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Point/Counterpoint: Is An In-House Movement In A Watch That Important?

Point/Counterpoint: Is An In-House Movement In A Watch That Important? Featured Articles

Welcome to Point/Counterpoint, an aBlogtoWatch column where two of our resident horological aficionados duke it out over a point of contention. Last time we asked “Are Vintage Watches Worth It?” and now Ariel Adams and David Bredan spar over the merits of in-house movements.

Point/Counterpoint: Is An In-House Movement In A Watch That Important? Featured Articles

Ariel Adams: The economics as well as the psychology of our feelings surrounding mechanical watch movements is often at odds with logic. I propose that quality movements sourced from top-shelf suppliers are, in many instances, as good or much better than those prestigious “in-house movements” we collectors tend to celebrate so often and with such fervor. Consider, first, the notion that watch movements are tiny engines whose performance and reliability are probably the most important things for a prospective owner. For machines to operate well, they need to be thoroughly tested and optimized for performance over (sometimes) years of careful testing and tweaking. Not even computer simulations can adequately test how these machines will operate in the real world.

Point/Counterpoint: Is An In-House Movement In A Watch That Important? Featured Articles

So who, then, has the incentive to do such testing and tweaking? A company who just came out with a new “in-house movement” that will be produced in the thousands, or a company who is in the business of selling movements to other companies and who is deeply invested in the process of making movements in bulk for years? It is easy to admit that watch movements produced in-house by companies certainly have more originality and often decorative value, but aren’t these factors second in importance to having a movement that works well, has been proven to last longer, and can actually be serviced more readily given the availability of parts and skilled repair technicians?

Point/Counterpoint: Is An In-House Movement In A Watch That Important? Featured Articles

David Bredan:  It is an olden but golden saying that there is a first time for everything – and the last fifteen or so years have been the “first time” for in-house watch movements to become increasingly ubiquitous. Major (and minor) watch brands had been getting away for far too long with charging more but giving the same (or less), riding on the high horse of “Swiss Made” – they just forgot to add “Swiss Made (mostly) by someone else.” It would be daft to argue against the importance of the reliability or performance of watch movements, and supporting in-house movements should never come at a cost of sacrificing these fundamental requirements.

Point/Counterpoint: Is An In-House Movement In A Watch That Important? Featured Articles

You say that factors such as the originality and decorative value of in-house movements are secondary to other properties such as reliability, durability, and serviceability – and they unquestionably are in the eyes of most. But are these two sets of attributes mutually exclusive when it comes to in-house calibers? Surely not, and while not all manufacture movements deserve praise, there are many simple and more complicated calibers out there that have offered so much more than the supplied base movements they replaced.

Point/Counterpoint: Is An In-House Movement In A Watch That Important? Featured Articles

This brings me to the point of the utter lack of anything fascinating in owning several of the same base calibers – they may have been designed and developed to last a long time, but many certainly do not want to own more than a few (or just one) of them over the course of years or more of collecting and appreciating timepieces. Getting a different style of a watch but with the same movement is out of the question for many watch lovers because they know they can only get one of a very few base calibers inside. Those looking to appreciate the next great chapter in modern horology (or are simply looking for something new in their next purchase) will want to use and see one of the numerous in-house calibers that function in a considerably more refined way, look more pleasing to the eye, and work better with today’s trends (think of larger case sizes, for example) than the base calibers designed several decades ago that they are now replacing… Even if there is a price premium to be paid.

Last but not least, a few among today’s modern in-house movements may just become the reliable and durable – and yet more refined – base caliber tomorrow.

Point/Counterpoint: Is An In-House Movement In A Watch That Important? Featured Articles

Ariel Adams:  There is no denying the important emotional value of purchasing a timepiece with a movement unique to the manufacturer and perhaps even to the specific watch. The ideal situation for any watch collector is to purchase a timepiece with a movement produced by the company whose name is on the dial. The question, however, is one of economics and value. We both agree that mechanical watches should combine both performance and artistry, but at what price, and how much is the consumer asked to sacrifice? I submit to you that the economics of buying in-house-made movements simply don’t work out in the interest of many consumers as value propositions are all over the place.

Point/Counterpoint: Is An In-House Movement In A Watch That Important? Featured Articles

In an economy of vertical integration, when a company is responsible for producing its own watches – or anything, for that matter – the rule should be that by producing their own components, they are able to control costs and should be able to charge less money. This is especially true when the performance of a product produced internally is the same as something produced externally and purchased via a supplier. If a movement costs a company $100 to purchase from a supplier, then theoretically, if they produce their own watches (after amortizing the costs of R&D, labor, and machinery), then their per-unit price should be less because they do not need to pay for the profit of a third party company. It is only those companies who absolutely cannot justify the expense of producing their own movements because of low production volumes that should be able to justify the mass purchase of components from third parties. In this classic example, “in-house-made” is a means of controlling costs, offering lower prices, and tangentially offering the consumer something more unique.

Point/Counterpoint: Is An In-House Movement In A Watch That Important? Featured Articles

With timepieces, this model is oddly skewed as the price of a timepiece with an in-house-made movement – in the vast majority of instances, as related to high-end watches – is higher than for those watches produced with sourced movements. Brands use the more exclusive nature of in-house-made movements to justify increased prices and oftentimes do not deliver increased actual performance – and often only marginal aesthetic enhancements. This is part of a larger culture of offering almost no performance-related data as to the promised operation of a specific timepiece outside of how the movement generally works as a function of basic figures such as balance wheel frequency, power reserve, and little else.

Point/Counterpoint: Is An In-House Movement In A Watch That Important? Featured Articles

Movements produced from suppliers such as ETA and others in Switzerland have a more or less established track record of performance and a general understanding of their benefits and limitations. Consumers are able to have a more predicable understanding of their value, and based on a number of factors can more accurately sum up the value of a watch as a summation of its case, dial, strap, and movement – along with prestige value. This, in turn, creates a more healthy consumer-controlled price market where value can be part of the equation of buying a mechanical watch. With in-house-made movements, consumers are often asked to trust – often with blind faith – that an in-house movement costs what it does, performs as well or better than more mass-produced, sourced movements, and that the company is there to properly service the movement in the future.

Point/Counterpoint: Is An In-House Movement In A Watch That Important? Featured Articles

My argument is not at all against in-house movements, as there are some wonderful ones out there produced in large quantities by established brands with the infrastructure to support them. Many of which, may I add, offer reasonable value propositions and excellent performance.

Point/Counterpoint: Is An In-House Movement In A Watch That Important? Featured Articles

I do, however, take issue with the often seen wholesale discounting of the practice by many companies of using sourced movements from companies such as ETA, Sellita, etc… Even educated consumers are quick to call these watches boring, or of low value simply because the engine inside isn’t made by the company on the dial. I would prefer a sourced movement unless an in-house-made movement has clear advantages over sourced ones and real benefits to the consumers outside of a nebulous notion of prestige and exclusivity which, in my opinion, should be lower on someone’s list of things to scrutinize in just a movement contained within the more complicated architecture of a wrist watch.

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  • IanE

    Interesting discussion with hits on both sides. Tool watches such as the Sinn U1 certainly don’t need in-house, but Langes with an ETA would rather disappoint! What really annoys me is how certain companies charge such elevated prices for unmodified, or just lightly modified, ETA/Sellita movements: we could all name names!

    • Hydra


  • sakibahsan

    I love the fact that Mr Ariel Adams attacks certain practices of companies producing manufacture movements and not attacking the entire concept of manufacture movements. It’s a good article.

  • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

    There is a need for both, and the best is if a brand offers them and gives a choice. But that is a rare thing. I like the fact that Bremont offers the Jaguar MKI and MKIII watches with different calibers and gives you the choice if you want to pay the premium for a better decorated movement.

    And also agree with the need for more transparency: if it is a sourced movement just let us know what you are using and what modifications do you perform. If it is an in house, add some statistics or even better have it certified by an external party. Again looking at Bremont who had to learn this lesson the hard way… But at least they learnt it 😉

  • For me, for an in-house caliber to be worth paying extra for, it needs to be or do something better than a sourced/industrial/commodity movement. For example, if an in-house caliber is a simple 3 hand plus date watch, it better have much better time keeping and decoration than an ETA 2824 or 2892. Otherwise what’s the point? It just costs more, is harder to get parts and service and does not have years or decades of refinement that translates into rock solid reliability.

    And not all commodity movements are equal either. Some hum along at 3 hz, others at 4 hz. Some have unidirectional rotor winding while better ones have bi-directional. And accuracy can vary widely as well. Having said all of that, for high-end watches with complications or high levels of hand finishing, an in-house caliber is de rigueur. But then there are no commodity minute repeater that I know of, so some features are only found in in-house calibers (as it should be).

    The idea that eliminating the middle man will drive down movement acquisition costs if a complete fallacy unless you are buying or making tens of thousands of the same movement each year. Otherwise, the R&D costs and the small scale of production will always make a sourced movement cheaper than a low volume in-house caliber. Sure you are free to make extra for prestige if you like, but unless you are really getting more in the movement, don’t kid yourself that it’s better just because it’s different.

    • Wolf nilsson

      I share your view. An inhouse should outperform an outsourced. Either in terms of fuctions as you list above, but also/or when it comes to performance such as

      -Service intervals (modern high tech material, different constructions or assebly etc)
      -Service costs (a movement could be designed in a way making it easy and cheap to maintain over the years. Few parts, easy to assemble etc).
      -Shock resistance
      -Winding efficiency
      -Time keeping (less important I guess)
      Perhaps also estetics could be included.

    • Chaz

      Oh GOD yes…PLEASE create a simple GMT/travel watch with independently adjustable hour hand instead of forcing people to use the skinny little 24hr hand as the new time zone instead of reference/home time!!!

      I also find Longines to be one of the most fun brands out there as far as keeping prices sane and using reliable ETA movements (arguably “in-house”) but playing around with them to make them their own.

  • Mocky Mountain

    An in-house movement is all what it is about! It is like the heart & the soul of a “real” watch and makes all the difference. As the difference between a “brand” and a “label”. By the way: whoever made the experience of an Apple MacBook versus a PC-Notebook knows where I´m coming from . . .

    • the

      I don’t really think so. Until 2006 apple used “in house processors”, but they were much worse than the intel ones, so they switched, and I think this was a great move! Another example: in the reflex cameras market canon makes their “in house” sensors, while nikon buys them from sony. So nikon loses a little of exclusivity, because as an example the sensor used in a 1200 € nikon camera is also used in a 400 € one from sony. But at the end of the day sony’s sensors are better than canon ones, so there are a lot of canon shooters that would prefer a canon with a sony sensor!
      So what would you prefer between an in house movement that has a precision of +30 -15 seconds per day or an eta that is rated +5 -2?

      • beardedman

        For the record, in their traditional Macintosh computers, Apple first used Motorola, then they moved to IBM. Now they are using Intel. IOS devices are using in-house chips today, and they are quite good.

        • the

          When they used IBM they were the only one who used them, so they were built to apple’s specification. It was the same for the processors used in the ps3 and xbox 360, both made by IBM. For the chips they are using in ios devices it is quite strange, it is a soc made with parts designed by arm, and then built by samsung or tsmc, apple only chooses what parts to buy license from arm. It’s like if a watch would be made buying the licenses for the movements from eta, they would made a new movement using the escapement from a unitas, the gear train from a 2824, and the winding mechanism and rotor from a valijoux, and then it would be built and assembled by seiko!

          • somethingnottaken

            The Power PC G3 chips were made by both IBM and Motorola and were sold to Apple and various other companies (for things like medical imaging machines and industrial control systems). The G4 chips were made by Motorola and were available to companies other than Apple, though so far as I know weren’t widely used. The G5 chips were made by IBM exclusively for Apple (but shared alot of components with IBM’s Power series server processors).

  • Adam J. Dubilo

    In house movements can make a watch very special and worth a certain premium; case in point my Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso pictured. I do think as we continue to see the in-house movement (as in ongoing phenomenon) mature, we’ll see price level; but not necessarily go down. For a company that never produced a movement before to begin doing so is like starting a whole new business, with what I would imagine a huge amount of capital investment. So yes, IMO right now, they are worth more; in the future, it all depends how companies keep in front of innovation.

  • David Wrubel

    That is not an apt comparison. As a user of both PCs and Macs AND experienced with in house and ‘mass-produced’ movements, I experience the difference between the computers in a very tactile way. In my view, Macs are more intuitive, work more smoothly, and are much more reliable. By comparison, most PCs feel cheap.

    Watches only tell time. The difference between movements at any level of complication is not apparent unless you read about it or gaze at the exhibition back of a particularly beautiful execution. The biggest difference is in the knowledge that one owns an in-house movement. This is a psychic benefit, but not a tangible one.

  • Gabe Wong

    I think we can all agree in-house vs non-inhouse is not such a big deal, as long as there is transparency with the use of a stock movement, i.e. brand like Tudor are transparent in their use of ETAs, other brands use stock and pretend to engrave their logos on the rotor or some other minor change and rebrand the moment… they call it their in-house XX-XXX19234 or what have one. All backed with serif text over a vintage photo and voila… they sell the image of heritage or whatever. The irritating part is the lie they pretend to tell us. We know they’re lying and yet they persist.

    • Chaz

      Hey…there’s a fine line between “lie” and “embellish” 😉

  • Shinytoys

    Having an in house movement allows the watch company greater control in the quality department. Everything made under one roof holds the Marque to a higher standard of excellence. It also lends credence to exclusivity allowing the piece to hold it’s resale value higher. If I’m going to drop 10K plus on a watch, I would not want a piece that farms out the most important and delicate device on the unit.

    • iamcalledryan

      Agreed, but depends who you farm out to – MB&F farm out to Kari Vout, Richard Mille and AP farm out to Renaud et Papi, Jean Dunand to Christophe Claret etc etc. Sometimes you farm out to get the best because it already exists in the market and because it takes decades and scores of millions to be a master of all. I guess the real question is whether to trust 10k to a manufacture that has not slowly integrated over decades vs the one that has your attention and just stepped onto the scene.

      • Timestandsstill

        Exactly! Many ultra high end brands use superb outsourced movements. Undoubtedly these watches would cost even more if the manufacturer had to develop their own. For a couple hundred years the practice of etablissment, or sourcing of dials, movements, hands, etc., from independent specialists was the norm (and proudly so) for the major Swiss watch houses. As Ariel had mentioned, what gets me are people who automatically disrespect or dismiss a watch simply because it does not have an “in house” movement. All three of the “Holy Trinity” brands still employ outsourced movements, often from each other. Why should I enjoyed my Vacheron Constantin watch with a JLC movement any less than my Jaeger LeCoultre with the same, but now “in house” movement?

        • iamcalledryan

          Right on!

      • Shinytoys

        Point we’ll taken. Initially I was referring to the ETA Selita argument, but the big guns do it too.

  • A_watches

    Only people who have no real interest in watches would pay the high end for a lightly mod eta given u can get the same movement or less in other watches. The only conclusion is that u r paying for the brand (recognition) and look which are more superficial elements of owning a watch

    • Chaz

      The nice folks at Hublow and Tag are offended and hurt…

  • funkright

    You are paying for the marginal right of exclusivity. That is all. No more, No less. If that’s important to you then do it, if not then don’t. Is the quality of an ‘in house’ movement actually better? One would think not, as you can’t be the best at every part or component. Why not depend on those suppliers that can do a better job than you? Though that’s not the point here. It’s all about exclusivity, driving margin improvements related to bottom line profits (you may pay more to produce it yourself, in the end you can charge more given that ‘exclusivity’) and the belief by the buyers that this somehow imparts value to them. That’s a house of cards, effectively a falsehood sometimes known as the endowment effect.

  • the

    In my opinion a watch collector wants to have watches obviously with different aesthetics, but also with different movements. I see no points in having 100 watches, but all with an eta 2824! So as I see it, at first, when your collection is growing it’s easy to have all different movements: an eta 2824, a 2892, a valijoux 7750, a unitas, a soprod a10, a miyota 9015. So undoubtedly when I would have watches with all this movements I would start to be interested to in house movements.
    Another thing, I don’t consider movements like the seiko 7s26 like other in house movements, but not because of a sort of snobbery (they truly are amazing movements that I love, if anything at least for their pawl lever which is more efficient than the way swiss movements are designed!) but because they are so common in so much different watches. It would be the same if tomorrow rolex would start making a lot of different designs putting inside their 3135 and selling those for 150 €!

  • Brad Radu

    Interesting discussion…

    I’ve had a few different movements in watches that I own (or have owned in the past), both cheaper Japanese (Miyota, Seiko), and a tad more expensive Swiss (ETA, Soprod). While they all do the job fairly well my next two watches will be the new Pelagos and the Seamaster 300 master Co-Axial, both of which have newer in-house movements (my first foray(s) into “in-house”).

    The reasoning being that they do provide several advantages in the way of COSC and/or (for the Omega) METAS certification, much better power reserve (70 and 60 hrs respectively), some anti-magnetic properties (perhaps overkill in this regard on the Omega), free sprung balances (arguably more accurate, usually only seen in higher end movements), instant date change on the Pelagos, and a viewable/well decorated movement on the Seamaster.

    In my opinion all worthy improvements over a more generic movement that are worth the additional cost.

  • Chaz

    Yes…ironically, oftentimes the “joy” of having the bragging rights of an in-house, manufacture movement watch also increases the amount of frustration and cost-of-ownership!!
    (exceptions to Rolex and Seiko, based on my experiences)

    Great read and much appreciated!!!

  • yb

    I am new to to mechanical watches, but I own both manifacture calibers and ETA and here is my wish list
    1. Invest into metallurgical know how, non of it double barrel crap or super large once to increase power reserve.
    2. Introduce Six Sigma statistical quality control to watch manufacturing like in automotive and aerospace industry (Lange hired CEO from automotive industry in my opinion for quality improvement)
    3. Like in USA car sales, label states where car is built, % of parts from which counties, the watch industry should be transparent stating origin of steel, diamonds, cases and etc.
    4. Finally state chronometer tolerances like +4 to -3 per day. Adjustments and temperatures clearly.

    • the

      For the point 4 it’s already like that for the majority of movements. What I would like is to know what can be the difference in the timing of a movement in the different positions (face up, down, crown up, down, etc.). To be clear, I have an eta 2824 watch, which was always +7 second per day. I regulated by myself it an it’s always +1 seconds per day. I regulated another watch which has an eta 2801 (an handwound 2824) so that it is +1 seconds per week in summer, and -2 seconds per week in winter! I also have seiko 7s26, but also regulated some days it may gain 5-10 seconds, and some days it may lose 5 (or anything in beteen).

    • cg

      Gotta laugh! Unless you’ve worked under SS you wouldn’t understand I’ve seen introduced SS in aerospace industry and they had the biggest exodus of engineering and mid level tech that still continues to this day at one of the worlds biggest players. Mid and upper level bean counters wield it like Thor’s Hammer. Quality is from human input not a numbers game.

  • Michael Kinney

    Terrific article. That’s the kind of informative, reasoned writing I look for here.

    • Ariel Adams

      Thank you very much. Feedback like that helps inspire us to produce more content like this.

  • beardedman

    Good discussion. Maybe I’m too new to the hobby to have a very knowledgeable opinion, but to me a ubiquitous sourced movement is a bit like the loose girl (or boy) in high-school. Fun but not the most prized to have on your arm at the prom. That’s really what it boils down to, isn’t it? OK, not an example that’s in very good taste, but it seems a bit too close to ignore. Quite a different thing though if you are talking about a sourced JLC movement in another brand, obviously!

    We are used to commodity items assembled from components made by different outfits in different places, but a house that does it all and does it well deserves the recognition and respect of a Rolex or JLC, as well as many others I’m just learning about. But in-house just for the sake of in-house, no.

    • iamcalledryan

      But as we all learn, what we perceive in high-school is a bit limited. That girl might not have been loose, perhaps more grown up for her age, experienced, she knows what she wants and doesn’t mess around; whereas the prom queen wowed and amazed on the day but was concealing issues and high maintenance that make her a nightmare to actually live with.

      It simply isn’t that simple – there are fantastic third party movements from the highly complicated Christophe Claret and APRP right down to the workhorse ETA/Valjoux/Unitas. And there are fascinating in-house movements that are littered with problems or whose servicing dies with the brand.

      In my opinion the worst combination is the third party basic ebauche, with embellished rotor, renamed with the brand’s calibre and charged as almost in-house. Those offer the least value for money, but if you are in love with the design of the case it’s still enough to ignore.

      • beardedman

        Excellent points. My analogy probably shouldn’t be taken too far. As you say, there are more sophisticated ways to look at the issue and my example of a JLC heart in another brand’s case was a nod to that. Even Rolex wasn’t always in-house but is no less valued.

  • Nateb123

    Great article/series but I would have enjoyed taking your debate to its logical extension and offering possible solutions for in-house manufacturers and suppliers.

    The key issue as I see it with sourced movements is the lack of consumer interest because only a few calibers are made. It is absolute insanity that Jaeger LeCoultre can produce 1000 different calibres and ETA generally produces 3: the 2824, 2892, and 7750. This is the same ETA that has a massive backcatalogue of amazing calibres from its own history and its acquisition of other major Swiss movement suppliers.

    Collectors are begging for thin, bi-compax, manual wind chronographs, so why does ETA not dust off their plans for making a Venus 188/Valjoux 7730? They have all the tech specs, the R&D is already spent, many parts overlap with the 7750 so it wouldn’t even require a significant amount of new machinery. And yet, they simply don’t offer it. So manufacturers must develop their own in-house movements to effectively remake an ETA/Valjoux in the format they know exists and which consumers demand because they’ve seen those dial layouts and designs from vintage watches.

    Tl;DR I blame ETA.

    • Totally agree. And ETA does make a number of very interesting new movements. Problem is they only supply them to other Swatch Group companies. I know they really don’t like supplying Richemont and LVMH with movements (hence the drying up of supply overall), but it would be nice if some of the newer movements were made available to brands not on Swatch’s s**t list. The have column wheel switched chronographs for example. But as an indie brand, I have no way to get them.

      • Larry Holmack

        Love to be able to afford a watch with one of those cool column wheel switched chronographs…..But….just too far out of my price range.

  • Shirley Furby

    If I want a good quality watch at a reasonable price. I look for a small manufacturer for example O&W that produces a quality watch with a reliable ETA movement. If I want to be taken for a ride I buy a watch like Tudor who sell you a quality watch with the same ETA movement at 4 to 6 times the price of an O&W. Then I can brag I have a Tudor. Not any better in any respect just more prestige.
    The problem is not in house verses supplied but being over charged for a percieved more valuable watch. Like paying for a BMW only to find it has Pontiac engine. Quit ripping the poor watch nerd off with a fancy case and dial hiding a “gussied up” base caliber produced by a mass supplier. As mentioned by one of the other contributors at least Tudor does not hide the fact that they have both hands in your pockets in selling you there baby Rolex running on an ETA. Buyer beware.

    • Ariel Adams

      Good points indeed but I find that you brought up something that a lot of watch buyers oddly gloss over. You mention “fancy case” in passing as though that is easy. No doubt we want a solid movement inside our our timepieces but I for one don’t want a nice movement in an otherwise low quality case with poorly made dial.

      We wear watches because they look good and make us feel good. Sure we use them but in addition to their utilitarian values it is the statement they make which appeals to use. We use a lot of things to tell the time these days but for a lot of people the most expensive item on their body at any given time is their watch. In addition to what is inside, the parts of the watch that we mostly see should be of a high quality – and getting those elements right is an art and science unto itself. I urge everything to not gloss over the fact that getting a watch case, dial, and hands is very difficult and doing it right is something which should be both celebrated and valued.

      • Shirley Furby

        Ariel thank you for your comment. As an amateur jeweler I am quite aware of the work involved in the design and execution of metal work and I often give Kudos to people who do beautiful metal work but the case holds the beating heart of the watch and I think you would agree it is the most important part, not belittling the container of the heart. I love beautiful things but let us consider them as a “whole” the sum of the parts. Value for the the whole as presented i.e. the watch we are buying should not be misrepresented as holding a unique movement when in fact it is an assembly line piece with no improvement other than perhaps window dressing.
        I totally agree that the case is what we see and present to the world as our choice in a watch but to people like you and I that are knowledgeable about what makes it tick our perception is different. We look and know more than the case we also see the heart.
        Along this line and to support your argument I appreciate a case which at the very least has intrinsic value. If it is made of steel it should be exceptional . For instance AP’s most famous model so much so that I do not even have to name it, but in most watches the actual metal or should I say element should have value for example gold. Another value as you mention would be a watch which shows exceptional craftmanship. So we agree in certain ways, I think. Feel free to educate me. I enjoy “looking” at the watches that are presented in your blog especially their hearts. Keep up the good work. Thank you,Shirl

    • Richard Mui

      I always find comments like these entertaining and ill-informed…and misleading to others.

      The ETA 2824-2 movements used by o&w and Tudor are quite different. Yes, they maybe exactly the same design technically and thus they share the same designation but the tolerance level is very different. Google a little and you’ll see they are classified into 4 grades: Chronometer, Top, Elabore and standard and they have different performance ratings in accuracy. If you’re in anyway exposed into mechanical engineering you’ll realize that to improve manufacturing tolerance by a multitude of 2 is very difficult and can be very expensive, especially when you’re talking about gears that are a few mm in diameter.

      I have a Tudor Sub that I got new back in 1992. Of the twenty odd years that I own the piece it only had 2 services and it’s still keeping excellent time, within 5 second a day. And more importantly the daily deviation is never more than a couple seconds so it’s really consistent. And given that it has a Rolex Oyster case that still shine up like a new nickel it’s just icing on the cake.

      I paid USD1,000 for the watch back then and I have it for 23+ years and still going, so even if I go crazy and throw it into the garbage tomorrow it cost me whopping USD43 a year! Now tell me, how’s that expensive or overpriced?

      Can you say the same for an O&W or any other boutique brands that uses ETA movements?

      And last but not least, what’s wrong with having a fancy case for a watch? You mentioned that your an amateur jeweler, let me ask you this: how much is an ounce of silver? And how much would any decent jeweler sell a bracelet for made with that silver? And finally, how much does Cartier or Tiffany charge for a bracelet in silver?

      And as to the original context of the nicely written article here, I don’t really mind if the movement is outsourced, as long as the manufacturer does enough on it to make it better I’m fine with that.

      • Shirley Furby

        Richard thank you for your well thought out reply. I will endeavor to answer both of your posts in one. I have owned two Rolexes which I gave to both of my children. Let me put that in perspective I am not rich I had to finance both purchases. Both watches served me well. As an old man I am not overly concerned with accuracy but I am with reliability. The O&W I own was bought second hand from a gentleman that if I remember correctly had the watch for six years and loved it but like most watch nerds moved on. It is in beautiful condition and runs beautifully on it’s whatever grade eta 2824 that is inside of it. My son who inherited the Rolex commented on how comfortable the bracelet is. I never plan to have it opened unless it malfunctions. Yes I have read both sides of that argument. I paid $385 dollars for it. The case and bracelet are beautiful. MY argument is that it has given me great satifaction probably on a par with yours and your Tudor. Which I think are very nice overpriced watches.
        I did not check this morning but silver has been hovering between 14 and 15 dollars an oz. the highest I have paid is about $30 an oz. I do not sell my jewelry but my daughter does. I personally know beyond a shadow of a doubt that appearance wise the tiffany jewelry would put mine to shame. My daughter would probably charge (she does her own pricing) about $100 for the silver and genuine tutquoise bracelet I finished last week. If Tiffiany made a comparable bracelet probably $600-$1000. Is there any more quality of materials no. They probably pay less for their silver because they can buy in bulk. Which I suspect Tudor does as well. Now let me speak from experience as you have. I bought a Casio for $100, I wore for approximately 10 years. Now my daughter is wearing it. Never been serviced did have a battery change. I know apple and bananas. But quality……..? Now back to the jewlery question. I have produced what I thought were not anything to brag about rings and find some of the wearers tell me they won’t take them off. Tiffany would kill to have this type of testimonial. Same quality by government standards 925 sterling silver. One produced by a small self taught old man on a bench built by him and a friend. Costs for me in materials $.25 to $1.25, time about an hour or two. Cost to the consumer probably zero, I have given some away. To the consumer priced by my daughter $10 to $80. Priceless to some and to some probaly not so much. Here’s the deal small producers can give just as much VALUE as big producers The big guys have a name and may be SHINIER but not necessary anymore valuble to the consumer than the small producers. End conclusion I am happy you enjoy your Tudor and I am happy I enjoy my O&W. I would probably really value you as a friend, Shirl.

    • Richard Mui

      And to use your car analogy…the Lotus Elise haa a Toyota engine and it’s one of the best handling little sports car money can buy! Fast, agile, and reliable. Guess where the “reliable” part of that comment comes from?

      But the thing is Lotus took the engine from Toyota and improved on it…I’d much prefer to have that than a “purebred” Lamborghin that burst into flames in traffic.

  • Berndt Norten

    Sometimes the overall watch concept is so utterly compelling one has to accept the generic movement contained within. I think of Ochs und Junior of Lucerne. They prove that one can be totally original all the while relying on mass-produced (but in some case radically altered) movements. I want the watch’s good looks so much I don’t care about the personality inside.

  • commentator bob

    I prefer an ETA/ETA-clone movement because I know servicing and parts will be more available.

    But I also expect serious pricing from the companies that use those movements.

    An example of non-serious pricing is IWC acting like it is creating a revolution pricing a field/pilot watch with an ETA clone under $4,000 when a field/pilot watch from Hamilton with a genuine ETA is under $500.

  • Philip Löpfe

    for me its a bit of a two sided sword…. i hve get an eta movement im completly fine…. but then at a “fair” price. An Example:

    – a IWC Pilotschronograph costs here in Sitzerland around 7k CHF
    – a Spitfire Chrono, with an inhousemovement costs roughly 11.5k CHF

    thats not so cool i think.

    Other than that i estamiate things like the older iwc Perpetuals, based on an eta or a habring jumping second, also based on an eta.. these watches are pretty expensive for eta’s but there u have some fine value added from the brands.

    Better Brands who use etas are for example Longines, Hamilton etc. they are much more fairly priced, so you get better value per money than with watches where the name is the pricetag

    regards from switzerland

    • Rupert Muller

      In general, I agree with your arguments. However, a few points to consider:
      – The prices you list above are for the watches with steel bracelet. The actual list price for a Pilot Chronograph is CHF 5700.- with a leather strap. Which is not too far away of your 5K borderline…
      – The ING 3239 comes with a steel bracelet. Again, the bracelet leads to a significant increase in price at IWC. Of course, exactly this price increase has been discussed and is quite substantial for IWC watches. But on the other hand, IWC bracelets are 100 % Swiss made (which is the case for only very few brands) and rank among the highest quality in the industry imho.
      – Please don’t forget that the movement is only a (minor) part of the total costs of a watch. This is particularly true for ING 3239.

      • Philip Löpfe

        You are wright with this points… I mean for me personally the prices are a bit to high for etas or sellitas. But i have absolutely no problem with people buying these watches they are really beatuful. My Problem is more, ghey way IWC sells their products. I mean the 3239 is beautifully made. But the example with the clasp is the point. Iwc has a fastadjusting clasp for bracelets and iwc is selling this watch without this outstanding clasp. The 3239 is very expensive and iwc is like saying this watch is so aggressivly priced, that you dont get the clasp albeit it is already existing.

        regards Phil

  • somethingnottaken

    I’m OK with brands using outsourced movements so long as the movements are appropriate to the price point and they are open and honest about where the movements come from – I’d rather they brag about their suppliers than try to conceal them. I think there is also room for brands to produce their own movements.

    First, inexpensive and moderately priced watches from a handful of large conglomerates (Seiko, Citizen, Orient, Swatch Group, Fossil Group) do seem to take advantage of vertical integration to reduce costs. Several of these companies are also supply movements to other manufacturers. Christopher Ward / Synergies Horlogères appear to be doing the same and are hinting that they intend to become a movement supplier as well.

    Nobody seems to care that pretty much everyone else selling watches under $3000 uses mass produced movements from an outside supplier.

    Second, the realm of haute horologie, are all about artistry and uniqueness. So for the brands in this market I think it is important to have either in house movement manufacturing or exclusive movement designs from a closely collaborating supplier.

    companies selling tarted up watches with mass produced movements at haute horologie prices are pretty much universally reviled.

    So the controversy seems to lie in the wide price range between these extremes. At the lower end of this range high grade mass produced from ETA, Sellita and Soprod seem appropriate (with extensively upgraded decoration and finishing the Miyota 9000, Seiko NH35 or NE88 could work too). At the higher end of this range, I’d rather see fancier movements from from suppliers like F. Piguet or La Joux Perret.

  • radikaz

    IMO, bigger brands seemed to get away easily with higher list price w/out-sourced ETA movements. I get that, but my main issue with them is their lacks of transparency and how much modification or improvement work added. After collecting watches for a while, i would prefer watches with various movements and their interesting history of the heart. Then i would rightfully be able to tell story of my watches. 🙂 My advice is, using Tudor as benchmark. A high quality ETA needed to price at that price’s bracket. Anything more, is bloated pricing structure. For in-house movement, look for brands that could remain in business for a long time or acquire watches with not-so-complicated movements so you can easily get a competent watchmaker to service it.

    • Agree with servicing on not-so-complicated movements. But parts are another issue for limited production or orphaned watches from shuttered brands. Obviously Seiko, Rolex, etc. are not at issue here. Cheers.

      • radikaz

        Yes. I agreed with u 100%. ETA has killed many fantastic movements for the sake of simplifying their ebauche offerings. That dramatically lead to potential shortage of spare parts for extended working or it’s already happened for some. Off my mind, Calibre 321, Lemania 5100 and etc are no longer widely available. So for those seeking a wider choice other than Rolex likes me are considering purchase very carefully. That is picking movement supplier or in-house manufacturers that has longer survive ability and highly serviceable. However, complicated movements like repeater, sonneries, Tourbillon, perpetual calendar are not my wishlist as its way beyond my budget and pursue. So I happy w/three handers timepiece for now.

      • Korz

        Actually, the two you mentioned are two of the biggest problems of the major brands. Omega, Patek, et al will make any parts that they don’t currently stock. Rolex and Seiko will only stock parts for about 10 years after the watch was made, and then you’ll have to find an independent who can make parts and service the watch.

  • It’s interesting that the Tudor Pelagos picture was included, as I think that’s a prime example of the core argument I have in my own head when considering mid-range divers. In its first incarnation, the Pelagos was a must have “tool watch,” even just for the bracelet alone. For some reason, Tudor felt compelled to engineer an in house movement which, at least for me, brought nothing new to the table. It’s essentially the same watch, albeit available in a new color with half a novel scrawled across the dial. Sure, the power reserve is longer with the in-house engine. And with that I respond an unrepentant, “so what”? During a dive trip, the watch doesn’t leave my wrist anyway.

    1st Gen Pelgagoses (Pelagosi?) go for about $500 less than the 2nd generation with the in house movement. On the pre-owned market, you’re looking at almost a thousand dollar difference. But I’m diving with the watch, not staring at the movement (which you can’t do anyway, as there’s no display back on it) and it offers no clear advantage to spend $500+ more for an aspect of the watch that I will never actually tangibly appreciate. AND if the movement completely craps out, I can drop a new one in for about $200.

    • Korz

      Your ignorance of what Tudor did to change the Pelagos movement really shows your inadequacy in regard to this discussion. Really, if you have no idea what was changed even just from the first gen Pelagos to the second, why would you be chiming in on this discussion without a further education in mechanical technology?

      First, Tudor increased the power reserve. Yep, and they did it in the worst possible way: not by creating a second barrel and mainspring, but by lengthening the only mainspring in the watch (this is Rolex and half of the watchmaking industry’s lazy bandaid fix to the consumer’s desire for longer reserves).

      Second, Tudor went to a free sprung balance. That you didn’t include this, the most significant of changes, shows your ignorance. A free sprung balance is a balance without index of adjustment, making it practically impossible for the daily rate of a watch to change from shock. A normal balance changes the amplitude of the hairspring by lengthening or shortening; in that way, the beat of the watch changes (i.e. how fast the escapement locks and unlocks). This is very inefficient, as a good knock to the side of the watch can change the length of the hairspring.

      A free sprung balance is one without index. There are screws on the balance wheel that are tightened or loosened to change the inertia on the balance wheel, hence changing the amplitude of the balance through inertia. These screws need a special tool to adjust them. While this is more complicated for a watchmaker, it delivers substantially better results, and a daily rate that cannot be changed via shock.

      Last, a silicon balance was used by Tudor. This is perhaps the most significant change, as the coils of the hairspring can no longer get tangled from shock, and the silicon is an a-magnetic metalloid, meaning that it won’t become magnetized through extended exposure to magnetic fields, changing the rate of the watch.

      • Thanks for your condescending and rambling attempt to educate us all, and me in particular, about “mechanical technology”. Either you’re a watchmaker par excellence, or a rube or paid a thousand dollars more than I did for what is essentially the same watch. Good to know that your watch won’t become magnetized, though, lest you wander away from the dive boat and get caught in an electrical storm in the ionosphere.

  • Marius

    In my opinion, the main reasons why for a very long time Swiss brands, even prestigious ones such as Patek and Vacheron, relied on third party suppliers were that in those times there was very little information about watches available, and, more importantly, watches were much cheaper. Until 2000, very few people knew anything about the industry, and in those days, watches were much more affordable, for instance an AP Royal Oak was around €6,000 (today it’s almost €18,000).

    Nowadays, the problem is that watches are so expensive that an in-house movement should be a prerequisite. ETA makes a very capable caliber, yet, it’s unnaceptable for a brand to charge €5,000 for a watch that uses a €150 movement.

    Moreover, at the high end spectrum you also have the aspect of exclusivity. The movement is the heart of a mechanical watch, so it should be as authentic as possible. I wouldn’t want to spend €300,000 on a Bulgarian Octo Tourbillon, only to discover that the very same Concept movement is used by five other brands. Similarly, the F.Piguet calibers that Breguet uses in some of their watches are fantastic, yet, if I’m paying €20-30,000 for a watch, I would like to get an authentic Breguet caliber, not a Piguet movement that is also used by Jaquet Droz, Harry Winston, Blancpain, AP etc.

  • Korz

    You said that the Pelagos is essentially the same watch, and continued to ramble on about how the in-house mechanics mean nothing to you (because obviously you don’t understand them). The extended power reserve is the least important part of what Tudor did to their movement.

    I’m someone who does his best to understand what I’m buying before I buy it. As such, I’ve educated myself before making any major purchase.

    Tudor’s new movement is more significant than any that even Rolex currently offers, and that’s for a watch that costs double what the Pelagos does currently. The old one? Not even close.

    That’s how significant it is to know what’s going on with watch technology.

  • funNactive

    Interesting read. Makes me feel good about my ETA. Dreaming of some day spending some of my money on an in house movement.

  • Roger Goodgion

    I like this article for the discussion it has inspired. When talking about cost (I am in no way saying that ETA or anyone is or is not price gouging) consider this:

    ETA created the 2824-2 in 1961 and Rolex created the 3135 in 1988. Even at Rolex volumes I think they come nowhere near ETA 2824-2 volumes. So ETA has had a 20 year lead and a much larger scale to recoup R&D costs.

    Also an analogy for watches might come from the auto industry. Toyota Corollas. They are made in volume, cheap and reliable and they will get you there. Ferrari Enzo. Small quantity, all custom, and sometimes even reliable. There costs are more in-tune with how they make you feel when you drive them.

    just my 2 cents.

  • mandimemike

    There are multiple reasons for buying watches, thus the ongoing debate. The purist argument for mechanics is the sense and value of human skill in their creation. Parallel in consideration to that is how the watch makes us feel, how it resonates emotionally. The ultimate examples of such craft are largely out of reach for most. Therefore the majority when entering the market consider budget first, then form a checklist of features while looking for that intangible feeling. The sense of human involvement can however, still be found lavished on volume movements. Part of the reason Tudor for example, is respected even among purists. Habring2 have done amazing things using common architecture. With some research, even the most prolific of workhorses have a great story behind them (like the 7750). I cant say that the majority of brands trumpeting made up provenance and adding signed rotors to veil the movement origins deserve consideration. Ones that are transparent, dedicated, and usually marketing adverse should continue to earn places on our lists. Good watchmaking is good watchmaking.

  • Lode_Runner

    The marketing push towards “in-house” and “manufacture” is all about economics, not watchmaking. It’s all about trying to capitalize on a revenue stream of servicing, parts, repairs, etc. When you buy an “in-house” movement, in most cases, you’re basically stuck with the manufacturer if anything goes wrong, and over the past several years, manufacturers have deliberately tried to constrain the supply of spare parts to choke off independent local watchmakers while at the same time jacking up the costs of their in-house servicing. Servicing costs are getting ridiculous now, especially for brands like Vacheron, AP, where a service can cost thousands of dollars.

    If you need an illustration, try taking a very common Omega coaxial watch to a local watchmaker for service, and an older pre-coaxial Omega with an ETA 2892. Many watchmakers won’t touch the former because Omega has stopped selling parts to third parties, but any competent watchmaker can service the latter for a couple hundred bucks. And to this day, no one has proven that the Coaxial 8500 is any better than a well-regulated chrono-grade ETA 2892.

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