How do they make mechanical watch parts?

A couple of weeks ago I was looking through a glossy advertising supplement a that featured only ads for high-end wristwatches. Most of the these expensive timepieces were of the classic mechanical variety. The photos had big, extreme close-ups of the watch guts – gears and springs, etc. I honestly could not believe the complexity of these machines. And the parts! They looked so delicate it seemed like a sneeze would bend them. But these parts were not just random pieces of shiny artistic jewelry. No, they had to work, and work perfectly.

How do they make such small delicate parts? It looked like the parts could barely even be touched without bending or breaking.

On small machines. The typical watchmaker’s lathe could fit on your kitchen table with ample room to spare. Really hardcore types will hand make the gears and other parts (think file, hacksaw and vise), but that takes a considerable amount of time and skill.

Very carefully.

I recall reading a story referenced from Slashdot about building new schools for watchmakers, and how crazy you have to be to want to become one. (Just ask Sylar.)

Ah, here it is.

Lots of (enlargeable) pictures of hand-watchmaking machinery here:
One of these micro milling machines would come in very handy for gear cutting and the like:

At $2,570.00 for the cheapest one on that site, a bit outta my price range.

Sometimes you can find 'em used on eBay for a good deal less, but not often. If they’d knock the price down a bit, they might find that they’d sell a few more of them.