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  1. #1
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    SAWTA vs. WOSTEP vs. CW21

    I was wondering if someone could describe the differences of the programs listed in the title. Is one better than the other? How do they differ?

    I have been planning on enrolling in the program at N. Seattle Community College - on their website it indicates that SAWTA curriculum is taught but that it's taught by WOSTEP certified faculty.

    Just trying to get things straight in my mind about it.

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    Re: SAWTA vs. WOSTEP vs. CW21

    Perhaps "versus" is not the right word. All three certifications are attempting to train watchmakers and they all are model programs. WOSTEP is the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program. A collective attempt by manufactures, brands and other Swiss to train watchmakers around the world with a comprehensive education in the traditional watchmaking arena. Graduates (around the world) are the most formally trained watchmakers.

    SAWTA is a Swiss American Watchmaking Alliance developed by Rolex. It came about when brands (ROLEX) complained graduates of the WOSTEP schools were deficient in primarily case work, ie. crystals, case polishing, band repairs and other areas.

    CW21 is a certification awarded by the AWCI or American Watch and Clock Institute. This certification is an opportunity for existing watchmakers, watchmakers that are not in school or have been working for possibly years, to take a test and receive a certification. Many schools also give this final exam and confer certifications upon graduation. It is an attempt to clean up a rather dubious certification process in the past that was based on home study and self administered tests.

    There are today probably 5000 watchmakers in the US. All the schools in the US, assuming a full class, graduate maybe, and I am probably being generous in this estimate, 100 graduates. The average watchmaker is approaching the age of retirement, dying, changing professions at a greater rate than the number of graduating students. It is literally a dying industry. There are many reasons for this, enough for another thread or three.

    Michael, WOSTEP grad Seattle class of 2004

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    Re: SAWTA vs. WOSTEP vs. CW21

    WOSTEP is the most recognized certification in the world. With that said the industry is in a contest over who will hold / decide / control the standards of watchmaking certification. Rolex has been very active in creating the SAWTA standard as well as the standard for the AWCI which is the CW21. Marketing the standard to industry / public is the key to success of the standards and unfortuneatly so far Rolex and AWCI has not done a great job at promoting awareness of their certifications. In short the consumer / public and the person wanting certification is left with a tough decision. On the flip side all 3 curriculum's are very good, frankly there are no others in the USA. How to pick? I am not 100% familiar with the latest versions of the curriculum's but when I taught at North and SAWTA was coming in, WOSTEP in my opinion had a more complete program from manufacturing to watch repair (I consider manufacturing important to watchmaking for many reasons but is off track of the subject here). SAWTA if I remember correctly "fast tracked" or omitted some manufacturing in favor of more intense training in watch repair. CW21 is very similar to the SAWTA program but is sanctioned by AWCI. The key here is what you want out of the certification. WOSTEP is still the most recognized brand, SAWTA coming in second and I think CW21 coming in 3rd. I think AWCI has a long way to go re assuring the industry it will continue with it's standard. AWCI has gone through so many evolutions of certifications that I think many people are shy about what they might do next - AWCI - Follow through! SAWTA has very high standards for examination and certification which I applaud and if they kick in a bit more manufacturing I think they could dominate in the USA. WOSTEP is the beginning of watchmaking certifications with Antoine Simone at the helm. It is the gold standard that SAWTA can and one day will be equal too in the industries eyes. Again what does this mean for an incoming student? WOSTEP or SAWTA would be my choices then the CW21. (I remember some talk of SAWTA schools also sitting for the CW21 at the same time). I think the decision is yours and if your goal is for watch repair either certification will serve you well. Any resume for a position in watchmaking that includes WOSTEP, SAWTA or CW21 and or 2 years of study in the program will surely be accepted. Go to the school you can afford to spend as much time studying and applying yourself to do well. North Seattle originally a WOSTEP school was (is still?) run by a grant through a very generous Rolex. It is slowly changing /changed into a SAWTA school but is still possibly certified as a WOSTEP school. The industry needs higher calibre watchmakers and there are not enough. WOSTEP and SAWTA have been trying to address it and I think they will continue to provide the best curriculum available in the USA. Don't be afraid to ask questions and interview the schools to get the best education you can.

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    Re: SAWTA vs. WOSTEP vs. CW21

    The reason Rolex and other companies want training to include resurfacing and polishing/repair of cases is because the authorized service centres have made it common and standard practice to refinish the bracelets and cases of watches coming in for overhaul. This is a fairly recent development, over the past 10-15 years, and a lot of companies are jumping on the bandwagon. It was originally the domain of the higher end watches to have repair centres that would completely overhaul and refinish the watch, but now many companies are also offering/pushing this. The last three hapless watchmakers I worked with that got stuck on full time case and bracelet refinishing quit, and there were certainly hard feelings. With the severe shortage of watchmakers globally, my position is that no company can afford to burn certified watchmakers. I worked for several repair centres and I found it stultifying and mindless, and I was instructed to do things that were contrary to my training. Still, the repair centres do pay well, and that includes benefits.

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    Re: SAWTA vs. WOSTEP vs. CW21

    Thanks, all, very informative answers.

    Harry - that's interesting about some of the manufacturing being removed out of the SAWTA curriculum. I'm interested in all aspects of watchmaking but am particularly interested in the manufacturing of watches and their components. I've sent an email to the NSCC about what their program offers. Hopefully it's a positive response as I'm from the Seattle area and am really quite keen on staying there.

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    Re: SAWTA vs. WOSTEP vs. CW21

    There's still plenty of micromechanics involved in the SAWTA program.. first year students made a set lever bridge for the 6497, a balance tack and click and spring, along with a movement holder for our first main exam all within a span of a few weeks.
    You can view what the students are working on at LWT on the unofficial facebook page.

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    Re: SAWTA vs. WOSTEP vs. CW21

    Nice link. Looking at some of the other photos some of the work they get to do looks like a lot of fun.

    I've emailed the one of the assistants of the watch program I'm looking at and she said the SAWTA and WOSTEP curriculum were "basically the same". I won't be discouraged from applying somewhere that teaches one or the other.

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    Re: SAWTA vs. WOSTEP vs. CW21

    They really aren't the same curriculum..

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    Re: SAWTA vs. WOSTEP vs. CW21

    I'll try to add my opinion on a few questions that came up.

    RE: case polishing. I agree many watchmakers are deficient in case polishing and more should be added to any curriculum. But with the many brands, styles, materials and shapes without physically having cases to practice on...... you can't train students to be more efficient on the many brands of cases. HOWEVER - you can train a watchmaker to understand the polishing process and be able to apply it to many surfaces and materials so when they get into industry they can have a shorter learning curve on the product.

    RE- manufacturing when my students lost a click spring they had to make one - daily stuff. Balance tack is a simple introductory project as well as the set bridge but a more refined in filing and detailed fitting and a clear understanding of it's purpose and use.

    RE - service centers - yes they can be boring and go against the very grain of a watchmaker. The key is your an employee and do what the manufacturer wants. A lot of people go into the trade with a magical vision of the Swiss alps over looking a pasture replete with cows. It's not so. The service center is there to produce as many repairs as efficiently and cost effective as possible. If you enjoy watches and are of high enough calibre to be trained and work your way up you can avoid the bench in the corner. I am thankful for all watchmaker both great and the ones that gladly deal with the mundane. Ones man boredom is anothers' excitement.

    The one thing I see as a continual rubbing point in the watchmaking world is the EU has no idea about the psyche of Americans and try to impose the EU model here. It can't work - Americans think different and have different goals and expectations of life. Neither is wrong it is just a cultural rift that causes a lot of resentment and issues with manufacturers doing business in the US and how shops are set up.

    My 2 cents not adjusted for inflation.
    vbomega likes this.

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    Re: SAWTA vs. WOSTEP vs. CW21

    Quote Originally Posted by Henry Hatem View Post
    I'll try to add my opinion on a few questions that came up.

    RE: case polishing. I agree many watchmakers are deficient in case polishing and more should be added to any curriculum. But with the many brands, styles, materials and shapes without physically having cases to practice on...... you can't train students to be more efficient on the many brands of cases. HOWEVER - you can train a watchmaker to understand the polishing process and be able to apply it to many surfaces and materials so when they get into industry they can have a shorter learning curve on the product.

    RE- manufacturing when my students lost a click spring they had to make one - daily stuff. Balance tack is a simple introductory project as well as the set bridge but a more refined in filing and detailed fitting and a clear understanding of it's purpose and use.

    RE - service centers - yes they can be boring and go against the very grain of a watchmaker. The key is your an employee and do what the manufacturer wants. A lot of people go into the trade with a magical vision of the Swiss alps over looking a pasture replete with cows. It's not so. The service center is there to produce as many repairs as efficiently and cost effective as possible. If you enjoy watches and are of high enough calibre to be trained and work your way up you can avoid the bench in the corner. I am thankful for all watchmaker both great and the ones that gladly deal with the mundane. Ones man boredom is anothers' excitement.

    The one thing I see as a continual rubbing point in the watchmaking world is the EU has no idea about the psyche of Americans and try to impose the EU model here. It can't work - Americans think different and have different goals and expectations of life. Neither is wrong it is just a cultural rift that causes a lot of resentment and issues with manufacturers doing business in the US and how shops are set up.

    My 2 cents not adjusted for inflation.
    Thanks for the good post, Harry. I read an article that described a little about the differences between how things work in Switzerland and that some events had left a bad taste in the mouth of a former student at NSCC. That can article can be read here: A Day in Watch School Part 4: The Changing of the Guard The quote of the section I was talking about:

    The most grueling part of the process for the second year students though was not knowing whether or not they had passed and would receive their diploma and certification until the graduation ceremony itself. While this apparent cruelty is partially the restof of the tests only be graded firecetly beforehand (to minimize the length of stay for the representatives from Switzerland), the reason they could not at least call any students that didn't pass beforehand is lost on me. It left a bitter taste in my mouth to see the one student who did not pass face the news in such a public way, especially as his familyh was present for the graduation ceremony. Apparently this unfortunate occurrence was the result of some misunderstandings. In Switzerland the graduation is very low key with no family or friends present...

    As an aside you're mentioned in one of the sections of that article as well. I believe it was in part 5.

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