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A modern watchmaker at his workstation; he wears a magnifying loupe to more easily see the small parts of a watch Watchmaker.jpg
A modern watchmaker at his workstation; he wears a magnifying loupe to more easily see the small parts of a watch
A watchmaker's lathe in use to prepare a decorative watch component cut from copper. Watchmaker's Lathe in use.jpg
A watchmaker's lathe in use to prepare a decorative watch component cut from copper.

A watchmaker is an artisan who makes and repairs watches. Since a majority of watches are now factory-made, most modern watchmakers only repair watches. However, originally they were master craftsmen who built watches, including all their parts, by hand. [1] [2] Modern watchmakers, when required to repair older watches, for which replacement parts may not be available, must have fabrication skills, and can typically manufacture replacements for many of the parts found in a watch. The term clockmaker refers to an equivalent occupation specializing in clocks.


Most practising professional watchmakers service current or recent production watches. They seldom fabricate replacement parts. Instead they obtain and fit factory spare parts applicable to the watch brand being serviced. The majority of modern watchmakers, particularly in Switzerland and other countries in Europe, work directly for the watchmaking industry and may have completed a formal watchmaking degree at a technical school.[ citation needed ] They also receive in-house "brand" training at the factory or service center where they are employed. However, some factory service centers have an approach that allows them to use 'non-watchmakers' (called "opérateurs") who perform only one aspect of the repair process. These highly skilled workers do not have a watchmaking degree or certificate, but are specifically trained 'in-house' as technicians to service a small number of components of the watch in a true 'assembly-line' fashion, (e.g., one type of worker will dismantle the watch movement from the case, another will polish the case and bracelet, another will install the dial and hands, etc.). If genuine watchmakers are employed in such environments, they are usually employed to service the watch movement.

Due to factory/genuine spare parts restrictions, an increasing minority of watchmakers in the US are 'independent,' meaning that they choose not to work directly for industry or at a factory service center. One major Swiss watch brand – Rolex – now pre-qualifies independent watchmakers before they provide them with spare parts. This qualification may include, but is not limited to, holding a modern training certificate from one of several reputable schools; having a workshop environment that meets Rolex's standards for cleanliness; using modern equipment; and being a member of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute. The Omega brand has the same approach. However, the vast majority of modern Swiss brands do not sell parts to independent watchmakers, irrespective of the watchmaker's expertise, training or credentials. This industry policy is thought to enable Swiss manufacturers to maintain tighter quality control of the after-sales service for its watch brands, produce high margins on after sales services (two to four times what an independent watchmaker would ask), and to reduce the availability of second-hand watchmaking parts on the used and fake market.[ citation needed ]


A watchmaker working on a Railroad watch Elgin watchmaker.jpg
A watchmaker working on a Railroad watch
A client and the watchmaker at work. Havana, Cuba, 2017 Horlogisto en Mantilla, Havano.jpg
A client and the watchmaker at work. Havana, Cuba, 2017

Historically, in England, watchmakers would have to undergo a seven-year apprenticeship and then join a guild, such as the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in London, before selling their first watch. In modern times, watchmakers undergo training courses such as the ones offered by the BHI, or one of the many other schools around the world following the WOSTEP style curriculum. Some US watchmaking schools of horology will teach not only the Wostep style, including the ETA range of movements, but also focus on the older watches that a modern watchmaker will encounter on a daily basis. In Denmark the apprenticeship lasts four years, with six terms at the Danish School of Watchmaking in Ringsted. The education covers both clocks and watches, as a watchmaker in Denmark is also a clockmaker. In France, there are three diplomas: the lowest is the Certificat d'aptitude professionnelle (CAP) in horology (in two years), then the "Brevet des Métiers d'Art" horology for another two-year course. And optionally, the Diplôme des métiers d'art / DMA Horlogerie (two years).

Watchmaker as metaphor

William Paley and others used the watchmaker in his famous analogy to imply the existence of God (the teleological argument) .

Richard Dawkins later applied this analogy in his book The Blind Watchmaker , arguing that evolution is blind in that it cannot look forward.

Alan Moore in his graphic novel Watchmen , uses the metaphor of the watchmaker as a central part of the backstory of his heroic character Dr. Manhattan.

In the NBC television series Heroes , the villain Sylar is a watchmaker by trade. His ability to know how watches work corresponds to his ability to gain new superpowers by examining the brains of people he has murdered.

In the scifi novel The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven, the Watchmakers are a small technologically intelligent sub-species of the Moties that will repair/improve things left for them (accompanied by food as payment).

In the 2015 major motion picture film Survivor directed by James McTeigue, one of the world's most wanted killers is played by Pierce Brosnan, who demonstrates just how devastating the precision skill sets of a watchmaker can be as he plays the role of 'Nash,' a professional killer who excels at bomb making and long-range shooting.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Horology</span> Art or science of measuring time

Horology is the study of the measurement of time. Clocks, watches, clockwork, sundials, hourglasses, clepsydras, timers, time recorders, marine chronometers, and atomic clocks are all examples of instruments used to measure time. In current usage, horology refers mainly to the study of mechanical time-keeping devices, while chronometry more broadly includes electronic devices that have largely supplanted mechanical clocks for the best accuracy and precision in time-keeping.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clockmaker</span> Artisan who makes and repairs clocks

A clockmaker is an artisan who makes and/or repairs clocks. Since almost all clocks are now factory-made, most modern clockmakers only repair clocks. Modern clockmakers may be employed by jewellers, antique shops, and places devoted strictly to repairing clocks and watches. Clockmakers must be able to read blueprints and instructions for numerous types of clocks and time pieces that vary from antique clocks to modern time pieces in order to fix and make clocks or watches. The trade requires fine motor coordination as clockmakers must frequently work on devices with small gears and fine machinery.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">COSC</span> Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute

The Contrôle officiel suisse des Chronomètres (COSC), the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, is the institute responsible for certifying the accuracy and precision of Swiss watches.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ferdinand Berthoud</span> 18th and 19th-century French horologist, watchmaker and scientist

Ferdinand Berthoud, was a scientist and watchmaker. He became master watchmaker in Paris in 1753. Berthoud, who held the position of Horologist-Mechanic by appointment to the King and the Navy, left behind him an exceptionally broad body of work, in particular in the field of marine chronometers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vacheron Constantin</span> Swiss watch company

Vacheron Constantin SA is a Swiss luxury watch and clock manufacturer founded in 1755. Since 1996, it has been a subsidiary of the Swiss Richemont Group. Vacheron Constantin is the second oldest Swiss manufacturer and one of the oldest watch manufacturers in the world with an uninterrupted watchmaking history since its foundation in 1755. It employs around 1,200 people worldwide as of 2018, most of whom are based in the company's manufacturing plants in the Canton of Geneva and Vallée de Joux in Switzerland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tourbillon</span> Addition to the mechanics of a watch escapement

In horology, a tourbillon is an addition to the mechanics of a watch escapement to increase accuracy. It was developed around 1795 and patented by the Swiss-French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet on June 26, 1801. In a tourbillon the escapement and balance wheel are mounted in a rotating cage, with the goal of eliminating errors of poise in the balance giving a uniform weight.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute</span> Not-for-profit trade association

The American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWCI) is a not-for-profit trade association based in the United States that is dedicated to the advancement of the modern watch industry, from which it receives a significant portion of its funding. While the AWCI is an American organization, it also has members throughout the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">International Museum of Horology</span>

The International Museum of Horology, French: Musée international d'horlogerie, is a horological museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. It is owned and operated by the city of La Chaux-de-Fonds.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">British Horological Institute</span> Representative body of the UK horological industry

The British Horological Institute (BHI) is the representative body of the horological industry in the United Kingdom. It was founded by a group of clockmakers in 1858, and has its current premises at Upton Hall in Nottinghamshire, which includes a museum of clock history.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry</span> Swiss trade association

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) is the Swiss watch industry's leading trade association, headquartered in Bienne, Switzerland. The Federation is a private, professional and non-profit association.

Manufacture d'horlogerie is a French language term of horology that has also been adopted in the English language as a loanword. In horology, the term is usually encountered in its abbreviated form manufacture. This term is used when describing a wrist watch movement or watchworks fabricator which makes all or most of the parts required for its products in its own production facilities, as opposed to simply assembling watches using parts purchased from other firms.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Quartz crisis</span> 1970s–80s watchmaking industry upheaval

The quartz crisis was the upheaval in the watchmaking industry caused by the advent of quartz watches in the 1970s and early 1980s, that largely replaced mechanical watches around the world. It caused a significant decline of the Swiss watchmaking industry, which chose to remain focused on traditional mechanical watches, while the majority of the world's watch production shifted to Japanese companies such as Seiko, Citizen, and Casio which embraced the new electronic technology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Uhrenmuseum Beyer</span>

The Uhrenmuseum Beyer is located in the heart of the city of Zürich, Switzerland and is one of the world's leading private museums dedicated to horology.

Greubel Forsey is a Swiss watchmaking company specializing in complicated, high-end timepieces. It was launched in 2004 by Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey and is based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maitres du Temps</span> Swiss watch company

Maîtres du Temps is a Swiss watch company. Founded in 2005 by Steven Holtzman, the brand is based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The brand launched in Geneva in 2008 with Chapter One, a watch developed by Christophe Claret, Roger Dubuis and Peter Speake-Marin.

Léon Louis Gallet (1832–1899), watchmaker, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and past family patriarch of the Gallet Watch Company of Switzerland, is considered as one of the primary architects and founders of the 19th century industrialization of the Swiss watchmaking industry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gallet & Company</span>

Gallet (ˈgæl.eɪ) is a historic Swiss manufacturer of high-end timepieces for professional, military, sports, racing, and aviation use. Gallet is the world's oldest watch and clock making house with history dating back to Humbertus Gallet, a clock maker who became a citizen of Geneva in 1466. The Gallet & Cie name was officially registered by Julien Gallet (1806–1849) in 1826, who moved the family business from Geneva to La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Prior to this date, operations commenced under the name of each of the Gallet family patriarchs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jean-Antoine Lépine</span> French master clockmaker and watchmaker

Jean-Antoine Lépine, born as Jean-Antoine Depigny, was an influential watchmaker. He contributed inventions which are still used in watchmaking today and was amongst the finest French watchmakers, who were contemporary world leaders in the field.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Oudin</span>

Charles Oudin is one of the oldest French horology firms. It was founded in Paris at the end of the 18th century by Jean-Charles Oudin, who came from a family of clockmakers in Northwest France. There were four generations of Oudins who were clockmakers, as of the mid 18th century, first in the Meuse region and later, in Paris. Several members of the Oudin family worked for the master watch and clockmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet.


  1. Berthoud, Ferdinand; Auch, Jacob (2016). How to Make a Verge Watch. p. 218.
  2. Vigniaux (2011). Practical Watchmaking. p. 176.

Notable watchmakers

See also

Further reading