When it comes to exceptional craftsmanship there’s not much that can compare to a handcrafted watch with precise movements. Watchmakers and repairers are the ones that create masterpieces such as Rolex and Patek Philippe. These watches can sell for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars based on the hard work and time that a watchmaker puts into mastering that specific movement.
The type of watchmaker you become is entirely dependent on where you work. Different companies focus on certain unique movements such as quarts movements, Swiss, manual, etc. Some of these movement’s date back to the 16th century. Watchmakers tend to be knowledgeable about all movements but really specialize in one type.
Watchmakers are extremely skilled at what they do. You will need extensive training/schooling to even be considered by the high-end brands. There is no minimum schooling requirement to qualify for most schools although a high school education is required for some colleges that offer a degree in Horology (Art of making clocks and watches).
Physical fitness is not a factor in becoming a watchmaker. However, since you will spend hours sitting staring at very small detailed mechanisms, it helps drastically to have good eyesight and great hand-eye coordination.
Mental Toughness in regards to watchmaking, is simply-- patience. This line of work requires patience more than anything and excellent problem solving abilities. When you are dealing with such small complex parts you cannot expect to see every issue right away. It will take many hours of work to find certain problems let alone fixing them.
Availability of schools vastly differ based on where you live. In the United States there are very few watch making apprentices and schools compared to places such as Switzerland and the UK. Most schools consists of 3-4 years of learning the art of watchmaking and repairing. Many big companies that focus on handmade watches will offer their own programs free of charge with a conditional requirement being that you work for them once the training has concluded. Many watchmakers own their own shops and learn from an elder relative or friend who most likely learned the same way. It’s a great family business. If you really want to show your reputability you can become certified by taking various tests over several days. Links provided below.
Watchmaking can be a very rewarding and lovely job. Most people thinking of pursuing this career are already watch enthusiasts of some sort, so they love everything that the job entails. Most of your day will simply consist of repairing and building watches with very intricate detail. If you are more on the design side of the spectrum you won’t really deal with the mechanics of the watch, you would mostly be dealing with the graphic designing aspect of watchmaking which is a separate job entirely.
Total Employment: 2,130
Mean Annual Wage: $39,530
Median Annual Wage: $35,770
Top 5 Highest Paying States
Annual mean wage
Top 5 States with Highest Employment
Annual mean wage
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov)
Pros: The Pros for this job are that it is an enthusiast’s dream. People who love watches and movement mechanics will find this job very rewarding. Most individuals in this field own their own shops and can operate the business exactly how they would like. The pay can be vary depending on your where your shop is located. Also training can be cheap or even free if you rub elbows with the right people.
Cons: These days, most watchmakers are limited to repairs due to factories building less expensive watches. Average pay is about $43,000, which can be worrying in some markets especially if this is more than just a hobby. Training in the U.S. is not in demand since so many are forced to learn in other countries.
This is a fantastic job for someone that loves watches and does this type of work part- time. Although you can maintain an average lifestyle doing this full-time, it isn’t really common as it used to be unless you are living in certain key areas. If you look at the tables above, even the states with the most watchmakers employ a few hundred at most. There are many part-time web based watch makers that make wonderful handmade time pieces, so that is certainly something to consider. Also, although many watch companies mass-produce watches there are still high-end brands that still make expensive handmade watches. There will always be a demand for one of the oldest trades and crafts. Fine handmade watches are very hard to come by at an affordable price. The fact that anyone who loves to build watches can master a certain movement and sell their own handmade watches is truly amazing and can be very rewarding monetarily.