Certina is a brand with a long and prestigious history, running back to 1888 when it was founded in Grenchen, Switzerland. By 1955 they were making about 1,000 mechanical watches a day, and they developed their unique selling point with a concept by designers Hans and Erwin Kurth, “double security”, DS, increasing the durability of their watches by means of reinforced cases and shock-absorbing systems. Certina watches were used to accompany Himalayan expeditions, underwater research projects and other sports ventures. In 1965, they had the idea of a watch with a window showing three concentric discs, presenting the user’s biorhythms, physical, emotional and mental, with periods of 23, 28 and 33 days. In 1971, the brand, which quickly embraced quartz movements, launched an electronic version of the watch. In 1983, Certina joined SMH, the group that would later become Swatch Group, and gradually developed its niche as a sports brand, with strong links to motor sports.
Today its catalogue is mainly about their quartz watches, but their DS tradition continues, and this year, 2014, they have presented a limited edition mechanical watch dedicated to Norwegian biathlon champion Ole Einar Bjørndalen, a Certina ambassador since 2011. This watch is an attractive, classic piece in which the sports connection is subtly expressed, with some red touches – three red Arabic numerals, the central seconds hand, red stitching on the strap – and a sapphire caseback revealing the oscillating weight in the colours of the Norwegian flag, so also red, marked with the athlete’s signature. The steel case is 44 mm in diameter. The Powermatic 8011 calibre provides time indications and date, with a power reserve of 80 hours. At €920 this is a good entry-level mechanical watch, with the added attraction of being a limited edition.
Certina is no longer the wholly verticalized manufacture that it was in the early decades of the 20th century, and the movement is made by ETA, but 80 hours power reserve is in any case exceptional, and the watch benefits from the ETA/Swatch Group research into high-performance barrels and innovative alloys such as ARCAP, an anti-magnetic alloy of copper, nickel and zinc. Possibly the Powermatic 8011 is related to the Powermatic 80 movement used in the Tissot Luxury Automatic, in which balance wheel oscillation rate is set by laser in the factory, eliminating the need for the classic manual adjustment components normally found in mechanical movements.
The watch therefore represents one of the new directions of contemporary mechanical watches, towards computerized production systems that reduce costs and increase movement accuracy. The same direction as the Swatch Sistem 51, a mechanical watch at the price of €130. Whatever people think about this trend, it is helping to introduce mechanical watches to a whole new audience, and that, in the long run, can only be a good thing.