WOSTEP Seeks Views on 800-Hour Program

The international watch industry—including schools, retailers, associations, Swiss watch firms, importers, and suppliers—has been surveyed about a proposed 800-hour training program that would create a new type of watch service professional.

The program was proposed by the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program (WOSTEP), Neuchâtel, Switzerland. WOSTEP, the leader in watchmaker education for 35 years, conducted what it calls a “consultation” of watch industry members, who had until Nov. 15 to respond. “This is [a proposed course for] a new profession, but it is the industry that should decide what training there should be,” Antoine Simonin, director of WOSTEP, told JCK.

The idea of a shorter curriculum was revived early this year with a suggestion from the U.S. Watchmaker Education Coalition to divide WOSTEP’s 3,000-hour program into basic and advanced courses. Although WOSTEP officials rejected the idea, they recognized the growing worldwide need for specialized personnel to do quick after-sales watch services, such as replacing movements, crystals, and batteries; water resistance tests; cleaning cases and bracelets; and replacing straps. “There is a need for such professionals not only in the States but worldwide, everywhere there are major [watch] distribution centers,” says Simonin.

If responses to its questionnaire are generally positive—meaning not only approval of the proposed training but also promises to support it—WOSTEP will develop the program. That includes setting its actual length (800 hours is the working size); determining requirements for students and instructors; determining what materials, tools, and equipment are required; selecting locations for instruction; drafting a budget; and choosing a name.

“This is [a course for] a new profession, so we’re not sure yet if we’ll call it ‘watchmaking’ or something else,” says Simonin. “We are sure that if we proceed, we want to make it a respected, well-paid profession—not a source of cheap labor—with jobs in the industry offering those entering it a chance [for a good career].”

The final concept must be approved by WOSTEP’s governing committee and ratified by a special general assembly of the WOSTEP membership.

Then, says Simonin, WOSTEP will recruit technical and administrative staff and launch the program. The inaugural course would probably be taught in WOSTEP’s Swiss headquarters and could begin as early as Fall 2002.