The Swatch Group (U.S.) Inc. will open a watchmaking school this fall at its Secaucus, N.J., headquarters to help stem the decline in professionally trained U.S. watchmakers. There is no tuition; however, enrollment is limited, and applicants must pay for their own food and housing, since there are no dormitory facilities.
In the past 20 years, say reports by the American Watch Association, the U.S. Department of Labor, and JCK, the number of trained U.S. watchmakers has steadily declined. In addition, up to half of current watchmakers (between 5,000 and 6,000) are at or near retirement age. At the same time, Swiss watch exports to the United States, including fine automatic and hand-wound watches, have risen. “Millions of fine-quality Swiss timepieces have been sold, with fewer qualified technicians able to service those watches,” notes The Swatch Group report announcing the school.
To address this growing problem, The Swatch Group (U.S.) Inc., the American subsidiary of the world’s largest watch company, will open The N.G. Hayek Watchmaking School, named for the group’s chairman, Nicolas G. Hayek.
Joe Mella, chief operating officer of The Swatch Group (U.S.) Inc., will serve as the dean of the school, which will be led by instructor Paul Madden, a Swatch Group employee. The school will use the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program curriculum, a two-year 3,000-hour training program recognized internationally as the industry’s best training program. (There are only 12 watchmaking schools today in North America, including one in Canada. Just five are WOSTEP-certified.)
Enrollment will be highly selective and limited to six students per class to ensure students get what Swatch calls “a focused and individualized classroom experience.” A new class will start each fall.
The program isn’t just for would-be Swatch Group employees. “Our goal isn’t to simply fill our watchmaking benches, but to fill them across the United States,” says Joseph Panetta, Swatch Group (U.S.) spokesman. He declined to say how much is being invested in the project but said the cost is “significant and one we willingly make to ensure watchmaking know-how continues in the United States, and to ensure that we can always service our product.”