By Osheen Arakelian
At a press conference at Geneva’s Cité du Temps on Tuesday, Swiss watch brand OMEGA and the director of the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS) announced their collaboration on a new watch certification process that the brand will begin using in 2015 to test each of its Master Co-Axial watches.
The meeting was presided over by a number of influential figures including Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek, Dr Christian Bock, the Director of METAS, Stephen Urquhart, President of Omega and Omega Vice President Raynald Aeschilmann and Andreas Hobmeier.
Mr. Hayek pointed out that the Swatch Group has long been a leader in its promotion of the Swiss watch industry and the “Swiss Made” label and he expressed his satisfaction with the innovations that have made it so robust. He added that Swatch Group is committed to retaining its leadership position in the Swiss watch industry and said that their new partnership with METAS was the logical next step. What’s interesting here is that for a very long period, the industry norm was the COSC chronometer certification that is used by many in the watch industry and this is a bold step by Omega to step away from the norm and pursue something more progressive.
The reasoning behind Omega joining METAS, as was stated by Dr. Christian Bock is that METAS is part of the Swiss federal government. The institute is the center of competence for the Swiss government for all matters involving measurements and measuring procedures. Being an independent institution that is part of the Swiss Government, they must be above reproach and remain unbiased, which is a big reason for the new partnership. Andreas Hobmeier, Omega Vice President of Production and Procurement, detailed the rigorous tests that each Master Co-Axial watch will have to pass in order to earn the “Officially Certified” distinction. The watches will be tested for their precision during and after exposure to magnetic fields greater than 15,000 gauss – they will have to perform within a tolerance of between 0 and +5 seconds per day, for autonomy and water resistance.
Omega is hoping that the Master Co-Axial caliber by adding a new standard would motivate other brands to move ahead to meet the new criteria as well and drive the industry forward.
The news came not as a shock but more so with a sense of apprehension for me. The partnership isn’t without merit, BUT I find myself asking a few questions. Firstly, and most importantly, it was highlighted during the press conference that all the testing will be done IN HOUSE at Omega. This automatically raises eyebrows and begs the question of bias, whether they are able to stay above reproach if everything is done at Omega? Secondly, what’s the cost involved to the consumer for the new testing and certification. It’s safe to say that Omega and other companies won’t be taking on the massive expense involved in an entirely new testing procedure themselves, so we can be sure that there will be some difference in prices for watches that have this certification attached. Lastly, although the testing is done at Omega, other companies we are told will be able to access and use the technology. It is not an exclusive only for Omega, but what does it mean for companies like Patek Philippe who have their own certification? Will these companies want to get involved in such a process? How many companies are willing to drop own certification or change their COSC certification for the new METAS certification? Time will tell I guess.
For more info, please visit omegawatches.com
Osheen Arakelian – Contributing Editor
Drawing on a lifelong love of horology and a more recent introduction to appreciation of fine whisky, Osheen brought the two together with watch & whisky. He is proprietor of the site, which covers everything related to watches and whisky. In between completing a degree in commercial law and supporting a rich social life, he is out and about attending all the latest watch and whisky events Sydney has to offer. His passion has also taken him around Australia attending a number of events and he hopes to continue his career in the watch industry on a more serious level after he graduates. Read his articles here.