If you want to invest in an expensive wristwatch, you expect a perfectly crafted luxury watch with uncompromisingly function. In order to avoid getting high-quality timepieces lumped together with all the cheap quartz watches, a few, very specialized, certification organizations have formed over the years. Because high-quality, mechanical watches show only small deviations depending on position and temperature. It is on these certification organizations to put luxury watches through their paces and carry out intensive tests on the basis of certain criteria and then to certify the watches accordingly after successful completion.
A well-known and at the same time special honor for wristwatches is the word "Chronometer". The word is composed of the Greek words "chronos" for time and "metrum" for measure, literally translated as a timepiece. Today, however, the term "chronometer" weighs heavily, because a chronometer is a mechanical watch that goes extremely well and has a corresponding certificate. Consequently, not every watch is a chronometer. But which certifications are out there in the world of luxury watches? What procedures are used and what do these certifications tell about the timepieces?
Most important certifications for watches
COSC – Contrôle Officiel Suisse des ChronomètresThe Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, abbreviated hereafter to "COSC", was founded in 1973. The organization is supported by five Swiss cantons and the Federation of Swiss Watch Industry FH and has branches in Geneva, Biel and Le Locle. Despite its name, the COSC is not a company of public law, nor is a state-certified inspection institute. Nevertheless, the organization is recognized as non-profit and serves the voluntary self-control of watch manufacturers.
To be certified by the COSC, a watch is tested in various positions and temperatures for accuracy. The test of a single watch lasts 15 days and is observed in five different positions at 8°C, 23°C and 38°C. If the deviations is particularly low, the watch receives the certification as chronometer.
The results that have to be met are meticulously recorded in DIN 8319 and the ISO standard 3159 and can be viewed by everyone. Rolex has its movements certified by the COSC and carries out additional tests that each movement has to pass before the watch is delivered, with its Rolex typical green seals, to the customer.
Poinçon de GenèveThe oldest evidence of watchmaking is the "Genfer Punze", as the name of the seal is in German. Already on 6 November 1886, a law was passed in Geneva, which includes the criteria for the award of the seal. The goal of this effort is to preserve the know-how of fine watchmaking as exclusivity and to guarantee the origin from Geneva, quality and longevity. Prerequisites for the applicants are that the mechanical movement was assembled, regulated and set into its case exclusively in Geneva. In addition, the manufacturer must be registered in the commercial register of the canton of Geneva. If all these criteria are met, the application will be made for awarding the "Genfer Punze", which has been granted by the microtechnology laboratory "Timelab" since 2009. The standards are far higher than the expectations of most customers. This certificate is used by, among others, Cartier, Chopard and Vacheron Constantin. Patek Philippe also used the seal until 2009 before introducing its own certificate, which we introduce next.
Patek Philippe CertificateThe same year, when the Independent Laboratory Timelab was entrusted with the award of the "Genfer Punze", one of Geneva’s most prestigious brands renounced this award. Since 2009, Patek Philppe has been subjecting its watches to its own rules, which are also extremely stringent, thus introducing the Patek Philippe seal. It includes accuracy testing, with the maximum deviation defined on -3 / +2 seconds per day, case treatment, water resistance and lifetime service. The same rules apply to all mechanical watches of the manufactory, regardless of their amount of complication. It is not just about the movements, but the watch as a whole – dial, case, pushers and bracelet are included in the certification. Also on the post processing the requirements are very strict, it also guarantees the perfection of the gems used and the masterful work of the jewler.
What quality promise is hidden behind service for life? The manufactory is justifiably proud of the created timepieces. Even so convinced of themselves that they guarantee the service, ie maintenance and restoration, for all Patek Philippe watches manufactured since its founding in 1839. Admittedly, the companies quality standards are so high that they can give that promise without hesitation.
Federal Institute of Metrology METASSince 2015, the well-known manufacturer Omega has had its movements and watches certified by METAS as "Master Chronometer". However, the test is by no means brand specific; other manufacturers can also submit its watches – the METAS test requires new quality standards. The test for obtaining the METAS certificate may only be subjected to watches equipped with a Co-Axial escapement which, on the other hand, already have a COSC chronometer certificate and, in addition, are amagnetic up to at least 15,000 Gauss. The review of the watches themselves includes approximately 280 steps in eight stages spread over ten days and is performed fully automated. This enables the METAS to check thousands of watches at the same time.
The eight stages are the following:
- Functional test of COSC certified movement in the magnetic field of 15,000 Gauss
- Functional test of the entire watch under the same magnetic strength
- The daily deviation after exposure to the magnetic field
- Measurement of the chronometric precision during four days in 6 different positions
- Test of the power reserve
- Determination of the deviation of the chronometer precision at 100% and at 33% power reserve
- Verification of the waterproofness including exceeding the limit
Fondation Qualité FleurierThe fifth quality certification presented here includes the highest requirements on a wristwatch. For example, the passed chronometer examination and the exclusive Swiss origin are prerequisites to be admitted to the exam. The Fondation Qualité Fleurier is located in Fleurier, a small village near Neuchâtel in Switzerland. The organization was founded in 2001 by Chopard, Parmigiani, Fleurier and Bovet Fleurier. The complete, finished and functional watch is judged – the quality of workmanship of the bracelet and case are just as important as the built-in movement. After aesthetic and technical rules, the entire timepiece is now critically judged. If the examination process was successful, the certificate will be applied directly to the movement as a hallmark in the form of the stylized initials "QF".
Undeniable, there is a countless number of watch manufacturers. Among these are some manufacturers of luxury watches, which try to distinguish themselves from others by certificate seals. Because these certifications guarantee the highest precision, quality and/or Swiss origin. The certificate is ultimately reflected in the value of the luxury watch.