Working Lives

Working Lives: The UNILAG Mass Comm Graduate Who Learnt Watchmaking in Isola D’Elba, Italy


Working Lives- Nigeria’s Swiss Trained Luxury Watch Makers

Someone accidently dropped a high-end Swiss luxury watch while on an extended business trip to Nigeria. He reluctantly agreed to visit a watch repair service in Ikoyi to see if it could be fixed. The guy in the store told him more than he knew about his wristwatch- the type of “movement”, the name of the maker and the only (authorized dealer) who sold parts for the brand in Lagos.

He had no doubt he was dealing with a thorough -bred professional. He has recommended his services to many other people since then. Nigeria has a small group of expert horologists, many of them trained in Switzerland. Yaba College of Technology used to have a Horology course supported by Swiss watchmakers, until Nigerian things started to happen e.g. donated equipment walking away. You may not have a luxury watch to service, but you will definitely enjoy reading about the Working Lives of these Nigerians with the specialist skills to work on the most complicated Swiss watches. 

Working Lives: The UNILAG Mass Comm Graduate Who Learnt Watchmaking on Isola D’Elba, Italy

“A lady came into the store while I was working in Italy and told me when I tried to attend to her, “black man, what do you know”.  She made a scene when I told her politely to stop insulting me. My supervisor had to step in to calm the situation”.


Ayobami Oluwole 


48 Isaac John street, Ikeja, Lagos.


Where are you from?

I am from Lagos State. I was born and brought up here.

Please, tell us about your education?

I studied Mass Communication at the University of Lagos. I graduated in 2011.

Please, tell us about your family

My dad is a structural engineer while my mom is a banker. She has retired now though. I have four siblings and I am the second child.

Where do you live?

I live in Ogba in a two-bedroom flat.


How did you become a horologist?

I have always had an interest in watches. I was a freak for time pieces. My dad had different collections. He buys one or two watches whenever he goes on vacation and then he also gets gifted a lot of watches. The majority of his clients are foreigners; they tend to gift him with a lot of these luxury watches. After school I just decided to travel out of the country to study watch making.

Where did you train?

I trained in Italy at the Sio Italian School of Watchmaking. Locman, the Italian brand that manufactures luxury watches founded the school.

Where did you work after your training?

I worked for a big watch store in Ikoyi. And I had worked for about 6 months in Italy before returning to Nigeria.

What are the differences in how you are trained as someone who works on high end luxury watches compared to people who fix “ordinary watches”?

A lot! Just go online and research the school where I trained and then you will know there is a big difference between people who trained as professionals and the guys who just picked up some skills by learning and doing from a single person. I was trained by the best horologists in the world.  I don’t want to make too much mouth.

Your first salary?

I wasn’t really getting much pay from the job in Italy, so I don’t regard the pay from it as my first salary. I just saw the job as something I was using to gain more experience. But when I came back to Nigeria, the first job I got was paying me N200,000 monthly. This was in 2015.

Also Read: Working Lives: The Abuja Horologist Whose Dad Sent to Train in Le Locle, Switzerland

How much did it cost you to establish?

I started with just N400,000 and the bulk of the money went towards renting the shop. I wasn’t selling watches yet then so I didn’t have to stock.

What are the key equipment you need to buy and how much do they cost?

Just make sure you buy a repair kit for a start. Luxury watch repair kits will also come with a variety of small screwdrivers. While the cheaper kits out there may have a large selection of different sized tools, the quality of the screwdriver is much more important. Cheap tools can damage the delicate inner workings of the timepiece. Most watches require just four different sizes of screwdriver: Yellow 80, Black 100, Red 120, and Grey 140. Many watches can get by with these basic sizes but working on more advanced watches require more precise screwdrivers.

Did you get a bank loan?

No, but I was tempted to at a point. But as usual, my friends and family stepped in.

What are the main services you render?

We service panels. Sometimes dust or water gets into these places and might affect the panel so we do some work on that. And then we make general repairs, polishing and sell wrist watches too.

Have you ever done anything else apart from fixing watches?

I was freelancing as a writer for a blog. That’s the only other thing I have ever tried.

How many hours do you work in a day?

I work for 8 hours in a day.

What’s your best day like on the job?

The very busy days.

Your worst day or experience on the job?

A lady came into the store while I was working in Italy and told me when I tried to attend to her, “black man, what do you know”.  She made a scene when I told her politely to stop insulting me. My supervisor had to step in to calm the situation.

Who are your main clients?

A lot of people that I cannot mention of course, the majority of your politicians are my clients, I make repairs and sell watches to them too.

How successful are you convincing people to let you fix their watches rather than them taking them to London?

My certificate does the talking for me. I just hang it on the wall, so when customers come in, they can see for themselves. And apart from that, I have been able to make friends with a lot of big people in the society. They call me and I go to their houses to pick the watches.

Do you have insurance to cover possibility of losing these expensive watches?

Yes, I did a basic plan an insurance firm. But let’s just pray to God that I don’t lose any customer’s wrist watch or damage it while still under my care.

What parts do you often change in expensive watches, where do you get them and how much do they cost?

Battery. Pricing on a battery change ranges from as low as about $10 to upwards of $45 to $60. You have to charge extra for some watches apart from the cost of the battery. Some watches need to be specially resealed and pressure tested once you open them for any reason. I order parts from the dealer on Lagos Island. Batteries for complicated watches that are hybrid quartz or that have chronograph movements can cost between $65 and $95.  Replacement of straps vary based on quality. It can typically start at $20 for a basic leather strap but can rise all the way up to $500 for the top Swiss brands.

What’s the most expensive watch you ever worked on?

It’s a new Rolex watch, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 40mm, Stainless Steel Oyster Bracelet. It’s not really expensive per say, it costs about $25,495.

How much do you make in sales weekly?

Let’s just say I make an average on N100,000 weekly from sales and repairs. Sometimes more, it all depends on the way customers come in for that day. Apart from people bringing in just luxury watches, I also get customers that bring the regular watches like Kenneth Cole for repairs too.

How much do you spend in a day?

I spend about N4,000 in a day at most. And then sometimes when I need to get some parts I get to spend more- N50,000-N100,000 depending on the number of watches I am getting parts for.

Also Read: Working Lives: The Yaba-Trained Horologist Who Used to Fix Watches in Peckham, London

What other things do you spend money on?

My children’s school fees, buying stuff at home, and then paying for bills here and then.

For how long have you been in the business?

I started in 2015, so that’s 5 years now.

Do you have savings? 


Yes, I save N30,000-N40,000 monthly, depending on how much I have made in the month.

Are you married?

Yes of course.

Do you have plans to venture into something else apart from this business?

No! I just want

Oluwatomi Otuyemi

Oluwatomi Otuyemi, a Geology graduate from Crawford University, has 5 years experience in corporate corporate communications. He has a passion for storytelling, and investigative reporting.

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