Intense Demand Means Career in Watchmaking Can Yield a Hefty Payoff

*Originally published June 2014

It's graduation season, and while many grads know what they want to do for a living, others are still considering their options. One career path rarely thought of — and intensely in demand — is watchmaking. Indeed, a career in watchmaking can have a hefty payoff.

While watchmaking as a profession sounds boring at first, it actually is quite the contrary. Watchmakers have to be patient and disciplined, yes. But they also have to be creative and curious. To be a master watchmaker, they have to think outside the box and envision the future of this centuries-old profession.

Unfortunately, the number of young people entering the watchmaking profession has fallen off in past decades, especially in America where watchmaking has pretty much moved to Switzerland or the Far East. The result, however, is positive in that watchmaking has now become a highly in-demand career. To that end, several brands have established watchmaking schools throughout the country that augment the existing schools.

Most of the watchmaking schools offer comprehensive courses that have been developed with one of two guiding programs (SAWTA or WOSTEP), but since the watchmaking field is in such need of trained personnel, any of the accredited watchmaking schools below will open doors for you.

SAWTA stands for Swiss American Watchmakers Training Alliance, which currently collaborates with the three largest watchmaking schools in the United States, having a combined capacity of 42 students per year. The American Watch and Clock Institute (AWCI) is instrumental in supporting SAWTA with exam assessment expertise throughout the comprehensive two-year program.

WOSTEP stands for the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program. WOSTEP was founded in 1966 in Switzerland, and is the most internationally recognized institution for watchmaking. The support of multiple brands across all segments of the watchmaking industry allows WOSTEP to provide an education of the highest technical standards.

Other schools with a traditional curriculum have degrees that can be accomplished anywhere from a year’s time to 16 months. After successfully completing the programs from any of the schools, trained watchmakers are free to work wherever they find jobs, including service centers, brand centers, or retail stores.

Many of the schools offer scholarships and full-tuition opportunities due to the vast need for professionals in this career field. In terms of annual salary, depending on where in America one locates, a watchmaker can earn between $45,000 and $100,000 a year.

Among the watchmaking schools in the USA are the following:

- The Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking School, Miami, FL (WOSTEP)

- North American Institute of Swiss Watchmaking, Fort Worth, TX (WOSTEP)

- Lititz Watch Technicum, Lititz, PA (SAWTA)

- North Seattle Community College, Seattle, WA (SAWTA)

- OSU Institute of Technology, Okmulgee, OK (SAWTA)

- Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology, Horology; Paris, TX

- Bishop State Community College, Mobile, AL

- Gem City College School of Horology, Quincy, IL