People who are not very familiar with watches may consider a ‘chronometer’ to be just a fancy word for a wristwatch. However, as soon as you dig a little deeper, you can discover a whole world of interesting terminology and subtle differences between various timepieces.
What are marine chronometers?
Marine chronometers are very impressive timepieces that were developed for use on ships for correct navigation. These accurate timekeeping devices were crucial for the Age of Exploration. A marine chronometer is a timepiece which is precise enough to be used as a portable time standard. Most clocks and watches tend to lose or gain time each day when compared to the atomic clock. However, marine chronometers oscillate so slightly, and so regularly, that they can be considered constant. This is important for navigation, as it can be used to calculate the longitude of a ship without the use of electronic devices.
Marine chronometers were first developed in the 18th century. Mariners of certain rank still need to be able to use these devices for navigation, but primary navigation is now electronic and largely automated.
What are chronometers?
Chronometers are very reliable and very accurate watch movements which need to pass rigorous testing before they are awarded this prestigious title. At first, watchmakers had a very tough time attempting to make a movement small enough to fit inside a wristwatch that could be as accurate as the much larger marine chronometers.
Over a hundred years ago in 1914, Rolex submitted a watch movement to the UK Kew Observatory and was awarded the first ever chronometer certificate for a wristwatch. This was an incredible feat since it proved that a wristwatch can be as accurate as the cumbersome marine chronometers. It opened the gates for a myriad of other watch brands that have been awarded this title since.
What’s the difference between chronometers and marine chronometers?
Generally speaking, the term ‘marine chronometers’ is used to describe timepieces which are attached to a ship or a boat. They are obligatorily set to Greenwich standard time, and are reliable in a variety of unfavorable conditions.
Wristwatch chronometers can be as accurate as marine chronometers these days, but as they are not part of ship’s equipment, they cannot normally have this title. Despite that, officially certified chronometer movements come with a certificate which tells you just how accurate they are. Watches from such renowned watchmakers as Tissot, Tag Heuer, Ulysse Nardin, and Ball have all attained this amazing standard.
Who determines the accuracy?
It would be easy for various companies to claim that their watch movements meet the standard of marine chronometers. However, there are independent bodies which determine whether a timepiece deserves to be classified as such.
In Switzerland, there is the COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres), which measures and issues certificates for each watch movement individually.
Similarly to the Swiss association, there is an equivalent body in Japan, known as the Japan Chronometer Inspection Institute.
Both these institutions use approximately the same standards, so whichever certificate the timepiece possesses, it is certainly worthy of the title.
Several famous watchmakers now produce chronometer wristwatches, including such brands as Rolex, Breitling, and Omega, whose outstanding movements make up 85% of the total number certified by the COSC each year.
Can I get one?
Contemporary chronometers are desirable as status symbols to a person who values the quality of craftsmanship. Bear in mind that these are little technological marvels, which vary only about 5 to 20 seconds per year. A standard quartz wristwatch varies up to 30 seconds per month! That is a huge difference.
The fine wristwatch market is incredibly lively. Whether you are interested in purchasing a new watch, an expertly reconditioned pre-owned watch, or your own fine watch is in need of maintenance or repair, Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers is the place to go. Leo Hamel’s is the premier spot for Rolex and Omega repair in San Diego. Our master watchmaker has the CW21 (Certified Watchmaker of the 21st Century) certification. With over 36 years of experience in watch repair, you can be confident that your watch will be in the very best hands. Contact us today for further information, or visit our San Diego showroom.