Michael Gainey's

Master Clock Repair

AWCI Certified Clockmaker

Columbus, Ohio

By Appointment Only


Short Answer:


Certification is simply a means by which someone in the clock repair trade can validate his or her skill level to the general public.  Much like looking at the diplomas on the wall of your doctor's office or the certificates on the wall of an auto repair shop showing the serviceman's training.  The certification process was developed by AWCI, the American Watchmakers Clockmakers Institute. 

Long Answer with Documentation: 


Currently no certification is required by any state for a person to practice watch or clock repair.  This means when you take your watch or clock in for repair you have no objective means to determine the skill level of the person handling your item.  The skill level of people in this trade varies widely.  If you have any doubt about this, take a look at our Hall of Shame page in order to see some of the horrific things that are being done to clocks by people who claim to be qualified.  Without a certificate of some sort all you are left with is recommendations from friends or the number of years someone has been in business.  Unfortunately, the fact that your clock works after it was repaired is no guarantee that they did a proper job.  Some of the repairs in the Hall of Shame actually worked!


Certification is obtained through The American Watchmakers Clockmakers Institute.  Although all who are interested in these two fascinating trades are welcome, the membership is currently made up mostly of working professional watchmakers and clockmakers.  Because of the many under trained clock and watch enthusiasts currently working in these fields one of the goals of AWCI was to combat poor workmanship and improve the abilities of the tradesmen by promoting higher standards. By passing the certification exam a person is able to prove his proficiency against a professional standard as judged by his peers.

There are currently two levels of certification.  There is the Certified Clock or Watchmaker and then the Certified Master Clock or Watchmaker.  Beginning around 2006 the entire certification process was revamped due to the writing of the first of its kind, Standards and Practices documents for watch and clockmakers.  After those documents were completed a new certification test was designed based on those documents.  The new test was longer and more complex than the previous test and more safeguards were installed to prevent cheating.  Passing the most recent test allows a person to add the phrase "of the Twenty First Century" to their title.  This was done in order to differentiate between those who passed the old versus the new test.  


The certificate above was awarded to Michael after passing the original certification exam. 

Above is the new Certified Clockmaker of the Twenty First Century certificate.

I am proud to say that I was on the AWCI Education Committee that wrote the Standards and Practices document for clockmakers.  In order to be on this committee it was necessary to have passed the older certification exam.   The following documents show the importance of the document itself as written in the preface by then AWCI President Jim Door and proof of my participation in the writing of the document.

The old examination that I took consisted of four parts. The first part is a written test that covers clock theory, including gear train calculations and proper repair techniques for common clock problems. After this there are three mechanical tests. One part required the proper repair of a modern key-wound chime mechanism which has been purposefully "messed up". There are some twenty odd problems that must be discovered and solved and a bushing must be properly installed. Another part requires that a pivot be replaced in a clock arbor, including proper polishing, finishing and hardening. And the last part requires that several broken teeth be replaced in a clock gear.  AWCI expects these repairs to not only be mechanically effective but performed neatly. (see The Art of Clock Repair page) The pivot and teeth replacement are to be done in a way that is almost undetectable to the human eye. Because scoring a 75 or higher is considered a passing grade I am very pleased to report that I scored an average of 94.6 on the four tests.  See my test grades below.

The new exam expanded the areas of testing from four to ten in order to include all the various clock types that typically find their way into clock shops nationwide.


As of 2011 I am one of only six active certified clockmakers in the entire state of Ohio and I am one of only two in Ohio to hold the new Certified Clockmaker of the Twenty First Century certificate.  I was awarded this designation after my work on the committee that wrote the test.  As of 2010 there were only 137 active Certified Clockmakers nationwide!   


You might ask yourself at this point why there are not more certified people?  Some clockmakers do not want to take the test because it costs money to do so and it can a difficult and time consuming test.  Most feel no need to prove their skill to anyone; customers or peers. Although few would admit it, I am sure there are some who are concerned they might not pass.  They also say that their customers have no idea that a certification even exists so why would they need it.  They feel that if people are continuing to bring clocks to them for repair and they leave the shop working they must be doing alright. These people will never know how their skill level stacks up against others in their trade and neither will the general public. 


Let me give you an idea of how very serious this problem is.  After the new watch certification test was developed the luxury watch company Rolex decided that this test was so good at determining the skill level of watchmakers that they decided to require it as a means to opening the door to acquiring a parts account.  Everyone that currently had a parts account would now have to take the test in order to keep it.   This sent a flood of watchmakers to AWCI to take the test.  The skills required to pass were clearly explained in the Watchmakers Standards and Practices document available to all watchmakers.  Since the test was developed (as of 2012) approximately 438 people have taken the exam and only about 57% of them are passing!  This means that 43% of the people repairing Rolex watches, or indeed most types or brands of watches, were unable to do so according to acceptable standards.  They only need score a 75% or better to pass!  The people who have failed the test obviously would not have gone to the trouble of taking the test if they thought they would fail since the test costs almost $2000 and takes four days to take not to mention the travel, lost work time and hotel bills.  Here is my point; these people all had a higher opinion of their repair skills than was justified.  It was not until they were tested did they realize their areas of weakness.


I believe the same is true for most clockmakers.  Unfortunately, at this time, we have not had many people take the new test so I cannot provide you with any specific numbers.  No clock manufacturer requires any kind of testing so there is less impetus to drive clockmakers to take it. 


If this is true, why did I take it?  I took the test for many reasons, personal satisfaction being one of them.  Most importantly, I wanted to be sure that I was truly qualified to perform the work that I was charging my customers for.  I had been repairing full time for fifteen years at the point of taking the examination but I had to know that I could pass the test.  Does being certified mean I am a better clockmaker than those who are not? Not necessarily, but it does mean that I care enough about my craft and have enough confidence in my ability to subject myself to being judged by my peers.  It is also objective proof of my abilities. Anyone can boast of their skill but very few can prove it until after you have paid them!


Certificate above showing appreciation for my work on the Education Committee that wrote the Standards and Practices document and re-wrote the Clockmakers Certifcation exam.