In 1886, legislators established a system that would inspect watches made in Geneva and while this system was optional, it would help eradicate imitations that was taking the name of Calvin’s City in vain. It was a platform where watch manufacturers could submit their movements and given that said movement would’ve met the initial requirements, they would bestow the arms of the city of Geneva: The Poinçon de Genève. The Poinçon de Genève is a motif of the Canton of Geneva and though this is often translated to ‘Hallmark of Geneva’ the actual word Poinçon, which is French for punch, puts into context that it is more of seal than a hallmark.
That said, the Geneva Seal of quality is by virtue a certification reserved for watches made in the City of Geneva. When initially established, to meet the criteria of the Geneva Seal, there were only certain aspects of the movement components that needed to be finished and polished in a specific manner. Above all, it was a testimony of the quality of the movement, which gives assurance of the high degree of control, precision and performance of the movement. Not to mention, the level of hand-finishing that goes into creating such an attractive movement that decades ago will most likely have never be seen.
However, this has been updated quite recently and now the requirements of the Geneve Seal, has been extended to include aspects that link the movement to the case and the performance of the watch under certain condition, ones not too dissimilar from use it would endure on the wearers wrist.
By the time these changes to the Geneva Seal were introduced, it was perhaps too little too late to stop one of the most prestigious watch manufacturers from ditching the seal. Patek Philippe were advocates of the Geneva seal and championed it for well over 120 years, nevertheless, in 2009 that all came to an end. After 123 years, Patek replaced the Geneva Seal, with their own, higher-stardard seal, known as the Patek Philippe Seal, signified by two PP’s within one another.
Patek didn’t take the decision to move away from the Geneva Seal lightly but believed it was something they needed to do to increase the level of quality. The problem that Patek found with the old Geneva Seal was it didn’t consider the whole watch but just the movement. However, Patek Philippe’s seal considers not just the movement and finishing, but the whole watch, its performance and the promise of a lifetime service on the watch.
As mentioned above, the Geneva Seal can only be used on watch brands inside of Geneva but some brands outside of Geneva have also established their own standards too. Take Jaeger-LeCoultre for instance, who are based in Le Seniter. All the timepieces Jaeger creates, have to put through the manufactures stringent 1000 hours of controlled testing. These tests relate to regularity of rate, temperature, atmospheric pressure and resistance to shocks and magnetic fields, as well as water resistance trials.
The criteria of the “1000 hours control” program, is said to, considerably exceed the standards of official timing tests, which deal only with part of the movement. Jaeger‑LeCoultre tests not only the movement prior to its being cased up in the watch, but also the watch as a whole. A testing criteria not too dissimilar from Patek.
Omega is another brand that not only use an industry standard but also introduced a whole new standard called METAS. In December of 2014, OMEGA held a press conference together with the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS) to announce a new watch certification process that will become active in 2015. In addition to measuring the performance of the watch in daily wearing conditions, it will also ensures that it functions properly when exposed to strong magnetic fields of 15,000 gauss.
Nonetheless, the movement must also pass the tests established by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC). Once this process is completed the watch will receive a Master Chronometer status, a label that at once makes a statement about the quality of not only the mechanical movement but also of the watch itself.
As you can see, the Geneva Seal, Patek Philippe Seal and seal of approval used by other brands outside of Geneva, only have one aim: to ensure that you, the consumer, not only receive a watch of prestige but one that has been fully tested under the strictest conditions. This only ensures confidence in the brands timepiece and above all, its longevity too.