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What is a Horologist?

A watch, which a horologist might study.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2014
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An horologist is someone who specializes in horology, the study of timekeeping devices such as clocks, chronometers, and watches. Horologists may work in research, developing the next generation of time pieces, and they can also be historians of horology. In other cases, an horologist actively works in the professional field of horology, making and repairing timepieces of all shapes and sizes.

Employment in the professional field of horology is reasonably stable, since traditional watches and clocks are still very much alive. Many people, for example, receive carriage clocks as wedding gifts, or watches upon graduation or retirement, and these timepieces require the services of professionals from time to time.

Becoming a watch or clockmaker is usually a time consuming process. People typically train as apprentices in shops run by experienced horologists, and the field requires a very steady hand, a good eye, an attention to detail, and a tolerance for very finicky, precise work which can also be extremely demanding. Many nations have professional associations of horologists which offer special training and certification to people interested in this field; in return for professional membership, people are listed in directories so that clients can find them.

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The art of making or repairing a timepiece is quite complex, especially for an horologist who deals in antique timepieces. Many pieces of clocks and watches continue to be hand fabricated, and they are extremely small and delicate. An horologist can dissect a clock by looking at it, coming to the root of the problem which is causing it to stop running before taking it apart and commencing repairs. With antiques and valuable timepieces, horologists must be especially careful not to damage jewel movements and other features.

Some jewelers also offer watch repair services, but if you have a particularly fine timepiece, you should consult a professional horologist. Some companies such as Rolex guarantee their timepieces for a lifetime, and they will provide horology services to customers who request them. The advantage of seeking watch repair or maintenance from the company that made the watch is that the horologist will be very familiar with the style and design of your watch, and he or she can typically get it back into working order fairly quickly.

The history and development of clockwork is also a fascinating branch of horology. Time has been an important issue for humans for hundreds of years, as it is used for everything from preventing trains from crashing to calculating longitude. The study of early human endeavors in this field can be quite an interesting way to look at advancements in science and technology, since watchmakers were at one point on the forefront of such developments.

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