Sunday, October 30, 2011

A few calculations and how not to become a Watchmaker

Watchmaking is intense.  More so when you are learning the trade and trying to concentrate to your fullest.  We didn't have jobs while going to Watchmaking school.  The opportunity cost of that decision was about $50,000 per year.  The cost of school was conservatively $15,000.  The move to the new job was about $5000, but I will not consider our real estate losses as that may have happened anyway...if we had moved for a different job (in no way a certainty), but it was well over $100,000.   The result of not being made a Watchmaker at Rolex was very conservatively over $125,000 for us. 

I expect that I will never know the real reason why I was kept a Technician while others were hired immediately as Watchmakers and would only spend 1 or 2 months as a Technician before moving on to a Watchmaking position.  Myself, I was kept there as a Tech for 2 years, and while I was not the fastest nor the slowest of our group, in the end it did not matter.  All of us were coached on a monthly basis and informed that we were neither good enough nor fast enough at what we did.  The fastest lady had ulcers.  Others in our group showed signs of stress in different ways.  None of us was good enough.  Near the end I was informed that if I didn't improve that it was unlikely I would be promoted to Watchmaker as I had origonally been promised.  That was how bad that "coaching" became.  Shortly afterwords, upper management parroted the same line to me and it was then that I new my career was over.

Please understand, It takes at least 2 years of intense training to even begin to be safe working on a watch, with many years more of working in a probationary type of mode.  You must be so careful!  And this is only if you can make it through 2 years of classes and then to make it through all of the final tests.   Finally you must take a bench test at your new job if you are going to find employment at all.  Again, I was not near the bottom of my class, so I did pretty good throughout, but at Rolex, I was required to basically take 2 years off and just install dials and hands.  I am unaware of anyone that can retain all of that information, not to mention that intense level of skill without using it for 2 years straight.  Especially when your self respect and dignity are whittled away on an at least a monthly basis until you are basically ashamed to go to work any more.

Maybe if I was thinner, or younger, or dressed better, or even had attended the Rolex school as had the other more favored employees.  Maybe if I was a social butterfly or was a total suck-up.  Maybe then.  I expect to never know the why of it, and if I was told, I would probably not believe it at this point anyway.  

You don't have to lie if the truth is at your back. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rolex makes a nice watch too.

I was surprised to find so many people in the industry that disliked the "Top Dog".  I would be talking to a jewelry store owner or Manager about watches and would find a general dislike for the brand.  Maybe I shouldn't say "the brand" because usually it was about the way people were treated by the company or how controlling they were when it came to anything from parts to the smallest image detail.  Nothing was too miniscule to over scrutinize when it came to The Image.  And the world has never seen a company that spent more time and effort when it came to controling parts and inventory.  Wether it was in the companies hands or that of an affiliate.

I once heard someone in upper management telling of how a Company representative would walk into a prospective jewelry store to determine if the store might end up selling their watches.  If anything was amiss in the slightest way, the Representative would simply walk out  of the store without another word or the slightest explanation as to why.  The message was clearly; if you have the clout to act haughty and arrogant and can find a reason to, then perhaps you should.  Thus reinforcing your position of superiority through shear audacity, however distasteful it may be.

While I am on the subject of management, I found it interesting to note that while it is often good practice to promote from within, under certain circumstances a business may end up being run by an entire team of people that has no real business experience, much less education beyond technical training.  Generally, Watchmakers are wonderful, ingenious, diligent workers.  They do not however  tend to be naturally business minded, overly educated (at least what I saw), or in any way socially skilled. 

In a business where higher education is not  an automatic requirement, I believe a business culture is able to de-evolve into a more emotion based routine with tradition being used as the rudder and pride and determination (BFH) the powering force.  Unfortunately, excessive pride can cause a company to aim for class and dignity while ending up with nothing more than fear and intimidation.  On the other hand, the gold still polishes up nicely, so what does it matter?  If you place your factory far enough away from other job opportunities and mostly hire those that are desperate for an income, this can work out rather nicely...assuming you can keep a lid on the facts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

There have been times in my life that, looking back seem to have a golden glow.  Where dreams and actions and people and places come together to create a slice of life that just works out a little better than we are used to.  Maybe a little bit better than we could hope for.

One of the best 2 years of my life occurred while I was in watchmaking school.  The first year was spent in both physical and mental refinement,  grinding away at excess movement and any thought that kept us out of the zone where watchmaker go to do their finest work.  We worked on accuracy first and then worked toward the next level of smallness.  At each step and at each new challenge we were asked to accomplish, there was a sense of doubt across the whole class.   It all seemed too impossible, too difficult, and yet we were able to concur each new challenge.  Sharing ideas and strategies and helping each other out the best we could.

I continue to be impressed at how much respect we all had for each other.  We came from very diverse backgrounds.  Construction worker, Social Worker, Medical Doctor, Professor, Machinist, IT professional, Aircraft Mechanic.  These people and the instructors genuinely added to my life and I am blessed to have known them.

After 2 wonderful and hope filled years in training, I passed the final tests and was offered a job working for a large mechanical watch manufacturer in rural Pennsylvania.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The search for another meaningful, career quality job was going no where and after a while a person gets to feeling a little desperate.  Maybe I was a little too wishful.

I wasn't even calling the school about watchmaking.  It was some other career path that I was looking into when I found myself, almost unwillingly waiting for this guy that was going to talk to me about Watchmaking.  Never had it crossed my mind to follow this course, but the guy on the other end seemed to know just what I needed to hear.  He talked for maybe 20 minutes, then I thought about it for another 30 and after double checking with him on a few other points, I knew what I would be doing until I retired in about 25 more years.