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Guest Horlogerie

From the Watchmakers Bench - BHI Exams Practical work

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Guest Horlogerie

Practical work examples from the British Horological Institute Certification Exams


There are a number of ways you can learn watchmaking, some require you to attend a school or college for a number of years (WOSTEP is a good example, 24 months of training) others have a program of self-study and do-it-at-home in your own time, and some require you to pass a set of exams in order to be certified.


I did a lot of research when I decided that I wanted to challenge myself and see if I had what it takes to become certified as a professional watchmaker.


First off,I made inquiries and visited a WOSTEP school here in France, but the thought of spending 30,000 euros on the course alone, then there was the living costs and the loss of an income for 2 years, when it was all added up, WOSTEP was not something I could justify or financially absorb. Next I looked at some of the watchmaker certification programs in other countries, and in one case what I came across was a joke, one organization required a few practical tests and had a sample exam, a sample of which I reviewed, and when I read the questions and my wife answered 8 our of 10 correctly, I knew they were not what I was looking for, so what to do?


Finally I came across the DLC program offered by the BHI, and the Certification Exams, and after a bit of research, realized that it was perfect for my requirements. The BHI Exam requirements are demanding, more so than a WOSTEP program in my opinion: the BHI requires servicing dozens of movements, numerous written essay type exams, portfolio watches, and fabricating numerous parts and pieces to tolerances as high as +- 0.05mm.


So I though it would be of interest to the readers to gain some insight into an area of horology they may know little about, the practical certification process, and to see a small sample of some of the parts and pieces that I had to make for my BHI exams.


First up a small clock part:


Here is what you get in raw form, some high carbon steel, and some brass



You are sent a drawing of the parts you need to make, here is what the raw materials were turned into:



Flame blued, love this colour




The brass rod



The various parts before assembly



And the results




Next up, a cock, plate, arbour, jewel, and screw.


As above you are sent raw material to work with.


Working on the cock first, holes drilled




Then, I mount it in the lathe and start turning it down



Making progress



More progress with the alignment dowels installed and more finishing







A view of the underside of the mounting plate




With the cock installed




Screw fabrication










Arbour fabrication




All the parts finished




Final assembly






These are only two examples of the many parts I had to make or repair by hand, there is much more fabricating required as you progress in the examinations. I Hope this sheds some light on an area of watchmaking that you don't see very often. 


Thanks for reading.

Edited by Horlogerie

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That's really interesting and something I'd like to learn a lot more about. I've found a course that seems right for me (in terms of budget and time commitment) but annoyingly they've scrapped the one due to start in Jan and I now have to wait until Sept. So until then I'll continue tinkering at home and learning what I can and devouring your posts!

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Fascinating stuff. My dad is a keen Amat and has a workshop full of watchmaking equipment but I struggle to imagine how I'll learn the necessary skills. Was thinking of trying the BHI introduction course but finding the time is so difficult with work & kids.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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I did the cock and plate. Although for some reason that year we had to turn a full staff and jewel both ends. What a pain! What did you use to blue?

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Guest Horlogerie

Thank you for the positive feedback.

Indeed it does take quite a bit of equipment: lathes, vertical mills, cross slides, taps and dies, etc, but it's all tooling I use in the workshop so it's not wasted.

The blueing is done the correct way, that being heat treatment vs paint or ink. I place the part in a small metal container that I fill with brass fillings, then it's put on the stove top and slowly heat it and monitor the colour change, from light straw, to dark straw, to violet and finally to blue. You have to be careful to not go past the blue or it will be ruined and you have to start over again. The part needs to be perfectly clean with no lint or dust or finger prints or oil etc.

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Great stuff, and I can certainly see the appeal.

Having said that most people don't have all that equipment laying around.

I was thinking about setting up a bench and starting to play around with jewellery again, I could easily spend far more on tooling than I am liable to earn.  Such practicalities (including where do I make space for a workshop) are impediments that are discouraging to many.

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Excellent, thank you for posting! I have recently enrolled in the BHI distance learning course, but I am yet to make a start on the practical exercises. I have bought the material for the first one (hand removal levers), just need to find some time :)


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