In the age of the Internet the customer can often be better informed than the sales staff, whether they are buying a new computer, a watch or even a car. One of the main challenges for the Watch Sales Academy, therefore, is turning watch sales staff into true experts in the field. On the first day of their two-year course in Le Locle, Eric Othenin-Girard, Director of Training, reminds the students that just opening the door to the store can be a big deal for some customers. “It can be quite daunting,” he says, “and for many people spending in excess of several thousand Swiss francs on a watch is a big deal. When they enter the store, therefore, how they are welcomed is crucial in clinching a sale and retaining a customer.”
The 42 days of training required to obtain the federal certificate in watch sales are spread over 14 three-day sessions with a maximum of 12 students. To get a feel for the course, its contents and its participants, I attended a full day of one course, which packed in an abbreviated history of watchmaking, health and safety issues such as allergies, radiation and battery recycling, anti-magnetism and industry standards. In just one day, a number of important issues with direct relevance to the end customer were covered. Practical sessions include visits to the watchmaking museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds and the watchmaking section of the commercial school in Le Locle, where students can get a proper feeling for the soul of mechanical watchmaking.
Suffice it to say that those who are awarded their federal certificate at the end of the two-year course are well equipped to serve today’s demanding watch buyers. Having witnessed the motivation of the students and the expert tuition of Aurélie Michaud, a watch restorer at the International Watchmaking Museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Gaia Award Winner, I am confident that the customers of tomorrow will be in good hands, at least as far as Switzerland is concerned. But the Watch Sales Academy also offers modular courses in specific watch-related fields, as well as an international course for foreign nationals. Find out more on the Watch Sales Academy website watchsalesacademy.ch.