Saturday, September 10, 2005

New Finer COSC Standard and a Return to Observatory Trials

For a given level of watchmaking skill is it true that as a 'machine' the tourbillon is a superior time keeping device? No, I don't think so. It is quite clearly possible to assemble 'gadget' versions with poor variation in rate.

To deliver a given level of timekeeping performance it is harder to make a tourbillon, and it takes an even higher level of skill to get the timekeeping performance to be superior. There is an 'entry level' of watchmaking skill, if you will, that must be reached to go beyond the performance of a finely made 'static' lever escapement.

With the Chinese breathing down the Swiss' necks I foresee the only way to rate this skill concretely to the public is by measurement rather than simply being a 'me too' maker with a functional version. Thus the Observatory Trials will return (or at least the fine standard of COSC) to sort the feats from the gaffs.

Vrooooom! Patek Philippe's 1960 34T Observatory Trial Entrant. Yummy!

The trouble for the Swiss is how many of the tourbillons they make now actually keep better time than normal escapements.....? But once they've sorted themselves out, a return to competition could lead to a sensational line of devastatingly accurate watches over the next few years. With the marketing spin of 'race car on the road' it's a killer new segment to (re)open. Once again, I see the pressure of the Chinese only leading to exciting times for watch nuts.

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