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Certification - The Geneva revolution
May 29th 2009 Geneva's small world of horological certifications is witnessing a major reshuffle. Within the next few days, the activities of the local Official Watch Rating Centre (Bureau Officiel de Contr?le de la marche des montres (BO) of the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing institute (COSC) are to be regrouped with those of the Geneva Seal under a single roof - that of the Laboratoire d'horlogerie et de microtechnique de Geneve (LHMG). The latter will also house a new competence centre, a kind of research and development laboratory capable of responding to all kinds of specific demands from the industry.
The new LHMG, to be headed by the newly appointed Patrick Jaton, currently director of the COSC's official rating centre in Geneva, will be overseen by a private foundation. Its board, which has not yet been officially convened, was appointed just a few days ago by the Geneva State Council. Michel Ramuz, former managing director of the administrative and financial services of the Department of Public Instruction (DIP), has been approached to serve as chairman of the board. The Foundation intends to keep in close touch with the Geneva watch industry by reserving three out of nine seats for its representatives: Steven Haefeli, Manufacturing Director of Vacheron Constantin; Philippe Bentele, Production Manager of Rolex; and Daniel Bolognesi, head of the watch department at Chopard.
The craft-industry organisation of the Geneva Seal
Although the new law behind this upheaval was approved by the Geneva Grand Council in December 2008, everything had so far been very low-key. The State Council's decision to make these changes was based on several factors, including the significant increase in recent years of the number of watch movements submitted for testing. Currently no less than 320,000 watch movements per year are handled by the COSC's Geneva rating centre; and 100,000 are awarded the Geneva Seal authority. Moreover, in listing its reasons, the State Council also points out that "the current craft-industry organisation of the Geneva Seal, essentially based on the limited availability of two teachers in the Geneva Watchmaking School" and thus only during the latter's opening hours. The terse conclusion of the Council's statement specified that "there is no suitable financial management system suited to the Geneva Seal activity. The management structure does not match current production levels and requirements."
A laboratory more in touch with the industry
A drastic change was thus required, and the resulting transformation is certainly pretty radical. The first consequence is that the Geneva Seal office is to leave the premises of the CEPTA-School of Watchmaking, Electronics and Computer Science, to which it was historically attached. Secondly, the COSC's Geneva centre, also overseen by the DIP, will also join the LHMG. And a third area will be developed within a competence centre designed to respond to specific projects, such as the certification of sports measurement devices, which does not exist to date. "It's a service to the profession", says Michel Ramuz. "We have received requests from sports umbrella organisations such as ski and equestrian federations, which are seeking to establish this kind of certification." The Watchmaking School, the Vocational Training Schools and the Universities of Applied Science of Geneva will also play an active role in the work of these three divisions, which are expected to be self-financing (the Poin?on de Geneve has a current turnover of 400,000 Swiss francs, compared with 1.6 million for the COSC Geneva rating centre) without any state funding or allowances.
2.35 million-franc capital While it does not yet have an official legal domicile, the Foundation that will govern the LHMG will be capitalised by the state to the amount of 2.35 million francs. Three of the Foundation's board members appointed on Tuesday May 26th are representatives of the DIP (Michel Ramuz, Daniel Favre, the current director of the Watchmaking School, and Chairman of the Geneva Seal committee; as well as Daniel Dubois, a teacher at the University of Applied Science); two of them (Irina Sakharova Quitt and Stephane Schweizer) are from the Geneva State Department of Economy and Health; one of them is from the Geneva State Finance Department (Jean-Paul Pangallo); and the remaining three mentioned earlier in this article represent the Geneva watchmaking industry via the Union of watchmaking Manufacturers of the Geneva, Vaud and Valais cantons. All these people are due to meet for the first time during the week of June 1st in order to ratify the notarial deeds establishing the Foundation.