Clock is ticking as Canada's only watchmaking school prepares to close
Published Saturday, January 26, 2013 2:21PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, January 26, 2013 6:49PM EST
TROIS-RIVIERES -- Time may be running out for Canada's only watchmaking school.
The Quebec government says it's not viable to keep the École nationale de l'horlogerie open, because there aren't enough students or demand for jobs in this digital world.
Those who run the school and the students all say, however, that's not the case.
Hunched over desks, dealing with pieces sometimes so small, they're barely visible to the naked eye, needless to say patience is a must for students at the Trois-Rivieres-based school.
“If you don't have patience -- you can have the best eyesight, the best dexterity -- you won't make it in the job,” said future watchmaker Jonathan Ng, a student at the school.
It’s a craft he’s close to mastering, and isa calling he loves.
“The very fact that you can have something so small and do something so precise -- and that's what amazes me. When you open this up, you open up into a whole new world,” he said.
With the government’s plans to close the school, however, that world could soon be closed for good.
That’s something future watchmaker Marek Kowalewski said he never wants to see happen.
“Close the course down will be paramount to walking into a library and burning books, rare books, that you may never not ever find a copy of again,” he said.
Last June, a committee from Quebec's education department looked at enrolment and demand and found there wasn't enough of either.
“It’s mainly because the demand for workers in that sector they preview for the next five years to be about 50,” said Luc Galvani, director of professional services for the Chemin-du-Roy School Board.
That's just not true, said teacher Robert Plourde.
Despite the digital world and having access to time on our phones, there are jobs and there’s still a market for watches.
“Watchmaking is an old craft of the future,” he said, adding that closing down the last school in Canada would be a catastrophe.
“Nobody will have the knowledge to put watches and clocks back in good condition, so there will be a big problem,” he said.
It's not just about repairing clocks and watches, he said, it's about the mechanisms behind things like vaults, as well.
“You have mechanical movement in that door that has to be service every year to keep with all the insurance companies,” said he said.
And there's another allure to the watchmaker, said Ng.
“Even if the part doesn't exist anymore, or the company doesn't exist anymore, a watchmaker can always make that piece,” he said.
The school is still in talks with the education department and they are hoping for an 11th-hour change of heart.