No, it's not a new sponsor or a new watch brand, but rather something completely different.
I got up this morning at OhDarkHundred and drove some 350km to Donauwörth in Bavaria, where EuroCopter is located, the helicopter subsidiary (okay, they make other stuff as well) of EADS. There I met up with various others invited by the FH Aachen (Applied Sciences University of Aachen), Sinn and EuroCopter to launch a new certification process for Pilot watches: TeStaF.
It's a German acronym for Technischer Standard Fliegeruhren, the Technical Standard for Flying Watches. Now, I use the term Flying Watches rather than Pilot watch for a reason.
As all of us Pilot watch fans know, the vast majority of "pilot" watches out there are purely cosmetic, purely driven by marketing, rather than by technical aspects of the watch. There has been, to date, no accepted definition for pilot watches that is comparable to that of diver watches (which are defined as those watches meeting ISO 6425). Rather than taking the extremely laborious route of getting an ISO norm established - which would require approval by all manufacturers and everyone in the industry - the people behind the project decided to take a different route: providing certification for watches meeting the TeStaF norm.
The norm has been developed by the Flight Laboratory of the Faculty of Aerospace Technology of the FH Aaachen, together with Sinn Spezialuhren of Frankfurt to define what requirements have to be met to receive certification from TeStaF for a mechanical watch with analogue display, used for civilian flights operating under visual and instrument flight rules: it is a certification that has gone through a rigorous systematic analysis of aviation regulations (similar processes exist for flight instrumentation, for instance) and both a detailed survey of what real-world operating pilots in multiple aircraft categories say they want and need, as well as an exhaustive series of empirical application-oriented experiments. The first results of this new certification process were then reviewed and validated in a detailed field test.
In other words, any watch meeting the standards set up in TeStaF fulfill the real-world functional and physical requirements for time measurement devices in different aircraft categories. This is absolutely comparable to certifying an instrument panel component, for instance, or certifying various types of aircraft engines (okay, maybe not quite as extensive as the latter... )
This is the core of what the certification process defines (taken directly from TeStaF documentation:
In the event of simultaneous failure of the aircraft‘s timing instruments, or even a suspected failure, it is the purpose of the pilot‘s watch, as the primary time measurement instrument, to enable the pilot to plan and execute any necessary time-related flight manoeuvres, thereby providing a comprehensive substitute for the timing instruments installed or mandated in the aircraft.
The functioning of a pilot‘s watch shall not be affected by the physical stress of regular flying or by unexpected malfunctions of the aircraft. In all conditions its operation shall be simple and reliable and it shall be easily readable. It shall not present a potential risk for crew members, other instruments or the aircraft itself.
So what does that mean?
Without going into extensive detail - that will come in a few days - here is a basic list:
Wristwatch with 12 or 24 hour display with minutes; central seconds hand; stopwatch function for at least 30 minutes for instrument flight rules; central stopwatch seconds display, permanent seconds hand for function check, bezel rotatable in both directions with at least one marker for measuring time; hacking mechanism.
Further: time display, rotatable bezel and stopwatch function (if incorporated) must be readable in a rapid and unambiguous manner; daytime colors include black, white and any color except red (existing regulations assign special and clearly defined warning functions in aviation to the color red!); contrast between dial markings and background, hands and background, markings on bezel and bezel backgrounds must be at least 14:1 if not higher, measured as operating, i.e. with watch crystal; readability at night must include ability to read time and stopwatch function to an accuracy of at least five minutes or five seconds without manual activation of illumination or controls; lume must cover all hour indices, hour and minute hands, central second hand, five-minute markings of stopwatch minute indices, stopwatch minute and second hands, as well as at least one market on rotating bezel; no red lume; lume must serve also to clearly orient the dial under no illumination; lume must last at least three hours in complete darkness.
Further: rotatable bezel must have clearly perceptible minute ratcheting and operating elements for stopwatch functions must have a clear point of resistance to indicate activation; all controls must meet temperature requirements; all controls must be operable when wearing common aviator gloves.
Further: accuracy tests are to be taken in four positions (6 up, 9 up, dial up, case back up) and at the following temperatures: -15°C, 23°C and 55°C, with the watch fully wound. Minimum acceptable accuracy under these conditions is plus/minus 30 seconds/day; at 23° no less than 15s/day, with a power reserve of at least 36 hours, with the first three hours with active stopwatch function..
Water resistance according to DIN 8310, with this being rechecked after each of the following additional tests: watch must withstand a reduction in ambient pressure from 0.752 bar to 0.044 bar within 15 seconds, maintain integrity at 0.044 bar for no less than two hours; this test is to be repeated after a pause of one hour; watch will be subjected to a pressure change between 1.013 bar to 0.752 bar and back no less than 2000 times (this tests the integrity of the watch case to the usual pressurization of civilian aircraft from surface to operating altitude); manufacturer must state operative temperature range, which must be at least between -15°C to +55°C; the watch must also be able to go from the minimum temperature to the maximum within 5 minutes in both directions.
The watch must be able to withstand 6g of acceleration in four positions for one minute each (i.e. not a short test, but rather the watch must operate and continue to operate while under these conditions!); further, the watch must also withstand uniformly varying frequencies between 2Hz and 10Hz as well as between 30Hz and 60Hz with amplitude as defined in MIL-PRF-46374G;
In addition to water reistance according to DIN 8310/ISO 2281, the watch and individual parts must not be damaged by fuel, lubricants, solvents, cleaning agents and de-icing fluids.
There is no test for magnetic fields, as empirical field tests have shown that magnetic fields such as are used in civilian aircraft do not pose a danger to watches; however, a demagnetised watch must not influence a standard magnetic compass certified for use in aircraft when placed in 10mm distance by more than 2.5° deviation.
Further: anti-reflective coatings are a must, as are non-glare case components; readability of cockpit instruments must not be compromised by watch lume; protruding parts may not catch on or block aircraft functions; the strap must withstand a tensile force of 200 N without damage.
What does this mean for the watch industry?
Well, first and foremost, they can apply for certification of their watches.
Second, obtaining certification means, at the very least, that you've got one serious watch.
Third: certification is for a designated design, with design variances approved, rather than for an individual watch. This keeps certification costs down and is how aviation equipment in general is certified for use.
Fourth: this is not an insurmountable process, but rather one that does require some solid work on the manufacturer's side. Certification includes protocols and variances, and TeStaF wants to work with manufacturers to help them get certification, i.e. this is a supportive role and process.
Fifith: while no one can effectively be stopped in telling folks that they make pilot watches, certification is the process where the wheat is separated from the chaff.
So, that's it in a nutshell. More to follow, but I gotta get some sleep.
PS: Goodness. Forgot the URL: FH Aachen: TeStaf-Projekt