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Guaranteeing Watch Performance

From Horology magazine, March, 1939

Guaranteeing Watch Performance

The subject of watch guarantees and watch performance possibilities is a continual topic of discussion among jewelers and horologists, but in spite of all that has been said, nothing has been actually done. From the standpoint of value received, there is no doubt that the public receives an honest equivalent for the money it spends on new watches. However, the indiscriminate guarantees of service given by so many jewelers does react to the detriment of the entire jewelry industry. It is one thing to guarantee that a watch case is made of 14 or 18 karat gold and another to guarantee that a watch will run for a year without stopping or that it will run within 30 seconds a month.

True, a jeweler or horologist should be responsible for the satisfactory performance of the timepieces he sells or services, but the question arises, "What is satisfactory performance?" Here is where a great many watch salesmen and men at the repair counters of jewelry stores need a little education, for they are in the habit of promising their customers performance which is beyond the possibilities of attainment from ordinary watches.

Everyone will agree that very few watches with observatory certificates of rating are being sold, but for the sake of arriving at some standard of comparison let us see what the Swiss Official Controlment Offices for the Rating of Watches require of wrist watches before granting a certificate. They allow a difference between mean rates of the dial up and dial down positions of 30 seconds in 24 hours. Between the dial down position and either the pendant down, pendant right or left positions, a difference of 50 seconds in 24 hours is allowed.

Now, if a world famous institution considers a watch coming within such tolerances worthy of a certificate, what performance can be expected from the average wrist watch being sold? Obviously, one is only kidding himself and his customer if he tries to regulate a bracelet watch when it is only a minute or two off in a week. Some idea of what should be expected may be gained from the Horological Institute of America's requirements for the Certified Watchmaker examination. The Institute specifies that the horologist must adjust a wrist watch so that it will have a position error of not more than 90 seconds in 24 hours between the dial up or down and pendant down positions. In considering these figures it should be borne in mind that a Certified Watchmaker is better than average.

The motor car industry seems to have stabilized the matter of guarantees. An auto is guaranteed for several months against defects of workmanship but there is no guarantee of how many miles per gallon it will go or how infrequently it will need service. Why should a watch be guaranteed to run for a year without cleaning and within a minute a week, or some such figure, when the jeweler or horologist has absolutely no control over the conditions governing such performance?

It would seem a desirable thing for the industry for watch manufacturers and importers to consider a uniform standard of performance for various grades and sizes of watches which the trade can actually guarantee to its customers. This would go a long way toward alleviating some of the ills of the jewelry business and would inspire greater confidence of the public. 

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