The Observatoire Chronometrique+ is a new initiative in which any and all Swiss-made mechanical watches can be submitted, and they test fully assembled watches, not just for their chronometric performance, but also their power reserve and their resistance to water and magnetism. At first sight, it certainly has the potential to make brands who have not done so in the past consider certifying their watches, contributing to some unexpected changes in the market. Let's explore the details of this new certificate and how it may influence the industry.
It is a bitter pill: the appearance and subsequent popularization of quartz watches beginning in the 1970s have rendered mechanical watches obsolete and have consequently pushed the Swiss watch industry to the brink of extinction, making for an almost twenty-year-long recovery. Quartz watches were (and are) cheaper to make, often more reliable, and always more accurate than the great majority of their mechanical counterparts. Nevertheless, the Swiss mechanical watch lives, enjoying its renaissance, a most peculiar phenomenon powered by its ability to transform mere everyday instruments into something more special, and often more luxurious.
The mechanical watch premium is justified in part by the craftsmanship that goes into its construction. Providing certificates that guarantee the high quality of different technical and aesthetic aspects of a watch is a part of that justification. But first, we need to understand is how this new program fits among other certificates and the qualifications that make it a worthy authority.
Operating under the authority of the Republic and Canton of Geneva, Timelab is an independent Swiss horology laboratory, mainly responsible for watch certification. They have been known for administering the Poincon de Geneve (the Geneva Seal), a certificate that assesses the quality of decorations, the accuracy, and the the function of a watch submitted to its tests. It is reserved exclusively for watches assembled in the Canton of Geneva. Timelab is also among those few organizations capable of certifying timekeeping equipment for major national and international sporting events–including the Olympic Games. And if that wasn't a pedigree enough, they also have a role in the research and development linked to timekeeping challenges and work in collaboration with watchmaking schools and universities.
With the presence of COSC, Poincon de Geneve and a number of other lesser known certificate programs, you may rightfully ask what necessitated the creation of yet another program and how it might affect your future purchasing decisions. While the program is not in operation just yet, what we know is that with the "Chronometric+ Observatory, ” Timelab offers a certification program that is open to all mechanical watches made in Switzerland (unlike the Poincon de Geneve which is restricted to watches manufactured in the Canton of Geneva) and it applies to finished watches which are independently checked in every aspect (unlike COSC which tests uncased movements only). With that in mind, what necessitated the creation of this new certificate was the lack of "universality" of the others or, in other words, the industry needed a program that could be applied widely to any and all Swiss made mechanical watches and checked complete watches for not just their accuracy or aesthetics, but also for their claimed water resistance, power reserve, anti-magnetic claims, and quality of assembly.