Does The Movement Really Matter? – The End Of The ETA Era

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ETA Movement

By now many of you would be aware that the makers of arguably the best known Swiss watch movements in the world, ETA (owned by the Swatch Group), have advised that they will stop providing ebauche movements (or blanks as they are commonly referred to) to any company outside of The Swatch Group by the end of 2010. The fallout of this decision could potentially be catastrophic for a number of the low to mid-range luxury watch brands who focus predominantly on the design and marketing of their products and rely on ETA made movements to power them.

In anticipation of this many brands have turned to another Swiss movement maker, Sellita. I recently read an excellent article about this manufacturer, specifically focusing on their new chronograph movement, on Perpetuelle’s excellent and always informative blog. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I highly recommend it.

I must admit though that in recent times as I’ve been reading up on all the information about ETA’s plans and manufactures like Sellita stepping up the fill the void and so forth, I can’t help but ask myself “do consumers really care?”

Sellita Movement
Sellita SW500 Chronograph Movement – Image courtesy of Perpetuelle

It is an undeniable fact that the movement used to power a luxury watch is exceptionally important, especially when the movement is made or at least modified in-house by the manufacturer. However, when it comes to the more mainstream brands who simply make good-looking watches, does it really matter what movement is used, just as long as it is Swiss Made and of a reputable quality? I would suggest that in this price range and in these types of watches, the movement manufacturer is almost interchangeable.

Certainly there is no denying that ETA is a far more globally recongized brand name than Sellita, at least for the time being and my guess is in the short-term we’ll see more than one brand succumb to the pressure and join the Swatch Group, but in the long-run will it really make any difference?

Personally I don’t think so but maybe I’m wrong?

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this rather topical issue so please do tell us in the comments section below.

Tom MulraneyDoes The Movement Really Matter? – The End Of The ETA Era

35 Comments on “Does The Movement Really Matter? – The End Of The ETA Era”

  1. Speedmaster

    To 90+% of people, I think the answer is no. We watch nuts sometimes I think forget how few we are compared to the overall watch market. I’ll temper that by adding that ultra-high end products like MB&F, Richard Mille, et al. are another discussion entirely.

    So whom do we have other than ETA in Europe right now: Claro, Sellita, Soprod, La Joux-Perret? Anyone else I’m missing?

    A single data point, but I’ve had a $150 Panny “homage” for two weeks w/ a Seagull version of the ETA/Unitas pocket watch movt. (some flavor of the 6497?) and been very happy with it so far.

  2. Craig M

    I think that between the smaller Swiss movement firms and the higher quality stuff now coming from the Far East the majority of the industry will see little waves, if any. I do however feel that Swiss firms that wish to remain strictly Swiss will opt to adjust to new manufacturers, and since ETA had such an enormous market share, and guessing there will be a bit of a gap until movement suppliers can catch up, there will be a pretty moderate price increase.

    As far as ETA reputation, I think that we are seeing plenty of decent stuff coming from Sellita, Miyota, and even Sea-Gull to where the average buyer won’t even notice.

    Just my guess.

  3. Tom Mulraney

    Thanks for the great comments guys, keep them coming! You raise a very good point too Craig about possible price increases as demand outpaces supply in the short-term and it will be interesting to see how this effects some brands. If the price gets pushed up too high they may very quickly find themselves competing in the price range of far more established brands that offer in-house movements.

    I wonder if this would potentially initiate a shift to cheaper Chinese made movements (which are undeniably improving in their quality) and how this would impact on the brands’ sales?

  4. Rok T.

    Speedmaster, don’t forget Jörg Schauer’s German made DUROWE movement. DUROWE will probably be a great alternative for ETA for German watch manufacturers.

  5. Speedmaster

    I think at least Sellita is making drop-in replacements for some movements like the 7750 and 2824 that match the originals in every dimension, is that right?

  6. DC

    Tom- hope you don’t mind me re-posting what I just wrote at Perpetuelle:

    I do wonder if there hasn’t been an over-reaction to the Swatch announcement. My understanding (and always happy to be corrected) is that ETA will continue to provide finished ETA movements outside the Swatch Group. What they will not do is supply just the ebauche.

    Presumably, there are a bunch of brands out there who buy the ebauche, finish it themselves and so claim to be watchmakers…and presumably at a lower cost than buying a finished movement.

    Perhaps the real question is this: What constitutes an ebauche? If TAG fit a decorated rotor to an ETA 2824 and call it a Calibre 17, will anything change? Will ETA still sell TAG Heuer the movement? From what I’ve read, yes.

    Of course, what impacts TAG Heuer is very different to what impacts the smaller independent guys, who I accept will now have to buy in full movements.

    Is this a seismic change? Maybe I’m missing something, or too focused on what goes on at a large volume producer like TAG.

    Cheers

    dc

  7. Olivier Muller

    Hi folks,

    Interesting point about the potential price increase. In my humble opinion, and if we compare with the automative market, for instance, a broader choice of supplier should not generate any increase.

    ETA had a significative market share, and their recent announcement will open (again) a market that they had secured for themselves for quite a long time.

    So yes, industry adjustements will have to be made, but that’s quite a good thing, I think.

    Considering the importance of this announcement, I think that super high-end brands won’t be impacted as they have their own Calibres. Mid and low-end brands will be impacted, but at this level, do customers really care ? I don’t think so… .

    Cheers,

    Olivier

  8. The Watchman

    There is too much focus on names and not enough on quality… Do I want a new ETA made out of tin & plastic (C01.211)? Or do I want a Sea-Gull Venus 175 re-build with blued screws for the same price (or less)… or a solid Russian 3133 (a variation of a Valjoux 7734)? Personally, I’d prefer just a good Swiss or German movement – the challenge is knowing the “good” from “bad” and then getting a good deal for the “good”!

  9. Craig M

    @ Speedmaster you are correct the Sellita’s are direct drop in’s. This will make them an immediate favorite as watch companies won’t have to re-tool cases and dials in order to make them fit.

  10. The Rake

    What matters to me is an in-house movement much more so than a base ETA or Sellita. I have an Omega with an ETA, and while nice, I am now more interested in there Co-Ax movement as it is in house and theoretically of higher quality (longer time between servicing, etc.). This same mindset for me applies across brands. I have a Ball that uses an ETA, but it is not especially accurate (a non Chronometer), but still, the things that matter most in a case like that (to me) are the fit and finish of a watch. This really blurs the lines of several brands when running the same ETA or even a VJ 7750 movement. They run into one another, so therefore, I look towards the manufactures with their in-house movements as I go forward. That changes the price point inevitably, but that is okay to me as a collector/fan who wants something more rare IMO.

  11. Craig M

    @ The Rake – I deinifintely agree, and see the appeal with in-house calibres, I am ALL for innovation and new product. I just have the awful fear that all that R&D and the cost of manufacturing equipment would drastically add to the consumer’s burden. I have no problem with price increases, it’s how things work…as long as they are within a reasonable range. IMO

  12. Tom Mulraney

    Great discussion guys, please keep it coming!

    Also, we have just secured an interview with the GM of Sellita, is there anything you would like us to ask specifically?

  13. pingrava

    When I worked as a designer for a large aircraft manufactruer we could not find a local reiable
    source to paint our structural components. We turned to an auto body shop, trained them and in a matter of weeks began turning out an exceptional product.

    The reasons they did so well were (a) they were motviated and saw an opportunity to expand their business (b) the core competencies were there to begin with.

    In other words – Switzerland, Germany (not to mention the USA, Italy, Japan, etc.) have tons of companies that have the core competencies needed to manufacture watch parts and movements.

    In the watchmaking countries there’s no shortage of no-how and talent. Motivated craftsmen will see an opportunity and set up shops to make bearings, springs, etc.

    Then you have other industries – manufacturers that specialize in aerospace, medical devices, Nuclear equipment that can easily adapt and machine anything needed to make a watch. During WWII, Automakers switched over to making tanks, aircraft, guns, etc. Again – the core competencies were there.

    If RGM and Kobold can make a significant amount of watch parts using local businesses – in a country where the watchmaking has all but vanished, The Swiss and Germans can do it standing on their heads.

    HEck even old man Hayek said it in an interview – “making ebauches is not hard”.

  14. Craig M

    Wow, that’s awesome! I would be interested to know more about their business plan that brought them to this point, and their reaction to any attention they may have gotten due to ETA’s move, and finally how prepared are [were] they for the potential new business.

    Thanks for asking, sorry if I asked too much

  15. Frank

    Let’s not forget Dubois-Dépraz in Switzerland, they used to work with ETA ebauches only and now started using Selitta ones and are in fact also producing their very own movements. We have been using theirs in our high end timepieces and they are excellent (see our Jubilé line). I believe this whole discussion about the effects of ETA not supplying other factories with ebauches any longer (supply of finished movements is not affected) has to be seen in a wider context – the FH and the Swiss government are working on revising the definition of Swiss Made and if they have their way (and I strongly support that notion) Swiss Made watches will have to have a 60% cost share in Switzerland for quartz and 80% for mechanical watches. This will change the watch landscape in Switzerland a lot more than ETA’s most recent move

  16. Jason Recliner

    Why does a “Swiss Made” (whatever that means nowadays) movement need to replace ETA? The Japanes have made equally as good and better movements than ETA for decades, and the Chinese are producing some excellent movements these days. There are plenty of solid alternatives to ETA available.

  17. Olivier Muller

    Hi Jason,

    You raise a good point here, but I think, in my humble opinion, that this is about keeping our know-how, and our expertise, in country, more than a question of comparison between japanese, chinese, or whatever, movements.

    Stay tuned, we’ll publish very shortly a great overview of this topic, including hot talks with Sellita itself !

  18. Craig M

    @Jason – I think most of us certainly agree that Swiss movements are not the only high quality ones available; the Japanese are top grade and barring the occasional QC issue the Far East is waiting in the wings. When I wrote the original article on Perpetuelle I was strictly thinking of the Swiss industry, its ultra close ties to ETA and if the release of the Sellita auto chrono would effect those producers that wish to remain within the same market.

  19. Rok T.

    Well if you are going to publish a overview of Sellita I think it would be correct to make an overview and review of other ETA alternatives aswell. As this could end up like beeing a great promotin for Sellita but leaving others unfairly behind.

    Also movement does matter to me, not always but most of the time it does. If I’m buying a “Swiss Made” watch I can’t imagine the watch having a Asian movement, it just doesn’t make sense. Now if I’m buying a watch like a Magrette for example, which I’m buying mostly because of the nice design, I don’t really care what is inside as long as it works, Miyota for example sounds just great.

  20. Craig M

    @ Rok T Understand the original article was not intended to be a brand profile for Sellita, the focus was the release of their long awaited SW500 auto chrono movement, how it related to the 7750 [being a direct drop-in replacement] and how the Swiss market may react to it.

    My apologies if it seemed like I was beating the Sellita drum.

    I tend to agree that all movements have value regardless of origin, especially now in a time where we constantly hear that wristwatches are going the way of the Dodo [which we all know its not].

  21. Frank

    Jason, Rok – no offence meant but it seems you are not aware of the legal regulations reg. “Swiss Made” & “Swiss Movement”. “Swiss Made” at present is a value-added concept (50% of the value added has to be created in Switzerland) and boils down to “movement manufactured in Switzerland, watch cased in Switzerland, QC in Switzerland and watch shipped from Switzerland”. “Swiss Movement” – as in “Swiss Made” but the assembly did not take place in Switzerland. “Swiss Parts” – you can see that on some movements that were assembled abroad using Swiss blanks (however, “Swiss Parts” is not allowed on any other part of the watch but the movement). In short – any brand that wants to be “Swiss Made” needs to use “Swiss Made” movements – regardless of how good Japanese, Chinese etc. movements might be. The upcoming changes reg. “Swissness” will most likely also mean that apart from the movement other parts of the watch have to be manufactured in Switzerland. Some watch companies already fullfil these new & upcoming requirements, others will follow, others cannot follow. For more info on what “Swiss (Made / Movement)” means go to http://www.fhs.ch/en/swissm.php#2.

  22. Tom Mulraney

    Thanks for the great discussion guys, keep it coming!

    Frank makes some very good points and certainly speaks from a very knowledgable background (for those that don’t know, he is the head of Montres Charmex SA and CX Swiss Military.)

    We also wrote an article about what “Swiss Made” actually means not so long ago (you can check it out here: http://thewatchlounge.com/what-does-swiss-made-actually-mean/) and I think its great to see that there is active fight to change the legislation and further strengthen and protect the legitmacy of this title.

  23. Pingback: ETA Withdrawal: The Fake Revolution ? | The Watch Lounge – the Online Watch Lover's Magazine

  24. Todd Caldwell

    I dont think people know whats in the watch, outside of the enthusiasts.
    Nor do they care.
    I emailed ETA a few months ago, and i had a reply saying , ” not to worry, we will continue to supply complete movements”
    So i cant see the impact on the small brands, as they already use complete movements, and while it will hurt the bottom line of larger ones, they will just pass on the extra cost to the consumer, as they always do.
    Some will make inhouse movements, some will jump ship to other companies, but i see this whole panic similar to New Year 2000.
    To The Rake, i think you might find, that Omega’s co-axial is in the terms of being inhouse, is a little bit of a stretch. I have not looked it up to right here about it, but i was told that ETA might sell them in the future, after Omega has used it exclusively , for what ever time period recoups their expenses etc.
    Omega invested in it, but Omega’s movements are ETA’s, and this is based on the 2892.
    If i am wrong, i standby to be corrected by the way.
    A company as large as the Swatch group, would most likely do it this way, for Taxation reasons.

  25. Dave Wilson

    I’m in total agreement – the avg consumer isn’t a watch geek and doesn’t care what’s under the hood (let alone know the specifics whether mvmt is ETA, Sellita, etc.) As for impact of ETA’s move @ y/e, I’m sure there will be some short-term impact of sorts but all indications are it will be manageable. In summary, Sellita (and others incl far-east firms) are there in waiting. Not lost in ETA’s move is that it should foster some much needed creativity from the industry which in my humble opinion hasn’t been a priority in recent years. I personally wouldn’t under estimate the far-east firms. I’ve got no doubt that they’ll significantly increase their mkt share over the next 5-10 yrs. We’ll just have to see how this plays out with established Swiss firms such as Sellita. Expect the Swiss to make every attempt to protect their already impacted mkt share with cont’d strict “Swiss Made” enforcement.

  26. time2tic

    Hi,I am new to this place. watch enthuiast based in he Middle East for now.

    one question for the GM of sellita:
    where do you get your hairsprings?
    (IMHO this is the key to the swatch strategy, and probably could be next for restricting the availability of the hairspring to non swatch brands).

  27. Carlos Ignacio Perez

    Dear friends,

    Even though I am a very ignorant person regarding watch knowledge, I notice no comments in regards to precision, which to me is of the highest importance. I consider the main function in a watch is to keep time with precision. I have had different moderately priced watches, the first one an Omega Constellation around 55 years ago. At some time my favorite was an Eternamatic Kontiki, which I wore day and night several decades in field and water (sailing), with very good results. In the last 30+ years I have been wearing a Seiko Sports 100, which, regarding precision, definitely by far beats all other watches I have owned or known. Variation is under one second a month. I also bought a year ago a Seiko Kinetic Titanium 100m, which is all right, but less precise. Which other watches (naturally including quartz movements) are considered to be equally or more precise?

    Thank you in advance for your comments.

  28. Silvia Gertsenchtein

    Hi:
    Dear friends:
    I’ve worked in sales of watches for 15 years in Brasil.
    In my opinion, and i’m completely openned to be correct, it’s a good thing what happens to ETA in certain aspects.
    Tom asked if eveybody cares about movements..
    My customers and I care..
    All of them asked me if the movemnt is “in house” when they buy a watch.
    Since CARTIER, BVLGARI and another jewelery when I had the opotunity to work with 18 brands of watches..
    When I went to MONTBLANC, they still have bought LA VILERRET..
    And I had dificulties to sell the MONTBLANC watches,
    I’ve heard that the great companies are investing in formation of mechanisms designers..
    And CARTIER still have one:a woman..
    So for me it’s very good if the brands could sign their own moviments really.
    Even if at the beggining it’s a litle forced.
    The collection C.P.C.P. from CARTIER still have their movients or calibers.
    And till BVLGARI bought DANIEL ROTH and GERAL GENTA, do do their mechanisms..
    I hope the designers brands will reach the customers questions..
    cause we, or I teached them to desire it.
    about the chineses moviments, i’m worried..
    Coul be prejudice..
    I know people that are negociating with them.
    but for me loose the SWISS MADE..
    many centuries conserving presicion, perfection and tradition…
    Why loose now??
    And thanks Tom, for the article.
    I see I should be more informed about moviments more than I thought. and all of you..
    That had so much knowledge.
    But the tradition was criated, and we ask a value for it..
    The haute horlogerie market has it.
    How to destroy it now??
    Silvia Gertsenchtein
    São Paulo
    Brasil

  29. Col

    @Speedmaster Yes, it’s a 6497 clone and is utterly bullet proof,
    Sea-Gull make some damn fine MVTs now, including the updated version of the Venus 75. This isn’t a clone, they bought the rights and the tooling back in the late 60s. This MVT, the ST-19 is the equal of any two register chronograph as far as reliability goes and is now out in automatic form as well. Sea-Gull also have a Tourbillon of their own design as well as a clone of most ETA MVTs with the exception of the 7750 (Liaoning and Shanghai Watch both make that one) and all are quite reliable pieces in the higher grades and are sold by 10s of 1000s to makers the world over. China is coming ETA and you had best watch out!

    PS: You paid too much for the homage. Next time try Tat at http://www.getat-watch.com His straps alone are worth the asking price.

  30. Olivier Muller

    We’ve been contacted by MontieK Watches. They use Sea-Gulls too. Does someone ever heard about them ?

  31. Mike

    I don’t think most will care if ETA is out of the picture. For myself, I want a swiss made watch and movement. I base my choice on design and secondly, the movement. If fact, I’m getting sick of seeing the bulk of mid range watches using the same ETA movements. Purging out ETA for another is a welcome move and it could be a great marketing tool for the affected watch makers.

  32. Phil Edmonds

    It’s great to read all the comments about various movements. As a bloke who has owned dozens of watches over 45 years I’m hoping you won’t mind me making a few comments. ETA v Sellita? From what I can gather it doesn’t really make any difference. A rock solid fact is that every Seiko with the 7S32 movement in has kept better time that anything else! The reality is that from what I can see is that some avid ETA fans will wear almost any style as long as they know an ETA is ticking on their wrist, and that’s fine. Personally, I insist that a watch is accurate, and importantly, that I love the design! I have recently bought 2 C11 watches from Christopher Ward (Christopher ward.co.uk)and they are consummate in design, and finish, however, I do not expect pin-point accuracy from the Sellita movements…they’re mechanical. If I want deadly accuracy one day, I will wear a Citizen Eco Drive.
    It’s simply personal choice. Most watch geeks would not wear a quartz watch, but they’re guaranteed to be fairly accurate. As I said, my opinion is that the Japanese Seiko movements are rugged, reliable , and accurate, but to some, this is not good enough
    as it does not say “Swiss”. I do not wish to sound like a salesman, but the best Swiss made watch for solid value for money is now sold by Christopher Ward (of London)No shops, or salesmen to pay, only sourced from his site. Check it out.
    Thanks for all the interesting comments.
    Regards from UK.
    phil

  33. Mike

    Swatch might be trying to drive out the small swiss makers, but there have long been rumours that Citizen (Myota), Seiko or one one of the chinese makers, are actively considering building a movement manufacturing facility in Switzerland. What is to stop Seiko doing this, and even giving the products a good old swiss name to boot. I`m sure they would be able to undercut ETA. Good point about pushing some watch brands above their comfort zone. as far as Sellita are concerned, I believe they operate on a much smaller scale, and have a long waiting list.

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