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Time for Training

Richemont opened the Hong Kong Kong Institute of Watchmaking in 2009, one of only three in the world 

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. 

 
To achieve consistency between the Institute of Swiss Watchmaking (IOSW) in different countries, the same curriculum is delivered in Hong Kong at its Lai Chi Kok address as in the other institutes in Dallas and Shanghai. “Our programme gives students both practical and theoretical training to develop them as a Swiss watchmaker,” said Mr Bauder. “In addition, we are in partnership with WOSTEP (the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program), which is internationally recognised as the education leader in watchmaking within the Swiss watchmaking industry.”

Hands-On Experience 

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 

Francois Bauder, Director, Hong Kong Kong Institute of Watchmaking

 
Another institution providing watchmaking training is the Institute of Vocational Education (IVE), which offers a Higher Diploma in Horological Science and Technology at its Department of Engineering Management and Technology at the Lee Wai Lee Campus in Tseung Kwan O. “Our department has offered courses related to watch repairing since 1979, but the original courses have been gradually modified and upgraded to the current course,” said Raymond Liu, Deputy Course Leader. He and one other member of the IVE team hold WOSTEP Trainer Certificates.  

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
 

The Institute of Vocational Education offers a Higher Diploma in Horological Science and Technology at its Department
of Engineering Management
and Technology

“These courses are mainly related to the structure and functioning of mechanical and quartz watches and focus on those watchmaking techniques needed to repair different kinds of quartz and mechanical modules, movements and watches,” he said. A Professional Diploma in Watch Repairing (QF Level 4) is under development by the department and will be introduced in September 2013, Mr Liu said. “As there is a desperate shortage of qualified watchmakers in Hong Kong to repair esteemed timepieces such as Patek Philippe and Rolex, these types of watchmaking courses are needed to upgrade the skills of watch repairers,” he added. 

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.

Related Links
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

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