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A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group’s Answer To ETA

A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group's Answer To ETA Inside the Manufacture

STP stands for “Swiss Technology Production,” and it is the Fossil Group’s secret weapon to winning the mechanical watch market game. Opened in around 2008 and wholly owned by the Fossil Group, STP produces mechanical movements for both Fossil watches as well as a host of undisclosed third-party manufacturers. In that way, STP is a little bit ETA (supplying its group with movements) and also a little bit Sellita (selling movements to third-party companies).

A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group's Answer To ETA Inside the Manufacture

I’ve been excited to visit Fossil’s secret watch manufacture ever since I learned about it when checking out the new generation of “Heritage” watches from Zodiac. Watches I reviewed such as the Zodiac Astrographic, the Sea Wolf, and the Super Sea Wolf each contain the caliber STP1-11 automatic mechanical movement which is the company’s main movement base. The STP1-11 also happened to be engineered to fit anywhere an ETA 2824-2 would. In that sense, the STP1-11 is a 2824 clone and exists as an alternative to the Sellita SW200.

A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group's Answer To ETA Inside the Manufacture

A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group's Answer To ETA Inside the Manufacture

With that said, the STP1-11 is more than just another 2824 clone, but alone that would be enough to make it noteworthy. Without backing from major groups such as TAG Heuer, Sellita would have never been able to get off the ground and produce an ETA 2824 competitor that was competitively priced. Likewise, STP benefits from its Fossil Group ownership, which has its sights set on the international market for mechanical watches in addition to the fashion watch market (that it clearly already owns). Serious watch enthusiasts may pay little attention to many lower-priced quartz products the group makes such as Fossil watches, Emporio Armani, Burberry, and Michael Kors, but together these products earn the company the resources necessary to take on the landed aristocracy of the Swiss watch movement industry.

A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group's Answer To ETA Inside the Manufacture

A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group's Answer To ETA Inside the Manufacture

Fossil just opened up a new major office complex in Basel, Switzerland, steps away from the convention center where the Baselworld watch & jewelry trade show takes place each year. Actually, Fossil has had its Swiss HQ in Basel for a long time, but previously rented out office space from a Nestle building. The new Fossil watches headquarters is impressive, with an open showroom view that marks a new visual strategy for the typically closed-door atmosphere of most Swiss watch brands.

A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group's Answer To ETA Inside the Manufacture

About an hour away from Basel in Biel is the Antima office which is more or less a design studio where the Fossil group’s “AAA products” are imagined, designed, and industrialized. Across the street from where Rolex makes its watch movements, Antima is an uncharacteristically American-style office in the heart of Swiss watch making country. Not only are the Group’s most complex and best watches designed here, but many of them are also assembled here. This includes Zodiac products as well as the Swiss-Made collections from other brands such as Fossil and Emporio Armani. Antima is a special place to go for anyone fascinated by watch case, dial, and bracelet design – and many of the watches created there include movements also produced by the Fossil Group.

A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group's Answer To ETA Inside the Manufacture

So with that said, let’s head over to the STP factory which is a few hours south of Basel near Lugano, the epitome of “Swiss discreet.” There is barely a sign outside with the STP name, and most people visit the area for the lunch cafe which has much more conspicuous signage. Inside and up to the second floor of the building, you get a glimpse into one of the clearly more advanced mechanical watch factories in Switzerland.

A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group's Answer To ETA Inside the Manufacture

STP claims that it was the first company to employ robotic automation to assist human labor in the production of watch movements. STP benefits from American owners and Swiss operators who combine the best of their talents to ensure efficiency, quality, and of course, productivity. STP does not have satellite centers where the “dirty work” is done, and all the assembly happens right there at the facility. Even though they aren’t near their production goals (meaning that they want to increase average daily production volumes), the company is still able to produce 600 to 1,300 watch movements per day depending on the specific movement that they are currently working on.

A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group's Answer To ETA Inside the Manufacture

A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group's Answer To ETA Inside the Manufacture

STP is a movement assembly location, but the Fossil Group also produces many of the movement components in another factory also in Switzerland. Most of the components in STP movements are produced by the group, but they also rely on a series of regional watch industry suppliers who together make the bridges, springs, gears, wheels, jewels, and other materials that go into the production of a modern mechanical watch movement.

With that said, STP not only produced a “Swiss Made” movement by current standards, but also movements that will comply with the more rigorous “Swiss Made” standards that will take effect in 2017. Watch movement assembly and watch movement part production are two totally separate fluencies, and it takes companies years to master them both. There are just too many good suppliers in Switzerland to ignore their expertise, and going along with tradition, the Swiss watch industry is about companies working with other local companies, and not total vertical integration as is more common in countries such as Japan.

A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group's Answer To ETA Inside the Manufacture

A Visit To STP Watch Movement Manufacture: Fossil Group's Answer To ETA Inside the Manufacture

STP’s volume product is the STP1-11 automatic movement which is an 11.5-ligne-wide (25.94mm) caliber that operates at 4Hz with a power reserve of 44 hours. The base movement comes standard with perlage polishing and STP prides itself on being able to offer as much customization as possible for its customers. An example includes the date wheel. ETA and Sellita seem to more or less only offer black or white date wheels, while STP is happy to work with its two date wheel suppliers to find the right color and font options that its customers (and Fossil watches) want. This adds further value to their finished product, and also helps address one of the bigger issues timepiece enthusiasts complain about, which is how date windows and indicators are designed on watch faces.

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  • Antjay

    Thanks Ariel , great article . I am a firm believer in the benefits of competition and am pleased to see another player sticking it to the seemingly arrogant Swatch Group boys . More power to them !

    • Chaz

      I believe it was the “seemingly arrogant Swatch Group” and Mr. Nick Hayek that intentionally forced the Swiss to begin innovating and soul search regarding movements in order to SAVE the industry and break them off the ETA teats of dependence.
      I’d say he did the industry a favor and they should revere him like a god with a statue of him in the center court of Basel World!

  • funNactive

    I love the last picture of the grey dial watch: the date has my favorite format, I like the small seconds hand dial & power reserve. The only thing that would make it better is if it were a triple date (adding the month).

    • Angas Tiernan

      Yes, it’s beautiful. Is it just a way of demonstrating the movement, or is it actually available somewhere? Also notice that the one date that isn’t written is the 13th. I wonder if that’s a coincidence, or if it’s a clever expression of traditional superstition.

  • What? Date wheels in colours other than black or white? Heresy!

    (seriously though, good job STP)

  • Ulysses31

    It’s good that Fossil is applying pressure on the more established brands. I have mixed feelings about Fossil watches; a lot of their creations seem rather cheap, yet some of the sub-brands they own occasionally come up with handsome, seemingly well-made products. I wonder if Fossil will drive adoption of mechanical watches to the masses? If the price is right and the quality good, I think they have a chance. Imagine a Swiss-made equivalent of the Seiko 5.

    • egznyc

      They have such an opportunity – although their Zodiac suggests they are more interested in competing with the likes of Hamilton and Tissot (or a somewhat higher-end line of Seiko product).

  • peter_byford

    Everyone seems to pussyfoot around ETA’s attitude nowadays towards supplying movements to the watch industry. They openly stated that due to demand worldwide , they would meet local Swiss requirements 100%, & all other global customers could fight it out for any surplus supply.
    Smacks of protectionism & anti fair trading to many. Just another incestuous facet of the Swiss watch making industry that many looking from the outside in , rather than the Swiss spoon feeding us from the inside out, find distasteful. Good luck to STP & any other newcomer to the ebauches production business IMHO.

  • DanW94

    Thanks for the article and a glimpse into their facilities. Ronda (them of the Swiss quartz movement) is also jumping back into the mechanical market. Looks like the entry level movement segment is ever expanding.

    http://www.ronda.ch/en/media/press-releases/details/ronda-goes-mechanical/

    • egznyc

      Thanks for sharing, Dan! It’s great to see this competition developing.

  • I’ve long believed that Fossil is the premiere American watch company.
    Here is more evidence to support that theory.
    How brilliant was there move to position themselves to have access to Swiss Made movements, prior to Swatch Group limiting the sale of SM movements.
    Thank you, Fossil.
    Thank you ABTW & Mr. Adams.

  • Rich Thomas

    Ariel, this has to be one of most insightful articles you’ve authored. Thank you! I have a whole new appreciation for STP and Fossil.

  • wallydog2

    Pardon the vulgarity but “mystique is a prostitute”. Brand “x” can charge 3x$ of an equally good product because of it’s reputation alone. (Industrial myth has it that similarly built and equipped Chevrolets and Cadillacs cost GM a difference of $35.)
    My good fortune is that I have no-one to impress with what I wear on my wrist. People I know couldn’t tell the difference between a Rolex and a Fossil. Their discretion ends at “Got the time?”
    Thus, I am always on the lookout for good products, reasonably (not fashionably) priced.
    (Sheesh, I feel so morally superior!)

    • ZL

      You should check out Windr.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Why didn’t I do better at school ! Horology crept up on me quite late on in my early 20’s , by that time I was established in my career. Seeing the workshops of watches is always fascinating.

  • Vish Gagie

    This is a great article and an important reminder that you do not have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to have a fine time piece. My exposure to the STP movement was when Ariel published a review of the Fossil Swiss watch with the STP 1-11 movement at the time there may have been reservations on the quality and market the watch was geared to, after all the watch retails for >$500 USD. I was lucky enough to find one for $100 CAD and it’s a fantastic time piece.

    I’m glad exposure is being brought to STP and other movement makers because as budding or experienced watch lovers we need to understand the hard work and technologies that go into these movements and the finished product. This stuff is not part of the marketing campaign.

  • IG

    They should make hand-wound movements.

  • SuperStrapper

    Fun article, very informative. Too bad I’m not a fan of any brands in their portfolio, although Zodiac is starting to move in the right direction.

  • Chemenger

    A great article Ariel. Good to see the competition to ETA and Sellita being aired. Making good calibres that can be bought without huge outlay is fantastic news for keeping people interested in mechanical watches. I rather like the example watches too, particularly the skeleton one. If one was available with lume hands and markers I’d be really interested in one.

    • Chaz

      What’ll be interesting to see is how much more STP will invest towards real innovation and more truly “in house” calibers.

  • TheBigOldDog

    I own a few STP movements in some SwissLegends I have and they are great. SL has to have been one of their first outside customers since I’ve had the watches for a few years. When I removed the caseback I was really surprised by the quality of the elaboration which made me wonder why SL didn’t go out of their way to use exhibition case backs to show off the movements. Maybe STP overbuilt their initial runs and SL was probably unsure of what they were going to get at first and decided on solid casebacks. The result is like opening a oyster and finding a pearl inside.

  • TrevorXM

    This was great! I am a big fan of the Zodiac 53 with the metal bezel and love how it is powered by an in-house movement.

    Now how about a tour of the really, REALLY secret movement manufacture and a look into the Soprod a10-2 ? It’s the ETA replacement which ISN’T a clone of an ETA movement, but is only made to the same dimensions so it fits.

  • ??????

    Some look like Chinese clone movements (The one in Emporio Armani)

    • commentator bob

      Good catch on the Armani weight. I guess we know one of the brands they sell to. It does look better than a cheap Chinese skeleton watch to me.

  • commentator bob

    Do a GMT traveller movement and put it in an updated Zodiac Aerospace GMT and I’ll drop $1,000.

  • Emperius

    This is great but I wish they could also make a 100% American-made watch variants under Fossil. Have had Fossil for over 10 years now.

    • Chaz

      Doesn’t Fossil own the allegedly American brand “Shinola”?

      • Emperius

        Did not know. Thanks for the note.

      • Not exactly but the Fossil Kartsotis brothers are the founders of Shinola. However separate companies as I understand it.

        • Chaz

          Mahalo for that!

  • Chaz

    *giggle* when I was a kid STP meant Stinky Toilet Paper…

    • Mark Baran

      I always thought that stood for “Scientifically Treated Petroleum” Maybe I was wrong……..

      • Larry Holmack

        Yep…NASCAR Legend Richard Petty always had the STP logo on the hood of his race car….and one of his cars, the #43 driven by Aric Almirola, still has STP as it’s main sponsor.

  • Mark Baran

    Oh, that’s just fantastic. Some other company assembling “Swiss” watch movements in Switzerland. Does this not get old to you folks. Gee, let’s just repeat the last 100 years or so all over again…………..

  • sensemille

    So you mention that they rely on other suppliers that make bridges, springs, gears, wheels, jewels, and other materials. I wasn’t aware of this aspect…
    How many of the parts are bought from other suppliers? Are the common watch makers actually just assembling parts off the shelf? Is there a blog post talking about this subject?

  • As I understand it, Sellita started as a contract assembler of ETA movements and migrated to being a full movement manufacturer by using the now patent expired ETA designs for their movements (which they have made variations upon). In contrast, Soprod and now STP are not clones per se of ETA movements but are dimensionally similar so they can be used in watches cases where an ETA 2824 or 2892 was used with the same dial feet, hands and date openings.

    And Ronda, well known for their quartz movements is returning to mechanical movement production (available in about a year), again with a movement dimensioned the same as an ETA 2824-2, except that it will be 0.2 mm thinner (4.4 vs 4.6 mm) and have 2 hours more power reserve than a 2824. Good news for independent brands to have alternative sources for movements as ETA continues to constrict supply to those outside of the Swatch group.

    • speedy

      It seems to me that the STP movement looks a lot like the ETA 2824 (not that there is anything wrong with that, and ETA is slowly moving to its improved version called C07 anyway), for the base version, the difference being with the complications. For instance, I think ETA doesn’t provide a 2824 with a power reserve indicator, just the 2892.

      Ronda, on the contrary, uses a slightly different architecture, although heavily inspired by the 2824.

      Anyway it is great to see that new actors appear, and that Fossil is more and more investing in serious watchmaking. All that being said, I’d pick a Hamilton over any Zodiac, but I guess it’s a mere matter of personal taste.

      • egznyc

        Thanks for the comment. I totally agree that it’s great to see more completion and thus more options out there. I also happen to like Hamilton, though my reasons are very subjective and personal to me. What are your reasons for preferring Hamilton? Are they more personal or quantifiable/performance-based?

  • John William Salevurakis

    More evidence that ETA’s nobbiness about who gets their movements will just ultimately come back to bite them in the ass. Of course this is all fabulous news for watch enthusiasts who will in coming years get more to choose from and not simply find a bone stock 2824 in every third $2500 dive watch.

    • ilitig8

      You do realize this is EXACTLY what ETA (Swatch) wanted to happen. They fought COMCO for years to cut the supply so that other manufacturers would supply movements to third parties. People should thank Hayek not curse him.

      • John William Salevurakis

        Well, the question is WHY they want other companies (or the watchmakers themselves) to provide these movements. ETA really wanted other firms to provide on the theory that consumers would perceive those other providers as somehow “not quite so good” and THAT would give ETA users (in other words…THEM!) an advantage in the marketplace. I don’t think ETA anticipated MANY watch companies being able and willing to produce movements (or source them) that would then be perceived as the equal of ETA (or better…or at least more interesting). That’s exactly what ETA has (and deserves).

        • ilitig8

          What is happening is what Swatch argued would happen. They did not want to be the sole supplier of workhorse commodity movements to the entire Swiss industry. They certainly wanted to devote manufacturing to Swatch exclusive movements in order to differentiate their product line. As suggested to COMCO the movement industry is expanding with more in-house movements and builders of commodity movements alike. It is ultimately the win win that Swatch argued it would be. In the end Swatch Group has the resources to produce low end (like the ETA) to high end movements in mass like no other Swiss entity and it is showing their strategy did indeed benefit them as well as the Swiss watch industry as a whole.

          • peter_byford

            Rubbish !…..they tried like hell to be the pre-eminent supplier to the trade. Supply & demand caught up with them. Supply the Swiss 100% & cut down non Swiss orders to suit. Why didn’t they do the honourable & fair trading thing & supply Swiss & non Swiss alike on an ad hoc basis ?
            I’m looking forward to the day when watchmakers turn their back on ETA & look for alternative suppliers, newcomers etc after the shabby treatment at the hands of ETA. ” Ah, is that a Swiss watch with an ETA movement in it ? “…Yes…” I’ll look elsewhere thanks “.

          • peter_byford

            ad hoc to read ‘ pro rata ‘ = fairness to all parties.

          • speedy

            The main reason for ETA was that at a time, they couldn’t produce enough movements for both the Swatch group and all the other 3rd parties. Of course, margins are higher when selling whole watches than when selling movements to third-parties, so they preferred using their movements for swatch-group brands, which is legitmate. Indeed, on the long term, I guess everyone wins, even the consumers who have more varied choices.

    • Well said!
      (…Er, typed, rather.)

  • Bruce

    Great, informative post. I admit that my ignorance allowed me to assume that all the STP movements I saw in Fossil watches were Chinese made. I was sorely mistaken! Very impressed.

  • Alain

    Very interesting post! I discover a new facet of Fossil. Now, I will look at these mechanical watches closely!

  • SSTEEL Watch Repairs

    This is huge news, thanks for the detailed blog post bringing this news to the masses, it’s high time someone did 🙂 Love their Skeleton Calibre.

  • Yanko

    Great article. Not long ago I bought (for nostalgic reasons) Zodiac Sea Wold and am extremely impressed by the performance of the watch and its movement. I have had the watch for a month and the watch has run fast 1 second a day for the entire month.

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