Learn about this field by getting a part-time job in a shop where watches and clocks are repaired and sold. Even a basic job, such as helping with cleaning and stock deliveries, can provide a good opportunity to observe a skilled watch or clock repairer at work. Jewelry shops often hire high school or college students for part-time jobs during the holiday seasons.
Hobbies and shop courses that require dexterity and patience in using hand tools can provide another way of exploring similar activities and developing manual skills. Some students explore their interest in detailed crafts by learning to repair precision instruments while serving in the military.
The American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute and your local library are good sources of information about watch repair history and the profession.
Watches and clocks are complex machines with many small parts, and repairing them requires precision and delicacy. The ability to locate and correct defects is an important and necessary skill for watch and clock repairers. They employ a standard, systematic procedure to track down defects, sometimes using information from customers about the history and previous repairs of the timepiece. Some problems arise from incorrect replacement or improper fitting of parts. Careless pushing, pulling, or turning the winding device can also cause problems by making parts too tight or too loose, or permitting dust to enter the mechanism.
The first step is usually opening the case to examine the mechanism. Often with the aid of a magnifying eyeglass, or loupe, repairers check for defective parts and dirt and inspect the springs for rust and incorrect alignment. They may repair or replace such parts as the mainspring, hairspring, jewels or pivots, and escapements. With older timepieces, they may have to make parts in order for the device to function properly. They may clean the mechanism with a cleaning solution or ultrasonic sound waves. Timepieces that must be oiled need a delicate touch because excessive amounts of oil, or oil placed in the wrong spots, can cause the mechanism to operate improperly. When the work is complete, the timepiece must be reassembled so that parts fit properly.
Repairers use a number of specialized tools and devices in their work. A timing machine is used to check the accuracy of timepieces. Watches and clocks that show erratic timekeeping are checked for magnetism and may be demagnetized. When diagnosing problems in electric and electronic timepieces, watch and clock repairers may use various meters and other testing equipment. They may also use hand tools, such as pliers, files, pin vises, tweezers, turns, and lathes in their work.
Many watch and clock repairers, especially those who are self-employed or work in a retail store, also repair jewelry and sell items such as clocks, watches, jewelry, china, and silverware. Those working in large stores and shops may have managerial or supervisory duties as well. Repairers who have their own shops often must order parts and merchandise, keep accounts, arrange for advertising, and perform other tasks required to maintain an efficient and profitable business.