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Watch Repair As A Growth Industry

March 17th, 2008 · 3 Comments

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Also from BusinessWeek (good stuff from them this week)…

Lets think of offbeat places to look for work. Every time I’m in the mall, I see that little store that makes keys, and fixes shoes and repairs watches.

I always wonder… how do stores like that survive? Every mall has them. I’ve never given them more than a couple of shekles to make a copy of a key.

But they go on. They never seem to go away. And maybe, just maybe, they’re doing quite well.

According to BusinessWeek, watch repair (at least) is a center for job growth. Apparently, luxury watch sales continue to do gangbusters business, reporting an 11% year over year sales increase in January.

But watch repairers? They’re scarce. (Stick with me on this… this isn’t just a “wow that’s neat” item… there’s a lesson to be learned at the end of this…)

What was once a bustling U.S. industry, with 44,000 skilled workers in the 1950s, now employs just 4,400 people (average age, 62)—not enough to meet demand, say industry leaders. How to get more hands? In February, Rolex pledged $1 million for scholarships and equipment to the two-year watchmaking program at Oklahoma State University at Okmulgee, the third U.S. college of the 10 offering such programs to benefit from the Swiss watchmaker’s largesse. And trade group American Watch Guild just announced a program to steer former soldiers into the field. Its War Veteran’s Watchmaker Initiative will give scholarships and arrange apprenticeships, making a special effort to recruit disabled vets.

Hmmm. Maybe a lesson to be learned here.

We’ve become accustomed to an economy where, if something breaks, you just buy a new one.

But that doesn’t count for high priced items like luxury watches that cost as much as some cars. Like your car, you’re more likely to fix the problem before getting a new one.

Just speculating here… half of America has upgraded to fancy new flatscreen tvs over the last couple of years. At about $3-$5k a pop.

Especially if the economy is in the doldrums, people are unlikely to pitch in for a replacement. They’re more likely to pay to repair the one they’ve got.

Is there a bull market in Plasma Screen technicians?

If the economy has turned south, could a generalization be made that the repairers of the world, the people let let you keep what you’ve got instead of shelling out for new big ticket items… they’re the ones who will do well?

In a hunker down economy, the best jobs are the people that sell you the bomb shelters.

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Tags: Jobs

  • Ron Canda

    Being in the industry for over 37 yrs I agree with your point. This was a great informative write up.

    Thanks for sharing!


  • Keith Thomas

    I got out of watch school in 79 , had my own shop till 03. Repaired clocks also. Clock repair held up ok but watch repair went to s;:,,; changed careers Got tierd of two dollaring every one to death .. I didn’t spend 2 yrs in horology school to repair Cheap watch bands. It really gave me a bad attitude !

  • Smitty

    Opened a store last year. Business is o.k. I charge 25-50 bucks for new glass, glass cost is .34-.70 cents. Other parts of the watch needing attention cost varies. People are willing to repair what they have if you can sell the repair. It is called “work”, you cannot just be a watch repair person. Sales, advertising and great customer service are key. I used to pick vegetables, then some old guy taught me this trade. School is for geeks.