FORT WORTH – It’s hard to ignore the lure of luxury.
On a quest for that perfection are eight students in Fort Worth. Eight students who spend eight hours inside a lab each day, perched on stools and hunched over workbenches.
“It’s rigorous, for sure, and it takes a lot of stamina to do it,” said instructor Russ Peddy. “Sometimes they come in on Saturdays, sometimes they stay late. Depends on what we’re doing at the time...It’s a lot of time.”
The students here are learning how to make and repair watches. But this is no ordinary trade school. Instead, this is the prestigious North American Institute of Swiss Watchmaking – one of only a few watchmaking schools in the country. Tuition and tools are free while students take care of living expenses.
The institute is run by Richemont a company that happens to own some of the world’s most exclusive watch brands. And as the number of watch companies continue to grow, coupled with watch designs becoming more and more complex, a new generation of skilled watchmakers are in high demand, said the school’s director, John Sokol.
“Not many people realize that there are such things as watchmakers, or, the watch industry. They realize that there are pieces there, but how did they get there,” Sokol said. “It’s very demanding, you have to have the right skills, it’s not something that you can just do.”
There are between 200 and 300 applicants from around the globe for the eight coveted seats here. Applicants must be patient, mechanical, and pretty good at math.
Elizabeth potter made the cut. The former seamstress trekked from Michigan to Texas to be trained here. She said the learning curve is high and that the struggle is very real.
“It absolutely is tough,” she said. “I thought I was going to be great, and there were a couple times where I was sitting in my apartment crying, like what did I do. Why am I doing this?”
Ask Elizabeth if uprooting her life or the tear-filled nights were worth it and she’s quick to answer: “Absolutely,” she said and laughed.
This may be a watchmaking school, but these second-year students are learning all about harmony.
Casey Salinas was immediately intrigued by watchmaking after reading a magazine article about the school. Originally from Richardson, he turned in his middle school band conductor baton for an eye loupe.
“I’ve always enjoyed learning how things work and being very hands on growing up. Never had the opportunity to do it 9 to 5,” he said. “I had no idea what this was until about a year-and-a-half ago.”
Learning the craft of fine watchmaking can be a grind, but the key to success is all in the timing.