Have you ever looked down at your watch and either felt a sense of pride or dismay at the movement that it contains? For many buying their first “proper” watch, there may be many things that they consider including size, style, aesthetics, complications, and much more but usually there’s a romance with the mechanical. The feeling that inside your watch an array of tiny springs, cogs & gears engineered to the tiniest of tolerances are capable of displaying the current time with incredible accuracy all powered by the movement of the watch on your wrist.
I find it interesting that the discussion of a watches’ movement brings great opinion and controversy. Movements generally speaking fall in to two camps. Those that have been developed in-house to which a great sense of admiration is expressed and contrastingly those that have been “bought in” with many feeling a sense of disdain as if something is lacking or left wanting. However I feel many are too focused on the movement alone to fully appreciate how this could be a very good thing.
Consider for one moment a parallel from the motoring industry.
Few would consider McLaren an inferior supercar manufacturer – however they don’t make the engines that power their cars. The Legendary McLaren’ F1 for example was powered by a BMW V12 engine and for over a decade held the world record for the worlds fastest road going car before Bugatti eventually released the Veyron. Indeed today McLarens use Mercedes-Benz engines, and still produce some of the most desirable and sought-after supercars in the world. And it doesnt take long to realise why…..
Designing, building & testing engines is extremely expensive, so why not use a proven power plant from a robust & reputable company who can produce them to order and allow you to focus on the rest of the car – after all a supercar is MUCH more than just an engine. McLaren have therefore invested heavily in design & technology to produce ultralight carbon chassis’s, magneto-electric suspension, active airflow and much more and the end result is breath-taking performance coupled with almost everyday usability and reliability (especially when compared to the almost infamous “my Ferrari runs when it wants to” syndrome!)
In the world of Horology, consider ETA who were founded in 1793 by 4 master watchmakers. For over 200 years ETA have been creating and perfecting watch movements, and the results speak for themselves: ETA reliability is renown the world over.
However in response to concerns of a monopoly and to fuel innovation, ETA has been reducing the number of movements it supplies the industry and reciprocally brands have been forced to innovate. The upshot of this is that Tudor for one have generated a series of movements known as the MT5000 series movement (MT standing for “Manufacture Tudor”) and shared this movement with Breitling who reciprocally share their B01 Chronograph movement with Tudor. This reduces both companies dependency on ETA while meeting their own needs for a variety of movement complications.
Interestingly, both Omega and Hamilton used ETA movements as a starting point for creating their own movements. Omega chose the 2892 as a starting point for creating their first co-axial movement – the 2500 calibre, and Hamilton chose the 2824 as the basis of its H-10 movement with an incredible 80 hours of power reserve.
However unlike ETA who have been producing watch movements for over 200 years, these movements have not yet proven the test of time (no pun intended) and likewise Omega have gone through a number of iterations perfecting their co-axial calibre due to reliability issues. However modern ETA movements have been produced for decades and can be serviced by virtually any competent watchmaker. So in my mind, an ETA movement in my watch is a value-proposition – like having a BMW engine in your car without the ownership costs.
Unlike the motoring industry, many watch manufacturers have become the subject of damning criticism – suggesting that the price of the watches they sell is far too high considering it “only has an ETA movement”. In my opinion this reduces the value of a watch to only the movement alone. However the Tudor Black Bay – which when launched, housed an ETA 2824-2 movement has a legendary build quality. The Bezel has an action that is arguably second only to Rolex, the dial, case & finishing are superb as is the bracelet and straps.
Likewise with Bremont – while so many watch manufacturers make watches that are incredibly similar or generic across the industry, there is no such thing as “lazy design” here. Their unique approach to watch manufacturing and engineering, case quality and design have proven themselves – being asked to develop a watch which will survive the rigours of being ejected from an aircraft are a testimony in themselves to their investment. Much like the Omega Speedmaster’s heritage in space, I feel Bremont are carving their own heritage in aviation with their Martin-Baker range and are justifiably living up to their name-sake of “Tested beyond Endurance”. When you consider these two examples its easy to see a watch and its value is far more than the movement it contains.
One last and very interesting point is that for decades, Patek Philipe did not use its own movements but ones supplied by Jaeger LeCoultre. – Arguably the worlds most expensive watch company using someone else’s movement. Interestingly people don’t express the same criticism towards Patek for doing exactly the same. So if its good enough for Patek………
So whats your perspective? I’m interested to hear how you feel about the movement of the watch on your wrist, and what makes a good watch.