The new certification represents a higher standard of accuracy. Omega watches will now be certified for not just consistent timekeeping but also for antimagnetism and water resistance. METAS, which describes itself as “the federal centre of competence for all issues related to measurement and for measuring equipment and measuring procedures,” will become the impartial regulating body to ensure that Omega’s manufacturing standards meet the brand’s promises. Going forward, all Omega Master Co-Axial calibers will be tested to meet certain standards. Each movement must continue to function when exposed to magnetic fields greater than 15,000 Gauss. Each finished watch must also continue to function when exposed to magnetic fields greater than 15,000 Gauss. The watch must keep consistent time, between 0 and +5 seconds/day, when tested at different temperatures and in different positions. Finally, each watch must be tested to ensure it achieves its stated power reserve and water resistance.
Omega’s move to develop a new certification system with METAS is significant for several reasons. For the last several years, Omega has been at the lead in developing new measures to protect watches from magnetic fields. With the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra >15,000 Gauss, the brand has produced a watch movement that can keep time consistently even after exposure to some of the most intense magnetic fields a person is likely to encounter. (Note: You can read WatchTime’s review of the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra >15,000 Gauss in our January-February 2015 issue or download it directly from our online shop by clicking here.)
The key to Omega’s design innovations is the use of antimagnetic materials inside the movement. Whereas the common solution to magnetism has been to shield the movement inside a soft iron Faraday cage, Omega’s antimagnetic watches use silicon balance springs which will not respond to magnetic fields at all. Since Omega has been publicizing its accomplishments in antimagnetic watchmaking, the new certification allows the brand to make this engineering achievement official, as a standard that can be confirmed by an impartial observer.
Another reason for the new certificate is COSC. For years, the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres has been the gold standard for the watch industry. This independent Swiss body tests uncased movements for timekeeping accuracy, and is the only institution in Switzerland that can sanction the use of the term “chronometer” on a watch dial. Omega has long been a major supporter of COSC. Of the 1.69 million watches COSC certified in 2013, more than 447,000 were for Omega, making it the second biggest chronometer producer after Rolex.
However, in recent years an increasing number of watch brands have sought other standards of quality or have formed their own, often believing that COSC certification is too lenient. To pass the COSC test a watch movement must maintain accuracy between -4 and +6 seconds per day; however, a movement’s timekeeping can be affected during the casing-up process or when the rotor is affixed on an automatic – and all of this occurs after the COSC test has been completed. Since the new Omega testing will be performed on both the movement and on the finished watch – and since it has a narrower allowance, not permitting the watch to lose seconds, only to gain – it should provide a higher standard than COSC. Omega will continue to certify its chronometers with COSC over the coming years, but the number of movements receiving COSC certification will decrease as more and more Master Co-Axial calibers receive the new METAS certification.
The new certificate will also have far-ranging effects on how and where Omega manufactures its watches. While testing will initially occur in Omega’s current facilities, the brand has plans for a new factory with a dedicated testing site. Testing will be performed and checked onsite according to METAS specifications. Omega is also making it easier to get information on watch testing than before. The owner of a certified Master Co-Axial Omega will be able to log onto a site using the watch’s warranty card. There, the specific results of the individual watch, as well as the testing parameters, will be readily available. At the press conference in December, Hayek and Urquhart were encouraging about the fact that any brand can contract with METAS for an impartial certification system. While Omega has provided its particular standards for the Master Co-Axial movements, other brands could follow suit. Hayek expressed hopes that this development may lead to more widespread innovation. “This would benefit the entire industry – not only in Switzerland but in China and Japan and in other countries with a history of innovative watchmaking,” Hayek said.