How to Become a Watchmaker – What Every Beginner Needs To Know

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We all love to wear watches. Nevertheless, it is quite rare to come across a professional watchmaker these days. And the reason is because of the increased automation taking over the watch industry. No thanks to emerging technologies, we are continuing to see fewer watchmakers enter the workforce.

In the phase of all these uncertainties, there is still a very vibrant community of watch lovers that desire to see young and hungry watch builders rise to the occasion, whether through a watchmaking school or signing up for an apprenticeship.

A watchmaker at a glance

For those who have no idea, a watchmaker is a professional who often produces, services or repairs watches. A typical watchmaker in the modern watch industry performs unique functions, including repairing, replacing, and doing routine service jobs. Some highly experienced watchmakers even go as far as fabricating parts that are no longer in production. While many watchmakers out there are self-employed, some watchmakers make a living working for jewelers or in a factory.

Understanding the anatomy of a watch

Before you even consider learning the ropes of watchmaking, you’ll need first to familiarise yourself with the basics. And by basics, we mean knowing everything about a timepiece. Read on as we onboard everything you need to know about a watch’s anatomy.

Start with the basics from home: Every experienced watchmaker you have come across didn’t just become an instant sensation. Oh yes, they started their journey by familiarizing themselves with the different parts of a watch. So, before you start looking for an apprenticeship opportunity, the first thing we recommend is to improve your knowledge of watchmaking. And that’s because having expansive watchmaking knowledge will make your journey to the top a lot smoother.

To get started on your watchmaking journey, start with a watch you don’t mind ruining. Take the watch apart and see if you can put it together. This will improve your watchmaking knowledge and help you understand the inner workings of a watch.

To make sure you’re learning as you go, it wouldn’t hurt to make notes or diagrams as you go.

Get familiar with the different kinds of watch casings: Most timepieces feature round faces. This is precisely what most watch enthusiasts know as watch casings. That said, most conventional watch cases come in different shapes and sizes, including ovals, rectangles, and even squares. While these shapes are pretty easy to learn, there is a need to improve your knowledge, especially for the not-so-common types of watch casings.

Here are some watch casings you should pay particular attention to:

  • Carre watch casings: These types of casings feature a curved top and button and straight sides.
  • Carriage watch casings: This watch case looks a lot like a circle with somewhat squished inwards.
  • Tonneau watch casings: This watch casing spots a straight top and bottom, together with curved sides.

Familiarize yourself with the crystal on a watch: Every timepiece comes with a thin crystal layer that covers the face of the watch. While there are many materials out there that double as watch faces, the most common types are mineral crystal, synthetic sapphire crystal, and acrylic crystals. Let’s check out the breakdown of all these materials, shall we?

  • Sapphire crystals: This material is tough and commonly used. That’s because it is as sturdy as diamond crystals. Watchmakers prefer lab synthesized sapphire crystals because of their natural hardiness. Compared to other materials, this one is quite expensive and very tough.
  • Mineral crystal: This material is a form of glass. Compared to sapphire, this is a lot cheaper. The only issue we have with this material is that it scratches easily. More so, it cannot be buffed out. Thankfully, this material can always be replaced, so it appears new.
  • Acrylic crystal: Of all the materials we have explored so far, the acrylic crystal appears to be the cheapest. The thing is, this material is made out of plastic and easily gets scratched. More so, it can be buffed out easily, and that’s because it is the weakest of all three crystals.

Besides all the parts we have explored so far, you’ll also want to familiarize yourself with a watch’s dial, the straps, pushers, and crown, movements as well as digital watches as they are becoming increasingly popular and shoving mechanical watches to the back burner.

Starting your apprenticeship journey

After familiarizing yourself with the anatomy of a watch, the next thing you should do is look for apprenticeship opportunities. You can look through your city for watchmakers and make inquiries if they would like to have an apprentice. If you don’t have a watchmaker in your city, then you need to seek out watchmakers in other cities if you’re really serious about becoming a watchmaker. To make your job easy, you can simply search Google or other search engines for watchmakers seeking apprentices; you’ll be surprised at the number of big companies offering apprenticeships.

Go to a watchmaking school.

If you don’t fancy the idea of becoming an apprentice, you can simply apply to a watchmaking school to kick off your journey. But keep in mind that there aren’t many watchmaking schools out there. More so, you’ll need to stand out to be accepted into any watchmaking school. To this end, you must dedicate a lot of time to reading, practicing, and learning everything that there is to learn about watches. The British School of Watchmaking, for instance, only accepts 11 students annually. Given this stat, we are sure you now understand why you need to stand out from the pack.

Frequently asked questions

How much does a watchmaker earn?

According to ZipRecruiter, some watchmaker’s annual salaries are as high as $68,500, while those at the low end make nearly $24,500. That said, the majority of watchmakers earn between $42,500 to $50,500 per annum.

What qualifications does a watchmaker need?

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in watchmaking, the first thing you’ll need to do is complete the EAL accredited BHI Level 3 technician Grade qualification. Also, it would help if you take the Basic Quartz course as well as the Assembling Small Components course.

How long would it take to be a certified watchmaker?

Watchmaking is a skill that requires some time to master. Averagely, it should take between 2 to 4 years to learn the ropes of this craft. While you’ll be able to learn 60% of the fundamental stuff in watchmaking school, you’ll need at least 5 to 10 years of working experience to master the craft fully.

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