Cambodia Investment Review

Prince Horology Vocational Training Center Continues to Train the Next Generation of Cambodian Watchmakers

Prince Horology Vocational Training Center Continues to Train the Next Generation of Cambodian Watchmakers

Gareth Johnson

The Prince Horology Vocational Training Center in Phnom Penh is continuing to produce highly skilled watchmakers as it graduates its latest batch of students and welcomes new ones. Cambodia Investment Review visited the school to learn about its plans for the future and the impact it is having the Cambodian economy.

As Cambodia transitions to an upper-middle-income country by 2030 it aims to diversify its workforce by developing experts in precision watchmaking and repair, emulating the Swiss style. The initiative, which began in 2019, is supported by the Prince Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Prince Holding Group. The school imports its teachers and resources from Switzerland to maintain its high standards.

Read more: Inaugural Batch of Cambodian Watchmakers Graduate from Prince Horology Bringing Swiss Watchmaking Craftmanship to The Kingdom

Prince Horology was founded at the behest of Neak Oknha Chen Zhi, Chairman of Prince Holding Group, who is also a watch aficionado and who has paid keen attention to the institute in his personal capacity.

Pristine environment with experienced teachers 

The training center, located in the rapidly developing district of Choy Changvar in Phnom Penh, boasts a pristine environment and experienced teachers. Maarten Pieters, a Dutch national and expert watchmaker for over 20 years, serves as a key member of the teaching staff at the Prince Horology Vocational Training Center as well as Cambodia Investment Review’s tour guide for the day.

Read more: US and Australian Business Delegation Tour Prince Horology, Asia’s Premier Swiss Watchmaking School

Students have access to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities and are under the tutelage of professional Swiss trained instructors who have over 60 years combined experience in Swiss watchmaking and Swiss watchmaking education, including working in luxury groups such as The Swatch Group and Richemont and the world-famous Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program (WOSTEP).

The Prince Horology Vocational Training Center in Phnom Penh training facilities.

Pieters states, “At first, people thought it was crazy opening up a school in Cambodia, but this is a genuine skill and a profession that desperately needs more personnel.” He explains that the growing Asian market for high-end watches creates a potential for both the creation and repair of these timepieces.”

Currently, most high-end watch repairs are sent to Switzerland, but Pieters believes that Cambodia could establish a new industry in this field. “What sets us apart is that we are training from start to finish on complex and traditional micromechanical skills and incorporating practical training on high-end, unique calibers such as the Tourbillon complication. The overall aim is to eventually have enough people trained here so that Cambodia could become a regional watch repair hub.”

Growing sales of high-end brands in Asia

With Rolex exports accounting for $26 billion in Swiss exports in 2022, the growing sales of high-end brands in Asia positions Cambodia to potentially become a regional outsourcing center, although Pieters admits this is a long-term goal. In his former role as Director of the WOSTEP Foundation, Pieters has experience watching industries grow from humble beginnings, having previously helped establish a watchmaking school in Shanghai that grew from just five students to supporting a thriving industry in China.

Students at the Prince Horology Vocational Training Center learn the art of watchmaking using traditional methods that have been employed for centuries in a modern context. Wearing classic watchmaker eyepieces, they work on the intricate components that make up a precision watch.

Pieters further explains that the artisanal nature of high-end small production Swiss watches is what makes them highly sought after and necessitates skilled artisans for repair. “This is something that just won’t be replaced by automation, the industry always needs more people.”

25 limited edition timepieces as gifts to world leaders who attended the Summits.

The two-year program includes both educational and practical training, reflecting the standards of the Swiss CFC programs. Graduates enter a market that is hungry for skilled watchmakers, providing them with opportunities to work around the world, including in affluent countries such as the United States.

The school was most recently featured on the highest of international stages when the Kingdom of Cambodia, was chairman and the host country of the 40th and 41st ASEAN and Related Summits, commissioned and presented 25 limited edition timepieces as gifts to world leaders who attended the Summits.

Read more: 25 Limited Edition Timepieces for World Leaders at ASEAN and Related Summits

Specially designed and assembled by the Prince Horology Vocational Training Center in Cambodia, the ASEAN Lotus Tourbillion watches underscore ASEAN’s spirit of togetherness.

Scholarships from Prince Foundation 

All local students receive scholarships from the Prince Foundation, while foreign students pay to participate in the program.

When asked what sets the school apart from others in the region, or the World, Pieters responds with enthusiasm, “Quite simply, we have everything we need at Prince Horology to create skilled watchmakers. The investment in tooling, equipment and training products, talented instructors and a program far more advanced than common programs, it is a recipe for success.”

Prince Horology Vocational Training Center in Cambodia not only provides young Cambodians with exceptional opportunities but also potentially lays the foundation for a lucrative industry within the Kingdom.

As the school continues to produce highly skilled watchmakers, the potential for Cambodia to become a regional hub for watch repair and production increases. The success of the Prince Horology Vocational Training Center demonstrates the growing recognition of Cambodia as a source of skilled labor in specialized industries.

The Prince Horology Vocational Training Center in Phnom Penh student.

The establishment of a thriving watchmaking industry in the country could attract further investment and create new job opportunities, driving economic growth and development.

Read more: Philanthropist and watch afficionado Chen Zhi instills confidence in future Cambodian watchmakers with class visit

From Cambodia Investment Review’s view Prince Horology Vocational Training Center is playing a crucial role in not only providing Cambodian youth with valuable skills and opportunities but also contributing to the diversification and growth of the country’s economy.

The school’s unique approach to training watchmakers sets it apart from others in the region and positions it as a leader in the industry, paving the way for a bright future for both its graduates and the Cambodian watchmaking sector.

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