According to this article on Bloomberg.com, the US if facing a very dangerous shortage of watchmakers. Brands like Rolex, Breitling and Omega are selling like crazy, but there are fewer and fewer people around who are qualified to work on them. It seems that while appreciation for fine Swiss mechanical and automatic watches is on the rise, interest in a career as a watchmaker is clearly waning. Swiss watch companies have responded by investing millions of dollars in US watchmaking schools and programs:
Rolex, Swatch Group AG, Breitling SA, Audemars Piguet and other Swiss companies are spending millions of dollars on schools to make sure the watches they sell in the U.S. can get fixed. The U.S. now needs about 4,000 watchmakers in addition to the 7,000 it has, says Jim Lubic, executive director of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute. As many as 4,000 will retire in the next 10 to 20 years… By contrast, about 140 students are now in U.S. watchmaking programs.
Calling all watchmakers
To help attract would-be watchmakers, Rolex is waiving $40,000 worth of tuition for their two-year program in the Amish town of Lititz, Pennsylvania. The school teaches 24 people at a time to diagnose problems with mechanical and automatic watches, repair them, and to make parts by hand. The bad news is that watchmakers of this caliber are only looking at pulling down about $38,000 a year after graduation (ok for those just getting started, but not overly attractive for people looking to switch careers). The good news is that this number is expected to increase by about 30% in the next couple years.
So if you’ve been trying to think of ways to turn your watch obsession into a profession, now may be your chance. Sales of fine Swiss watches have finally adjusted to the introduction of the Japanese-made quartz movement, and are increasingly finding a new place in our culture as essential luxury items. But in order for this trend to continue, we are going to need people who can repair them.