HARRISON, Ohio – The American Watchmakers and Clockmakers Institute has been around for 60 years. But it’s membership has never been so low.
- AWCI membership has dropped from 10,000 to 1,500
- AWCI museum has 1,200 timepieces dating back hundreds of years
- Mobile classroom travels the country to generate interest and educate individuals about horology
Sure, there are automated facilities and companies that mass produce timepieces.
But the true art of making the watch or designing a magnificent clock is losing popularity.
“The average age of a professional watchmaker today is just over 62-years-old, and there are a lot more of them in that age group than my age group,” said American Watchmakers and Clockmakers Institute Executive Director Jordan Ficklin.
“We see the numbers declining rapidly. So we need to have more people involved to keep this art alive for future generations.”
Ficklin said during its peak, AWCI had around 10,000 members. Today, it has 1,500 members across the world. Ficklin said AWCI loses about 3 percent of its members each year.
“There aren’t enough watchmakers or clockmakers in the world right now. If you have a timepiece that needs repairing, you will struggle to find someone to do it in a timely fashion.”
AWCI has more 1,200 timepieces – roughly 600 on display at a given time at the museum. Some, dating back hundreds of years and others more recent – like a watch gifted to President Roosevelt.
While AWCI makes sure to preserve its history, they’ve also ramped up its outreach to promote interest in horology.
“We’re out in the community introducing people to horology. We think it’s important that we have lots of people involved and enjoying mechanical timepieces.”
The new Archie Perkins Mobile Horology Classroom was unveiled in the spring. The retrofitted RV has already logged 15,000 miles and made stops in San Francisco, Boston, and Tampa.
It sure beats the old way of using hotel conference rooms to reach people.
“We’ve been doing mobile training for many many years – since we began in 1960 really in hotels and ballrooms. With the mobile classroom we know have ergonomic benches, fully equipped with all the right tools, good lighting and the equipment we need to clean watches and clocks on board.”
Ficklin said only seven schools in the U.S. offer the required 2-year programs for horology. Someone interested in a career working with clocks and watches could also get certified through an apprenticeship program. The pay could be in the six-figures with the shortage of good watch fixers.
In addition to the mobile classroom, AWCI also has classrooms at its Harrison location. Ficklin said professionals often use the classroom to renew certifications and learn new techniques.
AWCI also has a research library with publications chronically hundreds of years of horology.
Anyone interested in classes at AWCI, using the research library, or visiting the museum should call 866-FOR-AWCI Ext 301 to check hours.