Computer programming is a dying profession

Watchmaker: Accurate to the second

A gear the size of a pin's head is the answer to the riddle. Over the years, the teeth of the wheel have worn out, so that the clock kept stopping. No wonder, after all, the pocket watch that Hermann Peters dismantled in the glow of the desk lamp is around 100 years old. "You don't get to see something like that too often anymore," says the watchmaker, who retired a few years ago. Still, his job doesn't let him go completely. A broken watch glass, a dirty clockwork or even a crown that needs to be replaced: he still likes to sit in his small workshop in the basement of his house for friends and acquaintances.

Mechanical movements sometimes consist of up to 100 individual parts, so there is not always a suitable spare part to be found in the warehouse. If necessary, such as in the case of the old pocket watch, Peters therefore still produces the spare parts for a movement himself.

There is also a small lathe, a grinding and engraving machine as well as a small press-in machine and many filigree tools such as tweezers, screwdrivers and files of different sizes on his workbench.
And Peters also still carries out the obligatory battery changes that are regularly required for modern watches. "The electric quartz watches that are widespread today are the main reason why the watchmaking business is hardly worthwhile as a craft today," says Peters. The day-to-day business of the watchmakers that still exist today is changing batteries.

Still, the profession is far from dying out. Rather, as Peters also knows, the area of ​​responsibility is shifting. Many watchmakers today find employment, especially in the watch industry. Here they use modern production machines to manufacture the individual parts of a mechanical or electronic clockwork. They also program the clockworks and operate and maintain the machines necessary for production. There are also jobs in retail, the tasks here: Advice on buying and changing batteries. Real watchmakers, on the other hand, are rarely found.

As part of the state-recognized training, apprentices in the watchmaking trade learn how to use the various tools and machines, which grinding and polishing agents must be used and how to program and use modern production machines. The trainees also have to be able to change the batteries and check for watertightness. When designing individual parts by hand, drawing is very important. Later, the individual steps of sawing, turning, welding, milling and grinding to manufacture a single part must be mastered by hand. In addition, the trainees learn how to clean and dismantle clockworks and how to repair individual components. Measuring the individual electronic parts and the accuracy is also part of the curriculum.
The training ends after three years with a theoretical and practical exam. With some professional experience, further training to become a master watchmaker is also possible.

It doesn't work without math

Good physics and mathematics skills are required for the training. In addition, prospective watchmakers should show accuracy, patience and precision, but also creativity.

The chances of getting a job as a watchmaker have improved in recent years, and the watch industry in particular is urgently looking for new talent - not only in Germany, but also in our neighboring country, Switzerland.
"Many well-known watch manufacturers from Switzerland are looking for young, well-trained people who would like to pursue this profession," says Peters. This is not always easy because only a few want to learn the profession - despite good career prospects. In addition to the general unattractiveness of skilled trades, the relatively low earnings are the main reason for the lack of apprentices.

In addition to the low wages, the predominantly sedentary work posture and the often associated back pain are another downside of the job. In addition, the work is also strenuous on the eyes after several hours.

Apart from these negative aspects, the watchmaking trade also has a multitude of positive sides to offer. On the one hand, it is always a challenge to manufacture a filigree component for a watch from a piece of metal. In general, working with fine and old watches, from pocket watches to tower clocks, says Peters, is always exciting. "It makes your heart open when you hold an old piece from great-grandfather's time in your hands," says Peters.

  • Salary: The training salary is between 700 and 800 euros, the starting salary is around 1,800 euros gross monthly, depending on qualifications, up to 3,100 euros are possible later with some professional years.
  • Training: three-year, state-recognized training
  • Working hours: usually 40 hours a week