Highly De­fined

The Fon­da­tion de la Haute Hor­logerie has es­tab­lished a def­i­ni­tion for what it con­sid­ers fine watch­mak­ing. Sean Li ex­plains the process and con­sid­ers its im­pli­ca­tions

Hong Kong Tatler - - Style Watches -

he term haute horol­ogy, or fine watch­mak­ing, is of­ten seen, but what does it mean ex­actly? What de­ter­mines whether a watch or brand qual­i­fies for that par­tic­u­lar la­bel? And why does it mat­ter to you when you walk into a bou­tique and face an un­prece­dented range from which to se­lect your next ac­qui­si­tion?

The lat­ter ques­tion is a highly per­sonal one, but it goes to the very def­i­ni­tion of fine watch­mak­ing. The Fon­da­tion de la Haute Hor­logerie (FHH) was founded in 2005 to be a guardian and author­ity of what con­sti­tutes fine watch­mak­ing, and to com­mu­ni­cate and ed­u­cate all lev­els of the watch­mak­ing in­dus­try, from the brands to the re­tail­ers and cus­tomers. Its mis­sion hasn’t al­ways been straight­for­ward, though, largely be­cause of the lack of a clearcut def­i­ni­tion of fine watch­mak­ing. So for the past few years, the foun­da­tion has worked to de­velop a method­ol­ogy that would lead to not only an ac­cepted def­i­ni­tion of the term fine watch­mak­ing, but also an in­dus­try clas­si­fi­ca­tion of which brands would be ac­cepted within its perime­ter.

To do so, the FHH turned to its cul­tural coun­cil, which com­prises 46 in­di­vid­u­als such as col­lec­tors, watch­mak­ers, de­sign­ers, his­to­ri­ans, re­tail­ers and me­dia. I’ve been hon­oured to be a mem­ber for the past two years. Rather than ask each mem­ber for their sub­jec­tive im­pres­sions of a par­tic­u­lar brand, the FHH de­vel­oped a very de­tailed method­ol­ogy which breaks down fine watch­mak­ing into seven fun­da­men­tal ar­eas: R&D, pro­duc­tion and tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise; style, de­sign and artis­tic ex­per­tise; history and DNA; dis­tri­bu­tion and af­ter-sales ser­vice; connoisseurs and col­lec­tors; brand im­age and com­mu­ni­ca­tion; and train­ing. Each mem­ber of the cul­tural coun­cil is at­tached to one or more of these ar­eas and was asked to an­swer a lengthy ques­tion­naire on each area, and for 86 brands. The re­sult­ing anal­y­sis de­ter­mined whether a brand op­er­ates within the perime­ter of fine watch­mak­ing. To level the play­ing field, as it would not be fair to ex­pect the small in­de­pen­dent watch­mak­ers to be able to op­er­ate in the same way as the large brands, the perime­ter it­self is fur­ther bro­ken down into four seg­ments—his­toric maisons, con­tem­po­rary brands, lux­ury brands, and ar­ti­san cre­ators.

The ques­tion­naires were dis­tilled into a spe­cific rat­ing for each of the 86 brands; if the score was 6 or above, the brand was au­to­mat­i­cally within the fine watch­mak­ing perime­ter. To ac­count for some sta­tis­ti­cal vari­a­tion, the coun­cil was asked to make a

The Fon­da­tion de la Haute Hor­logerie has re­leased a book out­lin­ing the cri­te­ria for what de­fines a fine watch­mak­ing brand

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