Watches can mean many different things to many different people. Some people want a watch as a fashion statement, some love the craftsmanship, and others collect for the stories they tell. However, one reason is universal, a watch is a tool to keep and tell the time. Precision, however, is rarely addressed.
It might then strike you as odd that timekeeping accuracy isn’t really talked about by many brands that sell watches which can cost more than some cars. Would you buy a Ferrari which is slower than a Ford Focus? Then why are we happy for a Rolex to be less accurate than a $50 Timex? Many will say that comparing mechanical movements to quartz is an uneven playing field, and to some extent, I agree. Yes, the technologies are completely different and don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love mechanical watches. I love the skill, the craft, the finish, and the beauty of having a mechanical heart beating away on my wrist. However, what I also love is having a watch which is on the cutting edge of technology. Below are three of the most accurate wristwatches you can buy on the market as of writing this article.
When comparing the watches below keep in mind that the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute parameters, which are signed “Chronometer” (“Superlative Chronometer” for Rolex) on the faces of all brands, are -4/+6 seconds a day (or -1460/+2190 seconds a year if not adjusted) for mechanical movements and ± 25.5 seconds a year for quartz.
Grand Seiko 9F (± 10 seconds/yr – $2,800)
You may already know that Rolex is a vertically integrated manufacturer, and there are only two things which Rolex doesn’t make: hands and quartz crystals. What you may not know is that there is only one other vertically integrated manufacturer, and that is Seiko. Not only does Seiko make their own hands, but they also grow their own crystals. Often grouped into the “budget’ end of the price scale, in my opinion, Seiko isn’t given enough credit for their craftsmanship and quality. The “Grand Seiko” product line was crafted to convey the Japanese idea of beauty, where form meets function. To quote Seiko themselves, “precision and simplicity form the very essence of the ideal timepiece.” The 9F quartz movement is the embodiment of this, with a shopping list of tech including a sealed cabin, 1/2000th of a second date change, regulation switching, and their Twin Pulse Control Motor which allows larger hands to be moved with less power. The 9F is a great example of Seiko’s obsession with perfection. James covered a history of Seiko last year in a piece here.
Citizen Chronomaster (± 5 seconds/yr – approx. $2,650)
Simply nicknamed, “The Citizen”, the Chronomaster is unofficially the most accurate watch ever made. This accolade is thanks to its A660 thermoline quartz movement which modulates the vibration of the quartz depending on the ambient temperature to ensure consistency, which in turn allows for greater precision. It also features an independently adjustable hour hand for daylight savings time adjustment and a perpetual calendar. Oh, and it is also solar powered, so there is no need to ever change the battery. As near perfection as possible, if you ask me. However, there is one catch. If you want one, you’ll have to travel to Japan to get it, as it is domestic-market release only. That, or pay extra to can order one from Higuichi Inc.
Longines VHP (± 5 seconds/yr – $1,000)
Arguably the best value for your dollar when it comes to keeping accurate time is the Longines VHP. Interestingly enough, this is an ETA movement, which has been exclusively manufactured for Longines. The ± 5 second a year accuracy is thanks to its Gear Position Dectection system, and three independent motors for the hour, minute, and second hands. This system checks for the exact position of the gears and corrects them if they are inconsistent to ensure the accuracy of the time displayed. The VHP also features shock absorption up to 500G, magnetic field detection and correction, and a perpetual calendar.
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