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Horology: The Watchmaker’s Craft

Published or Revised September 15, 2012

A watch never comes to TIJT students at Paris Junior College unless there is something wrong with it. Then it's up to the students — apprentice watchmakers — to breathe new life into the tiny, intricate machines.

Following a tradition almost 500 years old, TIJT students learn the heart and soul of a watch. "It's a black art, not a cookbook," as one of them likes to put it.

Since 1942 people have come to Paris Junior College to learn watch repair and become part of a worldwide family. When watchmakers and aficionados meet anywhere in the world, it's likely they know some of the same people. Over the years, hundreds of watchmaking students from around the globe have started careers and developed lifelong friendships in Paris, Texas. Watchmaking is an international language.

Mechanical wristwatches are the primary focus of study at TIJT. The courses cover the basics, as well as automatics, calendars, timers and chronographs.

The procedures taught include nomenclature, material systems, cleaning, lubrication, hairspring manipulations, jeweling, escapements, regulation and the dynamics of timekeeping, to name but a few. These are hands-on courses, with lectures and demonstrations designed to prepare the apprentice to be a professional watch repairer.

"Turning" is an important requirement for any watchmaker. Lathe projects produced to blueprint specs of 1/100 of a millimeter or less are the norm. Staffs, stems, threading, pivot polishing, turning between centers, and tempering are carried out.

Micromechanics means starting from scratch, making tools and working watch parts. A grounding in the fundamentals of fine metal working leads to the evolution of crude actions such as hammer, twist and bend into form, shape and fashion.

It is an art.

Electronic watches — quartz — in all their different forms are also studied. State-of-the-art timing equipment and an extensive inventory of movements and technical information assure that training in this rapidly changing area stays current. Work with Accutrons is offered as an elective.

TIJT is the only school that still offers training in all facets of tuning fork movements, both American and Swiss. They are hard to come by, but that is all the more reason to learn to repair them: they are collectable.

Students may choose to earn a certificate in Fine Mechanical Watch Repair (three semesters, 41 credit hours) or Horology Technology (four semesters, 53 credit hours), or elect to earn an Associate of Applied Science in Horology Technology by taking additional academic classes (five semesters, 72 credit hours).

Students can also earn a certificate in Fine Mechanical Watch Repair.

All Horology students are required to complete HRGY 1417, Applied Jewelry Practices, to receive a certificate.

Students are required to pass the Quick THEA Test for both programs. Quick THEA is an assessment of an individual's reading comprehension, writing skills, and preparedness to enter college algebra and freshman English. This does not mean students have to take algebra and English to attend Horology classes, but they must have the college entry level skills.

There are exceptions to this policy. Consult your instructor or academic advisor.

Admission is subject to available space and equipment.

At TIJT you can tailor an education to match your needs, budget, the time available to you, and the skill level you wish to achieve.

In Switzerland and much of Europe, training for entry-level watchmakers can last as long as four years. So while there is no fast and easy way to learn this fascinating trade, it is time well spent since the job market for watchmakers is always strong.

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