OSUIT Graduates First SAWTA Certified Watchmakers

(Okmulgee, OK) — The new Rolex-sponsored watchmaker training program pioneered at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology is underway, with industry representatives citing excellent results. The Swiss American Watchmakers Training Alliance (SAWTA) is a national educational program designed to create watchmaking professionals who set a new standard of service within the luxury watch market in the United States.

Heinz Leuenberger, Director of Technical Field Services for Rolex U.S.A., was recently on campus to recognize the first class of SAWTA graduates. “All of OSUIT’s SAWTA certified watchmaking graduates are raising the benchmark in their positions within the luxury watch market.” The OSUIT watchmaking program currently has 16 students enrolled pursuing SAWTA credentialing, with program expansion scheduled over the next 24 months.

To develop the program, OSUIT Faculty members Jason Ziegenbein and Jason Champion collaborated with Rolex U.S.A., American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWCI), the premiere watchmaker trade association dedicated to the advancement of horology, along with two other Rolex-sponsored schools.

SAWTA Director Herman Mayer oversees the new curriculum, examinations and processes for certification.“This curriculum is designed to expand the after-sales service capabilities of U.S. watchmakers employed by fine watch retailers.It consists of two intense years, which forge the success of future watchmaking professionals in all aspects of after-sales service; from customer consultation, through watch movement and case service, to logistics and quality control.It’s extremely efficient.”

“SAWTA schools all use the single comprehensive final exam,” says James Lubic, AWCI’s executive director.“Those who pass it receive the professional certifications of SAWTA, AWCI and the diplomas of their respective schools.”

“Key to the success of the program is a holistic approach that replicates the workplace, encouraging higher level problem solving and critical thinking,” says Champion. “The SAWTA curriculum is responsive to the needs of the U.S. market and incorporates not only technical competencies, but also business management, customer service and soft skills necessary to excel in the 21st century watchmaking profession.”

“Students see a clear path from classroom to career, learning to put their work in context of the customer’s expectations,” says Ziegenbein. “Most watch owners prefer their watches to be serviced at their area retail jeweler by a competent watchmaking professional with whom they are acquainted. The craftsmanship that goes into the creation of such a timepiece should be supported at the same level in after sales service and care. Individual and direct relationships between the watch owner and the professionals who service these timepieces are becoming increasingly important, as owners of high-end watches gain a stronger passion for the technical dimension.”

As students enter the program, they begin by creating and visualizing technical drawings — learning how to communicate effectively through technical documentation; a core competency for watchmakers. Projects build upon previous competencies, culminating in the ‘School Watch’ assignment. Students are given a block of material, no instructions and are required to apply and transfer knowledge gained in previous projects to create major structural components of a watch movement. “They acquire the ability to utilize knowledge as well as an appreciation of general design principles applied in the high end watchmaking culture,” says Champion.

“What has been developed is a revolutionary watchmaking education program for the future,” says Anita Gordy-Watkins, Vice President, University and External Relations for OSUIT. “Rolex’s five-year financial commitment of $1 million has provided invaluable support for the program. They’ve been side by side with OSUIT and AWCI throughout development of a comprehensive curriculum that prepares students to work on luxury timepieces.”

The next class of OSUIT watchmaking students will graduate in December of 2010 and other Rolex-sponsored schools in the U.S. are now using the SAWTA program.“Working with Rolex Watch U.S.A. and AWCI provides a great fit for our university,” says OSUIT President Robert Klabenes.“We’ve been involved with watchmaking and watch repair since the university was founded in 1946.The world of luxury watch service has a distinct and unique culture, and the SAWTA program enables us to infuse our students with that culture in a manner that most readily meets the needs and expectations of customers in the U.S.”

Updated 03-04-2010

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