Watchmaking for the people

5 Questions with the President of the Horological Society of New York


March 29, 2019 Watches By Photo by Horological Society of New York

The Horological Society of New York (HSNY) was founded shortly after the Civil War in 1866 as a local resource for all things horological. For over 150 years, it’s been responsible for spreading knowledge and encouraging the watchmaking community to embrace innovative technologies worldwide through their educational workshops and other outreach programs. We recently sat down with HSNY president Nicholas Manousos to find out a bit more about who they are, what they do, and how to get involved.

Q: What is the HSNY, and what does it do?
A: The HSNY is one of the world’s oldest watchmaking associations. When the organization was founded, it functioned as a guild or type of union for working watchmakers in New York. But today, the HSNY is a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on horological education. Our monthly lecture series is free and open to the public and features expert speakers from around the world. We also have horological education classes offered in the evenings during the week at our Midtown Manhattan classroom and abroad on the weekends. Additionally, we have an annual Gala & Charity Auction that raises money for the Henry B. Fried Scholarship for watchmaking students.

Q: How did you come to work with the organization?
A: I moved to New York in 2013 and quickly reconnected with friends from watchmaking school. I was invited to a HSNY meeting and was very happy to find such a friendly group of people who shared the same interests that I did.

However, at that time, the HSNY was in need of some revitalization — for example, it had no online presence. Before watchmaking, I worked in Silicon Valley’s tech industry, so I helped them work on developing a website, and once we began to promote the HSNY, it was clear that there was significant interest in the organization and its rich history. Today, the HSNY is doing very well, thanks to the incredible horological community here in New York and around the world.

“People often don’t realize that watchmaking is a viable, rewarding, and dynamic career.”

Q: Can you tell me more about Henry B. Fried’s role in the HSNY and the scholarship established in his name?
A: Henry B. Fried was president of the HSNY, president of the New York State Watchmakers Association, and vice-president of the Horological Institute of America, which was a precursor to the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute. Fried was a prolific writer, and he authored 14 books on watchmaking that continue to be in high demand. He was the first American to receive the Silver Medal of the British Horological Institute. The New York Times described him as “the dean of American watchmakers.” In short, Fried exemplified every value the HSNY pursues today.

The Henry B. Fried Scholarship is awarded every April at the annual Gala & Charity Auction. The scholarship is continuing to grow, and this year, the HSNY is going to be presenting multiple $10,000 checks to deserving watchmaking students. Most watchmaking schools in the US are free. Tuition is covered by a sponsoring brand, and usually the only school expense that the students have to cover is their tools. However, these schools are full-time, two-year programs, meaning that paying for living expenses can be difficult, so this is where the Henry B. Fried Scholarship comes in. The HSNY wants to help watchmaking students succeed in every way.

Q: In your opinion, what’s the best way to teach horology to the next generation
A: I think the way we’re teaching horology today is great! The problem is that in the US, there are more watchmakers retiring every year than graduating. If this trend continues, it’ll create serious problems for the entire watchmaking industry. Imagine taking your car in for an oil change and being told it’ll take 6 months to complete. For watches, that’s often the reality today, and it’ll only get worse unless big changes are made.

People often don’t realize that watchmaking is a viable, rewarding, and dynamic career. The stereotype is that watchmaking is a “dying art” or only done in Switzerland. While Switzerland is the center of the modern watchmaking industry, there are watchmakers working all over the world, including hundreds here in New York. The HSNY is committed to doing everything possible to reverse this trend and encourage people to consider watchmaking as a career.

Q: For watch enthusiasts looking to get involved with the HSNY, where should they start? Attend a lecture? Join a monthly meeting? Enroll in Horology 101? All of the above?
A: The HSNY’s monthly lecture series is a great place to start. The lectures are diverse — they range from historical topics, to collecting, to technical presentations. And if you don’t live in New York, all of the lectures are video-recorded and made available on our website.

The HSNY’s classes are an excellent way to get hands-on experience with mechanical watches, under the expert guidance of professional watchmakers. They’re taught every Tuesday and Thursday evening in New York and travel the world on weekends. The classes do tend to fill up quickly, so you have to be sure to sign up for our mailing list to be notified right away when new classes are available.

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