What Makes Watches Tick? What Is a Horologist and How Do You Become One?
To many people, watches are a fashion accessory of the past. After all, with the rise of smartwatches, do people even wear normal wristwatches anymore?
The answer is a definitive yes. In fact, it’s estimated that each year, approximately 1.2 billion watches are sold worldwide.
That’s a lot of people wearing watches!
If you have a fascination with watches, you’ve maybe at one point or another considered becoming a watchmaker (also known as a horologist).
And, now that you have some reassurance that watches are still a popular accessory, your interest in becoming a watchmaker may be growing.
But, how exactly do you enter into this elusive industry? Is watchmaking one of those skills that’s passed down from generation to generation? Or, can you attend a watchmaking school?
Can you even make a steady salary as a watchmaker?
We’re here to answer all of these questions and more.
Check out this guide to learn how to become a horologist.
What Is a Horologist?
First things first, let’s dive a little deeper into the career of a horologist.
In your mind, you may picture a horologist as someone who gets to tinker with watches all day long. However, the career of a horologist involves a lot more than that. As a horologist, you will be responsible for:
- Creating concepts and designs for watches
- Bringing those concepts and designs to life
- Repairing watches
- Cleaning and adjusting mechanisms of timing instruments (clocks as well as watches)
- Oil moving parts of timepieces
- Testing timepieces for accuracy and performance
- Estimating timepiece repair costs and value
- Demagnetizing mechanisms
- Performing regular adjustments and maintenance on timepieces
In addition to these responsibilities, you will also need a certain skill set to become a horologist. You will need to have patience, excellent attention to detail, creativity, independence, and problem-solving skills.
There are Two Ways to Get Into Horology
Even though a career as a horologist may seem elusive, entering the field is pretty straightforward.
In fact, there are just two ways to become a watchmaker: you can either go to a watchmaking school, or you can undergo an apprenticeship.
Let’s take a closer look into what each of these options entails.
We’re not going to lie to you- finding an apprenticeship to become a watchmaker is no easy feat. In fact, finding an apprenticeship is sort of like winning a contest.
But, don’t let that discourage you, as finding the right apprenticeship program is definitely doable. And, not to mention, worth it. The benefits of an apprenticeship horologist program include:
- 1 on 1 Training: Simply put, 1 on 1 training cannot be beaten. Learning in this tight-knit environment will speed up the learning process and it will cut years off of your learning curve
- Personalized Attention: After learning the basics, an apprenticeship quickly gives you the opportunity to focus on the areas of horology that most interest you
- Great for hands-on learners: In an apprenticeship, you will focus on more on the “doing” rather than the theorizing
- Get to learn watchmaking how it was originally taught back in the olden days
- Quick ROI: Because you’ll learn faster, you’ll get to enter the workforce sooner
With all these benefits, there are, however, a few downsides to entering an apprenticeship program.
As we mentioned earlier, it can be incredibly hard to find someone who is willing to take you on as an apprentice. Plus, you do not get paid to be an apprentice. This means you’ll be spending a lot of time repairing and designing watches for free.
Plus, you are tied to the watchmaker who is teaching you the skills. Learning from such a limited perspective can be detrimental if you are looking to hone a variety of techniques and skills such as how to wind a watch, how to build a watch from scratch, or how to demagnetize a watch.
The second option is attending a watchmaking school. Here are the main benefits of formal school:
- Get the opportunity to work alongside and interact with fellow aspiring watchmakers (this can be great for networking later on)
- A lot of theoretical and hands-on work, as opposed to apprenticing which is mostly hands-on
- Learn updated industry standards
- Learn in a controlled and contained environment
The downside of watchmaking school is that you are tied to the learning pace of the group. So, if you pick up something really fast, you’ll still need to wait until the rest of the group masters the skill in order to move on.
Watchmaking school can also be expensive and depending on where you live, you may have to travel to attend one.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to each option, you really just need to think about your own learning style and circumstances to determine which is best for you.
Once you’ve finished schooling, it’s time to enter the workforce.
As a horologist, you can work in several different environments. You may work for a manufacturer of a major watch brand, a small service center, or a retail jewelry store.
Or, if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you may decide to start your own watch repair company or watch brand.
Just like many other professions, your salary as a horologist will vary depending on your education and years of experience.
In general, however, the top ten percent of horologists make $70,000, while the bottom ten percent make around $21,000.
Due to the fact that many horologists are retiring, demand in the field is actually on the rise.
Plus, as new timepieces and technologies evolve, there will always be a demand for quality horologists.
Are You Ready to Become a Horologist?
Now that you know how to become a horologist, it’s time to get out there and start chasing your dreams.
If you have any questions about becoming a horologist, choosing a watchmaking school, or anything else related to the horology industry, let us know in the comments below.
And, be sure to check out our news section to learn all about the latest happenings in the great state of Texas.
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