Watchmakers and Horologists
Being a watchmaker is a wonderful trade. Myself, I never really expected to become a watchmaker. My first love was the jewelers bench. All I wanted to do was set diamonds and precious stones. I loved to carve wax patterns and create beautiful one-of-a-kind rings and necklaces. I knew how to make diamond bezels for watches. I had been doing them for years. I also repaired many watch cases and gold watch bands. But it was the diamond bezel that would probably change my life.
As a small child, I did love watches. Everyone had one, especially the old-timers that were friends of my Grandfather. They all wore vests, dressed very dapper, and all carried a wonderful pocket watch at the end of a fabulous gold chain. My Grandfather many times would show me the "workings" of his watch. I was hooked, and the love of the pocket watch never left me. I think this is the main reason why I loved to do the "jewelry end" of watches. I loved to enhance them, repair the bands and add a few diamonds here and there. I also took great joy in repairing old pocket watch cases. Again, the worn out old watch could become like new again in the eyes of the owner.
But working on the movement, that strange mysterious ticking thing that somehow measured out the seconds of the day. Who would do that? I do remember going into many stores as a child and seeing the little old watchmaker, head bowed, hidden in his micro-world of watch repair. I was fascinated, amused, but soon walked away so not to annoy these strange little old men. In all, I became acquainted with five of them. But it was not until later that I would meet one that would change my life.
The year was 1974. I owned a trade jewelry company. We did the wholesale manufacturing and jewelry repair for the retail jeweler. We had many different accounts. Some were just your common run-of-the-mill ma and pa stores, some where high volume discount jewelers and several were the upper end guild division stores. These were the stores that carried watches such as Corum and Movado. I had often wondered who did the watch repair. I knew someone did as I often got many Swiss watches that needed bezels made or ones that needed lugs rebuilt. They were always given to me without the movement or the crystals. I would do my job, deliver the watch and a few days later, the district manager would show me the finished watch. They were beautiful, adorned with my bezels or diamond set lug ends. They were polished and looked "factory."
One day I was doing my appointed rounds delivering jewelry repairs. I noticed another man delivering watches. We started talking. The jeweler and the watchmaker had finally met. We went to dinner and continued our conversation. Thus began a relationship that lasted well over twenty years and would have a very great impact upon my life.
The colored picture was taken when Joe was 50, his age when I met him. The two black and white photos were taken in our shop in the late 80's.
Joseph A. Saitta, Certified Master Watchmaker, the man in the three pictures above, had moved to Salt Lake City back in 1951, from Brooklyn, New York. In New York, he owned and operated the Reliable Watch and Clock Repair company. He began his watchmaking career at a very early age working in his uncle's watch shop. His uncle, Nunzio Lizzio taught Joe the basics of watchmaking. Later Joe would work for Henry Engle. Joe's uncle and Mr. Engle learned their trade at the Hungarian School of Watchmaking. This was at the time the premier college of watchmaking in the world. Mr. Engle had the most prominent watch repair business in New York. It was there that Joe completed his training as a watchmaker and thus becoming approved by the National Bureau of Standards, the agency that certified watchmakers in the 40's. Later the Horological Institute of America certified watchmakers. Then the HIA and the American Watchmakers Institute combined and most watchmakers were certified through this combined group.
Mr. Saitta and I decided to combine our services to the trade. Joe continued with the repair of high grade watches and I continued my trade as a jeweler. Joe insisted that he train me as a fully qualified watchmaker. I resisted at first, as this meant letting go of my jewelry trade for the next several years. I agreed to his training. I worked on pocket watches at first, and as my abilities improved, I started working on very small ladies wrist watches. I then moved into high grade watches such as the Corum and Movado line and other fine timepieces. I learned how to jewel a watch, install new balance staffs, level a hairspring and everything in between. I became very good at gear cutting. After about 5 years of training, there was nothing that could not be accomplished at the bench.
Joe and I continued to work together until he retired from the bench. I continued to run the business. I have always been grateful that my linage as a watchmaker could be traced back to such wonderful beginnings. Because of Joe, I learned from his uncle Nunzio and I learned from Mr. Engle. Mr. Engle always said that the watch was not smarter than you. These three men were in fact real watchmakers, and they were the best. They didn't have the high tech machines that we use today to test watches with, all they had was the skill in their hands and the knowledge in their minds. I thank God that Joe took the time to train me, test me, encourage me and most of all befriend me. Because of Joe and his foresight and what he passed on to me, the business of watchmaking continues.
Mind to Conceive, Eye to Perceive, Hands to Achieve
Coordination in Finger Dexterity