The Top 10 Watchmaker Schools in the United States

The Top 10 Watchmaker Schools in the United States

For most of us, the art and science of watchmaking is simply the technical underpinning behind the timepieces that fascinate us as enthusiasts, hobbyists, and collectors — an esoteric and intricate world delved into at varying levels of interest based on our individual curiosity about, and/or understanding of, the mechanisms involved. For some, however, learning how to assemble, repair, or perhaps even build a watch from scratch is an obsession that can lead to a lifelong and very fulfilling career as a trained watchmaker and repairer— and to put it bluntly, the watch industry needs more of them. Here are the 10 state-accredited educational institutions in the U.S. offering full-time curricula for watchmaking careers as compiled by the Horological Society of New York. 

Gem City College School of Horology, Quincy, IL

Photo: AWCI

Gem City College was founded in 1870 as Gem City Business College by Civil War veteran DeLafayette Musselman, whose name still adorns one of the campus buildings. Located in the city of Quincy, adjacent to the Mississippi River, the College added its horology school in 1961, which was a department that had actually migrated over from Bradley University in neighboring Peoria, as well as a cosmetology program in 1975, expanding from its original business model of training students in business-specific courses like banking, penmanship, and accounting. Today, the Horology School offers courses in watchmaking and watch repair, clock repair, jewelry design, engraving, and diamond-setting. Graduates of Gem City’s program, which is supported by The American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWCI) have gone on to positions at Bulova’s Illinois service center, among other outlets.

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Lititz Watch Technicum, Lititz, Pennsylvania

Nestled in Eastern Pennsylvania’s Amish country — not far from Lancaster, one of American watchmaking’s most historical former hubs — the Lititz Watch Technicum opened its doors in 2001, initially as a subsidiary of Rolex, which founded it to address a growing need for classically trained watchmakers in the United States. The 3,000-hour course — which is free to students, who need to purchase their own watchmaking tools and housing — focuses on micromechanics and the servicing of high-luxury mechanical watches, with a particularly strong emphasis on chronographs. The 54,000-square-foot facility, designed in the rural-barn style of its bucolic surroundings by award-winning architect Michael Graves, is also home to a large Rolex service center. Since its opening, Lititz has turned out more than 115 trained after-service watchmakers, most finding employment at Rolex service centers or other high-end facilities or brands. With the opening of the new training center in Dallas (see below), the future role of Lititz Technicum is unclear. 

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Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking School, Miami, FL

Nicolas G. Hayek (1928 - 2010) was a titanic figure in the history of the watch industry, perhaps best known as the executive whose business acumen as the creator of Swatch, and eventually as founder of the Swatch Group, rescued the Swiss watchmaking business from ruin during the Quartz Crisis in the 1970s and ‘80s. Hayek’s name now appears on an international group of watchmaking schools — six of them, scattered across three continents — established in 1999 and owned and operated by the Swatch Group. Miami, Florida, where the majority of Swatch Group brands are now headquartered, is the site of North America’s sole facility. In its quarter-century existence, more than 1,000 professional watchmakers have emerged from NGH’s programs, which operate under the the WOSTEP curricula as described below and range from the basics of micromechanics, to the adjustment and assembly of complications like calendars and chronographs, to final casing. Many graduates today ply their trade at prestigious brands owned by the group, such as Omega, Longines, Breguet, Blancpain, and Harry Winston.

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North American Institute of Swiss Watchmaking, Fort Worth, TX

Photo: 300 Magazine

One of two major watchmaking schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex (along with the RWTC, profiled below), the North American Institute of Swiss Watchmaking was created in a partnership between the Neuchâtel-based Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program (WOSTEP) and the Swiss-owned Richemont Group, the luxury conglomerate that owns watchmaking heavyweights including Cartier, IWC, and Jaeger-LeCoultre. WOSTEP’s comprehensive and world-famous training program incorporates just about every aspect of horological expertise, from repair to polishing to finishing techniques, to micromechanical and precision adjustment. The Institute and the NGH facility in Miami are the only WOSTEP-certified schools in the U.S., and watchmakers with a WOSTEP certificate are generally in  high demand. 

More info here:

North Seattle College Watch Technology Institute, Seattle, WA

An accredited two-year institution established in 1970, North Seattle College offers a full-time program comprising 3,000 academic hours for aspiring watchmakers, supported through a partnership with Rolex Watch U.S.A. and the SAWTA (Swiss American Watchmakers Training Alliance) curriculum that it established in 2008. Students learn vital skills such as watch movement repair, case and bracelet refinishing, dialing and casing, water resistance testing, and general customer service. Past graduates of either the 164-credit Certificate program or the 184-credit Associate of Applied Science in Watch Technology degree have found employment at high-end retailers, including those in the Rolex network, as well as repair centers nationwide. 

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Patek Philippe Horology Program of New York, New York, NY

With an eye toward the future of watchmaking, and because “the skills required to service, repair and restore Patek Philippe watches are much the same as those required to make one,” according to its official release, Swiss manufacture Patek Philippe established its Horology Program in the heart of midtown New York City (where the brand’s offices are also based) in 2015; it was the second such training center founded by the maison after the first one opened in Shanghai in 2013. Apprentices in the two-year program learn a comprehensive set of horological disciplines, from machining to delicate manual skills, and develop proficiency in working with all types of Patek Philippe movements, mechanical and quartz. Graduates will be trained to successfully repair Patek Philippe watches up to “Level 2,” which is up to and including self-winding models like the Calatrava Ref. 5116R, with the option to continue to higher levels of complication at subsequent courses in Geneva. As one might expect of a curriculum run by Patek Philippe, it is highly competitive and exclusive: six watchmakers were chosen out of a pool of 300 applicants in the first class of 2015.

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Rolex Watchmaking Training Center, Dallas, TX

Established in 2023 and welcoming its first class of future horologists in the fall of 2024, the Rolex Watchmaking Training Center (RWTC) hosts an 18-month, tuition-free program “to prepare and educate the next generation of certified Rolex watchmakers.” The Dallas-based school employs nine full-time instructors with decades of watchmaking experience and boasts a well-rounded course curriculum that includes up to six full months of hands-on servicing work on Rolex timepieces. All the courses, which going forward will begin annually in September and March, culminate with a final exam at Rolex HQ in Geneva, surely a bucket-list trip for many an aspiring watchmaker. Best of all, graduates of the 15-person courses are likely to find themselves on the shortlist for full time employment at one of the Crown’s network of service centers across the United States. 

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Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology, Paris, TX

Photo: Texas Monthly

This community college in the county seat of Lamar County in northeastern Texas started offering both watchmaking and jewelry making classes back in 1942. It began serving World War II veterans under the G.I. Bill in 1946, expanded its scope after a  large grant from the Texas Education the 1970s, and updated its capabilities to include modern computer-aided design and 3D printing in 2005. Renamed the Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology, the department dedicated to jewelry and horology received support from the Horological Society of New York (HSNY) the AWCI in 2019, to further diversify its educational initiatives in the pursuit of watchmaking. Today, students can learn jewelry and horology technology, designing with CAD, watch repair, and gemology, taught by seasoned instructors from their respective fields, including watch Swiss watch industry veteran Stanley McMahan, who cites the “increasing demand for qualified watchmakers” that has driven up enrollment and increased the probability of finding employment upon graduation.

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Veterans Watchmaker Initiative, Odessa, DE

The only technical school in the U.S.A. devoted to disabled veterans, the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative carries on the mission of the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking in Woodside, New York, which was established in 1945 by Arde Bulova, Joseph’s son, as a place to train and rehabilitate returning World War II vets. Years after that school closed in 1993, Sam Cannan, a retired Baltimore police officer and trained watchmaker, conceived the idea for the VWI and brought Bulova, a longtime supporter of the U.S. armed forces, aboard as founding sponsor. The cost of the program is free for eligible disabled service members, and it encompasses 16 months of intensive instruction on watch repair, for both mechanical and quartz timepieces, followed by three months of internship for a total of 19 months. By the time the curriculum concludes, VWI students will be familiar with areas as diverse as toolmaking, lathing and turning, jeweling, case restoration and repair, and the complexities of calendar and chronograph movements.

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York Time Institute, York, PA

Photo: York Dispatch

In 2008, Daniel Nied, former director of the School of Horology for the NAWCC (National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors) founded the York Time Institute in Southeastern Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Valley. Originally headquartered in a 19th-Century building in the city’s Historic District, and now officially licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Its mission is “to provide training in conservation, restoration and repair of traditional and modern horological timekeeping devices.” The 54-week curriculum includes a wide variety of disciplines, including shaping and forming of parts, metallurgy, plating, engraving, engine turning and casting, all geared to fully prepare individuals for a career in the watchmaking and clockmaking fields. The school’s website promises plenty of individualized instruction based on need, and also offers evening and weekend courses for those seeking a less intensive experience, as well as some youth-oriented programs.

More info here:

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