Thursday, September 18, 2008

What is the Geneva Seal?

I recently purchase a Patek Phillipe Luxury Watch with the Geneva Seal. What is the Geneva Seal?

Known as Poinçon de Genève in French or Genfer Siegel in German , the Geneva Seal is the quality seal of the City and Canton of Geneva. It is a certification exclusively reserved for mechanical wrist watch movements made in the City or Canton of Geneva. It is a mark of extreme excellence, quality, precision, endurance and horological expertise.

When was the Geneva Seal created?

November 6, 1886 an enabling statute was enacted, Loi sur controle facultatif des montres (law on the voluntary inspection of watches (from Geneva)) An office for the voluntary inspection of the watches from Geneva ,at the School of Horology, was established. The function of the office was to examine and mark watch movements. Today it is primarily concerned with the finishing and decoration of the watch movement. Presicion testing is available but optional in the inspection process. The enabling statute is constantly being revised, the most recently in 1993.

Why was the Geneva Seal created?

In the late 1800's forgeries were flooding the market. The Geneva Seal was created to protect the unsurpassed quality of Genevan timepieces.

Why would a Watch Manufacturer want the Geneva Seal?

The Geneva Seal is a extensively sought after stamp with movements requiring 40% more work than other movements.. The Seal is held in high regard in Haute Horlorerie circles. The Geneva Seal is extremely difficult to obtain, only an exclusive circle of manufacturing watchmakers are admitted to its use provided they fulfill three conditions.

What are the three conditions required for issuance of the Geneva Seal?

  1. Exclusively mechanical movements which at the very least must be assembled and adjusted within the borders of the Canton of Geneva.
  2. Each caliber is required to meet the Regulators' 12 technical and aesthetic criteria. These criteria define the movement design, and characteristics, production quality and finishing operations.
  3. The Luxury Watch Movements must be approved and Certified by the eight sworn members of the Commission of the Office for the optional inspection of Genevan watches of the Canton of Geneva, acting under the authority of the Department of Public Education.

What are the Regulator's 12 technical and aesthetic criteria?

Compliance with the standards outlined by the Office for the Optional Inspection of Genevan Watches must include the quality of all parts and components of the movement including those used in auxiliary mechanisms.

  1. All steel parts of the movement must display polished angles, sides parallel file strokes, visible face smoothed and polished. All screw heads must either be polished or circular grained. (This type of finishing reduces friction ensuring no metal filings effect the movement)
  2. Movements must be fitted on the going train with ruby jewels in polished holes. On the side of the bridge, the ruby jewels must be semi-mirror-polished. In addition their sinks must be polished. (This ensures that the lubricating oil will spread more evenly increasing the longevity of parts and components.)
  3. A sliding stud cap with a round head and neck must secure the balance spring. (This particular condition creates a huge challenge for the watchmaker; however, it does improve the centering of the balance spring and thus improving the adjustment.
  4. Fitted or split regulators utilizing a fastening system is required. (This condition prevents the shifting of the index assembly in the event of jarring and thus eradicating any impact on the adjustment of the movement)
  5. Geartrain wheels must be beveled on their upper and lower sides and feature polished sinks. If the wheels are 0.15 mm or less in thickness , one-sided (bridge side) bevelling is accepted. (Durableness is increased)
  6. Pinion shanks and faces must be polished. (Providing a marked reduction of friction within the movement and protect it against stray filings which may effect the longevity of the movement.)
  7. The escape wheel must be lightweight. Larger wheels must be no more than 0.16 mm thick and 0.13 mm for wheels less than 18 mm across. The locking faces must be polished.
  8. The ratchet wheel and crown wheel must be finished according to the prescribed models. (Only a select handful of watchmakers today are able to meet this condition.)
  9. The use of wire springs are prohibited.
  10. It is imperative that the lever's angle of travel must be contained by solid banking, excluding pins or studs.
  11. Shock absorbers on movements are acceptable.
  12. Regulating systems with a balance wheel with variable radius of rotation is acceptable.

Is the Geneva Seal the same as the Hallmark of Geneva?

The Seal of Geneva is the actual Seal of the Canton of Geneva which is seen punched into the movement of the watch. Hallmark is an official mark proving the quality and fitness of a product. Both names are referring to the same mark of approval.

Which companies have the Geneva Seal?

Only a select few companies submit all their movements to obtain the Geneva Seal. Vacheron Constatin and Pateck Phillipe are two examples. Other watch manufacturers submit a single collection or a single movement like Chopard's L.U.C collection and the much publicized Cartier's Calibre 9453 MC which obtained its first Geneva Seal.

Where is the Geneva Seal located?

The Geneva Seal is punched on the on the main plate and one of the bridges. The site varies according to the caliber.

Can my watch be called a Chronometer?

No! Unless the title Chronometer has been awarded by the C.O.S.C after the movement has undergone rigorous testing by the C.O.S.C.

Do all watches that display the word Geneva on its dial have the Geneva Seal?

Geneva Seals are specifically punched on the watches movement, having the name Geneva on the dial does not mean that the watch has the Geneva Seal. The name Geneva is governed by the "Bureau de controle des Montres de Geneve." The criteria for this are not nearly as demanding as the Geneva Seal. To display Geneva on the dial, a watch must be:
a) Swiss made and
b) Have at least one of the major operations in manufacturing, either in assembly of the movement or placing the movement within the watch case to be performed in the Canton of Geneva resulting in 50% of the total cost of production to be within the Canton of Geneva.

Some Watch Manufacturers like Vacheron Constantin display an additional Geneva Seal on its dial.

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