Professional Jeweler Archive: Making the Grade

May 2003

Timepieces/Education & Repair


Making the Grade

At the Lititz Watch Technicum, students wear their skills on their wrists


When students at the Lititz Watch Technicum complete their 3,000-hour course of study, they have time on their hands. Actually, they keep and wear the watch they made as part of their coursework.

Better than a gold retirement symbol, the watch is their entrée to the world of high-end watchmaking. While students at other schools create the miniature parts inside a mechanical timepiece movement, only the Lititz course requires them to extend that knowledge to create a fully operational, wearable mechanical watch.

Students first learn the basic skills of micromechanics: sawing, filing, lathe work and other techniques. Then they craft parts from scratch early in the two-year program. “By making functional parts, the students develop micromechanical skills and also become familiar with the design and function of watches at an early stage of their education,” says Hermann Meyer, program instructor. Most students complete the watch by the end of the first year; some add functions and decorative elements on their own time during the second year.

Rolex Backing

Rolex includes LWT in its new service facility in Lititz, PA, nestled in the countryside that has historically been at the center of American watchmaking. The school opened in 2001 and now enrolls 12 students annually. It’s one of three programs in the U.S. certified by the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program. Rolex has also pledged financial support for a WOSTEP-certified school at North Seattle Community College in Seattle, WA, and built its own Tokyo Watch Technicum in Japan.

Tuition at LWT is free upon acceptance following an extensive interview process. Students cover the cost of tools (about $2,000), which they will use for many years, and arrange their own housing and meals.

Students, who come from various backgrounds, are typically technically adept. Some already have some knowledge of watch repair, others have none. Knowledge of watch repair isn’t necessarily an asset toward acceptance, he adds.
A background in retail may or may not prepare someone for the detailed work at LWT. But Mayer encourages those at retail stores to apply to further their education and to expand their opportunities as a high-grade watchmaker.

Demand is high for the 12 slots at LWT. More than 100 to 150 applicants have applied in each of the past two years. For details, contact the admissions office at (717) 625-3787, www.lititzwatchtechnicum.com.

– by Michael Thompson

A student at the Lititz Watch Technicum skeletonizes a handmade three-quarter plate. LWT students make the winding stem, balance staff, click for ratchet wheel, click spring, yoke, setting lever and various bridges.
The back of the “school watch,” made by each student. The reworked movement inside is based on a ETA/Unitas 6497 mechanical movement.
Front view of the finished piece.

Copyright © 2003 by Bond Communications