Geneva Seal

The Geneva Seal for Dummies

by Olivier Müller

In 99% of brands’ communication, their pieces reach the « top of the top » in terms of finishing and precision. It has become a standard of communication, unfortunately just like the word “manufacture” is often used to qualify an ETA-based brand. However, there’s one authority that can testify that these brands do reach a certain level of good facture. It’s called Timelab, and its mark is call the Geneva Seal, the Poinçon de Genève. It’s an official seal under the supervision of the Swiss Confederation.

Geneva Seal

Geneva Seal

Geneva Seal: Competition

However, the Geneva’s Seal is not the only seal in the watch world. Some know the Patek Philippe Seal. Even if the brand is in the Geneva district, and then eligible for the Geneva seal, the Stern family who owns the brand has decided to go with its own seal. Other seals include the COSC, the world famous certification for chronometers. Last but not least, the FQF, Label Fondation Qualité Fleurier, which certifies the pieces of brands such as Parmigiani, Chopard or Fleurier.

Geneva Seal: A new dedicated website

All these seals are built to maintain a high level of precision and finishing.

Geneva Seal - New Website

Geneva Seal – New Website

However, at its very beginning, the Geneva seal was only invented to fight against counterfeits. Now it also includes criterias of precision and reliability. And Timelab has to defend its authority, established since 1886. That’s why a new website saw the light of day this week. Its goal : explain the Geneva Seal to the mass, and why customers should obviously ask for it.

Well, if they have that possibility, in so far as there are not so many brands complying with the Seal. Vacheron Constantin is the most famous. Roger Dubuis is another one. But these are not what we usually call mass market brands !

Geneva Seal: Keeping alive the Geneva exertise

Since it has been revised, the Geneva Seal looks into three different areas : provenance, craftmanship and reliability. At the origins, it was proposed on 6 November 1886 by the Geneva government. The Law on the voluntary testing of watches was not done by half-measures !

Geneva Seal - Craftmanship

Geneva Seal – Craftmanship

Firstly, it involved setting up an inspection office for Geneva-made watches. This was responsible for placing the official State mark on watches submitted by Geneva-based manufacturers. Most importantly, watchmakers who submitted watches for the Poinçon had to be residents of Geneva. This is because too many of them had moved abroad, and so the aim was to keep the expertise within the region. The Poinçon was then marked on a part of the movement (on the baseplate and a bridge) that was as visible as possible.

Geneva Seal: It’s all about finishing

Finishing is one of the key aspect of the Seal. To obtain it, it is mandatory that the brand follows the following guidelines :

  1. Polished chamfers.
  2. Straight-grained sides
  3. Circular-graining or finishes that eliminate all machining marks.
  4. Smoothed down bridge supports.
  5. Polished bevels in holes and recesses.
  6. Polished sinks for jewel holes.
  7. The tops of bridges must be finished with Geneva stripes or any other decoration that eliminates machining marks.

Geneva Seal: Benchmarked caliber

On the caliber side, the Seal inspects the following fields : functional test, water resistance, accuracy and power reserve.

The accuracy test is interesting : readings taken on day 0 and day 7 are tested using a visual comparison system developed specially for this test. These readings taken on days 0 and 7 are compared with a reference time. After seven days, the watch must not have varied by more than one minute !

More resources about the Geneva Seal available on Wikipedia or Official Geneva Seal Website.
Credits Photos: @ TimeLab

    Author Bio

    Articles by Olivier Müller


    Olivier Müller is a professional journalist specialising in horology. He divides his time between Geneva and Paris, covering horology-related topics for a dozen or so magazines and specialist websites in Europe. He is also a regular speaker at various events. In 2008, Olivier Müller set up Delos Communications to manage the writing side of his business, spanning five European countries. Delos Communications also provides consultancy services for horological communication, helping brands as they define and implement their strategy in terms of positioning, messages and audience. In addition to the world’s two largest watchmaking groups, Delos Communications’ clients include a broad range of emerging independent brands, as well as public-sector bodies keen to promote their local watchmaking heritage. Five people work for the agency, including a journalist, a photographer, a community manager and a translator, all with expertise in the world of watchmaking.