The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie introduces HH Certification in Watchmaking Knowledge

So you know all about fine watches then do you? Well, thanks to a new initiative from La Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH), for the first time it is going to be possible to put your knowledge the test – and if you know your onions (as in the name given to the style of crown found on the new Garrick Shaftesbury watch for example), you could benefit from it too.

The HH Certification in Watchmaking Knowledge, as the award will be known, has been devised so that persons involved in the watch industry, and particularly in retail and sales can earn a recognized diploma, certifying their knowledge level, and possibly even enhancing their career trajectory in the process. It’s not restricted to industry insiders either, as anyone can take the test so long as they are content to fork out the US$385 fee, which covers the cost of administration, evaluation and the certification itself. Its appeal to professional or enthusiast is obvious.

As a free-standing body set up independent of any major watch brands, with the objective of promoting Swiss watchmaking and providing a portal for people who work in the watch industry, FHH are an umbrella group, albeit one with increasing authority in the sector. In order to ensure that the HH Certification holds the credibility it needs, FHH have consulted with a select panel of industry experts, who in turn have compiled an encyclopedic 2,500 questions, covering most aspects of classic and complicated watchmaking, including techniques, important brands and industry personalities, materials and processes as well as history and culture. If that sounds daunting, well the examination is to be set at a mere 160 questions over a set two-hour period, but it will still require a comprehensive knowledge of the subject.

Once underway though, a very interesting feature of the test is the ability for the user to select their confidence level before answering each question, so allowing participants to place a realistic expectation on the quality of each answer, based on their familiarity with the subject of the question – meaning that results will be “honest” and less prone to being open to chance. This aspect of the challenge has been designed by expert assessment method specialists and makes for a very slick and engaging user experience, as well as providing a reliable measure of one’s competence.

To help applicants to prepare for the exam, an online information resource has been made available for study upon completion of registration, which will cover the subject material and recommended reading upon which the multiple choice questions will be based. Prior to sitting the full test, the 160-question sample paper allows the participant to experience the format and confidence level scoring system.

Depending on one’s performance there are three Fine Watchmaking awards; Expert, Specialist and Advisor, with Expert being the highest standard, and it’s well worth noting too that just completing the exam does not guarantee a Certificate, as is the case in any test a good solid score is needed, so it’s something to be taken seriously, and not just some jolly horologic amuse-bouche.

Whereas learning or refreshing and practice paper are all done online, the HH Certification in Watchmaking Knowledge exam itself will be held in assessment centers in different countries. Participants will not be allowed to bring any electronic devices into the room and the exam will be conducted on FHH-issued iPads or similar, so those expecting to Google their way to success will be in for a disappointment! The first assessment will take place in the United States in Spring 2015 (exact dates and venue/s yet to be announced).

It would be so much easier for all concerned to do this final test online, but there’s just no way that people are not going to cheat, and if there are folk running around with a nice document which they cheated to get, that would ultimately render the HH Certificate, as an industry recognized merit – which they clearly want it to be – literally not worth the paper it was written on. The (correct) approach FHH have taken also means that taking on the Certificate will be something to consider before parting with the fee, as it’s unlikely that assessment centres will be dotted around every country, so travel and accommodation will also be a factor for many armchair experts.

On the FHH website, a demo test of twelve sample questions is available in exchange for your email address and at once you can see why you’d want to do this. The layout is inviting, well spaced and easy to use, the style of questioning is engaging and the competence-ometer a clever element of the assessment. It can be repeated as often as you want, but really the first time is the telling one, as it is here that one’s true knowledge is put to the test get a question wrong and you’ll be sure to get it right next time, making any subsequent sittings of the same twelve questions pretty much redundant.

While the demo is an interesting, even amusing novelty, one can begin to understand the thinking behind the whole proposal, and its potential benefit to individuals and indeed the watch industry as a whole. It has been very well put together with no evidence of cutting corners anywhere, and the exclusivity of the awards means that once established the HH Certification in Watchmaking Knowledge should carry a career enhancing gravitas industry-wide.

While this is undoubtedly a good thing, in terms of personal achievement and a professional standard, it begs the question of why it took until now for such a metric to be introduced. After all, the watch industry is better served when its front line sales executives are knowledgeable and informed. In a way, it could tentatively be compared to the wine business, where serious academic qualifications right up to Master of Wine have become desirable, almost essential personal attributes among the more select and therefore respected employers. Like fine wines, watchmaking is a subject that few will ever be able to say that they know it all, but for those who have studied the subject to an academic level, then it’s about time there was an internationally recognized qualification for our own somelliers d’horlogerie, and the HH Certification in Watchmaking Knowledge might well be the answer to that question which no-one had addressed before.

To find out more about the HH Certification in Watchmaking Knowledge and to enroll for the exam, the FHH micro-site has a comprehensive FAQ section as well as access to the demo platform.

You can register at