Is Cal. 454 considered chronometer quality?


I've recently realized more clearly that my interest in watches comes from them being marvelous, precision, mechanical, machines  (I guess it comes from my mechanical/aerospace engineering background).  Beautifully made chronometer movements being the most interesting to me since that is the primary function of a watch (in my opinion). 

That being said, I've been going through our Lounge's recommended threads about VC's chronometer quality calibers.  Through the wonderful German book that Doc found, caliber 453 is considered chronometer quality but 454 is not listed.  I was wondering if cal. 454 is also considered chronometer quality since I believe the only difference is that it has a center seconds hand vs. the 453's sub-seconds hand.  Are there other differences between the 453 and 454?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Best Regards, Dan

Re: Is Cal. 454 considered chronometer quality?
04/16/2009 - 18:49
Hi Dan:  Interesting question!  Technically, the differences between the 453 and 454 are slight, with the center seconds adding 1mm of height to the movement but otherwise they share the same 17 jewel count and 18000 vph.  The 454 was also the basis for one of the first Chronometre Royal wrist watch movements - the 1008BS. Previously, Alex listed the movements that V&C considered as chronometer-grade: Recommended Thread, which excluded the 454.  But I don't see why it could not be adjusted to chronometer standards?  It certainly isn't of lesser quality or design and I wouldn't exclude one from my collection for that reason . BTW, the base ebauche for the 454 was the JLC 449 which was also available as the JLC chronometer-grade 478.
04/16/2009 - 18:55
My thoughts exactly Dean, thats why I asked the question :-)
04/16/2009 - 19:11
I would expect the 454 to be of chronometer quality (though I don't know if there were specific, industry-wide, standards before COSC that defined "chronometer quality").  Is this just one of those VC quirks that we all know and love?  I went through the recommended threads and took the great info from the thread you mentioned above as well as from the 1967 parts catalog your provided.  I even created a spreadsheet based on that information for it to be easier to read and put on my smartphone for instant access the info you gave us (I'm a geeky Vacheronista).  I'll be adding info to it, especially for newer calibers, as I find them. Thanks for the pics, it puts the technical data into visual perspective. BR, Dan
04/16/2009 - 19:30
Before COSC, chronometer certificates were issued by several private Observatories.  Vacheron took great pride in competing for accuracy tests run by these observatories, and their results were heavily featured in advertisements from 1900 to 1950's.   Vacheron actually employed their best watchmakers as tuners of special movements to be used in the competitions and it really wouldn't be fair to imply that regular production pieces of the same movements held to the same standards as the Observatory pieces!Legendary watchmaker Edmond Olivier with competition movement, from Secrets of Vacheorn Constantin Before then, the term "chronometer" only meant a time-keeping device, without any inference as to accuracy.  So it's somewhat ambiguous as to what chronometer-grade actually means until COSC set the industry-wide standard.
This Is a book you should get!
04/16/2009 - 22:42
My dear dshao1, get this, it's a prescription from a doc! Yes I know it's in German, but it's no problem in the discussions we are having. Just get it and you don't bother go wondering in the future. It use to pop up at ebay quite often, make a standing search, and you will get one. I have fixed it to several pals before, but haven't time. NOW WE ARE TALKING OF GERMAN EBAY FIRST! There are the answers to your questions. 454 no chronoquality, sorry, but it's VC movement, so it is OK anyhow. It's a little bible of mine. Here is some pages   I done a lot of underlining, but that's just to make people beleive I really read it! It's from a company Chatarina Verlag Klagenfurth written by Anton  Kreuzer   ISBN:3-85378-384-8 Good luck! BTW, Dean your latest picture composition is a hit, thanks  Doc
Great stuff, Thanks!
04/17/2009 - 02:44
I'll be a good patient and start searching for what the Doc has prescribed for me! Its a good thing that German and English are similar enough where I can understand most of what these pages listed are telling me. BR, Dan
I question this conclusion...
04/17/2009 - 03:37
Doc – I have no doubt that the book you have highlighted is quite useful, and I also don't claim to be an expert. However, I have spoken to a number of top-class watchmakers, and every single one of them maintains that virtually all very good movements (a category which would certainly include the K454) can be adjusted to meet Chronometer standards. In fact, I was speaking to a fine watchmaker in NY recently, and he said that he could adjust any well-preserved Omega 30mm movement (over three million produced!) to meet COSC standards! I find it very hard to believe that any of the V&C K454 series could not have been adjusted to meet Chronometer specifications. I do understand that your book characterizes certain movements as being "chronometer quality" and not others, but I find it difficult to believe that the latter group could not have been adjusted to such standards. I would be very interested in Alex's opinion, or that of someone at V&C who has familiarity with the K454 movements. Regards, Tony C.
Re: I question this conclusion...
04/17/2009 - 03:56
Hi Tony, I'm starting to look into what the Observatory Competitions were like, what their results were and how they compare with COSC standards.  I don't think its that clear on what "Chronometer Quality" really entails before COSC. I believe the book that Doc refers to was printed in the 80s and reprinted in 1992.  Since the book comes after COSC was established, I don't know if their "Chronometer Quality" designation is related to COSC standards or some other standards (perhaps based on Obeservatory competition results?) that were relevant when the calibers first came into existence. I'm also interested in what type of time keeping accuracy Chronometre grade pocket watches possessed over 100 years ago and how much they differ from today's chronometer standards. I'm hoping Alex and VC will be able to chime in on this topic as well, what do you say Jefei? Thanks for your input and interest!  Are you still in NY, hopefully I get to meet you on May 4th? BR, Dan
Tony, I tend to agree with you and believe you are correct
04/17/2009 - 04:50
In fact, I would think that several VC calibers, not just K454, would be able to meet COSC and other "Chronometer Quality" standards but are not listed as such (would almost all VC calibers be able to?).  Off the top of my head I can think of: K1001 K1002 K1071 I'm sure there are others that I haven't mentioned that could "meet the grade", including chronograph and other complicated movements with which I'm less familiar with. This could lead to the question of what is the value of a "Chronometer" rating when it comes to a well made, high-quality, watch.  Is it marketing or a real technical challenge? BR, Dan
Hi Dan...
04/17/2009 - 05:24
"Is it marketing or a real technical challenge?" It's no doubt a bit of both. It's well-known, of course, that the highest end manufacturers, including Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and V&C, felt little if any need to have their watches "certified" by outside entities. They were (correctly) confident that there own internal standards were as, if not more stringent than those of the testing organizations. I mentioned the Omega 30mm movements because they were really utilitarian compared with the top brands, and were used in (among others) very ordinary watches for decades. Yet the movements were so well-designed, that they could (and still can) be brought up to Chronometer standards through careful adjustment. Having said that, no ordinary movements would be capable of such accuracy, no matter how many adjustments are made. As an aside, I will be in the U.K. on the wekend of the 4th, so unfortunately will not be able to attend the dinner. If you happen to reside in the metro NYC area, though, feel free to e-mail me and we can arrange to meet some other time. Best regards, Tony C.
Re: Hi Dan...
04/17/2009 - 06:58
Valid points.  I know that COSC has its weaknesses and how the really high-end manufactures don't need it to assure their products timekeeping accuracy. I guess that leads me to wonder what VC's strategy is for using the Chronometer designation and what they consider to be "Chronometer Quality" now and in the past.  In a recent thread on the new Overseas, Alex mentioned that VC wants to keep COSC certification just for the Chronometer Royal.  This is why the Gen 2 Overseas is no longer COSC when the Gen 1 was (I'm referring to the simple time/date model - the OS Chronographs were never COSC). Are there VC internal standards for what is "Chronometer Quality" as referred to the in the German book that Doc has shown us, and how has it changed over the past 100 years? I know, I know - I'm just full of these questions.  Anybody with additional insight or thoughts about this - please participate. BR, Dan
I think that there has been a lot of confusion and I'm certainly
04/17/2009 - 12:26
responsable for part of it for having posted the thread with the VC calibers sating that they are chronometer quality. In fact pre COSC Chronometers were watches that had passed the Observatory trials and today its those that have undergone the COSC trials. Thus it is incorrect to define a caliber as being chronometer quality since it is the specific movement which needs to undergo the trials before being considered as a chronometer. For example cal 2460 in the Chronometre Royal is a chronometer as it has passed the COSC trials but the same movement in the Patrimony Contemporaine without date is not a chronometer as it has not passed the COSC trials. Another example is the new cal 1400 that Kari Voutilainen tested and regulated to chronometer standards. All this to say that any movement can be regulated to meet chronometric standards but needs to have passed observatory or COSC trials to be oficially called a chronometer.
Alex, I'm giving you a new nickname: The Illuminator :-)
04/17/2009 - 13:37
Thanks, I knew COSC testing and certification was based on each individual movement being tested but didn't know that Pre COSC chronometers were also individual watches that had to pass Observatory trials.  That's pretty cool and time consuming! Were the Observatory trials done on the completely assembled watch, or just the bare movement (like COSC).  I think it would be much more valuable if it was done on an assembled watch.  This is getting more and more fascinating for me.  Could "Chronometer Quality" calibers, as defined in the German book Doc refers to, have been ones where some individual movements/watches were sent for trials and passed?  As an example, VC may sent some K453 based watches for Observatory trials and passed - therfore all K453s fall under the category of "Chronometer Quality", but for whatever reason VC never sent a K454 based watches for Observatory trials and therefore it cannot be classified a "Chronometer Quality" caliber even though it could have met the chronometric standards of the time? Would you happen to know: Was there any one Observatory's trials that VC competed/participated in more than others?   Were there significant variations among the Observatories (sort of like different standardization bodies) in terms of standards, methods and conditions for testing? What was considered "passing" at the trials and how did that change over time, we're talking over 100 years (at least when I take the Chronometer Royal pocket watch from 1907 as a starting point,  I don't know when the first watch, VC or another brand, that ever passed an Observatory trial was officially designated as a Chronometer) Cool stuff Alex.  I'm learning tons. BR, Dan
questions ..questions...and one small answer
04/17/2009 - 14:38
Boy Dan you are tough For an introduction to Observatory trial check out my article on the Chronometre Royal (All Articles section) To answer your questions: - I belive VC participated almost exclusively at the Geneva Observatory trials - I haven't managed to get my hands on the different rules governing the Swiss Observatory trials (Geneva and Neuchatel) so I don't reall know if there was a huge difference amonng the two. My gut feeling is no. It is also important to note that the rules differed for each type of movement submited (size of movement, marine chronomater, complication etc...) - Once again I don't have the documentation regarding the evolution of critera to pass the trial but there was a modification in 1952 for the Geneva Observatory Trial and for example a pocket watch had to comply with the following 8non exhaustive): a) the average deviation for each tested period should not be supperior to 5s b) for one single period the average deviation should not be more than 1s c) at a 20°C temperature the deviation during two periods should not be more than 7s ETC...ETC...
Merci Beaucoup Mon Ami...
04/17/2009 - 14:44
for both the information and the patience! BR, Dan
Technically correct, of course...
04/17/2009 - 20:41
but the thrust of this thread as I was reading it is whether or not certain movements which were not sent for testing were capable of achieving such results. I do agree, Alex, that no movement which did not pass the tests could be called, or considered to be a chronometer movement. However, there were many movements made that were of such good quality that they were capable of being brought to within chronometer specifications had they been adjusted properly. And I would be very surprised indeed if the K454 series of movements did not fall into that category. Best regards, Tony C.
according to VC vintage movement experts all these
04/17/2009 - 21:34
calibers could obtain chronometer certification if regulated accordingly
Bingo! (as we Yanks sometimes say)
04/17/2009 - 21:57
Thank you very much for that, Alex. It's nice to hear the experts at V&C corroborate what I have been led to believe by independent watchmakers. You have been very helpful, as always. TC
COSC is as mentioned several times above, pure marketing.
04/18/2009 - 02:03
Rolex send several 100.000's of watches to COSC per year... Several other medium watch brands also send 100.000's of watches. What do they want to show? VC stopped doing chronometer tests in the 50's, thought their own definition was enough, and so so I Now Geneva Seal rules Hej, Doc