A new agreement has been signed by several Swiss luxury watch brands and groups to provide $1.1 million to the watchmaking program at Oklahoma State University’s Okmulgee campus. Participating in the Sept. 20 event at OSU–Okmulgee were representatives of luxury watchmakers Audemars Piguet, Breitling, Richemont Group, and Swatch Group, plus OSU university officials. Maarten Pieters, director of the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program, came from Switzerland for the ceremony, which marked the ongoing partnership between Swiss watchmakers and OSU– Okmulgee’s watchmaking and microtechnology program.
The university has used the 3,000-hour WOSTEP curriculum, considered the world’s best in watchmaking, since 1994 and was the first WOSTEP-approved U.S. school. OSU students who pass also earn an associate’s degree in applied science, which is integrated into OSU’s WOSTEP curriculum.
The agreement enables OSU–Okmulgee’s watchmaking program to expand instructional and technological capabilities and increase student enrollment and faculty, staff resources, scholarships, equipment and supplies, marketing, and industry image enhancement.
The $1.1 million pact, covering five more years, comes at a time when there is concern in the U.S. watch business about the ongoing decrease in veteran watchmakers. “These are lucrative careers, and our Swiss watch partners need more technological professionals of the quality that we are producing,” said OSU–Okmulgee President Robert Klabenes. OSU graduates work for some of the world’s most prestigious watch companies and service centers, noted Anita Gordy-Watkins, OSU–Okmulgee associate vice president who oversees the program. She said well-trained watchmakers are vital to the luxury watch industry. “They’re key to ensuring the optimum quality and quantity of after-sales service for Swiss-made watches in world markets.”
WOSTEP represents the Swiss watch industry in setting standards for, and coordinating watchmaking programs of, partner schools. There are 14 WOSTEP programs worldwide, including five in North America. The others are in China, France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. For information, see www.osu-okmulgee.edu.