A Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Tourbillon Caliber 978 wristwatch won the first timing competition in more than 35 years, gaining 909 points out of a perfect timing score of 1,000. Second place went to a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Gyrotourbillon with 908 points. The Chronometrie 2009 international timing competition for mechanical wristwatches was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the watch museum in Le Locle.
A total of 16 watches entered the competition and six were eliminated during the 45 days of timing trials held at Switzerland’s chronometer-testing institute, COSC, in Biel and at the Besançon observatory in neighboring France. The competition generated some controversy because participation was open only to select countries, and Japan, among others, was not invited. Seiko won Swiss chronometer competitions held in the late 1960s. The Le Locle competition was the first since the Neuchâtel Observatory held the last trial in 1972.
The results of the Le Locle competition, kept secret since it ended in October, were announced at a ceremony at the museum on December 3, 2009. The prize for the best performing watch submitted by an independent watchmaker was awarded to Mr. René Addor, whose watch gained 795 points, coming seventh overall.
The timing trials, according to the ISO 3159 international chronometer norms, were divided into three 15-day sessions, starting in Besançon, then at COSC and once more at COSC after the shock and magnetism tests. The watches were tested cased-up; the usual COSC chronometer certification tests only the uncased movement.
The revival of competitive timing also brings back the craft of the régleur, or precision timer who prepares watches for the contest. The art consists of juggling conflicting parameters to achieve the truest time and the most constant rate in different positions and temperatures. The two Jaeger-LeCoultre watches were adjusted by a team led by the firm’s technical director, Mr. Jean-Claude Meylan.
The timing results of the competition show that the Master Tourbillon gained on average 0.13 seconds a day, or less than 47.5 seconds a year, and its rate did not vary more than 0.28 seconds a day. The multi-axis Gyrotourbillon movement with a helical mainspring showed remarkable constancy of rate between vertical and horizontal positions, with an average daily variation of 0.29 seconds in the three stages of the trial.