"Chronometer" has been used in a range of different scenarios in horological history, which makes its definition understandably a little unclear. Not to be confused with "chronograph" (a watch with a stopwatch function), a chronometer is generally a watch that's guaranteed to be very precise. Now, there's a new kid on the block among organizations offering brands and watchmakers their chronometer testing and certification: the Horological Society of New York (HSNY). (The New York-based HSNY offers lectures, classes and other events on watchmaking.)
There are a number of outfits around the world with such services. The most widely recognized is the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute or "COSC") in Switzerland, which is where the majority of modern wristwatches bearing the chronometer designation have been certified. There are others, however, such as METAS and local organizations, and the HSNY now joins them.
Though the chronometer designation entails additional cost for watch companies, it offers a unique selling point and has long been associated with higher-end watches. As watch production has improved over the years, however, the criteria of the likes of COSC have become easier to meet. Those like the HSNY are offer alternatives with criteria that surpass the baseline requirements for chronometer certification as stipulated by the ISO 3159 standard.
A watch certified as a chronometer by the HSNY will go through 15 days of testing. Fully cased, it'll be subjected to extreme environments meant to simulate actual wear in the world, including different positions and temperatures, and it'll remain accurate within -4/+5 seconds per day — better than COSC's well known standard of -4/+6. Rather than measuring the rate of a watch using a microphone and machinery that gives an instant readout, as is standard and common, the HSNY says its visual-only rate testing is more reliable.
While COSC only accepts watches qualifying for the Swiss Made designation, the HSNY will test watches from all over the world. Those that pass will get a physical certification with the test results as well as the right to display HSNY chronometer certification details on the likes of dials and movements. Debuting along with HSNY's announcement is the first watch to feature the certification, a collaboration between Habring2 and Massena Lab.
This is an interesting new role for the over-150-year-old HSNY and for the American watchmaking scene. We can't wait to see more excellent mechanical watches bearing a recognized mark of quality originating close to home.