Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Well, the day is finally about to arrive (September 16)!  After two years of living a split existence between my home on weekends in Berkeley Springs and weekdays in York, Pennsylvania, I'm finally done.  I lived in an old rooming house in downtown York (see picture below) and my small school was a few blocks away.  Two years is enough time to develop a habit of living and, waking this morning, I still felt like I had to make the 100+ mile drive to York this morning.  But I didn't and that's a good and a bad thing.  Good because I can now call my home my home again.  Bad because a phase of my life has ended, probably for good.  I'm sentimental about such things and this latest venture has often brought me nostalgic feelings about starting graduate school at New York University in 1980.  That period ended in 1985 when I packed up and went to a post-doctoral fellowship at Northwestern University, both now over 30 years ago.  

So what can I say about watchmaking school?  When  I first started I wrote down on this website some of my initial impressions and followed it with an occasional update.  For those who have the time and the resources I would say, go for it!  It accelerates one's progress because you don't have to re-invent the wheel--something to be avoided unless you have a real affinity for wheels!  I don't.  For those who, like me were complete newbees, knowing nothing about the watch and clockmaking communities, it will allow you to quickly set up a network of fellow craftsmen.  In my case going to York was very much like going to the historical heart of American watchmaking.  Relatively speaking, there are a lot of watchmakers in central Pennsylvania; probably because nearby Lancaster was the home of the Hamilton Watch Company.  It still is the location of the RGM Watch Company whose watches I greatly admire.  Because of school I am now a member of the NAWCC, the Central Pennsylvania Watchmakers & Clockmakers Guild and the Horological Society of New York.  Also it provided me with a steep ramp-up on acquiring tools--which our craft employs a greater complement than almost any other.  I probably would never have seriously considered obtaining a watchmaker's lather or, if I had, not known how to get one that was both useful and reasonably priced.  Sure you can get modern one's but they're pretty expensive and, frankly, appear to lack to quality of the older "vintage" lathes.  But you have to be careful as there's a lot of old stuff that's been sorely abused and, unless you have a machinist background and recondition them yourself, not worth purchasing.  Also what do you get: 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, or does it matter?  (Actually, in America 8mm was the most popular and has the most available accessories.)  Another advantage to me was that I was forced to work on pieces.  Alone, my lack of self-discipline and my harsh internal critic, operant while working alone, pre-school, made it difficult to accept new challenges and complete work.  I won't say I have this completely under wraps but I have now worked on a fairly broad range of pieces and have more confidence now.  And it has cured me of one disease that I've heard some watchmakers say they had to be cured of: the feeling that you have to save every watch!  Many I let go but am careful to inventory as parts watches.  Also my fear of breakage is diminished; partly because I feel more confident that I can recover from a blunder and partly because I see my fellow students blunder and realize screwing up is part of the learn process and continues into common experience even for the experienced.  (Which is not to say that I don't continue to work towards lowering my blunder rate!)

Many will want to know whether or not I am a real, "stand-up", watchmaker like some members of this website?  Probably not, though I can see real progress.  It's a cliché that schooling, in any discipline, only takes you so far.  The rest depends on time served and degree of dedication.  As a former teacher, let us not get too hung up on a word I deliberately omitted, talent!  Sure there are individuals who have it but my experience is that the bulk of progress is made by people of ordinary ability applying themselves conscientiously.  Getting in there with our screwdrivers and tweezers is where, for the individual, our craft starts to take form.  My only regret is that, at 66 years old, I won't have enough time to dedicate, say, 40 years to strive for a truly high level of achievement.  This is where youth beats old age.  Nothing can be done about it, though, except to provide a cautionary tale to those who are still young.  Like most youth's I figured real self-examination, as to who I really was and what I would really like to do, fostered upon me by old dotards who weren't as smart as I was.  Youth thinks  the world is its oyster.  Would that they could know otherwise.  Sometimes, infrequently, individual youths do "get it" and listen to their elders.  So be it but, whether they heed or not, at least those reading this can't say they never heard it from me.

The attached pictures are two view of where I lived in York.  The house is a nice example of antebellum architecture and is on the local historical registry.  The very top floor was the servant's (some would say slave's) quarters.  I had a very nice room with a beautiful black marble fireplace which I show decorated with some silly gewgaws I obtained from a local second-hand store.  It's all been packed up and taken home, never to be so arranged again (some might say, amen to that!).  I'll miss it and my housemates whom I hope to see from time to time.

Finally I have a job interview in Philadelphia's diamond district later this month.   In America there are jobs for watchmakers going unfilled.  If they make the right offer then maybe my wife and I will, once again, pull up stakes and start a new chapter in our lives, in a totally unforeseen area to live.  Who would have guessed Philly after living in NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C.  Life is full so unlikely tributaries.  But we'll see. :thumbsu:







  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very well done indeed Douglas, and thank you for a great description of your journey.  

I too am sixty six, but did not have the dedication to complete a full course on horology, may path was very much a self taught one with help from folk on this forum, and Mark Lovic in particular.

I wish you all the very best for your future life in horology, and look forward to reading your posts in the future.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 7 months later...

I am 59 and have been repairing watches and pocket watches for only 4 years. Jumped in with both feet and have every tool, with the exception of a hairspring adjustment timer. That said, I would love that experience. I am an Electrical Engineer (Management) working I aerospace and I find the technical aspects combined with the manual skills my cup of tee. I have always thought of just getting rid of everything and doing just what you did. My wife may kill me though. I also do closeup magic and have been playing guitar for 50 years and those passions are at a similar level to my watchmaking...although I do love solving problems. Thanks for sharing your experiences, very inspirational.

Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...


Thank you so much for posting this. You have inspired me more than I can articulate. 

I currently live in Florida with my wife and newborn, but we are moving to Pennsylvania, where I grew up, in January.

I have been speaking to her about the possibility of going to the Lititz school in York. Approaching my 30th birthday this October, I have yet to find my calling and am unhappy with my job. I am hoping that once I am done with Mark's courses that I am currently going through now, that I will find that this is my calling. 

Hopefully we will be able to make it work financially, as that will be our biggest obstacle. However, reading your post, I can't help but be inspired and optimistic that we will find a way to make it work. 

If you ever have the time, please PM me so that we can chat!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...