Watches are beautiful, exquisite works of art. The amount of time and craftsmanship it takes to build a watch is unknown to many. Every single part of a watch has to be made to exact specifications. If one single spring is out of place, which most of the time is so tiny that it is difficult to see with the naked eye, then it can cause the watch not to run or keep proper time. This is why it is so important to have someone trained and certified to do proper repairs on your timepiece. Most jewelry stores have a jeweler or a sales associate who can do simple procedures, such as changing the battery, but most do not have a certified watchmaker.
There are three main schools in the United States that offer watchmaking programs that are backed by the REC (Research and Education Council). Those schools are the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology, the Lititz Watch Technicum, and the Watchmaking Department of the North Seattle Community College. Between these three schools, combined attendance runs about 42 students every year.
AWCI (American Watchmakers- Clock-makers Institute) provides multiple different types of education for their watchmakers. The first is the SAWTA Program, which stands for Swiss American Watchmakers Training Alliance. This is a two year program that focuses mainly on the fundamentals of watchmaking, such as servicing movements, giving estimates, and refinishing the bracelets and cases. This operates under an alliance with Rolex.
Another AWCI endorsed education program is WOSTEP (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program). There are only two schools in the U.S. that offer this program. Those schools are the North American Institute of Swiss Watchmaking and N.G. Hayek Watchmaking School. There are 16 schools in 9 different countries that offer the WOSTEP program with roughly 160 total students. This program has been offered since 1966 and is the most internationally known and recognized watch making program.
CW 21 certification (Certified Watchmaker of the 21st Century) is a certification offered by AWCI ( awci.com ) in association with a lot of high end Swiss watch companies such as Rolex and Omega. This new certification is one of the most supported certifications in the United States and is supported by Rolex. This certification is designed to show that a watchmaker has the capabilities and knowledge to work on high end, modern watches. The program also heavily tests the ability to work on automatic, quartz and chronograph movements. There are roughly only about 130 CW 21 certified watchmakers practicing in the U.S. One of whom I highly recommend is Glenn Rutledge with WatchChest.com , both are members of AWCI.
Watchmaking is a dying industry with over 44,000 certified watchmakers in 1953 down to just 6,500 in 2000. This makes it even more important to find a store or retailer that has a watchmaker with some form of certification. Many people claim to be “watchmakers” but have no education or do not qualify for any certification. Make sure to do your research before sending your beloved timepiece to just anyone for repairs. If you don’t, it may wind up costing you more money in the long run due to lack of experienced watchmaking.