If you’re spending a fortune on a watch, you may surely want absolute assurance of its quality. Of course, the term “Swiss Made” is one which most people go by.
Somehow those two words seem to indicate that you’ve got the best quality watch! However, things work very differently in the world of haute horlogerie. There are many more certifications. Moreover, these are much more specific. Why have watch certifications in place? Well, one of the predominant reasons is that this is an assurance to consumers of the highest quality. It somehow makes the watch stand apart as well. See it as point of differentiation, or a USP.
Here are the popular and time tested quality stamps to look out for:
Contrôle Official Suisse de Chronomètres (COSC)
This non-profit organisation was established in 1973 in Switzerland. The COSC’s standards have been set by international agreement, which makes them the same whether they are ISO (International Organization for Standardization) or DIN (Deutsche Industry norm) standards. COSC’s impressive equipment ensures standardised testing. The results issued by this external and bias-free entity offers a lot of credibility. Indeed, for precision instruments, verification is important. An officially certified COSC chronometer can be identified by a serial number engraved on its movement, as well as a certificate provided by the institute. COSC also has its own standard for testing quartz chronometers.
Poinçon de Genève or the Geneva Seal
Here is another stringent certification and it is often called the ultimate certification of quality in Fine Watchmaking. It is also a very old certification that has kept up to the changing times. This certification is certified by an independent private foundation – TIMELAB, the foundation of the Geneva Laboratory of Horology and Micro-engineering. To receive the seal, a movement must meet 12 criteria related to the quality of the movement’s finishing and the materials from which it is made. It must also have been manufactured in the canton of Geneva. The seal, which consists of the Geneva coat of arms, is stamped on the movement. Any watch that has been certified by The Geneva Seal receives a unique key or code that can be used by any watch buyer to check the authenticity of the certification. Among the Geneva watchmakers who regularly submit their movements for the Geneva Seal certification are: Cartier, Chopard, Roger Dubuis, Vacheron & Constantin, and Ateliers deMonaco.
The Fleurier Quality Foundation
This is the first qualitative horological certification for finished watches, manufactured 100% in Switzerland. The Fleurier Quality Foundation certification meets a normative requirement for the market and the final customer to have a better definition of quality watchmaking, adapted to today’s demands and technological advances. The certification procedure conducted by the Technical Committee comprises five stages of testing, making it possible to determine whether the timepiece meets the established criteria. This includes the conditions that all the operations: the concept, manufacture, assembly, and the control of the watch head and its components, have been carried out in Switzerland. It also includes technical and aesthetic criteria that the watch must meet. At the end of the test, if the watch has passed, a certificate is delivered for each watch head. The watch is then entitled to the certification “FQF La Haute Horlogerie certifiée”.
Watchmakers are known for their emphasis on precision and accuracy. It is quite common in the industry, to have internal testing and certifications, which are in some cases more stringent than those of external bodies! For example, Omega has a chronometer certification in conjunction with the Swiss Federal Office of Metrology and Accreditation (Metas), thereby offering Metas-certified chronometers. Jaeger-LeCoultre also has the strict 1000 Hours Control. Here, the brand tests and certifies its own finished watches which undergo a series of tough trials. Likewise, in a dedicated laboratory, every Montblanc watch powered by an in-house mechanism is tested under conditions that mimic what a watch might encounter when it is worn for 500 hours. Aptly, this label is called the Montblanc 500 Hours.
Also very famous is the Rolex in-house certification. A trademark of all Rolex movements, Superlative Chronometer is obviously, exclusive to Rolex watches. The green seal accompanying every Rolex watch denotes that the watch is a Superlative Certified Chronometer. In addition to being certified by COSC, the watches undergo specific tests controlled by Rolex in their own laboratories as well.
Certified movements have great value. We all know that the accuracy of mechanical watches does change slightly day to day, depending on the various conditions the watch is exposed to. Accuracy is influenced by temperature, magnetism, changing positions and shock, which causes changes in the intricate metal parts of the watch. The change in the mechanical movement cannot be measured at a daily rate but by an average measurement, certifications ensure that the watch is powered by a calibre of the highest quality that can take in these very slight changes and yet not impact the quality of the watch. A certified movement hence speaks of accuracy and sublime craftsmanship. In a sense it is the mark of the dedication of the watchmaker!