch schools that don’t have WOSTEP to develop a uniform curriculum to train U.S. watchmakers, so that all 11 U.S. schools will cover the same major topics.

AWCI’s action is prompted by concern about the continuing decline in U.S. watchmakers.

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 a Web site on becoming a watchmaker (www.watchmakereducation.com).

The new WT training “won’t take care of the problem by itself,” said Lubic, “but hopefully it will help address that issue.” For more information, contact AWCI at (866) 367-2924.