Although it is important to note that there is currently not a governing agency that regulates the title one can
advertise under watch repair, to help simplify the list of qualifications we will break down the skill sets into two
separate classifications. Bear in mind that these classifications are not necessarily used in the industry, and
many craftsman possess a mixture of these skills under the term "Horological Services" (It is also helpful to
know a little about the type of watch that needs service, but that will be handled in a companion article).  

Watch Repairer
Someone who repairs watches is skilled in variety of crafts. Familiarity with the theory of watch mechanics,
terminology, contacts in the industry in order to obtain parts, owning the correct tools and the manual dexterity
to work on very small mechanisms is needed. In addition, one must be able to:

  • Completely dismantle, clean, and inspect the watch
  • Reassemble, oil, and regulate (time) the watch
  • Make repairs to the case, bow, and stem assembly
  • Replace a balance staff using a watchmakers lathe
  • Make other minor adjustments
  • Make a judgment call to refer the repair if what is needed is beyond their skills

This last point is very important. Anyone who repairs watches knows that there are many different types of
watches, and very few can claim to be able to fix everything. But a modest craftsman will know ones limitations,
and will be able to refer any repair job to someone who specializes in that particular repair.

The Watchmaker
Although there is no absolute list of qualifications that a watchmaker would possess (as there are no
regulating agencies that govern titles), in general a watchmaker would have a thorough understanding of the
theory of watch mechanics, and be able to make very fine adjustments to a watch to obtain peak performance.
A watchmaker's skills would (in addition to the list above) include the ability to:

  • Manufacture any part needed including balance staffs, wheels (gears) etc.
  • Make positional adjustments in all positions to match original factory specifications
  • Manipulate hairsprings (the very tiny springs that oscillate the balance wheel)
  • Vibrate a new hairspring to an existing balance wheel
  • Use methods and materials original to the time period of the watch

So, how does one decide who is qualified work on your watch?
Some watchmakers have the skill to work on esoteric escapement types (such as duplex, verge), and other
period specialties (a fusee watch for example). There are competent repairers that offer basic repair services,
skilled craftsmen that have experience in all areas, and watchmakers that specialize in specific types or period
watches. They all fill their niche in this disappearing trade.

Certifications are offered to those who complete courses offered by the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers
Institute (AWCI). A small number of Schools throughout the world offer certifications using the "Watchmakers
of Switzerland Training and Educational Program" (WOSTEP). The National Association of Watch and Clock
Collectors (NAWCC) offer certification at their school, as well as workshops offered throughout the country.
The drawback regarding formal education is that there are only a handful of these schools left now, and they
can only accommodate a small number of graduates per year. Several modern mechanical watch companies
such as Rolex offer schooling, but again they take in a very limited enrollment. Apprenticeship under a master
watchmaker is an option but finding someone close who is willing to take that on is difficult.
That means that many qualified watchmakers/repairers do not have a formal education (or apprenticeship),
and have learnt their skills on there own. So a key factor is establishing a level of trust with the person that is
servicing your watch. This is an especially important as it is often necessary to handle the repair of an antique
timepiece via mail from a business whose storefront is a website. Here are some points that can help establish
that trust:

  • Ensure that a warranty is offered on repairs
  • The phone number and location or address should be listed on the website (rather than just an email)
  • One should be able to talk to them in person
  • Confirm membership in a recognized association such as the NAWCC, or the AWCI, as these
    associations hold members accountable to a code of ethics.

There are certainly many other factors that each individual can evaluate in each case, and have not been
discussed here, but hopefully this information helps lay the ground work needed to service your watch.
Contact me or call 530-520-1478
Watch Repair: the Modern Watchmaker

"When your watch gets out of order you have a choice of two
things to do: throw it in the fire or take it to the watch-tinker. The
former is the quickest."
- Mark Twain

The demand for the traditional watchmaker has changed over
the years, but the skills needed are the same. Although a
watchmaker repairs mechanical watches (rather that actually
"making" a watch), the skills needed are very similar. With this in
mind, it is helpful for the user/collector to review some of the
procedures and skills involved in watch repair before selecting
someone to service your watch.