12 Sept 2012
Time for Training
Richemont opened the Hong Kong Institute of Swiss Watchmaking in 2009, one of only three in the world, to address growing demand for Swiss watches in Asia
With the most esteemed watch brands Swiss-made – including Patek Philippe, Rolex and Omega – Switzerland remains the undisputed watch capital of the world. It has been so ever since the 16th century, when brands such as Vacheron Constantin began crafting timepieces in Geneva’s Vallee de Joux, which is frequently referred to as the birthplace of Swiss horology.
Hong Kong is an avid consumer of these luxury watch brands, with specialist auctioneers such as Antiquorum, as well as Sotheby’s and Christie’s, frequently showing its most rare and coveted lots in the city. According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH, Hong Kong recorded an upswing of more than 28 percent in 2011 for Swiss watch exports. As a result, there is a growing need for qualified watchmakers in the region to service these prestigious timepieces.
Swiss luxury goods holding company Richemont, which owns Piaget, IWC and Vacheron Constantin among others, has addressed the growing need for qualified watchmakers in the city by opening the Hong Kong Kong Institute of Swiss Watchmaking (HKIOSW) in 2009. The school is one of only three in the world, with the other two based in Dallas, in the United States, and Shanghai. Francois Bauder, Director of HKIOSW, says Hong Kong’s strategic location – in the centre of East Asia – represents a hub for young professional watchmakers serving the burgeoning market for Swiss watches in the Asia Pacific. To ensure maximum attention is given to each student, the annual intake of the two-year long course is restricted to six students.
Mr Bauder believes HKIOSW graduates may even be able to challenge the expertise and long tradition associated with Swiss watchmakers by offering the best in professional watchmaking instruction. “Over the two-year course, students receive 3,000 hours worth of training. The emphasis is on hands-on experience, so there are 2,400 hours dedicated to practical training and 600 hours’ worth of theory.” Practical training consists of classes in micro mechanics, covering filing, sawing, drilling, heat-treating, turning and other operations necessary to manufacture parts of a watch such as a winding stem and balance staff. The theoretical element covers every aspect from materials to technical drawing.
Francois Bauder, Director, Hong Kong Kong Institute of Watchmaking
In addition to the Higher Diploma in Horological Science and Technology, a series of Skills Upgrading Scheme (SUS) courses and SUS-Plus courses have been offered since September 2005, all of which are supported by the Federation of Hong Kong Watch Trades and Industries and the Hong Kong Watch Manufacturers Association.
The Institute of Vocational Education offers a Higher Diploma in Horological Science and Technology at its Department
About 52 per cent of its graduates are employed by Rolex, Swatch Group and Richemont, which are the three largest Swiss watch groups, noted Mr Liu, who added the institute would offer a wider variety of watchmaking courses, with the ultimate goal of boosting the number of qualified watchmakers based in the city. With Hong Kong now the world’s largest retail market for Swiss watches, there will be no shortage of timepieces for any horology graduate to service and repair.
The Federation of Hong Kong Watch Trades & Industries Ltd
Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE)
Hong Kong Institute of Watchmaking Ltd (HKIOSW)
Hong Kong Watch Manufacturers Association
Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program