Good news for Chronometry fans: Observatory certification is back

Time Lab press release

Good news for Chronometry fans: Observatory certification is back

In the great tradition of Astronomical Observatories, and with the aim of fulfilling the needs of end customers more effectively, TIMELAB will issue individual Chronometric+ Observatory certificates for the chronometric performance of the finished watch, incorporating a “bulletin de marche” as well as reports on other aspects relating to its reliability: water resistance, magnetic resistance, power reserve and performance on the wrist.

Astronomical observatories in the history of watchmaking

Astronomy was at the origins of watchmaking, and since the 18th century observatories have been setting the standard for the measurement of time among watchmakers seeking to reproduce the movements of the stars and the passing time in their timepieces.

In fact, it was astronomical observatories who drew up the first rigorous criteria allowing timepieces that passed their tests to obtain the famous “bulletin de marche” and to be inscribed with the prestigious words: “certified chronometer”.  

In Switzerland, a long tradition of chronometric certification dates back to the creation of the Geneva Observatory in 1772, which held its own chronometric competition from 1872 to 1968.

The Chronometric+ Observatory Certification, a recognised legal and technical guarantee for the end customer 
The new Chronometric+ Observatory certification is a guarantee issued by TIMELAB. It certifies that a watch complies with the requirements drawn up by the laboratory and authorises it to bear the prestigious and official title of “chronometer watch” in accordance with the internationally recognised ISO/CEI 3159 standard. The guarantee covers the finished watch and extends to other aspects relating to its reliability such as water resistance, magnetic resistance, power reserve and performance on the wrist, in conditions representative of modern life.

The Chronometric+ Observatory Certification will be based on recognition at a state level (via law I 1 25 passed by the Canton of Geneva) and at a technical level (via the accreditations in process at the SAS, the Swiss Accreditation Service).

Taking into account the accreditations and the certified test protocols, the certification process will be carried out in the watch factories on each individual piece (100% tested), overseen by authorised TIMELAB auditors who will carry out regular inspections.

The “Chronometric+ Observatory” certification was created by TIMELAB in March 2014. It is part of the great Swiss tradition of astronomical observatories, the oldest of which is the Geneva Observatory, founded in 1772 by the astronomer Jacques-André Mallet.

This certification programme is open to all mechanical watches made in Switzerland. 

Tests are carried out in the watchmakers' factories or in the laboratory, depending on volumes, in response to recent changes in the watchmaking industry and to the needs of brands. 

This certification also meets the demands of end customers, because it applies to finished watches, not just the movements, which are individually and independently checked in every aspect.

Lastly, the “Chronometric+ Observatory” certificate, issued according to the international standard ISO/CEI 3159, not only checks the chronometric performance of the watch but also other aspects that affect its reliability: water resistance, magnetic resistance, power reserve and performance on the wrist.

Why has TIMELAB introduced a new watch certification programme?

After a number of years of consideration and consultation with numerous experts and leading players in the Swiss watchmaking industry, TIMELAB has launched the Chronometric+ Observatory certification programme based on three factors:

  • demand from watchmakers, who want to raise the bar of current certification to a more stringent level, covering the finished watch and not just the movement, and who also require an organisation that can adapt to their production constraints,the needs of end customers, who want a certificate that guarantees the overall watch, based on tests that reflect the everyday demands made on the watch (passing through airport security, playing sport, etc.), and who also want an "Observatory Report" for each watch certified and the desire to promote the horological and astronomical history of Switzerland and Geneva.

    Chronometric+ Observatory certificate=ISO/CEI 3159 standard + reliability tests

    The Swiss watchmaking industry adheres to national standards (NIHS: Normes de l’Industrie Horlogère Suisse) and international standards (ISO: International Organization for Standardisation). For chronometers, the relevant standard is ISO/CEI 3159, which defines the criteria whereby a watch is authorised to bear the official title of "certified chronometer".

    For the Chronometric+ Observatory certification, TIMELAB based its specifications on standard ISO/CEI 3159, which it voluntarily complemented with other reliability criteria:

    Only certificates issued by duly accredited organisations are recognised internationally.

    This is the case of TIMELAB, which is in the processes of becoming accredited by the SAS in the four following technical areas:
    ISO/CEI 17065 Product Certification    
    ISO/CEI 17025 SCS Calibration Laboratory     
    ISO/CEI 17025 STS Test Laboratory 
    ISO/CEI 17020 Inspection.       

    This accreditation will make TIMELAB the only watchmaking laboratory in the world to be able to certify finished products, as well as the equipment used for certification. 
    Just an obvious comment
    04/04/2014 - 20:10
    These are not traditional Observatory trials, rather they are an enhancement of the standard COSC testing.  They may have appropriated the word "Observatory" (as they did "chronometer") but that is a misdirection.  This program does not continue the great tradition of Swiss Observatory trials; in fact, just the opposite.  Observatory trials rated watches in competition with others and granted individual and series points based on timekeeping performance and rewarded the best.  COSC testing establishes minimum acceptable standards so that today, under their trademark control of the term, a "chronometer" is allowed a spread of 10-13 sec./day.  Contrast that with military deck watches of 75 years ago, which met a minimum standard of 0.5 sec/day in the field! I'm also curious as to how an "Observatory Report" can be granted for a watch that never visits an Observatory, in fact, never leaves the factory? One aspect is fascinating and perhaps more important than all the hype.  I would love to know how this proccess provides a "recognized legal and technical guarantee for the end customer"?  If this indeed compensates watch owners for sub-standard performance, or provides free adjustments, or replaces defective watches, we have a revolutionary improvement in customer service and industry accountability.  Their website refers to Canton of Geneva enacting legislation I-1-25, but no details are provided.  Alex, can you please assist with further enquiries? I am encouraged by the enhancements that COSC has finally made to their outdated testing standards in aspects other than timekeeping.  OTOH, their marketing of the perception of Observatory trials into something completely different is objectionable and unnecessary.  The Concours International de Chronometrie held by COSC and partners in 2009, 2011 and 2013 are legitimate trials and the 2015 edition is scheduled to launch at the end of May.