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Have you taken the BHI Technician DLC? Tell me your experience!


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Hi all,

I am on the cusp of making a significant investment in the BHI DLC, Technician Grade. I live in Toronto, and while there is still a watchmaking school in Canada, dropping everything I'm doing and moving to Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, is not really possible at the moment.

I am interested from people who have taken the correspondence course. I want to hear all details, but I'm particularly interested in:

a) Was the tutor option worthwhile, if you bought it?

b) How much did you miss in-person instruction?

c) Did you do the exams? If so, has doing so benefited you?

d) How did you cope with workshop / space issues for the practical exercises?

e) Overall, is the course good value for money?

f) Did you learn much that you did not learn from Mark's course? How much material is going to be redundant?

Again, I would reiterate that I'm simply not in a position to move to a town with a watchmaking school at the moment. So while I appreciate that in-person instruction is undoubtedly best, the question is, given that it's not feasible immediately, am I making a worthwhile investment by taking the DLC?

Thanks, looking forward to hearing from you.

John

P.S. If you also live in Toronto and the surrounding area and are interested in forming a BHI "class," message me!

Edited by JohnC
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I think that the course is excellent in that it sets a high benchmark on how work should be done properly and also goes into a decent amount of depth in the theory. I did mine largely at home, but did do some of it at an accredited school. I think two years is a reasonable amount of time to cover it if you also have a full-time job. I think it's fair to say that it is fairly challenging. Many people who I started out with dropped out - especailly those who were not interested in learning the theory.

A. For practical work, it was useful to be shown in person how to do things. Even something simple like someone saying that your vice is at the wrong height for filing flat.

B. For the theory, not really.

C. Yes. The exams force you to read get clued-up on the material.

D. No problem. You'll just need a small lathe, decent vice, quality files, scriber, centre-punch, Sharpie pen, piercing saw and a full set of drill bits.

E. I believe so. You could purchase older revisions of the material to learn and just sit the exams, but it's not easy to get a hold of.

F. I can't really comment as I have not done Mark's course. Remember that the BHI course also includes clockmaking material which does cross over to watchmaking when it comes to making/adapting parts and making tools. It covers topics like metallurgy in good depth which a lot of people seem to be lacking in.

 

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@rodabod thanks for a really detailed response. Two follow-ups. You said you did part of the course at an accredited school. Does that mean you just contacted a school and asked them to teach you some practical skills, like using a lathe? 

A second question, about the lathe. Were you able to get by with just a standard small lathe, or did you also have to get a watchmaker’s lathe? I’ve seen pretty cheap microlathes new, but even used 8mm watchmaker’s lattes are topping $1000 Canadian, and I know nothing about the condition of, e.g. bearings. 

 

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Hi,

I attend a horology school which runs various classes every day, and they decided that they would run a weekly class to cover the BHI material which was covered by two tutors over two years. I don't think it would be easily possible to ask a similar institution to do something similar, if you could find such a thing. 

I just used an 8mm watchmakers lathe. If I were you, given your geographic location, I'd try to get an American WW-pattern lathe. They are usually built like tanks. An ER collet set from China which fits a standard 8mm drawbar expands what sizes of material you can mount if you are short on conventional collets. I reckon you could probably get a decent lathe for maybe around $300 US if you look around.

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Hey John,

I completed the technician's grade a few years back and worked my way through year 2 and 3. I've done final exams last year and only have the record of repairs left (not needed for year 1). I'm taking much longer with that since I have periods of being busy, and periods where I seem to lose all interest in watchmaking, until it flares up again. Self discipline has never been my strong suit -- even though I was pretty good at getting myself through the rest of the DLC. I'm in Singapore btw, where my hobby is seen as crazy/outlandish.

a) I used a tutor, and would recommend it. It was the only way to getting any kind of feedback on practical parts and theory for me, since I know nobody IRL who's into technical horology.

b) Very much, but no choice.

c) Yep. Benefited only as a personal accomplishment.

d) I'm lucky enough to have a spare room for a workshop, with equipment for horology, metalworking and electronics. All tools were painstakingly gathered over more than a decade.

e) Hard to say, it depends on what you want or expect, and on your personal situation. Prices have increased sharply since I started things. This is not a cheap hobby to begin with, if I look at my tooling ?

Take classes at Upton Hall for example. They sometimes have a class that I'd love to join, even though it costs like 400+ pounds for 3 days, etc. All moot anyway, since I can't just drop by..

f) I haven't done Mark's course, but I love watching his videos. The two courses are very different, with the DLC being more thorough and academic, and Mark being more hands-on. The DLC teaches basic metalworking skills in order to start making parts, but none of the tutor-related communication involves feedback on actual watch work that you may be doing. The first feedback you'll get is when you service a quartz watch for the exam, which is kind of crazy.

Many people complain that the DLC includes quartz watches and clocks. I found that high-end quartz watches are actually not bad to work on, and I like clocks anyway.

I've picked up several tips and tricks over the years from watching Mark's videos.


If Mark's course was available 10 years ago, I probably would have started with that, if it wasn't too expensive (no idea about pricing). One thing I value is that if I would ever start taking in repairs for customers, being recognized by the BHI would be a good thing. 

Back in the days I was looking into doing a WOSTEP course, but I was not in a position to just drop everything and be off for two years, just like yourself. I also had and have zero interest in working for some big watch manufacturer doing part swaps on the same model all day.

Cheers,

     Rob

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7 hours ago, rodabod said:

E. I believe so. You could purchase older revisions of the material to learn and just sit the exams, but it's not easy to get a hold of.

A while ago there was a statement in the HJ that they would start discouraging this by steeply jacking up the exam prices for people who didn't purchase the course material.

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@rodabod thanks, I’ll keep my eye out for a WW style 8mm lathe. If I’m patient enough I suppose something will come along. Good to know about the school. I guess that’s not really an option for me right now, but I have a few watchmaker friends who might give me some pointers. 

@teegee thanks! Another great response. I have thought about moving for the college program, but like you I have no interest in working for someone else. If I ever manage to make money off this hobby, it will be as an independent repair person. So this is right now a personal passion / occasional side hustle.

I have been told that I can purchase the tutor option later if I feel it necessary. To be honest I don’t think it’s necessary for the theory, just the practical bits. I may try to wrangle some watchmaker friends into reviewing my practical exercises as a way of getting around the hefty fee for tutor feedback. 

About the quartz and clocks. I am indifferent about the quartz, but actually quite excited to learn about clock servicing! 

 

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Well, you are welcome to post questions here, or post photos of work you have completed. My practical tutors were absolutely brutal with me and told me when they thought my work was crap. That’s an old-fashioned way of teaching but I personally find it works.  

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  • 1 year later...

@Rhobin
I did actually! I think there are upsides and downsides. Upsides, great reference materials and a lot of ground covered. Practical exercises very useful to build basic shop skills that I have never developed.

Downsides, I find it definitely too clock focused. The watch material is oriented toward quartz (fair enough if you're gonna do this for a living), which is not really my speed. The mechanical watch material I really already know and I wish it would go into more depth there.

So to cut a long story short, I have read everything and attempted a couple exercises. The problem is I keep getting distracted by servicing mechanical watches, which is not covered by the course.
I don't regret purchasing it because I do want to do clocks some day soon, but it's a question of money and space right now (mainspring winder is just the start...). If I go for a certification, I think it is likely that I will do the CW21 since I am in Canada.
Just my thoughts. Others' experiences will differ I'm sure. Feel free to PM me if you want to talk more about it!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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18 hours ago, JohnC said:

If I go for a certification, I think it is likely that I will do the CW21 since I am in Canada.

Out of curiosity what do you hope to achieve by being certified? Such as the CW 21

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Good question John. I guess my feeling is that if I open a restoration business, as I would like to do eventually, it will add something to my credibility. Maybe I also have an ingrained student mentality where you can call yourself good when you are evaluated as good by an expert (incidentally, I am also a grad student). I am far from being committed to it, but I think it's good to have a vague goal. But you know, it's a journey and I may or may not do that. Happy for your thoughts.

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2 hours ago, JohnC said:

restoration business, as I would like to do eventually, it will add something to my credibility.

Personally I'm more impressed by what people do then the certificates on their wall.

In the case of the CW 21 its purpose was to replace the prior exams and certifications they had and come up with a standard.  This came about because of a problem in particular problems with Rolex and the availability of spare parts. So they came up with their killer certificate actually it's a killer exam. In case you think you're joking about the body aspect somebody died taking the exam because it was basically a life or death situation at least they perceived it. Because at the time Rolex was terminating always parts accounts and the perception was if they pass the exam that Billy keep their parts account which would keep their business. So you have to do paperwork of what happens to your body if you should die doing the exam. But the unfortunate problem was that Rolex continued to terminate parts accounts and it's no longer a requirement to even get a Rolex parts account.

If you are going to go into modern watch repair or wanted to work in a service center then better would be to go to one of the schools where you get a certificate from the school. Rolex in the US sponsors a number of schools low step still has schools around the world.

Then for a vintage watches you really don't need a certificate are all. It's not good I help you get any vintage parts nobody's going to care whether your certified or not.

Now if you want to do the certificate to show to yourself that you've completed a level of expertise and that's fine. But it's not Going to be a magical piece of paper that really opens doors for you.  People coming in and getting their watches repaired typically never ask the watchmakers are certified.

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I did not know the anecdote about someone dying - truly terrifying!

Yes, point well taken. I am not strongly attached to the idea of getting a cert at this point. There is so much to do and learn, and I have been slowly progressing in a direction that suits me. It is a vague thought of something I might do, but by no means my main goal.

I also have done enough exams in my life not to want to do any more. And I agree, they're not a substitute for good work.

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I have thrown around the idea of doing the BHI course as well for the same reason as @JohnC. And Mr. Lovick's course for watches based on what John said about the BHI course being more focussed on quartz watches. (I wasn't aware of that.)

Just a bit of credibility if you try to run a business.

As far as it goes with me, it is the only option I have for learning, other than doing things myself and hoping that I get more things right than I get wrong, as there is no one around me in Geelong that I know of that could mentor me and there is now no longer any course being run by any college etc in Australia at all. I did see a clock company in Melbourne looking for an apprentice, but I am not sure what they are going to do about technical college that is required when you do an apprenticeship?

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9 hours ago, Michael1962 said:

doing things myself and hoping that I get more things right than I get wrong,

Most of people here (admittedly hobbyists with no professional ambitions) and elsewhere learnt by themselves, with a varying amount of things gone wrong. In the past many used training books sold by mail in the USA during the great depression, many men had to to reinvent themselves and practice on the kitchen table, dim lighting and very basic tools, I don't doubt that many good watchmakers were made that way.  Now people has everything easily available, can watch free videos, buy online and if needed ask on reddit or facebook, less often here.

Having a mentor in person is great but it can be inconvenient and expensive, as with everything in life one can't expect that things will line up in an ideal manner and will have to take things into own hands. No matter how one learns is will that gets thing in motion, then continued focus is what produce results.

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8 hours ago, JohnC said:

I did not know the anecdote about someone dying - truly terrifying!

I didn't know about that, crazy. When I went to WOSTEP, a couple of days after the courses started one of the guys in another class was missing, turns out he had a nervous breakdown. These were classes for experienced watchmakers too, not new guys. I always wondered if they refunded his money (an alternate took his place), those classes were expensive.

 

To the education thing, I know a couple of people who are definitely in the very top tier of watchmakers who were self taught. They did take short courses here and there over the years, and did have mentors at some point, and did get certified, but largely they were self taught. As JDM said, with the current interest and videos and forums like this one it's far easier now than years ago.

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When I started to learn Television was not available to the masses and the books were hard to locate and expensive too, and living in the sticks didnt help. So it was a case if you want to learn do what you could from the books you could find in the second hand bookshops. The problen with formalised training is that you follow the trend and to some degree stifles origional thaught. In other words you become intitutionalised and think like your teachers. You do it that way because thats how you were taught even though there may be otherways of doing it .   There are out there some watchmakers who were apprenticed and learned practicaly , who are capeable of thinking out side the box and are brilliant at what they do. So in essence I am with jdm on this one. I have seen people with letters after their name I wouldnt let work on a pram, they know the theory but because they think in a straight line It takes a long time before they have worked through the theory by that time you have fixed it.

JohnC If you are serious in following the dream,  head down and focus all the training and titles will not make you a Great watchmaker/restorer determination and skill will do the job.   I wish you all the best in your endeavour.    

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Thank you @watchweasol. I did manage to find a mentor in my city whom I call for advice (Covid put a brake on in-person) and who lends me tools and parts. I feel it will be like @nickelsilver
says - a combo of practice, reading, talking to others, and maybe a cert if someday I wake up and realize I have the skills required to pass.

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My long term plan is also to be good in watchmaking and to open a little shop where I would restore vintage watches occasionally so I bough a till for it. 🙂

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Unfortunately I just saw this and now I would like to upgrade. 🙂

 

 

Edited by luiazazrambo
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