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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I keep reading about this decline in the number of watchmakers which began with the rise of quartz technology and the decline in younger people trained for the skill, combined with the aging of all the older masters. The result is an apparent shortage of trained watchmakers in the U.S.

...whaddya think??? true or false and why????
 

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are you kidding?
 

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Hi there,

true or false and why????
Both. As long as watch owners are willing to pay good $$$ for good service, the number of watchmakers grows, and vice versa.

But this reaction of the supply on the demand follows with a certain delay. And presently we carry the consequences of three facts:
1) The quartz crisis is not long ago, at least not long compared with the life carreer of a watchmaker.
2) Some brands try to get 100% control over the watch service business, and nobody knows where this nonsense will end.
3) The big supply of old watches for collectors decreased their prices to ridiculousness. Often a watch is cheaper than any single spare part for it, and still many are much cheaper than a well done service. So just few are willing to pay a reasonable amount for servicing as long as he gets a running sample cheaper.

All not promising for young people to start a watchmaker carreer. Nobody knows what happens when almost all old watches need a reanimation. The prices for running watches will increase according to service costs, and nobody knows how many collectors will give up their hobby in this stituation.

Finally yes, there is a lack of competent watchmakers in relation to the watches which need work. And also yes, there are enough competent watchmakers in relation to the people who are willing to pay enough for the service.

Regards, Roland Ranfft
 

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America's relationship with watchmaking has always tended to hinge on money, and labour rates especially. The higher wages in the U.S. were one of the big reasons the U.S. watch companies failed in the first place, and that same wage difference means that the cost for a U.S. watchmaker are usually much higher then the relative value of most watches. A good chinese-made watch can be had for a couple of hundred dollars; a cheap one can had for $25 or so. Servicing either will usually cost in excess of $100 (depending on where you are); more if something is broken. Its cheaper, in many cases, to just wear it till it stops working, chuck it in the trash and buy a new one. The only people who are going to bother are people whose watches cost >$1000.

And that's when things start to spiral; companies like Rolex or Omega want to protect their reputation, so they don't want some grubby back-alley hack to scratch it up, do a bad job, and take all the signed original parts to put into a knock-off. Thus, they only sell their replacement parts to authorized watchmakers. Those watchmakers can't just be competent, they have to be certified. That costs even more money, both in the training of the watchmaker and in the cost of the parts and equipment. That, in turn, ups the price of servicing, making it cost twice as much to service an Omega as it would to service some no-name generic watch (even though the Omega and the no-name watch could reasonably have the exact same movement inside). And it prevents competent but unauthorized watchmakers from even attempting to service them. Which prevents them from actually running a business, since they have to turn away most of the people who have the money to afford their services. The fewer independent watchmakers there are, the more expensive their services become.
 

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America's relationship with watchmaking has always tended to hinge on money, and labour rates especially. The higher wages in the U.S. were one of the big reasons the U.S. watch companies failed in the first place, and that same wage difference means that the cost for a U.S. watchmaker are usually much higher then the relative value of most watches. A good chinese-made watch can be had for a couple of hundred dollars; a cheap one can had for $25 or so. Servicing either will usually cost in excess of $100 (depending on where you are); more if something is broken. Its cheaper, in many cases, to just wear it till it stops working, chuck it in the trash and buy a new one. The only people who are going to bother are people whose watches cost >$1000.
You are talking specifically about American watch companies and American made watches. This does not explain the skyrocketing of Swiss Watch sales. To give you an example a 18 karat, 2125-based Audemar watch can be purchased for $2,000 brand new back about 10 years ago. Good luck finding those prices these days. It also doesnt explaining the explosion of independent watch companies, which there are greater numbers of today then 10 years ago. Labor rates? I can assure you the watchmakers working at Swiss companies in Switzerland are making multiples of watchmakers in the US. Those labor rates have been pushed heavily to the consumer, as you can see by the exponential increase in watch prices, YET people are still buying them by the truck load according to numbers released by the top watch companies. No, labor rates are not why their is a shortage.


And that's when things start to spiral; companies like Rolex or Omega want to protect their reputation, so they don't want some grubby back-alley hack to scratch it up, do a bad job, and take all the signed original parts to put into a knock-off. Thus, they only sell their replacement parts to authorized watchmakers. Those watchmakers can't just be competent, they have to be certified. That costs even more money, both in the training of the watchmaker and in the cost of the parts and equipment. That, in turn, ups the price of servicing, making it cost twice as much to service an Omega as it would to service some no-name generic watch (even though the Omega and the no-name watch could reasonably have the exact same movement inside). And it prevents competent but unauthorized watchmakers from even attempting to service them. Which prevents them from actually running a business, since they have to turn away most of the people who have the money to afford their services. The fewer independent watchmakers there are, the more expensive their services become.
There are countless stories where companies like Rolex has killed hundreds of parts accounts of well known and respected authorized watchmakers, who have been doing it for decades, for no reason. One day they just get a notice that they no longer can do business with Rolex. There are countless stories of people coming out of Omega, Rolex, and other top brand watch companies about how they are purposely squeezing the independent watchmakers to death, for the reason that it makes customers come directly to them, where they generate more business. With a huge influx of work into Omega or Rolex service center, people have complain that quality of repairs has gone down significantly. You buy a $50K watch, where it breaks after a year, and they tell you it takes 4 months to fix. How is that acceptable?

No. There are fewer watchmakers because it is business. It's money.

Watch companies make more money selling to customers knowing that the customer will return to them to repair it. Where you have to agree to absolute terms of their servicing or else go somewhere else. You dont want to replace your case? Too bad, either have it replaced or not service at all, go somewhere else. Oh wait, you can't go somewhere else, because they've restricted the parts sales to independent watchmakers.

Watch companies today, want to oversee and own the entire ecosystem. A watch leaves them and returns to them for repairs, and services. They make money on the entire life of the watch.

They claim it's all for the sake of quality. But read the forums of the high end watches. Quality has nose dive for the sake of money and profits. They charge you the price of a brand new watch for repairs. This reminds me of ink cartridges. I am better off buying a brand new printer, then ink refills.

They claim there is a shortage of watchmakers, but no one in the industry is willing to open up watch schools or fully support them. They stand by while schools are falling left and right. When you ask the CEO's of these companies why that is? They tell you, sure there's shortages, but just bring it to their service center, and you'll be fine.

Look at the prices over the last decade, the watch industry is living in a bubble, and it will pop.

Links to read:

http://home.watchprosite.com/show-forumpost/fi-17/pi-5082518/ti-765188/s-0/

Another Sad Day

Why time has run out for Saint Paul College’s watchmaking program | On Campus

The Emperors New Watch

Tick Talk » Fewer watchmakers in the world
 

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I keep reading about this decline in the number of watchmakers which began with the rise of quartz technology and the decline in younger people trained for the skill, combined with the aging of all the older masters. The result is an apparent shortage of trained watchmakers in the U.S. ...whaddya think??? true or false and why????
Have you considered watchmaking as a career? Are you concerned about getting your watches serviced in the future?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I have a career (and employment) but like many, my industry is hiring younger and not paying the salaries they once did. I'm looking for something on the side... I've always been a watch collector but recently discovered I've been bitten by the watchmaking bug.


Have you considered watchmaking as a career? Are you concerned about getting your watches serviced in the future?
 

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I have a career (and employment) but like many, my industry is hiring younger and not paying the salaries they once did. I'm looking for something on the side... I've always been a watch collector but recently discovered I've been bitten by the watchmaking bug.
You are in good company. Some famous and not some famous individuals have had great second and even third careers in watchmaking. Some significant examples come to mind from the ranks of our own forum membership. They can identify theirselves and their circumstances but Al, Mike and Rob are obvious examples.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
That's encouraging. Hopefully Al, Mike, or Rob will weigh in so I can get an idea of why, and how they've been able to forge good "second and third careers" in the face of some of the conditions articulated above by 'cciesquare', and 'abslomrob'. (if they dont' perhaps u can put me in touch by PM)

You are in good company. Some famous and not some famous individuals have had great second and even third careers in watchmaking. Some significant examples come to mind from the ranks of our own forum membership. They can identify theirselves and their circumstances but Al, Mike and Rob are obvious examples.
 

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would it be viable to go to watchmaking school and start a career in watchmaking in the next 2-3 years? The objective being able to move to another country like the US or Canada and get a job more easily than in traditional fields (like accounting), decent salary (enough to buy a home and support a family) and have decent working hours.
 

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well over 6.5 million high quality watches from Switzerland are exported every year, some good part of it ends in US i believe.
Every watch school produces good watchmakers but at low numbers which are lest say 100 per year(which is far more from the real number).
add to those numbers pieces already sold which need servicing

do you still think that there are enough watchmakers in us? also don't forget the Japan manufacturers.

i know what i write below will make lots of comments but still:

it is not true that the manufacturers don't give you spare parts.
they just want their timepieces to be repaired at high standard. so they make you buy the needed equipment(aprox. 40k$ this amount does not include the specific brand tools!!) and you need to visit their training's at which you get the knowledge how to repair the timepieces as they want you to do it, and in which way they think its best for them.
also if they introduce some different standard for repairing like tools, machines etc you need to buy them.

they will check you every 1-3 years to see if you do the repairs as you should do it and also if your shop has the necessary standards and tools

br emso
 

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would it be viable to go to watchmaking school and start a career in watchmaking in the next 2-3 years? The objective being able to move to another country like the US or Canada and get a job more easily than in traditional fields (like accounting), decent salary (enough to buy a home and support a family) and have decent working hours.
i should add that I am single right now and not expecting to support a family at starting salary
 

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Here's the question: do you want to be an employee of a servicing company, or do you want to be a independent entrepreneur? Part of the "watchmakers in decline" story is the difficulty of independent watchmakers to operate as businesses in North America. Watchmaking requires a fairly high degree of effort from a technical perspective in order to learn and hone the techniques required to do good, consistent work. Running a business also requires a great deal of completely different effort in order to juggle operations with marketing. Add in the time and effort needed to meet (and demonstrate) compliance with various watch companies servicing expectations, and its easy to see why independent watchmakers are on the decline. And since one of the big factors there is managing overhead costs (buying and maintaining precision equipment, renting enough space to store the equipment, etc), you can see why it's difficult to establish yourself in competition with a larger servicing organization that can share equipment and space amongst multiple watchmakers, and/or ship watches to other parts of the world where the cost of living isn't as high.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I don't know about that. The evidence I see over the last decade shows Rolex alone has engaged in a very aggressive campaign to choke off repair service from indy watchmakers by first voiding their AD agreement, then refusing to sell parts to the same AD both with no explanation. In many cases, these are well established watchmakers with WOSTEP, and I believe in some cases, with SAWTA certification. A quick check in any region will show one or two AD's who do Rolex repair, but appear to be acting as middlemen who send the watch overseas, and charge a premium. The others (...sometimes just as skilled) advertise Rolex service but can't offer genuine parts replacement...it's obscene that a foreign company doing business in the U.S. is allowed to operate like this. We should really pay more attention to 'Right to Repair' legislation.

it is not true that the manufacturers don't give you spare parts.


br emso
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
See my reply to 'emso' In light of the challenges of watchmaker as 'independent entrepreneur' working for a company such as Rolex might seem reasonable, but I'm told (...and read) they treat employees about as bad as they've been treating indy watchmakers in the U.S.


Here's the question: do you want to be an employee of a servicing company, or do you want to be a independent entrepreneur? Part of the "watchmakers in decline" story is the difficulty of independent watchmakers to operate as businesses in North America.
 

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See my reply to 'emso' In light of the challenges of watchmaker as 'independent entrepreneur' working for a company such as Rolex might seem reasonable, but I'm told (...and read) they treat employees about as bad as they've been treating indy watchmakers in the U.S.
To some degree, cut them a bit of slack. They're the single most copied watch brand on the planet fighting against an pirate industry that is capable of making watches that even Rolex themselves find difficult to authenticate. I'm not sure you can use them as a valid standard; they're the exception, not the rule. If you don't like it, don't buy a Rolex. Honestly not sure why people do in the first place; they're good watches, but not so good as to justify the premium you pay for them. But if people are going to perpetuate the Rolex mythology, they have to accept the limitations that go with it.
 

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See my reply to 'emso' In light of the challenges of watchmaker as 'independent entrepreneur' working for a company such as Rolex might seem reasonable, but I'm told (...and read) they treat employees about as bad as they've been treating indy watchmakers in the U.S.
Don't know where you are or your circumstance, but you really owe it to your self to get out and meet some watchmakers and ask them about their real world experiences. Sometimes their non verbal communications speak volumes. Hard to miss the wince of pain in their eyes when you ask them about parts for certain brands. Some do have some nice casas and toys so its not all bad for everyone though.
 
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