Luke Slavin from Thornton describes his occupation as a white rhino – endangered.
The 23-year-old is a third-year apprentice watchmaker at Thomas Timepieces in Newcastle.
He believes there is a common misconception that watchmaking is a dying industry, but business is actually booming.
“We have a lot of work, along with regular repairs both minor and major,” Mr Slavin said.
“We also have an influx of work from both the home handyman and unqualified repairers causing more damage from improper techniques.
“We actually do a wide range of jobs, basically anything to do with timepieces.
“From removing link or batteries while you wait, to full restorations of mechanical clocks and watches, we see clocks and watches that people dig up after years of not being used.”
He believes his trade is endangered and blames the cost of taking on an apprentice, as well as a lack of interest in the artisan craft from young school leavers.
“Being a lesser known trade, there aren’t many apprentices,” Mr Slavin said. “I am in a class of seven apprentices for the entire country, so there is a great need for watchmakers.”
Mr Slavin studies at Ultimo TAFE in Sydney and decided to become a watchmaker after initially enrolling in a commerce degree.
“I wasn’t happy studying commerce at university,” he said.
“I had an interest in watches. I always wondered how they worked, so I searched to see if it was still practised and if anyone was willing to put on an apprentice.
“The place where I am working was actually the last place on my list before I headed to Sydney to see if I could get a job.”
When Mr Slavin decided to study watchmaking he was shocked to find that Ultimo TAFE place in Australia to study the trade.
Three years after signing up to the course, the apprentice is worried that without more funding for TAFE courses and more interest in the
trade, the future of watchmaking could be in danger.
“Without future participants and assistance, the course will no longer run and we will be reliant on courses such as WOSTEP in Switzerland and Hong Kong or The British Horology Institute to receive an education,” he said.
“With a lot of school leavers in the same mind as I was, unaware of the profession, it is hard to find people willing to become a watchmaker.
“With an increase in government funding and incentives, tradesmen would be more comfortable advertising for someone to learn the skill.”
Mr Slavin plans to graduate and fight to continue the watchmaking trade well into the future.
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