Tourneau Honors Seven Graduates of its Watchmaker Program

Last week, seven students graduated from the Tourneau Watchmaker Program. The Tourneau Watchmaker Program is an eight-week vocational course that teaches New York City students the skills and knowledge they need to start a career as a professional watchmaker.

Tourneau Watchmaker Program, Terry Irby, Tourneau Manhattan Comprehensive, Manhattan Comprehensive watchmakers
Seven students graduated from the Watchmaker Program on 12 June 2014

Terry Irby has taught three graduating classes since he started the Tourneau Watchmaker Program in 2013. Mr. Irby is Tourneau’s Technical Director and a third-generation watchmaker. Facing an aging staff of watchmakers and more than 600 watches arriving every week for repairs at the company’s Long Island City service center, Mr. Irby consulted with Tourneau’s executive team to arrive at a solution.

Tourneau collaborated with the Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day School, a unique public high school for economically disadvantaged students. Manhattan Comprehensive’s mission is to give students who have dropped out, aged out or are poorly served an opportunity to earn a diploma and employment upon graduation. Sharing a similar mission, Tourneau created the Watchmaker Program by tapping its industry connections to donate or discount supplies and work benches.

Tourneau Watchmaker Program, Terry Irby, Tourneau Manhattan Comprehensive, Manhattan Comprehensive watchmakers
Tourneau Technical Director Terry Irby with Watchmaker Program students

The students spend two days a week studying at the school, beginning with hand-eye coordination, dexterity, the history of watches and watch repair tools. As the weeks progress, the students begin taking apart watches, examining every piece and understanding its purpose. They start with cases and bracelets and then move into the mechanics the movements, hands, dials and calendars. The course work also includes the assembly and disassembly of mechanical movements and an overview of quality control and service process for repairs. Outside of the Watchmaker Program, the students continue to attend classes at Manhattan Comprehensive to complete their high school education.

Tourneau Watchmaker Program, Terry Irby, Tourneau Manhattan Comprehensive, Manhattan Comprehensive watchmakers

Edwin Larregui, a 19-year-old Bronx resident, was a star graduate of the Fall 2013 Watchmaker Program class and is currently employed full-time at Tourneau.

“Being a part of Tourneau’s watchmaker program has changed my everyday life drastically,” Larregui said. “We are taught that the way you treat a watch is your signature. I apply that to everything that I touch today, staying very organized and precise, which helps me at school, work and home. I now get comments from teachers who see how neat and organized my essays are and my grades have improved. I’m also much more focused and find it easier to concentrate on the task at hand. At home, my mom has noticed how everything looks brand new. The pots and pans are immaculate and everything in my room is in order.”

Since the program began, five students have accepted full-time internships with Tourneau, a number that is anticipated to grow with the 2014 graduates. The retailer plans to continue the program, helping to supply itself and the industry with the desperately needed U.S. watchmakers, whose numbers have dramatically decreased nearly 90% since the 1950s, according to the American Watch and Clock Institute.

Tourneau Watchmaker Program, Terry Irby, Tourneau Manhattan Comprehensive, Manhattan Comprehensive watchmakers
Students spend two days a week at the Watchmaker Program while completing their high school education

“We work with more than 100 watch brands and the challenge of finding U.S. watchmakers affects many of them,” said Larry Barkley, Tourneau’s Senior Vice President of Retail, who helped launch the program with Irby. “When we started this journey, we recognized it would create a new generation of watchmakers to help us continue to offer the repair services that Tourneau is known for. At the same time, we hoped it would also create new opportunities for these students who have enrolled at Manhattan Comprehensive Day and Night School to get the extra time and attention they need. We’ve been tremendously impressed by the level of talent and dedication they have shown. Tourneau hopes to grow this program in the future so that we can touch more lives and have a greater impact on this industry that we are so passionate about.”

For the program’s graduates, finishing the course signals a new beginning. Some will take their new skills and apply them to another trade, while several students, smitten by craft, will continue to hone their skills at Tourneau working at one of the retailer’s New York area stores or in the service center, putting them on the path to becoming a full-fledged watchmaker, which takes a minimum of three to four years of hands-on training.

The next class of the Tourneau Watchmaker Program begins in the Fall 2014.

Tourneau Watchmaker Program, Terry Irby, Tourneau Manhattan Comprehensive, Manhattan Comprehensive watchmakers
Since the program began last year, five students have accepted full-time internships with Tourneau

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