International Chronometry Competition 2019 Decides That The Best Way Out Of A Hole Is To Keep Digging. And Expects Us To Watch

The 2019 International Chronometry Competition sent out a press release on September 13, 2018 and I opened my mail with eager anticipation. The relaunch of the modern chronometry competitions began in 2009 and continued biannually in 2011, 2013, and 2015 before hitting pause due to declining interest from brands and the watch community alike.

International Chronometry Competition 2019

The power of competition

In the last couple of weeks, my newsfeed has featured North Korean nuclearization, highly volatile world trade structure, a highly volatile American president, political shifts in Europe, Dubai Watch Week/Christie’s Horology Forum in London, Brexit, Russia-China war games, millions evacuated in Japan, worldwide droughts, world-record temperatures, a hurricane hitting South Carolina, hurricanes hitting basically everywhere, as well as . . . (fill in the blank).

And, yet, do you know what completely dominated all of that news? Dominated the news all over the world? A tennis player throwing a hissy fit, which is hardly a surprise (remember McEnroe?). World-class sportsmen and -women are a group known for throwing hissy fits under pressure. But it’s not the pressure to win driving them, nor is it their winning that makes such compelling television. If that was the case, international Formula 1 audiences would not plummet as soon as the winner becomes too predictable.

What made this particular hissy fit so compelling was that it was thrown in the crucible-like heat and pressure of the pinnacle of a world-class competition.

Winners at this level perform at the very extreme of the human body’s capacities because they are the most determined competitors in the world at the very peak of their abilities. But it isn’t the will to win that pushes these pathologically-driven twenty-first-century gladiators to their limits and beyond: it’s the drive not to lose.

Winning feels good, but the pain of losing is unbearable.

They are competitors, competing in a competition – and by definition a competition is a test that results in a winner and a loser.

Everyone focuses on the winner, who undoubtedly performs heroically, but winners only perform at exalted levels because they would do anything to avoid the excruciating pain of defeat.

We should be applauding the runners up of great matches for it is they who push the winners to go the extra mile. It is only thanks to the loser that the match/game was so compelling: winners only perform at the minimal level necessary not to lose.

If there are no losers, it is not a compelling competition: it’s just another independent timing test of which any brand could commission and publish results or not as it sees fit.

Competitions without winners can also set records, and being the best is a strong motivation. If we as an audience were that interested in seeing a winner rather than following a competition, then we wouldn’t switch off any sport in droves as soon as the result looks predictable. We are not satiated by a winner winning; we want to see an adversary vanquished in a touch-and-go, nail-biting finish.

International Chronometry Competition 2019

2019 International Chronometry Competition

From the 2019 International Chronometry Competition press release: “During 80 days, participating watches – registration deadline 31 March 2019 – will be subject to a battery of tests and validations: if the results of the first precision test allow it, the ” nominee ” status will be awarded and the name of the watch will be announced during the official launching ceremony of the competition.

“For the other timepieces, the rest of the operations and the transmission of the results will be done anonymously. Thus, despite the fact that these un-nominated watches remain real mountains of watchmaking know-how and expertise, the organizers are able to guarantee brands that no negative rumours will cause even a slightest damage to their image.”

The 2019 International Chronometry Competition announced to brands that it offers “. . . indisputable reasons for participating.” Translation: don’t worry brands, this isn’t really a competition; there are no losers, and everybody gets a ribbon for participating.

“Thus, despite the fact that these un-nominated watches remain real mountains of watchmaking know-how and expertise, the organizers are able to guarantee brands that no negative rumors will cause even a slightest damage to their image.”

I agree, from the brand’s perspective, it’s a good opportunity to benchmark against the competition with the kudos of supporting the competition. But “. . . no negative rumors causing even the slightest damage to their image” is one indisputable reason that the 2019 competition is unlikely to generate any more interest than the last.

And that’s a pity because I would like it to succeed.

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3 replies
  1. BMooreLondon
    BMooreLondon says:

    Very well said. Add to this the fact (pointed out by a fellow Purist) that this so-called “international” competition requires that candidate watches qualify as “Swiss Made.”

  2. D Ford
    D Ford says:

    Someone is going to say this.. just as soon be me lol. I’ll bet Grand Seiko would have no problem entering in the old style of the competition. Apologies, had to be said 🙂 If the companies in every industry acted as cowardly as the Swiss watch industry Luddites would still be weaving garments in London. Image? What image? You can’t have an image of greatness today without risking a little something today. Stop living in the past. If F1 manufacturers and suppliers said the only way they’d bring cars to the track was if there’d be no timing of laps or side by side racing because they feared “the least bit of damage to their image” how many of the innovations we currently enjoy, both in race cars and our own cars do you think would exist? Even less people would care about F1 than they do now. The comparison is not 1:1, it’s not meant to be, rather it’s meant to make the point that competitors breathing down our necks gives us the extra edge to be our best. Are companies so out of touch that they believe if a movement from Patek falls 3.3% short of the accuracy of one from a brand that doesn’t have quite as much clout (let’s say from Gerard-Perregaux) in a test of something that really isn’t much of a factor in most buyers decision to purchase that Nautilus sales, and Patek itself, will be in some way damaged as Laureato sales suddenly soar and GP benefits? Why not take a deep breath, have some fondue, put your big boy pants on and see the event for what it is, something that’s meant to be historic and in good fun, Goodwood not Monaco. Think about it this way my cowardly Swiss executives, while Muhammad Ali is pretty much universally accepted as the “greatest” heavyweight pugilist of his day does that mean people didn’t love or respect George Foreman, Ken Norton or Joe Frazier or the great fighters of the day from other weight divisions? Grand Seiko is it’s own brand now, if I were them I’d propose an actual chronometry competition, invite all the Swiss and German manufacturers then snicker at the silence and mumbled excuses.

  3. Jean-philippe
    Jean-philippe says:

    From a great idea in 2009 it turned into a waste of time in 2019. We could rename it “défilé d’élégance chronométrique Suisse”.

    In the world of watch enthusiasts, the ones interested in high precision of mechanical time pieces are few and far apart. I don’t think they will eagerly wait for the results of that thing. I thought the “everybody wins” concept was for kindergarten only.

    Competing for chronometry has huge manufacturing implications usually resulting in having to invest a lot of time (and money) if you want to produce a few accurate watches and a lot more if you want industrial production of watches in large series.

    It is a far easier path to successful sales (at least in the short term and in the minds of marketing directors) to avoid the subject completely and do product placement in a movie, for example, these days…


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