MARKS OF QUALITY
With more brands relying on in-house quality labels, Elizabeth Doerr explains how they differ from the traditional ones
While regarded as a mark of quality in watchmaking, even the term “Swiss made” is today, a diluted representation of what it used to mean, as only a portion of a watch needs to be produced within Switzerland in order to qualify for the hallmark. Aside from this label, the world of haute horlogerie is dotted with many more certifications that are much more specific. These labels were engineered as a sign of assurance to consumers and served as an additional point of differentiation among the brands — presumably, a watch is deemed as better or more accurate, when they are accompanied by these quality stamps.
The oldest and probably most famous of these labels is the Seal of Geneva (Poinçon de Genève), which was created in 1886.
This historic measure was established as a certification that can only be awarded to Geneva-based watch companies with movements that are assembled and regulated within the canton of Geneva. It was a quality seal that was originally devised to protect the name “Geneva” from abuse by brands outside of the canton that were, more often than not, producing less superior timepieces. The Seal of Geneva — awarded by a commission comprising seven members who are Swiss citizens appointed for four-year terms — has been modified over the years to remain current and relevant. Watch brands that regularly receive the Seal of Geneva include Vacheron Constantin (since 1909), Roger Dubuis, Chopard and most recently, Cartier.
The Seal of Geneva is now part of an organisation known as Timelab, whose range of activities is accredited by four international ISO/IEC standards. In addition to the Poinçon de Genève, this also includes the Observatoire Chronométrique certification. The self-prescribed aim of the independent and neutral Timelab is to provide potential customers with an additional guarantee of quality.
The other quality label widely adopted by watch brands is Switzerland’s Contrôle Official Suisse de Chronomètres (COSC), a non-profit organisation established in
1973 in Switzerland. The COSC’S standards have been set by international agreement, which makes them the same whether they are ISO (International Organization for Standardization) or DIN (Deutsche