Preparing for Exams
There are four intermediate exams over the two-year SAWTA curriculum. These exams are designed to reflect the complete group of tasks that a full-fledged watchmaker is expected to perform in context of a complete watch service. Successfully passing these exams demonstrates that the student has the knowledge, skills and disposition to perform professional grade work when it comes to servicing the movement, case and bracelet of high-end watches.
The first of these exams, typically administered approximately five to six months into the program, tests the ability of the learners to design and make simple watch components and tools. It is followed by the second intermediate exam, also called SAWTA II, which tests the comprehension of the principles behind an electronic watch, as well as the ability to diagnose and service quality quartz movements. This includes disassembling, cleaning, adjusting, reassembling the movement, verifying that the electronic testing parameters are all within specified tolerances, and finally setting dial and hands before casing up the movement.
The SAWTA III exam is based on the complete overhaul and adjustment of an automatic watch, while the last exam, the SAWTA IV, tests the entire skill- and knowledge set that is expected from a professional watchmaker based on a modern chronograph watch.
But that is only half of the job. A watch is more than a movement, and the external components, i.e. cases and bracelets or straps, are of equivalent importance when it comes to the value, performance and aesthetics of a watch. Therefore, in three of the four SAWTA exams, the students need to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in that area as well.
Exam preparation means not only a lot of work for the student, but also for the professionals who prepare the pieces for the exam. The watch movements used for each exam are new with an exactly defined number of problems introduced so that each movement of a batch of exam watches has exactly the same defect or is misadjusted to the same degree. All introduced defects and misadjustments are confirmed independently by a second teacher and individually recorded to assure maximum fairness and reliability of the exam. In the final stage of exam piece preparation all compartment boxes containing the various components needed for the exam will be checked and documented individually before each one gets sealed, together with its accompanying paperwork in a tamper-proof banker’s envelope. On the day of the exam, each test taker will select one of these envelopes at random to begin his or her exam.