On The Importance Of Antoine Simonin And His Special Jury Prize At The 2020 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève By Dr. Rebecca Struthers
Of all the winners from the 2020 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, this was the one that really made me smile! Among all the glamour of the watch industry, it’s easy to forget the importance of education and yet, without it the majority of watches in the longlist, let alone the winners, wouldn’t exist.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Antoine Simonin’s contribution to horological education. For over 60 years, he has been sharing his knowledge with the next generation of watchmakers all over the world. It feels very fitting that the Special Jury Prize this year recognized one of the unsung heroes of our industry who has dedicated his life to giving back to others.
Antoine is perhaps best known as the co-founder of WOSTEP (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Programme), which he established in 1966. For those not familiar with the school and course, WOSTEP is the gold standard in watchmaking training. Both internationally recognized and world renowned, Antoine established schools in 17 countries during his leadership with examinations available in English, French, German, Japanese, Swedish, and Mandarin. Since its foundation, thousands of watchmakers have benefitted from WOSTEP’s training.
My introduction to Antoine was through his publishing passion project Editions Simonin. As an ardent supporter of the democratization of knowledge this, to me, has been one of his greatest contributions to our industry. His specialist private library is among the finest in the world, which he uses to reproduce rare, out-of-print books giving students better access to invaluable yet affordable learning material. Craig [Struthers] and I have several of his publications on our shelves that we regularly refer to, as I’m sure do many other independent watchmakers and restorers around the world.
With so much discussion at the moment around the loss of traditional watchmaking skills, education has never been so important. We should be just as concerned about finding the next generation of Antoine Simonins as we are the next George Daniels.
Dr. Rebecca Struthers, a former jury member of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, is currently the only holder of a PhD in horology and additionally boasts certified training as a jeweler, silversmith, watchmaker, and gemologist as well as a master’s degree in the history of art and design. She and her husband, master watchmaker Craig Struthers, are the proprietors of Struthers Watchmakers.