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  1. #1
    Member HopsAndClocks's Avatar
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    How to Become a Watchmaker (in my situation)

    I've been talking to my wife for a couple years casually about becoming a watchmaker, but it wasn't until just recently that I realized this is definitely what I want to do, and now I can't stop thinking about it. I think my situation might be a little complicated, so I will tell you and I'm hoping someone experienced can help by pointing me in the right direction.

    I'm 28 years old, married to a Korean woman and living in Korea. I've lived here four years, married three of those, with a special VISA that allows me to live and work here indefinitely. I've basically settled down here and call it my home now, and I have made a career out of teaching English here. I should also mention that I have bought an apartment and a car, parts of the equation when thinking about whether to stay or move away for a long time.

    I'm an American citizen, I have a BA in liberal arts and a Minor in Russian. I'm also getting my TESOL certification now (for teaching English to non-native speakers) which will be completed the end of July.

    My wife thinks things are going well now, and I agree except for the fact that I know this isn't what I love to do. I can't go into it now, but just be assured I know watchmaking is what I want to do, and I'm willing to relocate and give up a career here for a chance to pursue this. I don't mean to sound corny, but it's been calling me more strongly each day to the point that it's all I can think about.

    I've been looking into watchmaking schools and they are non-existent in Korea. I know there are some schools in the USA, but it seems like they don't accept many students and then it's mandatory to go to the school to take a test... which is quite impossible for me right now without taking a lot of time off of work and spending a ton of money. If I have to apply to multiple schools within the USA, then this idea becomes quiet impossible. But this is just as I understand it from my limited knowledge.

    I would like more to go to Switzerland, but they too require going there to take a test before telling you if you're eligible or not. Someone told me that it's possible to go there and teach English (in Switzerland) and in during my teaching there I can attempt at applying to get in. This is a new option I hadn't thought about before.

    Another option is to do an apprenticeship here in Korea. Is this a good idea? Would this be as well recognized as if I had received training from an established institution? Also, I'm not sure of the etiquette about contacting and negotiating such an arrangement with a master watchmaker. Should I pay? I've heard it should be done for free, but I can't imagine such a thing in this day and age, with the amount of time it would take on their part. Also, though I've only started the search this morning, finding watchmakers in Korea seems to be quite difficult. There are a lot of low level watchmakers who work for companies, but the number of professional, fully-trained watchmakers may prove to be very limited. But more time and searching is required to tell with this...

    So, this is basically my situation. I was just hoping someone here maybe knew how best I should approach this. I'm very inexperienced with this, so any advice is welcomed!

    Thank you so much for your help!
    Last edited by HopsAndClocks; May 30th, 2012 at 16:31.
    I glance at my watch a thousand times a day, but I still don't know what time it is...

  2. #2
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    Re: How to Become a Watchmaker (in my situation)

    Quote Originally Posted by HopsAndClocks View Post
    Another option is to do an apprenticeship here in Korea. Is this a good idea? Would this be as well recognized as if I had received training from an established institution?
    Hello - first off good luck with your new career. You need to know what kind of watchmaker you want to be before you can really answer the above question. Generally speaking, having a diploma or certification from a recognized insitute will go further than simply doing an apprenticeship.

    So you have some options:

    - factory service center as above
    - working in a jewellery store (at an AD for a specific brand or many brands)
    - independent watchmaker - either dealing with the public directly, or running a trade shop

    In all of these the formal education will be more recognized. However many factory service centers have jobs for people who are not trained watchmakers, such as polishing, or disassembly of the watch initially. Typically the watchmaker does not "do it all" at a service center, and they focus primarily on the servicing of the movement itself.

    Some stores may hire someone to work there in a limited way (probably a lot of battery swaps initially) but they may end up paying for you to go to courses. Sort of a long road to getting the education and skills you need, while making a living at the same time - an apprentice essentially.

    If you plan to be an independent, then your options depend on what sort of watches you want to work on. If you plan to service mainly vintage watches, then many parts are available and access is not as big an issue as it is for modern watches. If you plan on servicing modern watches from major manufacturers, then you will likely need education/certification as part of qualifying for a parts account.

    Things vary also depending on what country you are in. No simple answers, other than education is never a bad thing.

    Cheers, Al
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    Re: How to Become a Watchmaker (in my situation)

    If you can get in touch with the regional distributors (or sales directors) for Bergeon, they should have some insights into available training. If they are still open, there is Hiko and Tokyo Watch Technicum in Japan, Nic Hayek (Swatch) campuses in Shanghai & Kuala Lumpur and many of the Chinese watchmakers list a polytecnic school on their resumes. Modern distance learning hasn't reached the watchmaking trade yet. Two master instructors (who are or were school directors) have strongly advised that they want to look over the students' shoulders to assure the best educational outcome. More than one forum member is struggling with this same issue.

    p
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  4. #4
    Member HopsAndClocks's Avatar
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    Re: How to Become a Watchmaker (in my situation)

    Quote Originally Posted by Archer View Post
    Hello - first off good luck with your new career. You need to know what kind of watchmaker you want to be before you can really answer the above question. Generally speaking, having a diploma or certification from a recognized insitute will go further than simply doing an apprenticeship.
    Archer thanks a lot for the advice. That is a very important question the I wasn't really thinking about. I guess generally I had an idea, which is that I'd like to first of all have the expertise to be able to disassemble, reassemble, fix, manufacture, fit and service watches (sorry I'm not sure on all of the lingo to describe these things.) And secondly, with having the schooling and expertise to be able to get a job initially working for a watch company that I love (ideally something like Vacheron Constantin) and eventually down the road to open my own business buying and selling watches (and of course, servicing them.)

    I don't want to work changing batteries for fashion watches, but if it's a necessary step to get where I want to be I guess I'll do anything that I have to. With regards to working with vintage or modern watches, I honestly can't see it as making any difference to me as I have a love for both kinds.

    It seems that you're saying it's best to have the schooling if possible... so I will keep looking into this. Things are feeling a bit overwhelming with the options and where to start or the best path to take, but in time I can hopefully find my way.

    Thanks a lot for your advice :^)
    I glance at my watch a thousand times a day, but I still don't know what time it is...

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    Re: How to Become a Watchmaker (in my situation)

    I have two ideas for you. One would be to find a copy of the Chicago School of Watchmaking course which can be had on ebay for about $25 in its entirety. The downside of that is that it's a bit dated, and you'd be learning on your own.

    The other option would be the Gem City Clock and Watch Repairing home study course. I'm doing it myself, having just started earlier this year. The only issue to work out would be that they would require an American mailing address for you. So if you could arrange that, you'd be good to go. Watch Repair School, Clock Repair School, Watch Repair Training, Clock Repair Training, Hand Engraving Training, Watch repair training

    And after thinking about it a while, I can't believe I forgot the third alternative. http://www.timezonewatchschool.com/WatchSchool/ It's a great way to dive right into servicing a movement. It's not real expensive, very well documented, and gives a great first time experience in taking a movement apart, cleaning, oiling, and reassembling it.
    Last edited by Robb Ludwig; May 31st, 2012 at 15:15. Reason: Complete airhead forgets stuff
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    Re: How to Become a Watchmaker (in my situation)

    well mate here is what i think you should do.

    as i was in the same situation as you are now with no watchmaking school in country.
    first you will find a good watchmaker and try to get in his office as aprentice, you will just change straps, batteries crystals etc etc, after they see if you're capable of doing it they will start giving you some other jobs (you will ask for it surely), dismantling assembling of movements and after some time whole overhaul of movements.
    also as Archer said you could enroll in some importer house for watches, if they hire you and they see that you're good worker and you have "the thing"you could get a reward and they might send you on some education for the brands they import
    after 3 years of being aprentice you can sign in on wostep courses in switzerland(best one is 6 months one refresher course).

    wostep is recognizedby the swiss watch producers and if you buy the necesary equipment you should not have any problems with account for spare parts of the brands with the wostep certificate.

    best way is if you could take the whole wostep course i think it was 3 years .

    i hope i put some light on your problem mate as i did have the same one..


    br
    emso
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    Re: How to Become a Watchmaker (in my situation)

    I would suggest to the OP to become a hobbyist first and learn on your own. You will need to invest $200-$500 in tools and a few vintage watches and practice. If you can consistently overhaul movements without breaking anything, it means that you are ready to ask yourself if you want to turn it into a full time job, or just do it as a hobby.

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    Re: How to Become a Watchmaker (in my situation)

    I would agree vbomega. Becoming a hobbyist watch maker will give you plenty to learn on. Get some good books, start collecting tools on ebay or wherever and have at. There is no reason if you are talented that you can't become an excellent watchmaker without the certificate. You obviously have what it takes to complete a certification later when chance provides but there is no reason you can't start learning now. I am a goldsmith and hand engraver by trade have been able to self teach watchmaking to the point where I can overhaul simple movements and build entire watches, case, dial, crown and all starting with a ready made movements. This is the level I wanted to be at and I did it on my own. I got tired of working with the local hack watch makers and decided next time I need a hack watchmaker I'll do it myself. Eventually I found my own hand adequate and preferable to the local watchmakers. You want it done right you have to do it yourself.
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    Re: How to Become a Watchmaker (in my situation)

    Maybe I am too cautious... Your thoughts about changing career, given your circumstances come over as a little too whimsical to me. You have responsibilities, and you have a job, and are completing a course of training to enhance your qualifications in your previously chosen line of work. At twenty-eight and married, you may soon have additional responsibilities on the way. Watchmaking is not an easy gig to get into as a man approaching thirty, and it may not pay you well for a good while.

    My most honest advice as a non-watchmaker would be to go the way suggested by Robb Ludwig, James and vbomega and develop your skills as a hobby watch maker. You have a living to earn and throwing over a steady job in pursuit of some 'grail' existence would seem reckless to me, to put it mildly. This is my honest advice as a man with sons about your age. I apologise if it sounds patronising or harsh. Your first need is a decent job that pays. Don't put that at risk. If I had a daughter your wife's age, I would be even more concerned.
    Last edited by tony1951; May 31st, 2012 at 09:39.
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  10. #10
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    Re: How to Become a Watchmaker (in my situation)

    A good "first step" that you can probably do where you are is to take a general course in machining. Learning how to use a micro-lathe properly goes a long way towards not only becoming a watchmaker, but also in making the road cheaper and easier. Even setting aside the value of being able to turn and replace balance staffs (probably the most common repair you'll ever need to do), there are thousands of little tools that watchmakers use for specific tasks that can be very expensive to buy (especially if you only need to use them once in a blue moon) but are almost trivial to make if you know how to machine and mill.
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