Professional Jeweler Archive: The Professional Watchmaker

October 2000

Timepieces/Education & Repair


The Professional Watchmaker

Here are details about the watchmaking profession and why it adds value to your store


To the public, the watchmaker in a jewelry store is easily confused with the jeweler, the goldsmith, the bench jeweler and the salesperson. If customers have problems with a watch, they think anyone there can repair it with equal expertise. After all, the store sells watches.

But watchmaking is a separate and distinct profession. It has its own four-century-old history of science and technology, an accredited educational system, apprenticeship programs and an array of professional and technical support organizations.

And in nearly every country, these professional organizations support a certification process and follow a globally accepted code of ethical practice.

Highly Regarded

Through its long history, the watchmaking profession has been highly regarded in the local community. In fact, the servicing of timepieces has been critical to the time-conscious public. Before the industrial revolution, watchmakers were craftsman to royalty as well as the emerging merchant classes. After the industrial revolution, watchmakers became essential to a world where commerce is based on time.

The term watchmaker evolved from a period when watches were individually made to order. The term also indicated a person who could skillfully service mass-produced watches even if the watchmaker never needed to make a complete watch.

Today, the profession encompasses a number of separate, yet related, disciplines that each meet the diverse needs of the modern, watch-owning public. The three primary disciplines are:

Watch maker – These two words refer to someone who actually designs and makes complete watches one at a time from pieces of brass and steel.

Watchmaker – The single word refers to someone who is skilled at making all parts of a watch by hand or with a machine, but typically uses these skills to repair or restore timepieces.

Watch repair technician – Sometimes also called a watch service technician, this person is skilled in repairing old or modern watch mechanisms using interchangeable parts to replace worn and defective parts. The person also services and cleans the mechanism and lubricates it with the correct lubricant for the correct component. Some specialize in mechanical timepieces, some in quartz and electronic models. Others are skilled enough for both types.

Where Are They?

These professionals practice their skills in jewelry stores, but many also run their own businesses. Some work in private watch service centers (or trade shops), while others work in the service centers operated by watch manufacturers.

Each of these individuals is highly valuable to everyone in the retail chain, including retailers, watch manufacturers and the public. Without the professional watch repairer, watches would become a throw-away commodity – even high-priced luxury pieces – because they need maintenance and repair to maintain their usefulness.

Moreover, without watchmakers the mechanical timekeeping art made through the ages would be lost as relics. The sentimental watches our ancestors depended on for their livelihoods would be placed forever in the dresser drawer. That gift watch from a loved one would be lost.

Simply put, without your watchmaker, the cost of keeping a watch on your customer’s wrist would escalate because the cost of replacing a fine watch far exceeds the cost of repairing it.

Your store is the intermediate point between the customer and the watch-repair professional. At the point of sale, you can provide the critical link to the added value of the watch repair professional. Whether it’s done at your service take-in or at your sales counter, this added value translates into customer confidence in your store and everything you sell and service.

– by David Christianson, Certified Master Watchmaker

David Christianson is fourth-generation owner of Christianson Jewelry, Kendallville, IN. He is a certified master Watchmaker, a fellow of the British Horological Society and member and former president of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute. He discusses watch repair for the sales staff in this column each month. Send questions, suggestions and comments to Professional Jeweler, 1500 Walnut St., Suite 1200, Philadelphia, PA 19102; timepieces@professionaljeweler.com.

Chad O’Donnell, a student at the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute Academy of Watchmaking, adjusts the rate on a pocketwatch. The academy is accepting applicants for the semester beginning January 2001. Contact Jim Lubic, AWI, (513) 367-9800, www.awi-net.org.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications