How Tag Heuer is trying to revive the lost art of watchmaking

The watchmaker’s apprenticeship program is a part of LVMH’s Métiers d’Excellence established in Europe in 2014.
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Tag Heuer

· 4 min read

A luxury watch today is considered somewhat of an investment with its intricate, carefully crafted design that works harmoniously with the technical aspects of a watch.

However, to create such a thing requires a particular set of skills that, according to LVMH-owned luxury watch company Tag Heuer, is rapidly on the decline.

It’s why earlier this year, the retailer launched an apprenticeship program to train aspiring watchmakers. The one-year training program, which started in February in New Jersey, is a part of LVMH’s larger Métiers d’Excellence Institute, first established in Europe in 2014 and expanded to North America in 2022. The luxury conglomerate runs similar training programs in partnership with other brands under its umbrella like Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton that train young luxury hopefuls in design, craft, and retail.

“At LVMH, we have 289 métiers around the world, or trades, that represent about 80,000 of our employees [that] are working in these roles,” Gena Smith, chief human resources officer at LVMH North America, told Retail Brew. “These are creative [and] retail roles, which is another very important material for us…we really rely on these positions and the skills and these métiers to drive our business.”

She added that the métiers are “the backbone of all of our businesses” and some of these crafts are at the risk of dying out. “They’re not necessarily being cultivated by other industries or by schools or by communities and people aren’t even sometimes aware that these jobs exist,” she said.

John Richter, Tag Heuer watchmaking training manager, agreed adding that “there was one time in our country that you could actually find out how many watchmakers there were, but this is a thing of a time gone past.” “It’s estimated that over half of our watchmakers will retire in the next five to 10 years,” he said. “With that in mind, we need to train some of our talent.”

Home base: To revive this dying art, New Jersey served as the perfect location for Tag Heuer. It currently operates a facility out of Springfield that services about 50,000 TG watches annually. All five apprentices currently in the program will go through rigorous training that involves hands-on experience at the facility as well as taking on real watch-servicing projects. Toward the end, the apprentices will receive a certification of “watch servicing as a TAG Heuer technician and position them for future success in the industry,” the brand said in a press release.

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Per Richter, the program received more than 100 applicants and attracted people from very differing backgrounds. “I didn’t grow up thinking I was going to end up being a watchmaker,” Richter said. “However, we attracted people with some skill sets that lend itself to this. For example, one person was an auto mechanic and another person went to cosmetology school. We had someone with a military background…So, it’s a field where you can have such a nice career, and there’s so many different areas of the department to cover.”

For the long haul: The program involves a series of rigorous dexterity tests to qualify and is quite selective, but it’s free to the students who are selected. In fact, the apprentices are paid to be a part of the program, and the company takes care of their transportation costs. So the question is: What’s in it for LVMH?

“The intention is definitely to recruit the talents into the businesses, which is why the recruitment process is so discerning and so precise,” Smith said. “We really want to find the ones that we think have the highest propensity of being able to be successful in the role and then be offered a job. And we also are promoting it, because…even if it’s not LVMH, we want other organizations to know that we’re doing this, that these individuals have gained these skills, because we think it’s also great for the entire industry.”

She added that in the 10 years since the institute was established, 2,700 people have gone through the program, which has a 90% graduation rate and almost an 80% placement rate within LVMH.

The conglomerate is currently working with high schools to bring more awareness to its programs. “Not everybody has this aspiration to go to a four-year university, right?” Smith said. “So there’s the intention to actually build the capabilities, and to recruit the talent, but also just to bring greater awareness of the needs and these types of positions.”

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Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.