Oh, you’re into watches and timepieces? Then you must be interested in the art of watchmaking or horology (Horlogerie in French). As the dictionary states, horology is the science and study of watches or time. When combined with the French term for “high,” horology becomes haute horology – referring to the art of watchmaking at its finest.
However, defining haute horology and enclosing its meaning in a watch case from Watch & Style is not so simple. For starters, not all extravagantly pricy watches and timepieces are of the haute horology type, nor do they have to be complicatedly exquisite to be recognized as haute horology. Perhaps when this article is over, haute horology’s defining quality will be revealed to you. But, yes, the three premier watch brands of the world are all haute horology brands.
Time to get “Haute”
In the late 1970s, some fine Swiss watchmakers decided to search for a term to distinguish their high-end mechanical watches and timepieces from the deluge of quartz-powered watches entering the market. “Haute horology” was then created. The fine watchmakers were focused on making sure this term was demonstrative of their skills, precision, artisanal meticulousness, and working with the finest quality materials.
For more than 50 years, haute horology has continued to evolve, and sometimes, even the most discerning of watch collectors can be caught arguing about whether or not one finely made watch or a timepiece should be deemed an haute horology piece. Such arguments have led to the formation of many haute horology certifications to stem the barrage of arguments for defining haute horology. Examples of haute horology certifications include the Geneva Seal (also known as the Hallmark of Geneva), and Qualité Fleurier (for Swiss watchmakers from the Fleurier region of their country), among others.
In 2017, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (a.k.a. FHH; founded in 2005 in Switzerland to maintain and preserve the art of haute horology) issued the “White Paper on Fine Watchmaking.” Taking three years to complete, along with its supplemental evaluations, the White Paper established principles in seven areas of expertise (design, production, production of in-house movements, movement finishing, research & development, decoration, and quality) and measured watch brands across those principles.
So, what defines watch brands of the haute horology kind when it all comes down to it? Well, many factors do come together in a brand’s watch offerings of the highest quality. Typically, more than one factor is combined with others for watches to be considered haute horology watches. Therefore, several factors and qualities need to be evident to demonstrate a watch brand’s prowess in the exquisite art of fine watchmaking.
Indeed, perhaps haute horology’s defining quality comes from a watch or timepiece’s quality craftsmanship and artistic finishing. One last thought about haute horology watches and timepieces, if you think a finely made watch from a watch brand that rhymes with Bowflex is costly, a watch from an haute horology brand is even more luxuriously costly and worth your investment.
William Ross is often described as a jack of all trades. He loves to explore new things and cultivate his knowledge everywhere he goes. These days, he spends most of his free time writing about watches and watch accessories, as he is a collector himself.