Watch/Clock Repairer

The Job and What's Involved

Watch/clock repairers service, repair and maintain all kinds of clocks and watches. They work with both mechanical and electronic (quartz) timepieces that can include anything from antique clocks to high-tech watches with additional mechanisms like alarms, calendars and multiple displays.

Day-to-day tasks of a watch/clock repairer may include:

  • Dismantling, servicing and repairing watches and clocks using tools such as screwdrivers and tweezers.
  • Cleaning and oiling clock mechanisms.
  • Using an ultrasonic cleaning machine to clean parts from mechanical watches.
  • Using electronic testing equipment to find faults.
  • Replacing batteries and re-sealing watch cases.
  • Fitting a new watch strap or altering the size of a bracelet.
  • Fitting hands and dials.
  • Stock control and ordering spare parts.
  • Making replacement parts using machinery such as a watchmaker's lathe.
  • Keeping records of repairs.
  • Providing after-sales service.

In a jewellery shop or other retail environment, watch/clock repairers may serve customers. Some skilled watch/clock repairers may also make clocks and watches to their own designs, on a commission or speculative basis.

Different skills and techniques are required for watches and clocks. There is more variety in the size of clocks, whereas watches can require a great deal of complex precision work and the use of an eyeglass or even a microscope.

Watch/clock repairers usually work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Some overtime may be necessary during busy periods, including weekends and evenings. Part-time work may be available.

Repairers work in workshops and retail outlets. The job normally involves sitting for long periods. Workbenches need to be kept very clean, tidy and well lit.

The starting salary for a Watch/clock repairer may be around £12,500 a year. With more experience, a qualified watch/clock repairer may earn around £30,000 to £35,000 each year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Vacancies can be found with small independent companies, jewellery shops, museums and major watch houses. Department stores and shopping centres also offer watch/clock repair services. Many repairers are self-employed and take in work from jewellers or directly from the public. There are opportunities throughout the UK.

There is now an increasing demand for experienced and qualified repairers as expensive mechanical watches have come back into fashion.

Vacancies can be found in local newspapers and trade publications as well as through the British Horological Institute (BHI).

Education and Training

There are no formal entry requirements. Some employers require GCSE grades A*-C, especially in art, design and technology and maths or related subjects.

There are a variety of relevant courses that can be studied before or after starting work as a watch/clock repairer:

The BHI offers nationally-recognised Certificates in Clock and Watch Servicing at Level 2 and in the Repair, Restoration and Conservation of Clocks/Watches at Level 3 available by distance learning and through a number of colleges.

Birmingham City University runs courses leading to BHI qualifications. The courses cover all aspects of clock and watch making, restoration and repair. Students are expected to gain relevant work experience. They also have the option of following a specialist programme within the guidelines of the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Programme (WOSTEP).

Birmingham City University also runs a BTEC Higher National Diploma in horology. This is a full-time two-year course. Students are expected to take the BHI examinations at the end of each year. Full entry requirements and further information on the course can be obtained from the University.

The British School of Watchmaking in Manchester takes on trainees. They follow a specialist WOSTEP programme that requires a total of 3,000 hours of study and usually takes two to three years to complete. Currently, the school only accepts nominees from its founding companies.

Epping Forest Horology Club offers practical workshops and lessons for students of the BHI distance-learning course as well as the facility to sit the BHI exams.

West Dean College, Chichester runs a Diploma and Professional Development Diploma in conservation and restoration of antique clocks. A first degree or technical qualification in a relevant subject, an equivalent qualification or significant previous experience is required for entry.

All the courses typically include subjects such as analysis of watch and clock movements, historical and theoretical studies, information technology, technical drawing, the theory of time determination, tools and equipment, and workshop practice

Apprenticeships in instrument servicing (clock and watch pathway) may be available.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

Some people enter the profession after first taking it up as a hobby by joining a club or internet site for watch or clock enthusiasts. Sales experience in a jeweller's or specialist clock shop might also be helpful.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training after qualification is mainly on the job but getting accredited by one of the leading manufacturers such as Rolex, Omega or Breitling may improve future prospects. Those who want to become self-employed can do short courses to learn how to run their own business.

On successful completion of the BHI's nationally-accredited Certificate in the Repair, Restoration and Conservation of Clocks/Watches together with suitable experience, it is possible to become recognised as a Member or Fellow of the Institute.

The BHI also runs short residential courses, including refresher courses for professional watch/clock repairers.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A watch/clock repairer should:

  • Have good 3D vision and hand-eye co-ordination.
  • Be able to work with intricate and delicate tools and components.
  • Pay attention to detail.
  • Be patient.
  • Be able to concentrate.
  • Take pride in their work.
  • Be good at dealing with customers and understanding their requirements.
  • Not mind working alone.
  • Be well organised and able to manage their own workload.

Your Long Term Prospects

Watch/clock repairers may decide to become self-employed and set up their own business. It may also be possible to progress into a managerial role within the retail sector.

Some watch/clock repairers move into training or teaching, antique clock or watch restoration or work in specialised museums or colleges.

There may also be opportunities to work abroad.

Get Further Information

Birmingham City University,
Corporation Street, Birmingham B4 7DX
Tel: 0121 331 5800
Website: www.bcu.ac.uk

British Horological Institute (BHI),
Upton Hall, Upton, Newark,
Nottinghamshire NG23 5TE
Tel: 01636 813795
Website: www.bhi.co.uk

The British School of Watchmaking,
Units 5 and 6, Crossford Court,
Dane Road, Sale,
Manchester M33 7BZ
Tel: 0161 976 5650
Website: www.britishschoolofwatchmaking.co.uk

Watchmakers of Switzerland Training
and Educational Programme (WOSTEP),
Rue des Saars 99, 2000 Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Tel: (0)32 729 0030
Website: www.wostep.ch

Watchuseek
Website: www.watchuseek.com

West Dean College,
West Dean, Nr Chichester,
West Sussex PO18 0QZ
Tel: 01243 811301
Website: www.westdean.org.uk

The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers,
Salters' Hall, Fore Street,
London EC2Y 5DE
Tel: 020 7638 5500
Website: www.clockmakers.org

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