I finished school for the Summer break around a month ago and as part of my contract with my sponsor/employer I’m required to do a 2 week work placement during this period with a Master Watchmaker. It was decided that I would be working alongside the company’s Technical Trainer, he not only possesses all the qualifications affiliated with the major watch brands but also a WOSTEP teaching qualification. I discovered just before my placement that he was due to take up a position with Patek Philippe UK at the beginning of September so I knew his standard of work would be extremely high and it was my job to soak up as much information as I could.
The workshop is based in one the company’s busy London stores and has 2 benches along with a host of useful teaching aids. After a long conversation discussing what I hoped to get out of the two weeks, it was decided that I would spend the first week observing his work and recording as much information as possible. He stated that his aim was to hopefully help me become a better watchmaker than him, that way he would know he had done his job well.
No question went unanswered, I now have quite a few pages of notes and a number of important tips imprinted in my brain. It was good to go over some of the things I had been taught at school and be shown a different approach to doing them which often achieved the same result but in much quicker time. Importantly I was able to gather some information that would help in the next 2 exams, one of which is in just 6 weeks time.
I managed to observe a number of services during the week, both quartz and mechanical, the two that I was able to learn the most from were both ETA 2892 based watches in the shape of an Omega Seamaster and a Breitling SuperOcean. The watchmaker was keen to point out that some brands, Rolex for example, rarely require any fault finding or adjustment they just slot together. The ETA movements on the other hand can often need adjustments to be made and faults to be found providing a better learning environment for an apprentice like me. To be honest a number of the problems that cropped up were either common faults that are well known to someone regularly servicing these movements but more worryingly the others were a result of previous watchmakers servicing efforts! Incorrect end shake on the centre seconds wheel was a common fault that can be easily avoided. Needless to say my notebook was soon filling up with a wealth of information and words of experience.
During the second week it was planned that I would undertake some practical servicing work, giving the opportunity to take a closer look at some of my recently purchased projects. Before the second week arrived it was time to inspect my tools to check if they were prepared to the high standards that the watchmaker expected. It was soon clear that the sharpening of my screwdrivers could not only be improved but be made a thousand times better. The idea was to prevent damage to screw heads and increase the time between resharpening. I spent a full 2 days sharpening and polishing them to perfection with the aid of the following- an india stone, and arkansas stone, fine grade polishing paper and a Bergeon screwdriver holder. The aim was to make each blade perfectly fit the correct sized slot and to give them a mirror finish to prevent them marking the screw head.
It took a lot of patience and hard work to get them just right, each blade had to be checked by the watchmaker at every stage and if he wasn’t happy I would have to start over. The end result is set of perfectly sharpened screwdrivers that really make a difference when in use. I was also given a few tips on how to loosen stubborn screws without causing any damage. All in all once again a very useful couple of days.
I spent the second week completing a full service on a Tissot that I planned to give to my Dad, discovering the faults that stopped it from working and completely refurbishing the case/bracelet. I will cover this in one of my next posts though. I also had the chance to observe a number of other repairs including a service on a Breitling Aerospace LCD module that was so much easier than I had expected.
Overall the 2 weeks were a big success, I learnt a number of useful tips and pieces of information that can only be discovered through years of experience. I was fortunate enough to learn from someone with 16 years experience that works at such a high level, demonstrated by the looming move to Patek Philippe, and accepts nothing less than this from anyone else. I now have a couple of weeks of relaxation, although I probably won’t resist doing a bit of watchmaking, before I return for my final year at school. The two weeks have left me even more in love with watcthmkaing and I can’t wait to get back to learning once again!