We recently introduced you to Glashütte Original’s new Spezialist collection, highlighting the SeaQ and SeaQ Panorama Date, and in the process we were reminded about just how far the brand is willing to go to maintain their standards of quality, durability, and accuracy. In an era where terms like COSC Certified, and in-house manufactured are thrown around as marketing/selling tools more than anything, Glashütte Original has been busy expanding and refining its own testing processes and procedures, ensuring that every piece that leaves their doors is held to the same exacting standard.
There are a few key benefits to the size and scale at which Glashütte Original operates, one of which being quality control at a manufacturing level. As each new caliber and each new watch itself is developed, the brand has ample opportunity to make changes to production and finishing methods as required to achieve a particular goal or benchmark. By developing their own testing standards for accuracy—known internally as the 24-day excellence test—the brand sets their own bar of quality assurance that goes significantly above standard COSC and German Chronometer certification testing.
24-Day Excellence Tests
This rigorous set of tests is passed by all Calibre 36 models, specifically—including the new SeaQ Panorama Date—and as you’ll see below, covers a wide range of operating parameters and criteria. While similar to COSC certification in some respects, one key detail worth noting is that Glashütte is testing complete and assembled watches, whereas COSC certification takes place on complete movements that have yet to be cased.
This first round is the most “real world” in terms of testing procedures, as it examines the rate of accuracy of a watch in a variety of fluid positions over the course of 24 hours. Meant as a replication of daily wear, the movements of the rotating mechanism will roll and tumble the timepiece (in somewhat delicate motions) over the course of the test period. At the end of the test, a maximum of -4/+6 seconds of deviation is permitted.
Unlike the previous test, the Rate Test takes place over a period of 12 days, and looks at accuracy of the Calibre 36 in 6 different static positions. Each position—dial up, crown up, etc—is tested over a period of 2 days, looking for the same maximum deviation as that seen in the Position Test. In real-world terms, this test is more about those times when you leave your watch on your nightstand or in your watch box for a couple of days in a specific resting position.
It is well known that temperature affects just about everything in some form or fashion, and thus it makes sense for temperature tests to be a part of these procedures. After the Rate Test, another static accuracy test is performed, this time with the watches being tested at 8, 23, and 38 degrees Celsius. The use of silicon hairsprings in all Calibre 36 models makes a huge difference here, as the material is much less dramatically impacted by changing temperatures. Glashütte Original defines a tolerance range of -0.6 to +0.6 seconds per kelvin.
Rate Stability Test and Total Running Time
At this point, we are 15 days into testing, following three different sets of protocols. The idea here is to compare its onset accuracy to its present state, if left dial side up to run for 5 days. Here, the testing standard aligns with that of COSC certification, in that over the course of these tests, the mean variation in rate cannot be more than 5 seconds. In simplest terms, this means that although the basic tolerances for accuracy are of -4 to +6 seconds per day, a watch in these tests cannot be 6 seconds fast one day and two seconds slow the next. This sort of variation would not speak well to the stability of the movement, which is why a tighter range of deviation is required.
The last test on the list aside from a basic visual and function check, every Calibre 36 powered watch is pressure tested under a vacuum bell. In addition, a number of randomly selected models will receive a splash test — where a drop of cool water is placed on the front crystal — and then be heated between 40 and 45 Celsius to check for moisture/condensation. While this is enough for the bulk of the Calibre 36 models to come out of Glashütte, the SeaQ and SeaQ Panorama Date models face a much greater barrage of testing to ensure compliance with both ISO 6425 and DIN 8306.
SeaQ — The DIN and ISO Tests
DIN and ISO certification as a true dive watch involves a number of parameters, both functional and visual. A unidirectional rotating timing bezel is mandatory. There must be a luminous zero marker on the bezel, luminous hands for hours, minutes, and seconds, and all of these luminous indices must be legible for at least 180 minutes in darkness after exposure to light. Once these bases are covered, each watch needs to undergo a series of tests to ensure compliance, as well as “batch tests”: additional testing on a set number of watches (but not all) for resistance to shock, magnetism, thermal shock, and external force (spring bar/bracelet and strap test). Below are the tests that Glashütte Original puts all SeaQ and SeaQ Panorama Date models through before the head out to retailers.
Entry Condensation Test
Easily the most straightforward of tests, the condensation test is part of the water resistance test mentioned above. Once the watches are heated a cold wet sponge is placed on the watch crystal. If condensation occurs on the inside of the watch crystal, then the watch fails and needs to be disassembled and dried. If it passes, onto the next test we go.
Overpressure/Underpressure Tests (Two Phases)
After drawing the watches into underpressure of 0.2 bar, what I’ve always found interesting with ISO is that watches are then tested to 125% of their depth/pressure limit. In the case of the 20 bar SeaQ, the watches are tested at 25 bar, and in the case of the Panorama Date, its 30 bar resistance is pushed to 37.5 bar. As a first pass, these tests occur in dry air, to determine how much air enters the watch.
As a second pass, these tests are performed with the watches submerged in water (for obvious reasons). The overpressure is maintained for a certain period of time, then lowered to a slight overpressure of 0.3 bar. Following this water resistance test, the outside of the SeaQ is fully dried — this ensures there is no remaining moisture on the watch before it undergoes its last and final test.
Final Condensation Test
Once the watches have been properly air dried and have survived pressurization, it’s time for yet another condensation test. Where the first test will simply detect exposure to moisture during assembly, this test will bring to light any ingress of water during the pressure testing. The parameters of the test remain unchanged from the Entry version of the test.
To some, this sort of quality control might sound like it should be standard fare, but the sad reality is that it isn’t. There aren’t many brands out there that will put completed watches through this same level of scrutiny, and you can tell through countless forum threads about new watch purchases, that sometimes things slip through the cracks. This isn’t always the case, nor does it mean that brands other than Glashütte Original aren’t worth considering, but there’s something to be said for the practices at hand here. All dive watches are expected to be somewhat “bulletproof” for lack of a better term, but knowing that the brand keeps eyes and hands on their completed pieces like this is a further testament of what you can expect in long-term ownership.