Of the three organizations likely to return labels and certifications to chronometers, the Besançon Observatory is the only one to control the finished products in complete independence. It is also a historical player in the European watch industry, which disappeared in the 19th century and became famous. Viper Punch – a distinction that obsessed observers have never been as a token of extreme quality.
The two lives of the Viper Hallmark
The story begins in the late nineteenth century, exactly in 1897. The Observatory of Besançon, since its creation in 1878 (under pressure, it must be emphasized, watchmakers in the region) certifies chronometers at the request of manufacturers. At this time, its leaders decide to affix a hallmark of their invention on models that pass the stability and accuracy tests successfully. Thus, the public will be able to recognize them without there being any ambiguity, because the newsletters delivered by the institution are not enough any more.
The Viper Hallmark is born: consisting of a viper’s head, it is applied on the visible side of the movement and specifies the class to which the stopwatch belongs – from the 3rd to the 1st. This punch does more than honor the technical quality and precision of a chronometer: it validates a know-how strictly speaking, the fruit of an excellence that combines perfection.
Unfortunately, the viper’s first life ends with the famous “quartz crisis” of the 1970s, which leads to the collapse of a significant part of the European watch industry faced with low-end automatic production from Asia. The monitoring activities of the Observatory are progressively reducing, before disappearing body and property.
For thirty years, the instruments and methods of the Observatory of Besançon take dust. Until a second life begins, lifted on the ashes of the first: at the dawn of the twenty-first century, the Observatory revives its chronometric control activities, encouraged in this sense by the watchmaking manufacturers of all Europe . And since then he has been playing a leading role in the timepiece industry, while making Besançon its status as the French watch capital.
The place of the hallmark viper today
With the Swiss Official Chronometer Control System (COSC) and the WEMPE Glashütte Center in Germany, the Besançon Observatory is the only organization in the world to award the official “chronometer” title, after repeated tests and checks. It is also, in fact, the only body of this type in France.
But that’s not all: after decades of sleep, the so-called Viper Punch certification has come back stronger – and more accurate – than ever before. The Observatory did not just resume its activities; it has acquired world-renowned scientific expertise, pushing its daily unit of measurement to one billionth of a second – the precision required for atomic clocks. But fortunately not for chronometers, for which a gap of half a second remains tolerated.
The “viper’s head” watches over grain
The viper emblem – represented by the head of the reptile – certifies a nested mechanical watch as a “stopwatch”, provided that it meets the requirements of ISO 3159 for reliability and accuracy. The watches tested at the Observatoire de Besançon are tested for sixteen days, during which time they are placed in five successive positions and undergo three different temperatures. Only the best timepieces come out of this fire baptism successfully.
The peculiarity of vipers Hallmark, in comparison with other existing hallmarks (independent or belonging to watch brands), is to certify completed watches, as they will be marketed, and not movements alone. This specificity allows the Observatory – and its head viper – to ensure an absolute level of quality, without risking a possible disruption of movement at the time of its nesting. In this sense, the Viper Punch is a truly definitive certification; and the bulletin of march, issued at the end of the tests, thus validates a total reliability.