A watchmaker is a craftsman who specializes in making and repairing watches. With the rise of technology, factory-made watches replaced handmade watches. Hence, most modern watchmakers only repair watches. However, originally the masters of this trade were actively involved in building watch parts by hand then putting them together to create an accurate time-showing device.
Modern watchmakers can still apply their fabrication skills when having to repair old watches. If replacement parts are not available, the craftsman can build them himself. Some watchmakers manufacture watches using traditional techniques as a hobby or for sale to people who have a soft spot for handmade and classical watches. Most modern watchmakers do one of the following jobs for a living.
Work in a factory service center
A common workplace for a watchmaker is a watchmaking factory where they service flawed timepieces. The factory may hire professional watchmakers who have a degree in this field or offer in-house training to non-professionals. The latter are called opérateurs and they may be engaged in less sophisticated repair or maintenance processes such as dismantling the case, polishing the bracelet, or installing the dials and hands.
The professional watchmaker will deal with more complex repair processes, such as watch movement, that require fine skill and advanced knowledge of watch construction. Often, qualified watchmakers work shoulder to shoulder with operateurs.
While some watchmakers work for a factory, others are self-employed, having a workstation at home or renting a private office. They use modern equipment to deal with the new watch technologies and adhere to the standards for cleanliness. Sometimes to receive spare parts from a manufacturer, they need to show their credentials.
Such major Swiss watch brands as Rolex and Omega do not provide spare parts to independent craftsmen, no matter their expertise and training. If the replacement parts are not available, the watchmaker can produce them manually.
Create analog or digital watches
While factories took over the watchmaking industry, some watchmakers still make handmade watches. They do it to train their skills, spend their free time in a pleasant way, or sell their products in a niche market to watch enthusiasts. It might be people in love with handmade watches or those who collect vintage watches that are no longer produced by factories.
The watchmaker designs and fabricates the internal mechanisms and exterior parts, then assembles the watch. The process of manual watchmaking requires precision, meticulosity and patience. Watchmakers must do years of training at a specialized school to become skilled at designing, constructing and repairing analog watches.
A modern watchmaker may also create digital watches using computer components and advanced knowledge acquired at a computers and electronics course. Digital watches operate based on microcomputers and digital displays, rather than tiny gears working together to move the hands on the dial at precise intervals.
This type of watchmakers rarely have training in horology as they are more focused on studying electronics. However, being schooled in both areas can help cover the needs of more people and earn more money.