How To Critically Evaluate A Watch’s Performance

Posted by Justin Time on July 04, 1997 at 05:17:45:

A CHALLENGE TO TIMEZONE ON THE FOURTH OF JULY

TimeZone is the best watch Forum, barred none. We can make it better. TZ should provide the one important service that is rarely found in the US: CRITICAL EVALUATIONS OF WATCHES. We seldom find it in books, catalogs, manufacturer literature, and least of all in watch magazines. To get objective information, we must cut through the dense fog of myth, legend, and media hype, only to find out that there is still no standard way to measure how good a watch is. Watch cognoscenti of TZ, please help!

BETTER CONSUMER EDUCATION IS NEEDED

Swiss watch industry in general does a poor job of explaining their products to the consumers. As Clif put it so well in his TZ post, the buying public is being asked to take too much on faith and too little on fact. Few of us will have the opportunity to walk into the Patek Philippe boutique at Place Vendome in Paris and discuss a watch with PP technicians. But as more companies are setting up websites and stepping up their advertisement, we desperately need help of another kind: a filter to separate fact from fiction. Sadly, the two largest watch magazines in the US fail us miserably. TZ, on the other hand, does not lack for people with opinions. But sadly, the verbal diarrhea is often accompanied by mental constipation. Seasoned watch collectors and watchmakers of TZ, we need your help with thoughtful, technical, comprehensive discussion on watches!

CAN WE GO BEYOND SWISS HOUSE REPUTATION

When we buy a luxury Swiss watch, we are also buying into the image and mystique of the company. Few of us can afford the high price of excellence at Christie’s or Sotheby’s auctions. We must settle for good values, i.e., high quality at affordable price. How can we evaluate a watch based just on its own merits? Is there a noticeable difference in workmanship from top companies, such as Patek Philippe, A. Lange and Söhne, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, or Breguet? And Rolex, undoubtedly the most popular watch in the market place, where does it stand? Does tradition ensure superior quality? Once you put aside reputation, it is very hard to find objective information on quality and performance of Swiss watches. Knowledgeable TZ members, please help us fill this gap.

WHAT MAKES A WATCH DESIRABLE?

We attach different degrees of importance to various aspect of a watch:

  1. the look (design, style, materials, and finish of the watch outside)
  2. the cachet (prestige, tradition, mystique, reputation, rarity)
  3. the price (retail, discount, re-sale)
  4. the performance (accuracy, reliability, durability, ergonomics)
  5. the movement (functions, size, design, material, construction, and finish).

Of above areas, watch movement and performance need the most help. Recently, we have seen many discussions on Lange. It pains me see that, beyond the usual poor communication, par for the course for such a diverse group, there is a glaring lack of knowledge of movement quality and performance by many of us, yours truly included. Experienced watchmakers and collectors of TZ know. Unfortunately, their voices are drowned out by those who can shout louder and more often.

MAKING UP FOR THE LACK OF STANDARDS

The problem is compounded by the fact that there is not and may never be a standard method to measure the quality and performance of a watch. Superior craftsmanship probably leads to superior accuracy, better reliability, and longevity, but the difference is not assured, or easily quantifiable, especially among top watches. As Richard Paige said, “part for part, gear to gear, spring to spring…the top 5 watches are extremely comparable in value, workmanship and poetry.” The COSC chronometer is useless for such comparison. The JLC 1000-hour test may be more revealing, but ultimately, we still have to rely on the ability of our experts to perceive a difference, which usually exceeds our ability to measure it. Critical evaluation by knowledgeable people remains the best way to differentiate among high-quality timepieces.

A CHALLENGE TO WATCH COGNOSCENTI OF TIMEZONE

In conclusion, I think TimeZone has many watch cognoscenti who have much to teach us on how to recognize and appreciate watch quality, beyond all the hype and rhetoric. WE NEED TO READ MORE FROM YOU. TimeZone is a great forum for watch enthusiasts. Help us make it even better with those candid technical discussions that are in such short supply in the watch industry!

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Justin Time

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