Watchmaking Graduates Find Challenges, Fulfillment in Unique OSUIT Program

Watchmaking graduates

The School of Watchmaking, one of the oldest and most unique programs at OSU Institute of Technology, will graduate six students at the 199th commencement ceremony Friday, Dec. 12.

This  class is one of the largest in recent years, but Program Chair Jason Champion said that the job market is in need of many more.

Each of this year’s graduates has their own reason and story for how they found their way to OSUIT.

Christopher Milton’s great, great grandfather was a watchmaker, so when he learned about OSUIT’s School of Watchmaking on a watchmaking blog, he decided to check it out.

“This school had the best facilities and the best reputation,” said Milton, who is from Mobile, Ala. “I come from an engineering background. I’ve always enjoyed tinkering, building things, taking things apart. Engineering just wasn’t hands-on enough for me.”

In the watchmaking program, Milton said he’s working with his hands every day and loves it.

David Threlkeld is another self-proclaimed tinkerer who is turning a hobby into a career.

“I’ve always collected watches. I was living in New Zealand, and I had to get a watch fixed, and no one there could fix it. I had to send it back to Switzerland, and it cost me $4,000 to get repaired, so I thought, ‘I’m in the wrong business,’” Threlkeld said.

Marty Gorman, from Kansas, worked most of his adult life in the auto industry until the Great Recession eliminated his job in 2010.

“At first I tried to find a job in my field. I did some Internet searches, and I found OSUIT,” Gorman said. “I collected watches and bought watches. I thought what if I could turn that into a career?”

Jan Knisley had a similar story. He worked in construction in Ohio until a back injury took him out of the field so he looked at his enthusiasm for watches as a possible career change.

Being able to learn about something that I have a real interest in and the craft aspect of watchmaking really appealed to me, Knisley said.

For Jennifer Yang, she didn’t have to search far from her home in Oklahoma City to find the training she needed.

She had already earned bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and forensic science, along with a minor in biochemistry, from the University of Central Oklahoma, but it just wasn’t what she was looking for.

“I like working with my hands and the whole introverted atmosphere of watchmaking,” Yang said.

All said that the rigorous two-year program was challenging and more demanding than they imagined.

“When I started I thought ‘Two years, what could take that long to learn?’” Threlkeld said. “Now I wish I had another year. The micromechanics weren’t too difficult for me, it’s the level of precision you’re working toward that was a challenge.”

Knisley said that ‘challenging’ is definitely a word to describe the watchmaking program at OSUIT.

“I knew it was going to be tough, but it was tougher than I thought it was going to be,” he said.

Milton said it’s all about getting your head, not just your hands, used to the unique watchmaking work environment of micro-technology.

“It’s more a mindset than a skillset. You can learn a skillset, but you have to have a certain kind of mindset to do this. There is a certain amount of patience you have to have,” he said.

Yang said she wanted to test herself and push herself.

“This program is harder than my bachelor’s degree program,” she said. “It’s very time intensive when you have to learn these skills and develop them.”

And although it was challenging, the time and work has been worth it to walk across the OSUIT graduation stage. All have either multiple job offers or interviews scheduled with companies and businesses across the country after Friday’s ceremony.

This program, it exceeded my expectations, Milton said. I had no idea how involved watchmaking was until I got here.

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