WHAT IS SAWTA?
SAWTA, the Swiss American Watchmakers Training Alliance, was founded to ensure a standardized curriculum design, implementation, proficiency testing and certification primarily for the Rolex-funded watchmaking schools in the United States – see end of page.
The principal outcomes of our SAWTA curriculum are graduates who are qualified for employment in environments that are typically perceived of as challenging as they require a wide range of hard/soft skills and knowledge – such as technical positions in high-end retail environments, or technical management positions in service centers of the watch industry. In our two-year program, students begin to learn the profession in its full scope, both in theory and in practice.
The SAWTA curriculum is unique as it covers high-end watch service in its entire spectrum: repairing movements, refinishing cases and bracelets, casing the movement, waterproofing the watch – as well as necessary administrative skills (order/inventory of spare parts, bookkeeping), general professionalism when it comes to communication with customers and suppliers, and knowledge of the industry – all skills needed by an independent watchmaker.
It is SAWTA’s objective to educate future watchmaking professionals through an intense, rigid and demanding program.
The full spectrum of watchmaking is covered in depth through four main content areas: micromechanics, watch movement service, case and bracelet service, retail application.
Micromechanics involves designing and making parts and tools by hand. Historically this area was of high importance for practicing watchmaking professionals, as the handcrafting or adapting of spare parts was performed on a daily basis. In the modern after-sales service world, the hand crafting or adapting of parts is mostly limited to restoration specialists. However in a learning environment the handcrafting of watch movement components thoroughly enhances the appreciation and comprehension of the complex mechanism. Click here for a nice example.
Watch Movement Service
Watch movement service involves diagnosing watch movements of all types by identifying worn or broken parts and maladjustments. Watchmakers must decide whether to replace or repair these parts in order to restore the movement back to manufacturers’ specifications and tolerances. Due to the fact that there is a very large range of movement designs, it is impossible to cover all products that a professional watchmaker might work on during his/her career. Therefore we place strong emphasis on the abstract side of things. We want our learners to comprehend the general technical principles of watch movements, enabling them to transfer the knowledge reliably to movements that they have not seen before.
Learners are first introduced to the service processes on a pocket watch movement. The larger sized movement is followed in short order by electronic wrist watches. At this very early stage the learner is exposed to the complete service process by dealing with a complete watch – not just working on a watch movement – thus developing the broad spectrum of skills and knowledge that will be essential for a successful career as a full-fledged watchmaker.
Once the electronic movement phase is successfully completed, learners progress to work on mechanical watches and their complications. A complication is a mechanism that is added to a basic watch movement. For example, a calendar or an automatic winding system are considered simple complications. A more demanding complication that has been gaining a significant market share in sales over the past decades is the chronograph.
At the final stage of learning, students will work on vintage and/or unusual timepieces. It is important to be familiar with this segment as well, although it is for many watchmaking professionals a marginal portion of the overall work volume. What makes these service repairs unique is not just the age of the pieces; it is the the significant sentimental and/or commercial value that the pieces may hold for the owner. Therefore, it is extremely important that watchmakers not only have the expertise to properly service them, but also understand the intangible emotional value the pieces may hold.
This field is primarily about restoring the shape, finish and functionality of watch cases and bracelets and it stretches over the duration of the entire program. After an introductory phase in which the learner uses practice pieces which simulate the various geometric shapes that will be encountered when refinishing watch cases, the student will eventually move on to real watch cases and bracelets.
This segment includes all the processes before and after the actual watch service, like customer consultation, estimating, spare parts logistics and quality control. All are applied in context with watch repair work through every step of the program, as knowledge of the retail aspect of watchmaking is paramount. In addition, understanding the motivations and expectations of the owners of fine timepieces can significantly impact the success of a watchmaker.
The scope of the SAWTA watchmaking education does not end with the mechanical side of things: through comprehensive immersion into the profession, students learn not only the technical aspects of watchmaking, they also develop the cultural awareness necessary for customer-focused watch service professionals.