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Making Time With the Watchmakers 257

PreacherTom writes "In the age of watches that have more computational power than Apollo 11's computer, one would think that the watchmaker has gone the way of the cobbler, the blacksmith and the Dodo. Quite the contrary. With the rise in interest for mechanical watches (especially luxury models), Rolex has sponsored a new school to train horologists in the arcane art. From the article: 'We were facing a situation today where we needed to foster a new generation of watchmakers,' says Charles Berthiaume, the senior vice-president for technical operations at Rolex and the Technicum's president 'Thirty to 40 years ago, there was a watchmaker at every jewelry store. That's not the case today,' he notes. Included are some remarkable examples of their training, dedication, and intricate patience as they take technology in an entirely different direction."
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Making Time With the Watchmakers

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 22, 2006 @08:03PM (#17344750)
    PreacherTom [] is an astroturfer for BusinessWeek magazine. Look at the URL in this recent Slashdot story [] and notice the campaign_id string. Now look at his user page []. Scroll down to the submissions section. Notice how almost every one is a link to a article containing the campaign_id string. Now look at the search results [] for "campaign_id preachertom". He's been pulling this shit on slashdot, digg, Fark, MetaFilter, and who knows where else. Check out this MetaTalk thread [] for the initial discovery.

    Spread the word, perhaps?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 22, 2006 @08:05PM (#17344752)
    This guy is steering you to BusinessWeek magazine and has been doing so for quite a while.
  • Re:Yeah but.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by yamamushi (903955) <{yamamushi} {at} {}> on Friday December 22, 2006 @08:10PM (#17344786) Homepage
    Nevermind, I RTFA and from the site "Starting salaries range from $45,000 to $55,000 a year."
  • by SimpleinSeattle (1042948) on Friday December 22, 2006 @08:19PM (#17344856)
    Swiss watches, especially luxury ones are on the rise. 2005 it was a 10 billion dollar per year industry for the Swiss. It is expected to exceed 23 billion (with a B) in 2006.

    WSJ article at .html []

    Swiss Watches Strike Export Record
    Surging Demand for Luxury Lines Has Makers
    Like Richemont Thinking About Capacity
    December 22, 2006; Page B2

    ZURICH -- Swiss watch exports hit a record in November, suggesting that big watchmakers such as Swatch Group AG, Compagnie Financière Richemont SA and Rolex SA will see strong Christmas sales that will carry into the new year.

    Switzerland's watchmakers exported 1.52 billion Swiss francs ($1.25 billion) of goods in November, the Swiss watchmaking association said Thursday, up 13% from the same month last year. The biggest gains were seen for luxury watches selling for more than $6,000 each.

    Sales growth is so strong for Swiss watches that the country's watchmakers are facing a new problem: a lack of spare capacity, and especially of the highly skilled craftsmen that make each watch. Last month, Richemont said surging demand for luxury watches may lead to capacity constraints in some product areas over the next few years.

    Swiss companies are leaders in the global watch market, which has annual sales of about $23 billion.

    The country is by far the world's biggest watch exporter in value terms.

    In 2005, Swiss watchmakers exported goods valued at about $10 billion, and accounted for about 9% of Switzerland's total exports. While Hong Kong and China export more watches than Switzerland, they lag far behind in terms of value. Last year, Hong Kong exported watches worth $6 billion and China exported $2 billion, respectively.

    The concentration of the watch industry in Switzerland limits growth because production can't easily be shifted outside the country for branding reasons. And within the country, there are only so many people with the training needed to make a watch by hand.

    In a recent interview with Swiss daily Le Temps, Swatch Group Chief Executive Nick Hayek said the growth rates of as much as 40% in certain segments aren't sustainable. He noted his company is looking for 140 qualified watchmakers for its high-end Breguet brand, and 200 workers for its watch-movements maker ETA.

    But analysts say they don't anticipate serious capacity issues in the short term, and some suggest a shortage of watches may even benefit the industry.

    "Production capacity may get tight in some areas, also on the components side, but I don't think this will be a major issue next year," says Zuercher Kantonalbank analyst Patrik Schwendimann. "In a way, scarcity value may also be a positive for the image."

    Jon Cox of Kepler Equities expects the "supercycle" in luxury goods to continue. Global demand for expensive jewelry and watches has been boosted by new customers in emerging markets, he says, but he also notes a surge in demand from previously sluggish markets such as France.

    "So long as financial markets continue to move up, demand for luxury items will likely remain high," he says.

    Any capacity problems may have an impact on the number of watches sold but shouldn't hurt revenue, he says. "To offset any shortage, the companies could simply hike prices," Mr. Cox says.

    Write to Martin Gelnar at

  • Re:Yeah but.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by MajorDick (735308) on Friday December 22, 2006 @08:42PM (#17345018)
    A WATCHMaker , who can from nothing but raw materials completley fabricate a watch brings about 250,000 a year to start....... A repair man makes the 40-50 k range.
  • by mad zambian (816201) on Friday December 22, 2006 @09:01PM (#17345162)
    Check out this blog [] for some of the weird and wonderful watches out there. Some of them costing 200K or more. (yes, two hundred thousand) One of my favourites is the TAG Heuer V4, but I doubt I would be able to afford it.
    A similar thing might well happen to analogue electronic engineers I suspect, with everything going digital these days. Why have a filter circuit composed of discrete components when you can program a DSP to do the same thing?
    Or maybe not.
  • by WarwickRyan (780794) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @06:02AM (#17347356)
    He's dyslexic, so found schooling especially hard. However, he's excellent with mechanical things, so studied to be a horologist.

    There is such a demand for horologists at the moment it's crazy. Not just for watches, mind, but also for mechanical clocks.

    Too many kids are soft courses at uni (art/media etc etc) that we're being left with a dearth of people who have useful skills..

"Survey says..." -- Richard Dawson, weenie, on "Family Feud"