What's the big deal about in-house movements?

  1. Why do people put so much importance on in-house movements? Until fairly recently it was an extremely common practice in the watch industry for brands (even high tier brands) to purchase movements, cases, and various other components from outside companies. No one suggested then that outsourcing parts detrimentally affected product quality.
  2. From what I understand the reduction of the outsourcing parts has more to do with contract disputes and attempts to exert greater control over the market and supply chain than producing a higher quality product. Then the marketers took over to convince consumers that in-house production automatically equals increased quality.
  3. Am I off base or are many people buying into a "fact" conjured up and perpetrated by great marketers to cover up cutthroat business practices? My partner thinks she remembers the last time I made a mistake about something (back in around '87) so its possible I've missed the mark on this too. What's your take on the subject?

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Well, the quality of movements themselves is not determined by anything other than it's intrinsic quality. Therefore Sellita and ETA movements are of good quality and their higher end ones are great (accuracy and power reserve are for example 2 objective qualities that can be determined, so the in-house Seiko 4R36 is strugling).

However, if you are a watch brand that makes your own movements, you are differentiating yourself from companies that can only assemble watches.

In that light I think it is essential for the established big brands to at least offer part of their catalogue with in-house movements, otherwise they would not be any different from a microbrand/startup. So we can see the likes of Tudor and ORIS doing exactly this.

Another thing is that the really exquisite movements are all in-house, but then we're talking A. Lange etc. This is a whole different league and if you are the person who can pay 20k usd/eur for a watch, then I guess you'll demand an in-house movement.

For me as a normal person, I encourage the development of microbrands and startups using Sellita, Soprod and Miyota, as this is helping mechanical watches in general to fight the smartwatches that I myself personally loath.

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It's not that it's a big deal IMHO, I have a couple of watches that have off the shelf mvt'a but you can only charge so much for a watch with one without facing back lash from the community. 

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I forgot to include that in-house movements can also provide brands with very lucrative income streams by being the only source for parts and the technical expertise to service their watches. No or very little competition in servicing a brand will drive the cost up with owners having no choice but to fork over whatever amount of cash is demanded if they are to properly maintain their already expensive purchases. 

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I tend to agree, although the movement in my Rolex only gains one second every four days. Companies such as ETA and Sellita have been making movements for a very long time and I think they know what they are doing. Whats more, if they require servicing or even replacing it won't break the bank.

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As I view it.

In-house can be much more tailored to the need of the watch company and even to the specific watch model. the companies have a much higher degree of freedom when designing the watch faces and overall layout of the watch as they control the placement of everything. Also this specialization gives them the opportunity to really tinker away and make the movement as accurate as possible and with an extended power reserve if they want to. But this is of course a balancing act as you want to position your watch in a specific price segment.

An off-the-shelf movement need to cater to the mass market and as such is developed to please as broad an audience as possible, but this also makes them more generic, in both function and form. The upside to this is they are cheaper to produce and buy, easier to source parts for and generally more readily available.

Each type serves a purpose, it just depends on what you seek in a watch.

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I think there are two key components, and you hit both of them. 

  1.  In-house movements give companies more control over the movement supply. I know Damasko mentioned that as a reason for their A-26 movement development, when ETA 2824s were hard to get. 
  2.  Marketing/Prestige is a big part of the watch world, as for the most part mechanical watches are a luxury rather than a requirement. I think this is more prevalent in the luxury watch segment, particularly when developing three hander movements. 

Bonus: When companies make a different version of a base movement to suit their design. The ones that come immediately to mind for me are Damasko and CW. The Damasko DC80 is a central minutes chronograph based on a Lemania 5100, and CW makes a jump hour and hour chime based on a SW200. 

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Ok… I‘ve talked about this quite a lot, but here goes.

Swiss movements - most common a few years back was…(to the group?)… ETA.

Who owns ETA?

Swatch Group.

Who is limiting access to newer ETA ebauches outside of the Swatch Group? Swatch Group. 

This is why you have been seeing a lot more Sellita and SOPROD movements hitting low-mid tier luxury Swiss, or a shift towards in-house.

Sellita and SOPROD movements are  loosely based upon ETA movements (it’s to do with expired patents, etc… it’s boring, but they are very similar). If you are geared towards working with ETA, then the switch is relatively painless as you are familiar with the architecture. Sellita and SOPROD have seen their turnover increase dramatically, and you have also begun to see other Swiss movement makers either develop or shift movements. Ronda made their first mechanical movement for a long time a few years back, it can be found in Invicta and a small number of microbrands.

Which then leads into in-house... some brands could already do this, the market has forced them to adapt by developing this further to either counteract the restriction in certain parts, reposition themselves in the market, or (as you have already said) gain access to an additional revenue stream. Omega is limiting parts to watchmakers who wish to repair vintage - all Omega repair will eventually be through Omega, they will monopolise the vintage Omega repair market as well, but this is the Swatch Group modus operandi right now. Other brands are doing this as well, but it makes sense considering how much it could make them.

At the end of the day, you should be factoring in movement provenance and warranty/repair into your new watch purchases. Most of the time you shouldn’t need it, but look at Serica and the SOPROD Newton - that’s been a disaster. (TLDR - Porthole answers question, someone repeats it later, who cares…)

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As mentioned above, 'in-house movement' does not necessarily connote quality. For my part, I'd rather have a microbrand or entry level mechanical/auto with an off-the-shelf Selitta SW200 than a Seiko with the in-house 4R36 because my experience has been poor with the accuracy of the latter. If you care about longevity and accuracy, worth knowing what's 'under the hood' of a watch you buy, but you shouldn't be put off by a non in-house movement as long as you know what you're getting and have your eyes open about what this means in terms of the effect on price, probable service intervals, ease of servicing, etc etc.

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Whether it’s important or not, the new in house Swiss movements have been moving towards greater power reserve. Whereas Seiko and ETA standard movements have 36ish hour movements, new in house module power reserve is 50, 70, or even 120 hours. A few models go well beyond that. 
 

Now this is only important (maybe important) to collectors that rotate through 2 or more watches routinely. A 36 hour PR will loose accuracy after about 24 hours, meaning you can’t take it off Monday night, wear a different watch Tuesday, and pick up and go with your ETA on Wednesday. In house allows for greater convenience. But let’s be honest. Most collectors are rotating through half a dozen or more watches. 

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cornfedksboy

Whether it’s important or not, the new in house Swiss movements have been moving towards greater power reserve. Whereas Seiko and ETA standard movements have 36ish hour movements, new in house module power reserve is 50, 70, or even 120 hours. A few models go well beyond that. 
 

Now this is only important (maybe important) to collectors that rotate through 2 or more watches routinely. A 36 hour PR will loose accuracy after about 24 hours, meaning you can’t take it off Monday night, wear a different watch Tuesday, and pick up and go with your ETA on Wednesday. In house allows for greater convenience. But let’s be honest. Most collectors are rotating through half a dozen or more watches. 

I very much agree, I change my watch every day, and unless the movement is completely out of whack, a +/- 4 spd variation has no meaningful impact. Granted, a movement can be interesting to look at, superbly finished, but at that point we are talking about aesthetics and workmanship rather than function.

I think manufacturers focus on the movement, because it can be easily referenced, meaning that a movement type in many cases simply checks a box. Power reserve can also be quantified, as well as vibrations per hour, or how many jewels the movement has. Even superficial changes to a standard movement are a way to differentiate a watch through its spec sheet.

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Well it is the way it was back in the day, I mean like the advent of the wrist watch. Most companies back then made their own movements. Then companies decided it was just as good to buy preassembled movements or ebauches and assemble the caliber themselves. Then came the quartz crisis. Then came Nick Hayek, Sr. and the saving of the Swiss watch industry through acquisition and consolidation and launching a cheep plastic quartz watch, the Swatch. Amongst those companies acquired and brought under the Swatch umbrella was ETA, which had supplied the industry with mechanical movements for a long time But then was on hard times.

Then in the 2000‘s, Nick Sr. Started grumbling that ETA couldn’t supply other Swatch group companies with the quantity of movements needed. Which lead to the famous statement by Nick St., “make your own d$@& movements” directed to the Swiss watch industry.!

Which lead to companies rediscovering making movements. And they were worried they couldn’t get supplied with movements.

Took forever but eventually the court cases would their way through the Swiss courts and Swatch won. 
 

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Other than the above diatribe, mamufacture movements are just cool. I would rather have a watch entirely made by a single company. Simple.

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I've written about this so many times that I've now resorted to copying and pasting!  

  • I would take an ETA or Sellita or Seiko or Miyota movement over an "in-house" 8 days a week
  • "Workhorse movements" have shown their reliability and quality in real-world, empirical, day-to-day use and abuse, for decades on end now
  • Parts are plentiful, any competent watch-maker is equipped to work on them, it's all relatively cheap to maintain, etc., etc.
  • The only reason that manufacturers are touting "in-house" movements is because the Swatch Group bought up all the movement manufacturers coming out of the quartz crisis, and then wanted to put all their competitors out of business by no longer supplying them with ETA movements, etc.  Unfortunately, the Swiss government stepped in to prevent free commerce.  As a result, all these manufacturers had to move in-house, and their marketing tells you that in-house is better
  • But, if in-house is better, why do in-house movements cost so much more?  As a business guy, my hypothesis is this:  "I gotta charge you a ton upfront, to cover all the downstream warranty costs I gotta eat, when the movement fails you!"
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StevieC54

Well it is the way it was back in the day, I mean like the advent of the wrist watch. Most companies back then made their own movements. Then companies decided it was just as good to buy preassembled movements or ebauches and assemble the caliber themselves. Then came the quartz crisis. Then came Nick Hayek, Sr. and the saving of the Swiss watch industry through acquisition and consolidation and launching a cheep plastic quartz watch, the Swatch. Amongst those companies acquired and brought under the Swatch umbrella was ETA, which had supplied the industry with mechanical movements for a long time But then was on hard times.

Then in the 2000‘s, Nick Sr. Started grumbling that ETA couldn’t supply other Swatch group companies with the quantity of movements needed. Which lead to the famous statement by Nick St., “make your own d$@& movements” directed to the Swiss watch industry.!

Which lead to companies rediscovering making movements. And they were worried they couldn’t get supplied with movements.

Took forever but eventually the court cases would their way through the Swiss courts and Swatch won. 
 

No one company should monopolize on parts as this gives them a big advantage in the watch industry.  Miyota and Sellita has slowly prospered during the last few years.

I still question how watches such as Kurono and IWC could charge a huge amount when they use standard movements.

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A movement being “in house” doesn’t necessarily equate to being of a higher quality, but it is of a higher difficulty. A watch manufacturer can purchase pre-assembled movements at a much cheaper cost than developing and producing their own movement, not withstanding the time and knowledge needed to accomplish such a task. Those manufacturers who spent the time and effort to create something unique should be commended for their efforts, whether you see value in their endeavors or not. 
 

Think of it like a car engine. No one is going to argue that mass produced engines off a Toyota assembly line are going to be more reliable and serviceable than a custom built engine, but those who want them will always pay a lot more for a hand built Ferrari engine , even if they are only going to use the car to get groceries. 

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All I can say is that my manufacture movements run better than average bought movements.