The Traditional Watchmaker- a Historical Perspective

Before you read this article, do a search on the web using the key words  "Norman Rockwell Watchmaker" .
Rockwell had a knack for capturing the very essence of his subject in his artwork and "The Watchmaker" is no
exception.
















Although requirements differed in each country, traditionally, a watchmaker would have many years
apprenticeship under a skilled craftsman, and then would join a guild (specialized groups for any particular
craft or trade). In more recent times, states and provinces would issue an official registration for watchmakers
meeting specific requirements. Many schools existed for watchmakers, and companies such as Elgin provided
training for employees. As part of this training, many classes actually required the student to make a pocket
watch (using pre-engineered part dies and molds).

As the mechanical watch fell from favor, and cheaper quartz watches dominated the market, the number of
watchmakers diminished as they aged and retired. Schools slowly closed, and formal training opportunities
have become limited. The traditional watchmaker is now a rare find. The skills used in repair of mechanical
watches, especially antique watches, is kept alive through the knowledge of experienced watchmakers, from
older mostly out of print books and, interesting enough, the Internet. Much information can be obtained by
searching the Internet, as there are many public domain books that have been scanned, and are available for
anyone interested in watch collecting, and the history behind the mechanical pocket watch and the wrist watch.

So, take a look at the painting "The Watchmaker" again, and study the detail.  Note the intense interest in the
young boys face as he studies the seemingly magic of watch repair.  That's the childlike interest that leads
many today to keep these 'lost' crafts alive.
Contact me or call 530-520-1478
The term Watchmaker was originally used to
denote a craftsman or artisan who actually made
pocket watches from scratch. In later years, this
term became synonymous with a person who
repaired both pocket and wrist watches due to
the expertise needed. Even though actual watch
manufacture was not part of a watchmaker's
duties, the same level of craftsmanship is
needed to repair a watch. Understanding of
theory, mechanics, metallurgy, and manual
dexterity were required. If a part was not
available, it had to be made from scratch. This
was especially true of the watchmaker who was
isolated from urban centers where parts were
not readily available.