Concours international de chronométrie 2015

The 4th edition of this contest of chronometry, styled after Observatory trials, got underway in January 2015 with the acceptance of 46 entries, a new record, however 26 candidates were in the category of student watchmakers and participation of the Manufactures had actually declined.  

In May, the contestants were required to submit their pieces to the Musée d'horlogerie at Le Locle.  At this point came another surprise; some applicants decided to back out!

In June the remaining timepieces were subjected to the first of three rounds of COSC timing trials, followed by magnetic tests at the Haute Ecole Arc Ingénierie.  The 28 watches that survived this preliminary vetting are allowed to continue.  Of Manufactures, the following remain: Chopard, Dodane, Kerbedanz, Péquignet, Louis Moinet, Sellita, and Tissot.

The Concours ends on Sept. 18 at the Besançon Observatory  (some of us may be suffering a hang-over from the previous night's celebrations) and the winners will be announced in Chenit on October 22.

I am disappointed that so many Brands are still timid when it comes to putting their marketing statements to a real test.  In the absence of independent verification of timekeeping performance and reliability, I think the WIS community is entitled to infer such claims as mere hyperbole.

I see 2 major issues with this "contest"
07/08/2015 - 12:10

1st they have not done a good job marketing themselves, only those who know about it try to find info, they are so low key that they are under everyones radar. I work in the industry, I love watches and I didn't even know they were having this competition. And seriously I don't even know how well they have tried to "sell" the contest to brands. 

they need to make it interesting both for brands and the collectors, which brings me to my 2nd point: do aficionados really care? Have past winners actually sold more watches or created more awareness on their brand? I doubt it.

All this to say that either the "Concours" makes itself more interesting or it will continue being ignored by brands and collectors.

8 years, no excuse...
07/08/2015 - 17:02

Absolutely agreed, Alex.  The low profile of this bi-annual contest, now eight years old, has more to do with politics than marketing, I feel.  That you as an insider don't know more, when VC has a member on the organizing committee is a real wonder.

The second question is one I'd really like to hear from our group; do independent tests/trials/contests of chronometry matter to the consumer?  I know it matters to the brands as they constantly refer to innovations that theoretically may improve timekeeping reliability, but it ends with the ink on paper rather than where the rubber meets the road, to borrow a phrase.

 

Being of like mind on history and chronometry
07/09/2015 - 04:34

I agree with you in the interest of Observatory Trials and what was needed by the extremely talented regleurs in order to achieve the results they did. 

But I believe most people do not look at extreme time-keeping accuracy and precision as the primary objective.  In today's market, where watches are considered more of a luxury item,  it is the craftsmanship and ingenious designs that maintain "very good" timekeeping (but not necessarily Observatory Chronometry standard levels) that sells.  Now if the watch keeps breaking, that's another story (but I know people that give brands with new and revolutionary designs alot of leeway too when products do not function properly - with watches, cars, etc.)

I saw a Tissot sales display yesterday and they include in a graphic that sits on the wall behind the counter, a statement about winning the Concours International de Chronométrie.  But I don't think anybody pays attention to it, much less enquire about it.

BR, Dan

"Do better, if possible"
07/10/2015 - 16:47

"and that is always possible!"  Undeniably VC and other haute horlogerie names are emphasizing the crafts which support their artistic heritage, and we all benefit from the visual stimulation these wonders provide.  I hope that inherent in the DNA of the company, however, there remains a fundamental committment to be the best at chronometry regardless of what may capture the public fancy at any point in time.  Such must surely buttress their unprecedented success for 260 years heart

Dean ends the argument and ... *mic drop*
07/10/2015 - 18:29

Dean ends the argument and ... *mic drop*

Whaaaaaat!
07/11/2015 - 18:27

The mic may have been dropped, but it ain't broken angel.  LOL, I've been reading up on V&C history from the period of my verge parts watch and was pleasantly surprised to read these words from Francois Constantin in 1842; "The decorative is always advantaged over the useful".

His statement was an expression of frustration that V&C couldn't talk the civic government into investing in new production facilities but they seemed to have open purses for "decoration", which I take to mean statues and promenades, that produce nothing and actually cost in maintenance. 

Often the nature of luxury...past, present, and future. (nt)
07/12/2015 - 02:27
Our understanding of accuracy...
07/13/2015 - 19:29

Embellishment to support a point is expected in marketing but the exaggeration implied by COSC that 10 seconds per day of time-loss or gain constitutes precision worthy of a chronometer is simply laughable.  For goodness sake, John Arnold  could commercially produce a watch in the 1780s that was documented to gain or lose less than one second per day.  Jump forward to the 1990s and George Daniels was able to independently construct his double-wheel escapement to achieve the same level of accuracy.  It was possible then, and it is possible now, to move the bar!

Re: 8 years, no excuse...
07/09/2015 - 06:37

I was a concert piano technician for many years and I was never once asked for my credentials. But I am quite sure that, if the piano was not in tune after I'd finished getting it ready for a concert or recording session, someone would have questioned my ability.

So, I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Dave

 

I agree with the others
07/09/2015 - 21:05

I think for 90+% of buyers, almost all mechanical watches on the market are "accurate enough".  I think the winners likely do not sell more pieces, but maybe they can sell at a higher price point to people interested in collecting such pieces.  It feels like a very "niche" appeal.   in the older days, when horology was still closely connected to navigation and timing athletic competitions, it was more marketable or intersting.  I think accuracy belongs to the computers and the mechanical watches need to be "accurate enough" and their value is in the art, the histroy, the tradition, etc.  Of course, I am somewhat of a newbie, especially when it comes to collecting, but I rarely hear people I know that collect talking about wanting the more accurate watch over the less accurate one.

Not a VC, but since we're talking Observatory Chronometers.
07/18/2015 - 02:25

  I know this isn't a VC, but I can't resist and I hope everyone forgives me (I hope it isn't an infraction)

 

Here is my Girard Perregaux Observatory Chronometer,  it's movement ( GP 32A)  passed the cerification at Neuchatel Observatory (45 days of testing with rigorous standards of accuracy) in 1967, only Girard Perregaux and Seiko made  watches that passed these trials that were available for public purchase and I was fortunate to purchase one for my birthday this year.

My piece has been restored by GP and has an interesting history :) but I for one would love to see this testing re-instated. To my understanding the tests cost a lot and I can see why a lot of manufacturers would opt out of competing.

Not a VC, but since we're talking Observatory Chronometers.

 

Congrats Rogi, that's a great piece of history
07/18/2015 - 10:58

It's one of the reasons I have a small selection of Grand Seikos from 1968-1969.  Not the same as your GP that actually participated in the trials, but the movemenets in my GS are of the same calibre.

BR, Dan

Re: Congrats Rogi, that's a great piece of history
07/18/2015 - 19:41

Thank you Dan, the Seiko movements are wonderful as well it took a lot for the devlopment of movements for this testing and am so glad to see that GP and Seiko made the same movements available for purchase to the public and continued with production of the movements, even if some didn't take part it is still an excellent example of watchmaking prowess.

 

 

Outstanding, thanks for sharing
07/18/2015 - 16:33

Please show a movement picture!  This is very interesting, I know very little about the wrists that participated in Trials.  Can you give us a brief history-line?  

Re modern Trials; the most often retort I hear, besides relevancy, is cost.  Really though, what is the excuse for those brands selling at $20k and over?

Re: Outstanding, thanks for sharing
07/18/2015 - 19:39

  It is my pleasure to share the piece, thank you for the kind comments :)

 

The history goes something like this (I'll just do a short one from the 60s onwards) in the early days there were many producers that competed in Observatory trials (Zenith, Peseux etc) , there were many more Observatories that did testing (Geneva, Kew, Besancon Observatories just to name a few).

Movements from these brands were specifically made for testing at these Observatories (like making an F1 car for the track). Tests from these Observatories ranged from 30 days to 50 days.

GP had their own movement and one of the first (if not the first) research and design company and out came  the 32A movement, it was improved on an earlier model, in essence it is like having a factory tuned vehicle compete with the F1s. The GP 32A is also the first movement that beat at 36000 bph while at the time in 1966, 67 etc. other watche manufacturers had watches that beat at far less.

 

The test at Neuchatel Observatory (if my memory serves correct :S) comprises of 45 days of testing (COSC is 15 days), 5 positions, 2 temperatures, and 10 series of 4-5 days per series. If the movement can pass the test, it has the right to have "Observatory Chronometer" on it's dial as the designation.

The average deviation per day had to be within +/- 0.75 Seconds for Neuchatel, while as we know COSC is -4/+6

Thermal deviation had to be +/- 0.20 sec per day for Neuchatel, COSC is +/- 0.60 sec. per day

670 GP 32A movements passed the trials and were sold to the public.

 

As for the history,

Initially in 1966 Girard Perregaux submited 662 (a trend it seems :D) GP 32A movements to what is now COSC and they received "esspecially good results" , out of these 662, GP submited 40 for further testing at Neuchatel, they passed and were given the title "Observatory Chronometer"

 

In my understanding in 1967, 662 GP 32A movements were completed in the factory in October and imediatley submited and passed the trials at Neuchatel, they accounted for a bit more than 70% of all movements that passed that year, earning GP a prize from the Neuchatel Observatory, my watch is one of these 662 :)

As for my watch,

The previous owner purchased it and it came like this,

 

 Outstanding, thanks for sharing

 

The GP restoration dept. has an excellent team and the main curator of the museum (name removed upon his request) identified an incorrect dial on this piece (if you can notice it doesn't line up that well) and as you can see above it is listed as "Chronometer HF" which indicates that the movement passed COSC but not Neuchatel, GP's curator found that it was a completley incorrect dial and the restoration team made a custom dial from a original base plate as well added the correct "Observatory Chronometer" from an uncommon naming plate.

 

The restoration resulted in this:

 Outstanding, thanks for sharing 

 

Fortunatley there is now a nice display back on this piece (installed by previous owner, a collector friend of mine :) and his photo borrowed) , the movement is fairly plain compared to other movements,  but I love the features and look of it regardless,

 Outstanding, thanks for sharing

 

I feel very fortunate to have picked up this piece, I call it the "Phoenix" since it rose from the ashes and will have many, many more years of wrist time to come in the future :)

 

Thank you all for your comments :)

 

 

Wonderful story, much appreciated :-)
07/18/2015 - 23:53

&

A great story Rogi, thanks for sharing! (nt)
07/19/2015 - 03:17
Re: Re: Outstanding, thanks for sharing
07/19/2015 - 14:38

It isn't in the same class but I had my Bulova Lindbergh dial restored about two years ago and it made a huge difference; however, it still gains 5 minutes a day.

Dave

Re: Re: Re: Outstanding, thanks for sharing
07/19/2015 - 20:06

I guess the name of the model is "Lone Eagle" to commemorate the Lindbergh flight. The watch was made in the early 30's but I can't seem to pin it down - even with the serial number.

Dave