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Seeking advice about watchmaking


#1

Hi, I am in a crossroads of sorts in my life. At the moment I work
as a carpenter/laborer, and pursue lapidary and silverwork as a
hobby. I had entertained thoughts of attempting to go into the
jewelry full time, but was basically content to simply work my day
job and enjoy working in my shop when I had the time. Then I found
out that Im going to be a father. And this makes my present
situation unacceptable, I have a low paying job with no benifits, and
I really shouldnt be doing labor work period, as I broke my neck a
few years ago and I can really feel it catching up to me. So I must
stop being a slacking ne’er do well and start looking at doing
something that will insure my family’s future. And I think I want
to be a watchmaker. On the surface it seems ideal. It seems like I
would be able to earn a good living, while using my love for building
and tinkering. I would be able to justify keeping my shop, when the
need arises for a nursery. Theres a college with a watchmaking
diploma that is financially and locationally within reach.

I just need to know a little more about watchmaking. What kind of
work will this lead to? Am I cut out to do this? I understand the
small parts thing, but how small? Is this something that a normal
person can do, or is it only possible for a handfull of freakishly
dexteriouse individuals. And what sort of mental load is involved? Is
this going to be challenging and rewarding or overwhelmingly complex
and frustrating, or worse, repetative and brainless? And is there any
opportunity for artistic expression and creativity in this? Is this
anything at all like making jewelry, beyond the attention to detail.
The orchid forum has given me much instruction, advice, and
inspiration in the past. Any one who has anything to share on this
subject is welcome to reply off list at @joe.hanson Any
help would be greatly appreciated.


#2

I’m not an horologist but I do have an interest in mechanical
watches and I nearly went into the career a few years ago. Here are
my opinions, for what they’re worth…

   I just need to know a little more about watchmaking.  What kind
of work will this lead to? 

Depends. It could involve just replacing batteries and stuff like
that, depending on the job you get. But there has been a resurgence
in the mechanical-watch market over the past couple of decades which
has led to a current shortage of qualified horologists, so there is a
lot of maintenance/repair work and not enough people to do it. It
can potentially be quite lucrative and reasonably steady work, for
people with the right qualifications and business sense. In recent
years, it looks like there has been a developing trend for
horologists to start up their own businesses as self-employed watch
repairers, although I believe the majority are still employed by
jewellery/watch companies.

 Am I cut out to do this?  I understand the small parts thing, but
how small? 

A very complicated, expensive watch by a fine manufacturer could
have parts that are less than a millimetre long which will fly away
if you breathe on them. On the other hand, a cathedral clock could
have components that are bigger than you!

Is this something that a normal person can do, or is it only
possible for a handfull of freakishly dexteriouse individuals. 

Probably the most important practical skill you will learn is how
not to drop the tiny pieces involved. Obviously, it takes time and
practice to build up the dexterity required, and if you are naturally
dextrous it should help a lot.

And what sort of mental load is involved? Is this going to be
challenging and rewarding or overwhelmingly complex and
frustrating, or worse, repetative and brainless? And is there any
opportunity for artistic expression and creativity in this? 

There is definitely the opportunity for unbelievable creativity (try
reading a little about the work of George Daniels or of Breguet), if
you should choose to go down that route. However, most horologists
do end up being watch repairers rather than watchmakers, so bear that
in mind.

Is this anything at all like making jewelry, beyond the attention
to detail. 

There’s more maths/engineering involved. You will use specialist
equipment (e.g. machines to make the gears and things like that) that
you don’t see in jewellery. But there’s a lot of filing, drilling
and polishing involved, so there is definitely an overlap in the core
skills.

?:sunglasses:
-Michael.