How Desirable Are In-House Movements From Smaller Watchmakers?

Mark B. from Salt Lake City, Utah, USA asks:

Should an in-house movement from a smaller company (such as Nomos) play a bigger part in the buying decision than a pedestrian movement from a brand name company such as ETA?

Great question, as it is also one I have pondered and used to make decisions in the past.

Simple answer, YES. Reasoning, well, that can be summarized in these three points:

1. With in-house caliber (IHC) I expect fit, finish, attention to details, accuracy, or technology not found elsewhere. All true qualities on a NOMOS but rarely on repackaged ETAs. Some re-branded ETA are not just repackaged (i.e., IWC) but that's the exception rather than the norm.

2. With IHC I'd expect a level of service that is direct with the manufacture at reasonable cost. This is key since why build in-house if you cannot repair and service in-house. Check NOMOS's Web site in service section and you'll see exact price quotes and time to repair and means for sending your watch to Germany for service. Cost is also, like their watches, rather reasonable.

3. With IHC I expect a brand that values tradition and history. Every Breguet or Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin you buy gets you into their historical records. Same for NOMOS and other brands. The point here is more than marketing and rather a sign that the manufacture looks at you and your purchase as a point in their history and the off chance that your watch becomes rare, misplaced, or needing provenance in 20 or 50 years, you or your heir have a place to retrace that history and recall the provenance.

This last point may not be an immediate concern to most, however, think about that TAG that you got handed down from grandpa in early 2000s... Now imagine if that watch was from the house of Breguet instead. Well, you'd now know when and where he bought that watch visiting Europe after the war. And that my friend is priceless...

Point of view B:

I think it depends on what kind of a buyer you are. If you buy a watch for its movement, then yes, an in-house movement from a smaller brand like NOMOS or Alpina is definitely more desirable than a watch from a more well-known brand that uses a "pedestrian" movement.

However, bear in mind that unless the dial is skeletonized, the movement is going to be tucked away most of the time and you won't be able to appreciate it. With that, I think you should just buy a watch that, for lack of a better word, "sings" to you. One that when you lay eyes on it for the first time, you cannot get out of your head.

Don't let the lack of an in-house movement be a killer for you. Unless you are talking about ultra-complicated watches and the exception of a few select pieces (NOMOS Zurich Weltzeit comes to mind), an in-house movement and and your regular ETA or Sellita movements do pretty much the same thing.

Ultimately, my take is that there's no point in having an-house movement if the watch does not look aesthetically pleasing enough to make you want to wear it.

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  • marbstiu

    why do people consider the Monaco as one of the top10 chronographs of all time? its just an eta..
    W/o the CAl. 17, TAG Heuer would just be another “WATCH-CASE-COMPANY” that sells etas for ~$4000