When I decided to write my book, ‘Timepieces, a Lifelong Love and Passion,’ I made a commitment to give away proceeds from the book. Naturally, since I’m passionate about watches, I thought that I should look into donating to an organization within this field. After some research, I found something quite interesting.
In 1945, Joseph Bulova’s son, Arde, founded a school called ‘The Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking.’ Arde Bulova “wished to repay, in some small measure, the sacrifice and service of returning disabled veterans after the Second World War.”
The Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking
The goal of the school was to provide training and rehabilitation for these heroes and the watchmaking school helped train an entire generation of American watchmakers — entirely tuition-free. I found this to be a very honorable endeavor but I was not sure if the organization was still in operation.
A non-profit organization that serves true heroes
After further research, I discovered that the original Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking closed in 1993. However, it was revived a few years ago and renamed the ‘Veterans Watchmaker Initiative’ or VWI. The goal of VWI remains the same: to provide training, support, and referral services to wounded veterans returning from the wars, tuition-free.
The Veterans Watchmaker Initiative
Since I greatly admire this initiative, I decided that the money from my book sales would be donated to VWI to help train these true heroes — to give hope not only to the students but to their families and communities too.
The money from my book sales would be donated to VWI
After almost three years between writing the book, publishing it, and selling it, I was ready to go and meet with the organization to make my first donation. I was also curious to meet the team behind VWI.
My meeting was set up for a personal visit at their location in Odessa, Delaware, where I was to meet Sam Cannan, the head of the organization, and some of the staff, teachers, and students. I did not know what to expect but now I can say it was a wonderful experience.
Meeting was set up for a personal visit at their location in Odessa, Delaware
While the school’s philosophy is no doubt beautiful on paper, meeting veterans Cameron Garrish, Ben Herring, Tanner Caraway, Marc Clodfelter, Joey Tucker, Eric Perciado, Chris Tullis and listening to their stories was very emotional, honorable, humbling, and rewarding.
Meeting veterans and listening to their stories was very emotional and honorable
Meeting veterans and listening to their stories was very humbling and rewarding
As you can imagine, all these guys have had a tough life — before, during, and after the wars they served in. I could feel each of them wanting to succeed in becoming a watchmaker and looking forward to starting a new life. The amazing thing is, I could sense as much pride from the students as from the teachers.
I attended a class with teacher Don Morton and witnessed the spirit of the team, as well as the individual attention given to each student. The school has a high percentage of success and most students are hired even before graduating and getting their certifications. Some graduates will take their first career steps at prestigious companies like Tiffany & Co.
I attended a class with teacher Don Morton and witnessed the spirit of the team
In addition to the training operation, VWI is also a repair center for Bulova watches. A new building is currently getting ready, which will be where all the watch parts inventory will be stocked and managed.
VWI is also a repair center for Bulova watches
Sam Cannan and his team including Debbie Katzmire worked tirelessly to secure and renovate the building. They also managed to source the equipment and tools, most of which are donated by universities, watch brands, and individuals. This is the type of fantastic result that comes from a team wanting to make goals a reality. The organization also benefits from board members like Michael Benavente (Managing Director of Bulova and Accutron) and Diane James (Director of Strategic Brands at Watchbox), who bring their watch industry experience and expertise.
Sam Cannan and his team including Debbie Katzmire worked tirelessly to secure and renovate the building
One of the biggest needs today in the watch industry is watchmakers. An organization like the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative can solve this shortage problem. There are currently seven people being trained to become watchmakers; however, this number could easily be increased with more support from the watch community and industry.
The Veteran Watchmaker Initiative is a very transparent organization; I even saw their statements to see where funds are allocated and the cost of operations.
All in all, I saw a vibrant and refreshing company dedicated to the good of our society and its people — and this was a wonderful feeling. It also reminds us that veterans have sacrificed their lives for our freedom, and our contribution will never truly pay back in full for their service.
Stay tuned friends; there will be more to follow…
Until next time...
Laurent Martinez ✦ Laurent Fine Watches ✦Laurent Fine Watches www.laurentfinewatches.com
Tel: (1) 203 863-9168 | Cell: (1) 203 561-2763
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