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At-Risk Kids Take Time to Master a Rare Profession

As one might imagine in this increasingly digital age, old-school watchmakers are hard to come by. This was becoming a problem for technical director Terry Irby, who works for the watch company Tourneau, so he came up with a plan that not only equips his shop with more watchmakers, but also helps his surrounding community.

Irby founded a watchmaking program for at-risk high school students in Queens, New York, that allows them to explore an opportunity they would have never dreamed of.

Edwin Larregui, a 19-year-old graduate of the program, says it would be fair to say that this experience saved his life.

"It kept me away from a lot of things," he said. "I'm here and learning, I feel good."

Teens Embrace Timeless Art Form 2:19

Ayushi Pant, an 18-year-old current student, says watch repair teaches her “how to be patient” and “solve life’s problems.”

Most of the 19 students who have completed the program have similar things to say, and five of them are now full-time Tourneau interns. This means they get to set up shop with the “masters,” as Larregui puts it.

According to Irby, it takes a special kind of person to handle the hundreds of tiny parts that make up each individual, unique watch.

Irby says that a “high level of mental skills and a high aptitude” are necessary. One of the ways Irby determines if a student is up for the challenge is with a dexterity test. In this test, the individual’s hand-eye coordination is tested by shaping paper clips into the numbers one through five. Watch as Harry Smith takes a stab it.

‘I’m Sweating’: Harry Smith Takes a Dexterity Test 1:23