Mr. Drici explained that the brand’s needs for watchmaking knowledge had evolved in recent years. “For example, we need qualified watchmaking operators on our assembly lines that we train through a two-year watchmaking training,” he wrote. “For our customer service department, we require experienced watchmakers who can perform acts of restoration, while we will look for highly qualified watchmakers for our Maison des Métiers d’Art, a pioneering facility in the world of watchmaking opened in 2015 to preserve and develop artisanal crafts.”
The demand for vintage and pre-owned watches also has fueled the shortage of qualified watchmakers to inspect, repair and certify watches. “For this work, you cannot use operator technicians; you need people with a higher level of expertise,” Mr. Kunz-Fernandez of WOSTEP said. “The smart brands and companies are grabbing watchmakers with more knowledge so they can attain and grow in this sort of business.”
Geographic location also may play a role in the work-force shortage. Some observers, for example, say that anyone with training in Geneva already has been hired by one of the many brands headquartered there.
Édouard Meylan, chief executive of H. Moser & Cie, said it could take his small independent company two years to find a qualified watchmaker to join its staff of 30 watchmakers and support personnel. But because there are so few brands in and around its base of Schaffhausen, on Switzerland’s border with Germany, it has an advantage over watch brands in the country’s western, French-speaking regions, he said.
“Because there is a shortage, watchmakers expect salaries that are out of this world, so it was very complicated for us as an independent brand,” Mr. Meylan said in a video interview from town, also known as the home of IWC. “But we worked with the school in Grenchen, and the last six or seven people we hired came from there,” he said, referring to ZeitZentrum, one of the seven schools in the country. “They are young and dynamic, and they all speak German.”
As Mr. Meylan noted, the shortage of workers has led to higher pay rates in many locations. In Switzerland, for example, the average annual salary seems to be the equivalent of about $65,000, according to Mr. Kunz-Fernandez of WOSTEP.