Professional Jeweler Archive: Watchmakers Needed

February 2001


Watchmakers Needed

Watch and jewelry industries join forces to recruit and train students

A new coalition of watch and jewelry organizations is seeking solutions to the problem of too few trained watchmakers in the U.S. The goal is to attract new watchmaking students, identify training standards and explore the need for consistent certification processes.

The unnamed coalition is coordinated by the American Watch Association and also includes Jewelers of America, the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute and the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

It’s asking watch companies, retail jewelers, independent watchmakers and others to determine specific requirements of the industry, which is suffering from service delays and quality concerns just as more and more retailers report record-high sales of fine watches.

Define the Problem

The coalition’s first task is gathering demographic data via a questionnaire sent to AWA, AWI and JA members. “First, we need to find out who is repairing watches, how much they make, where they do it and what their needs are,” says AWA Executive Director Toby Collado. “This will identify where the problems lie and direct us how to go about solving them.”

Also high on the agenda is changing the federal government’s career guides, which basically discourage young people from entering watchmaking. “We’ve got a high-demand profession where you can start at a good wage, but the federal government doesn’t recognize that,” says Collado. As a result, few job counselors recommend the profession and few job-seekers consider it.

When the information is gathered, Dennis Phillips, president of Ebel and chairman of the coalition’s public relations committee, will design a campaign to inform high school and other job placement counselors about the profession.

Standards in Review

The coalition’s Uniform Standards Committee, chaired by Peter Laetsch of FSWI, will work with AWI, JA and technical experts from watch companies to evaluate existing programs. These include JA’s Bench Jeweler Certificate Program and AWI’s multilevel certification program.

AWI President Ron DeCorte applauds the efforts and notes AWI certification standards are long-recognized and consistent standards. But to be accepted by all schools and the industry, he says, new standards will likely be distilled into three levels of expertise: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Each of the 11 schools currently teaching watchmakers uses a different approach and timetable. The new initiative aims to create a training consistency on which retailers, independent watchmakers and watch companies agree.

• American Watch Association, Washington, DC; (703) 759-3377.

– by Michael Thompson

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications