OSU-Okmulgee Is Home To Timely Program

Sunday, October 8th 2006, 2:07 pm
By: News On 6

OKMULGEE, Okla. (AP) _ Those who like to take things apart and put them back together, especially on a small scale, are learning a time-tested and rarely taught craft at Oklahoma State University-Okmulgee.

The college recently accepted a $1.1 million sponsorship from the Swiss watch industry to keep right on ticking into the future with its luxury watchmaking program.

The university is one of only five schools in the nation that offer the WOSTEP, or Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program.

Because the two-year program is unique, it attracts students from across the country as well as abroad.

Watchmaking students could be mistaken for doctors in their ties and white lab coats. The professional appearance is a requirement.

``People are not going to hand over a $5,000 watch to someone in jeans and a T-shirt,'' said Eric Hays, a 22-year-old student from Cincinnati.

Hays' interest in watches began as a collector; then he found out he could make a living at it.

Their concentration on such tiny moving mechanisms is extremely focused and steady.

Tokyo student Kentaro Uchiyama said it is like looking at a tiny universe.

Instructor Stan McMahan said the industry needs watchmakers and the demand is in the area of luxury watches.

``It's very expensive to repair high-grade watches . . . $500 to $1,000,'' he said.

Students learn how to reassemble timepieces, which McMahan said are really nothing more than sophisticated counting devices. They learn to put a watch in a condition so it can be timed and regulated. The more math a person can manage, the quicker they can solve the problem.

If you like to know how gearings and all the rest of the small mechanisms inside a watch work, you might enjoy being a watchmaker, students say.

``I like to sit and do things with my hands,'' said Jeana Kroes, a second-year student from Rapid City, S.D., noting that WOSTEP sets the standard.

McMahan said graduates of the program find jobs with watch retailers, luxury jewelry stores and factory service centers.

Swiss watch executives visited the campus recently and will serve in an advisory capacity for the program in an effort to ensure there are quality graduates to fill the shortage of watchmaking positions worldwide.

The sponsorship agreement is officially between the university and Audemars Piguet, Breitling, The Richemont Group, The Swatch Group and WOSTEP.

The university will use the sponsorship funding to hire another instructor and expand technological capabilities and increase enrollment. Currently there are 15 to 17 students in the program.