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I don't think it's ETA but brands that use stock/slightly modified ETA movenets while charging exorbitant prices that get much flak. Some feel that it's easier to justify prices certain brands are charging if they actually develop their own movements.
Yes. ETA doesn't get any flak over quality and longevity of their movements, quite the opposite.
 

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Of course an ETA movement could last for generations, but it would be like the proverbial 200 year old axe that has had the handle changed three times and the head four. Change the wheels, change the crown stem, change the mainspring...at some point it stops being the movement you started with!
 

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So I'm confused as to why ETA watches get so much flak and derision even though the movements are robust, easily fixable, and highly accurate when adjusted? I thought those would be qualities one would want in a watch movement.
Movements in General
I'm guessing from your question that you aren't familiar with the difference between "manufacture" watches and ones that aren't "manufacture."
  • Manufacture -- the movement inside a watch is made by the same people whose name appears on the dial. For many such watches, the case, dial, and bracelet/strap are also made by that same company, but not always. For example, Rolex is one maker who produce from scratch everything one finds in a Rolex watch; they even allow their own metals. A. Lange. & Sohne make their movements, but for some of their watches they don't make the case. Some makers make the case and the dial, but not the movement or strap/bracelet. Others make nothing and instead buy parts from various suppliers and assemble them, unaltered from the way they were delivered to them by those suppliers. Still others buy the movements from an external supplier, decorate them to greater and lesser extents and then put them inside of cases they may or may not have built themselves. Sometimes a manufacture is referred to as "in-house."
In many watches, it can be difficult to know exactly which purchased movement is inside. The one thing you can be sure of is that if a watch has an in-house movement, the maker will quite often make that point clear somewhere on its site or in promotional materials. The one exception is that makers who have such a long history of never making anything buy in-house movements may not mention it.

As go in-house movement's there's also something of a grey area. Because there's been a lot of consolidation in the watch industry, there are large conglomerates comprised of multiple watch companies, brands, really. Quite often, one of the companies in the group is a watch movement making business. Swatch Group is the largest example of such a group. They own ETA and Omega, and other watch companies/brands. Within the Swatch Group, ETA contributes quite heavily to the design and fabrication of the movements used by most Swatch Group subsidiaries, including Omega. Swatch and its subsidiaries are somewhat more forthcoming about who makes the movements inside most of their watches. Omega, for example, openly credits ETA for significant portions of the design and build of its rightfully praised co-axial movements.

Swatch also purchased two other companies: Breguet and Lemania. Breguet is a very old name in watchmaking. A.L. Breguet is probably the single most important luminary among the historical names in watchmaking - wrist, pocket or clocks. Breguet has mostly always made its own movemetns; however, once they were acquired by Swatch, Swatch assigned Lemania as Breguet's movement maker, so many Breguet watches have Breguet branded movements, made by Lemania, inside. Now, Lemania has all but vanished in the marketplace and folks just consider that Breguet watches have movements made by Breguet but from a corporate organization standpoint, what really happened is that Lemania was folded into Breguet. With Breguet, watch snobs don't make too much of a big deal about that being the case as both have a history of making exceptional movements.

Other companies, however, have also purchased watchmakers and watch movement makers. There is some small level of disdain for such companies among some "hardcore" collectors. Examples of such companies include Montblanc, Louis Vuitton, and Cartier. Montblanc purchased an very highly regarded watch/movement maker, Minerva. Richemont Group, Cartier's parent company, purchased the Dubuis manufacturing facilities and assigned them to Cartier. (Cartier Gets Serious: The Evolution of Cartier Men's Watches | WATCHTIME.COM). Louis Vuitton also purchased a movement maker. Prior to these corporate actions, none of the three made watches using their internal capabilities.


What's So Special About Manufacture?
A marketing ploy that many companies use is to have a movement made for them by a supplier and that movement will have the watch company's name on it, even though that company didn't actually make it. You may also see movements named as though they are made by the watch company, even when they are not. For example, Watches 'R' Us may cite that this or that watch has a WRU012 movement inside one watch and a W012 inside another. Quite often the different naming taxonomy indicates that one movement is in-house and one is not.

There are reasons for all the hoopla about in-house and non-in-house movements; however, for the overwhelming majority of watches, those reasons have everything to do with profit margins and nothing to do with the watch's performance. You must remember that above all else, watch companies sell watches to make money; it's a business and they operate with exactly the same motivation(s) as IBM or BAE, Boeing, Microsoft or Sony. While there may be some very artful folks designing and making beautifully innovative watches and movements, believe me, if they had a better way to make more money with less effort, they would do so. Anybody would.

As businesses, watch companies, particularly those that had already invested in acquiring the ability to vertically integrate and control the entirety of their own watchmaking processes and outputs, need some means to differentiate themselves from those who lack those capabilities. One way of doing that is to foster the idea that there is something "better" about buying a watch from a vertically integrated maker since it unavoidable that such makers, in general have a higher cost of production and most of them are not capable of producing in high volumes. So, most of those makers employ all the usual hyping techniques one sees in association with any other luxury product. With watches, one of the techniques used, along with all the same ones Louis Vuitton, Gucci, et al use, is the idea of "limited editions."

Certain watches are made in very limited editions, as in maybe one to dozen are made and they are made by the top brands in the industry. For those watches, there is some significance to the fact that the production is limited. But keep in mind that such companies also have limited production capabilities from the get go. So a lot of the "limitation" is that they couldn't crank out such things in huge numbers even if they wanted to. Why? Mostly because such things are made by hand. Of course, making a watch by hand doesn't make it better. Indeed, in some ways, hand made watches are like handmade cars and firearms. There's variability in the execution between models and that makes them more expensive to maintain down the road. Watches aren't like clothing. Handmade clothing generally benefits from being that way because it has no impact on downstream upkeep and because the seamstress can make minute adjustments -- tightening or relaxing the stitch, for example -- as needed given the observed behavior of the material as s/he is sewing it.

About ETA Movements:
The traits you describe are highly desirable and ETA's movements posses them. I don't know anyone who actually has objective issues with ETA's movements, regardless of whether they have watches with ETA inside. Moreover, from an economic and historical standpoint, ETA quite literally saved the mechanical watch industry from extinction. That their movements were solid, affordable, reliable and sufficiently accurate brought the entire industry back from the brink of quartz. That's no mean feat considering even today that quartz watches are more precise than just about every mechanical watch available, regardless of price.

I do know people who absolutely won't buy a watch if it has a non-manufacture movement inside. Such folks are willing to spend more to do in most cases as well. (no pun intended) These folks don't generally want watches having ETA inside because for the past 30 years or so, ETA produced the movements one would find inside of 90% of the watches sold. Period. That makes ETA's guts the most commonly found ones around. For the typical consumer, that's a great thing. For the collector seeking some level of exclusivity (whatever be the cause of that exclusivity), it's not such a good thing. I think you probably understand why that is.

At certain levels of watchmaking, movements exhibit a level of engineering innovation, execution and design that simply cannot, and will not, be matched by ETA simply because that level of "effort," for lack of a better term, makes no sense to invest given ETA's business model. It really doesn't matter if ETA's craftsmen are capable of it, doing so isn't the part of the market in which ETA plays, or at least historically has played.

In 2010, ETA announced it was cutting back on its sales/deliveries of movements to non-Swatch Group companies. Now that ETA has chosen to limit distribution of its movements, ETA movement prices are rising and ETA movements are becoming scarcer in non-Swatch Group watches. Other companies are moving to fill the void. Sellita and Miyota (Citizen) are among the larger ones doing so. Swatch's brands have long used ETA inside. Now they are just charging more for their ETA inside products, mostly because now that folks are very comfortable with ETA's products, ETA has a solid reputation as a maker, and supply has been curtailed. Swatch group is exploiting its/ETA's perceived quality supremacy over the other mass producuction movement makers.

As far as I can tell mostly from what I've read, for all my watches are either ETA or manufacture inside, there's nothing wrong with any number of other mass produced movements. At least as far as uncomplicated and chronograph movements are concerned. I would say that if you are seeking watches having some of the more involved complications -- perp calendar, minute repeater, tourbillion, etc -- you probably want to consider going in-house if the complication itself is what matters to you. Generally speacking, in-house companies will invest more care in the creation of such things. However, keep in mind that many of the really outstanding watch making companies -- JLC, Piaget, Arnold & Son, etc. -- will make complex movements for other companies and, as before, they will be no better or worse than if they were made by the company whose name is on the dial. (Actually they could be better if that company hasn't a clue of how to fabricate such complications.)

As for Sellita and Miyota, the two most commone, I think, mass market movements you'll find besides ETA, you can decide for yourself what you think of them.

Sellita

Miyota

I would only advise that regardless of what others say, you need to figure out for yourself and your watch buying/use, exactly what matters to you. For example, while I care about movement functionality, I don't care too much how that functionality is achieved. That said, sure, if there's one way that's markedly better and it doesn't cost me a ton more, I may prefer it. In most cases, however, I don't care. So long as the thing works consistently and accurately enough for my lifestyle, and it's not a pain in my butt to maintain it, I'd happy. Other folks get into all sorts of minutae concerning the movements inside a watch. Were I buying watches that are so mechanically unique and innovative, I might care at that level of detail too. I'm not; I don't.

At the end of the day, watch collectors of varying stripes want "something special." That special-ness can come from any number of places, but one place that is often sought is in the movement and in the history and pedigree associated with it and the company that makes it. Like any other luxury good, it's about "allure."

Well, I hope that helps you. It's a lot to read, but I've tried to offer some objective insights and leave most of my personal preferences out of it. One certain thing is that well over 80% of wach buying choices are choices between two good products. It's rare that anything other that bias and emotion make one watch better than another.

All the best.

Objectivity works to repel the attacks of critics, like a kind of ethical pepper spray.
- Brooke Gladstone, The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media
 

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Thanks Tony....

A very informative read!

As a newbie with this obsession and not a great deal of knowledge about inhouse movt. added to the financial outlay required, I'm drawn to ETA because they are common, tried, true and tested.

My second watch is on the way and I'm researching my third. I'll then have the 3 ETA workhorses covered and will feel safe in the knowledge that servicing and longevity will never be a problem!

I MAY go inhouse one day. Perhaps a retirement watch!

Thanks again for a good read....

Ita
 
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Of course an ETA movement could last for generations, but it would be like the proverbial 200 year old axe that has had the handle changed three times and the head four. Change the wheels, change the crown stem, change the mainspring...at some point it stops being the movement you started with!
So what is the very heart of the watch?
 

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...because some like more then what's on the outside. Simple enough. I have one eta watch. That is enough. Just like I would be happy with one spring drive movement watch. I like more then a watch case, dial and bracelet. Some just care for design others care for design and mechanics. That tis I.
 

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Well there are a lot more movements out there than ETA and Rolex. And not all ETA movements are ETA designs so presumably a 7750 is going to have different problems than a 2824.

I guess I was just objecting to the categorical declaration that all ETA movements last either as well as all "in house" (keeping in mind that ETA movements are also arguably in house movements for some brands now, and certainly were for a brand in the past) or better. It strikes me as painfully difficult to come to that conclusion based on real world evidence...to bring in the hundreds of distinct movements that are out currently, many of which are of pretty substantially different designs, much less all of them that have existed since ETA was a competitor.

Which is by no means to say that ETA is INFERIOR to in house movements in this regard either, I'm just saying that there is such broad diversity and such little hard data that we can't jump to a conclusion on either side of the fence. If someone wants to tear down an ETA calibre and a Grand Seiko or Omega or Rolex or IWC calibre and compare them really closely, head to head, and come up with detailed results and estimations between those two specific movements, I'd be very interested, but I don't think anyone's going to do that for ALL movements in existence. And it'd still be somewhat speculative.
 

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Valjoux was owned by AUSAG when the 7750 was designed which was around the same timeframe as the design of the 2824. I'll bet a number of the folks involved in developing one were involved in developing the other...

While I generally dislike car analogies, the ETA 2824-2 is like the Honda Civic, not the fastest, not the best handling, not the prettiest, but definitely a reliable little movement capable of telling time quite accurately, and if tweaked can have moments of brilliance.

(The 2892A2 would be an Accord.)
 
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