Watch enthusiasts know that when it comes to producing Swiss chronometers, there are the Big Three Brands – Rolex, Omega and Breitling – and then there’s all the rest. Just how big the Big Three are in chronometer production becomes startlingly clear when you analyze Swiss chronometer output by brand over the past decade.
Using official annual figures issued by Switzerland’s COSC, the official chronometer testing agency, WatchTime compiled total chronometer production by brand for the 10-year period between 2000 and 2009. (A chronometer is a watch whose movement has passed a battery of tests by COSC to determine its precision. COSC issues a certificate for each movement with the test results that certify its accuracy.)
The data shows that Rolex is the undisputed and unchallenged king. COSC issued 7,080,518 chronometer certificates to Rolex during the decade. That’s nearly 5 million more than the number two producer.
If Rolex is the chronometer king, Omega and Breitling are princes. The number of chronometer certificates issued to Omega over the decade was 2,337,694. Breitling’s total was 1,593,597.
No other brand came close to the million chronometer mark. Panerai ranked number four with a decade total of 354,462. TAG Heuer came in fifth with a total of 216,163. Rounding out the top 10 were Chopard (160,867 certificates), Bulgari (99,494), Ulysse Nardin (73,456), Mido (56,003) and Corum (51,435). All other brands fell below the 50,000 mark.
Rolex’s dominance in the chronometer category stems from a decades-long strategy of identifying its watches with the COSC’s “certified chronometer” designation. Nearly all Rolex watches carry the designation. Calculated on a per diem basis, Rolex produced nearly 2,000 chronometers a day over the last decade (1,940). In contrast, Omega produced 640 per day, Breitling 437, and Panerai 97.
One big surprise is the presence of Mido (#9) on the decade’s Top 10 list (see table). It’s doubtful that even the most knowledgeable watch aficionado would have picked Mido as the number two chronometer-maker in the Swatch Group after Omega. Mido beat out its Swatch Group sister Tissot, which came in at #13. The second top chronometer producer in the Richemont Group after Panerai was Baume & Mercier, ranked #14 on the decade list (27,377 certificates). The number two chronometer producer in the LVMH Group after TAG Heuer was Zenith, which came in at #15 (26,801). The fact that Corum edged out both Baume & Mercier and Zenith for a top 10 spot is also a surprise.