COSC/Chronometer rating isn’t all its cracked out to be

If you collect watches, you know all about COSC/Chronometer classification. That little word on your dial means you are suddenly ready to spend way more money for the watch…after all, its going to be WAY more accurate right?

You couldn’t be more wrong.

First of all, the COSC/Chronometer rating is extremely loose. If your watch is slow by 4 seconds each day or fast by 6 seconds per day…guess what, thats still “good” enough for a COSC rating.

So that fancy Rolex, you paid all that good money for, could be running 6 seconds too fast every single day, and it would still be good enough for the Chronometer rating. Or for Rolex, Superlative Chronometer…which is just a made up word that doesn’t mean anything that was created by the Rolex marketing department.

Second of all, the COSC/Chronometer rating, like a lot of Swiss watch things, is just a marketing gimmick. Its an industry created term(there is an actual trademark for the term Chronometer), and they get to set all the rules. The entire reason COSC came to be, was that the Japanese watches were more accurate than the Swiss watches at the time, and sales were dropping, so the COSC/Chronometer rating was invented to bring back the advantage to the Swiss brands. Which is why one of the key rules for COSC/Chronometer rating is that the watch needs to be Swiss made.

Answer me this….if this is an unbiased rating agency thats supposed to only rank/report watch movement accuracy….why would the country of origin even matter? Why would a ranking agency, refuse to certify any non-swiss brands? Aren’t they a business? Wouldn’t they want to get more clients? Odd isn’t it?

Anyways, COSC certifies 1.6 million watches a year…have you ever thought to ask how many of these they actually reject? Is it really selective, or are the standards so loose that pretty much any remotely decent movement would pass?

Now yes, all movements aren’t created equal. And -4/+6 seconds on a Rolex, is still way better than what you get on the cheaper watches.

Here is a small break down of accuracy tolerances for cheaper movements you tend to get in microbrands and other cheap watches(sub $500 category):
NH35 – 20-40 seconds too fast/slow
Miyota 8215 – 20-40 seconds too fast/too slow
Miyota 9015 – 10-30 seconds too fast/too slow

As you can see -4/+6 looks amazing by comparison when you look at cheaper watches. However, we are comparing a $8,000 watch to $200 watches.

However, the story changes once you look at the higher end…a Grand Seiko uses -3/+5 tolerance, so its an even stricter requirement than COSC certified. So the “COSC Certified” Rolex, could be less accurate than the uncertified Grand Seiko. And there are plenty of watch brands out there that aren’t Swiss, that still commit to an even higher standard. For example, Germans and the French have setup their own COSC equivalent groups that do the same thing…so again, just because a watch doesn’t say “Chronometer” on it, doesn’t mean the COSC piece will actually be more accurate.

And do you know why the tolerances aren’t more demanding? Simple money. The manufacturers were the ones who came up with this chronometer gimmick. And they wanted to give themselves enough room tolerance wise so they wouldn’t have to trash perfectly good movements. Lets face it, most people don’t really care about accuracy once they are actually wearing the watch. They’ll care when they are buying, but once its on their wrist, they couldn’t care less. Which is why if you actually look at other people’s watches, you’ll notice that many of them aren’t even running!

In the end, each a watch needs to be judged by its own accuracy. So I hope you remember, that there are PLENTY of watches without chronometer on the dial that completely blow the COSC certified watches out of the water.

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