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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As I expected he would :-d
The CLARO-Semag automatic movement is manufactured here in Switzerland by

SEMAG Manufacture SA
Salzhausstrasse 5
CH - 2503 Bienne

and assembled on their assembly lines in Bienne Switzerland and at their subsidiary in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland

Claro Watch SA
Fabbrica di Orologi
via San Gottardo 17b
CH - 6500 Bellinzona.

Up to 150,000 pieces of the CL-888 are made over here every year. They all come with Swiss certificates of origin. I shall again visit their assembly line in Bellinzona later in the month to take a look at their new assembly set-up.

The movement dates back to the early 1960s and was developped by the engineers of the von Burg watch empire. The dies and blue prints were transferred to von Burg's Swissebauches Ltd. in Hong Kong quite early on. The von Burg companies were one of the first Swiss watch companies taking advantage of Hong Kong's unique sets of skills and they established their first factories in the late 1950s there. The CL-888 was licenced to companies in the Far East as early as the mid-1960s as we were told by some oldtimers at von Burg's here in Switzerland. You shall find more information on the CL-888 in a thread on by the way.

We over here are happy to use the CL-888 as base movement to make our EL-18 out of. It is a fine little piece of micromechanics and I especially like the homely tick-tick sound it emits.
Sounds like that spin-job he did on Riedenschild's GEMatic movements when he claimed that the Ruhla cal. 24 was the ancestor of the ETA 2824 o|

Show me the 1960s CL-888s and i will believe you, James :roll:

20,241 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Here is the Timezone article that Mr Elsener refers to
Reproduced below with my own comments inserted:

The Elusive Claro-Semag CL888 Automatic Movement
By Anthony Young

One of the more obscure and enigmatic automatic watch movements today is the Claro-Semag CL888 used in a number of Swiss watch brands. One of those brands is Zodiac. Today, Zodiac is owned by Fossil, based in Richardson, Texas. Fossil wanted a distinctly Swiss brand to add to its list of brands, and all Zodiac operations remain in Switzerland. Under Fossil's management, Zodiac now has a prominent retail and internet worldwide presence.

The majority of Zodiac's watches are powered by Ronda quartz movements made in Lausen, Switzerland. Ronda was founded in 1946 initially making watch movement parts. It progressed into ebauche manufacture and finally complete mechanical movements until deciding to switch over to quartz movement manufacture in the mid-1970s. Today, Ronda manufactures quartz movements exclusively. If Ronda offered mechanical movements, no doubt Zodiac would use them.
In fact a quantity of old-stock Ronda ebauches have recently surfaced and been finished in Hong Kong. IIRC Zeno have bought some of them, but Zodiac have not.
There have been a number of watch forum postings regarding the CL888. One posting speculated the CL888 is not Swiss but is a clone of an Asian movement with upgraded parts.
I love the "Asian" remark. Say it:"Chinese"! It won't hurt.
TimeZone member James Enloe, owner of a Zodiac Oceanaire, posted a picture of the CL888 (shown above.) Finding documented information on the CL888 is all but impossible, which only adds to the speculation.
Doesn't that make you wonder? :think:
However, Zodiac (and Fossil) takes the Swiss Made label very seriously, and the company proudly states this on its website.
I think Claro-SEMAG take Swiss Made equally seriously so far as the law requires. There is a common misconception that if this is a Sea-Gull ebauche finished in Switzerland, then somehow the law has been breached. As RPF's comments indicate, that ain't necessarily so.
To try to piece this puzzle together has taken some detective work.

The Oceanaire dive watch (Ref. ZO8000 series) was discontinued by Zodiac, which has introduced a new for 2007 Oceanaire (ref. ZO9000 and ZO9001) which has a rectangular case and different style dial, but does have the automatic movement. There are also Oceanaire dive watches with quartz movements, new for 2007, Ref. ZO8500 and ZO8501.

The George J. von Burg Connection

In 1961, George J. von Burg founded CLARO Watch S.A. in Bienne, Switzerland for the production of pin lever mechanical movements
But James Elsener is claiming that they were selling jewelled-lever automatics to the 'Far East' back then
and various brand name watches. He had experience in marketing his own private label watches, and established production facilities in the United States for watch parts. Von Burg also acquired SEMAG, a manufacturer of ebauches and movement parts. The companies, operating under one roof, grew steadily during the 1960s and 1970s. SEMAG became a sizeable producer of mechanical movements and began manufacturing quartz movements in the 1980s.

The bible of the Swiss watch industry is the ISH Indicateur Suisse Annual. My edition from 1998 featured a prominent advertisement by SEMAG for its quartz movements on the cover. There was also a bookmark included that had a SEMAG Manufacture SA advertisement front and back. SEMAG used the ad line "About Time and Swiss Quality." The ad also displayed the SEMAG logo, or ebauche mark, which appears on the CL888 movement, but more on this later. Inside this annual, listed in the Blue Pages under Mechanical Lever Movements is Semag SA with address at Salzhausstrasse 5 in Bienne. Under the listing for Movements for Quartz Analog is Claro SA with the same address.

Semag Manufacture SA is a member of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH and is listed under Watch Movement Producers.

Recently I purchased a Manufacture George J. von Burg Chronograph from the United States distributor in Washington State. The enclosed booklet gave the Manufacture George J. von Burg address as: Claro Watch SA, Salzhausstrasse 5, Biel-Bienne, Switzerland. All three addresses are identical. Clearly, then the Claro SEMAG CL888 automatic movement is produced in Bienne.
OK, so we know where their factory is
If you check out the Manufacture George J von Burg website, you will see a vintage photo, probably taken in the 1960s, of the original CLARO SEMAG building with the signs on top of the building. The Von Burg family has been running this business at the same address for more than half a century. In fact, the second and third generation Von Burgs operate the business.
and we know that they've been there for a while...
Details of the CL888

The CL888 is unique in being an automatic movement with only 18 jewels. Most automatic movements with date have 21 to 25 jewels. All Swiss manufactured ebauches display the hallmark or stamp of the ebauche manufacturer usually visible below the balance wheel.
A BIG clue, this :roll: I mean, what if this wasn't a Swiss ebauche?
On the CL888 it has clearly been ground away.
Actually this is a LOT more than "grinding". It's been countersunk deep enough that you could imagine it was part of the original manufacturing process of the base-plate :think:
In its place on one of the movement plates is the marking CL, followed by the SEMAG ebauche stamp, then the caliber number 888. It is possible an ebauche was purchased from another maker with CLARO SEMAG adding the remaining parts to complete the movement, a very common practice many years ago, and typically done today only by high-end watch brands.
Everything to do with mechanical watches in Switzerland is more "high-end" than it used to be. In fact you don't have to go so far up-market to find enhanced ETA 2428s from aftermarket finishers like Sellita... Except that ETA don't want to supply the ebauches any more. That's why Sellita make their own and Claro buy them from elsewhere
The rotor is marked with ZODIAC 1882 and EIGHTEEN 18 JEWELS SWISS MADE. Only Swiss Made movements can be so marked. Zodiac and Fossil know this quite well!
o|o|o| Yes, but the legal definition is 50+% by value of the components of the completed movement! Nobody is breaking the law here, but it doesn't preclude this being a Chinese ebauche.
More detailed information on this movement is difficult to obtain because neither Claro Watch nor SEMAG Manufacture SA have a website to describe the movement.
Well they wouldn't would they? Not when watch 'purists' can't even say the word "chinese" without stuttering.
Other brands using the CL888

The small watch firm of Montres Edouard Lauzieres in Sisseln, Switzerland also employs the CL888 as the basis of its movement offerings. This company states:

"To achieve this goal Montres Edouard Lauzières uses only the finest Swiss Made movements from the Swiss manufacturer ETA and our own mechanical movement EL-18 built upon a movement blank from Claro-SEMAG from Bienne Switzerland's watch making capital."
And here we see James Elsener's stake in the matter. Perhaps if he was to do a bit of research, he could get Sea-Gull to send the "movement blank"s directly to him, instead of buying them from Claro-SEMAG.
There may be other Swiss watch manufacturers using this movement. Hopefully this sheds some light on this watch movement for its present and future owners.
Thank you Mr Young for this well researched article. Clearly Claro-SEMAG and Zodiac did not make this easy for you. :roll:

Premium Member
4,953 Posts
50+% by value is quite inaccurate IMHO. What if all the components, or even the whole movements were already made elsewhere, and an expensive Swiss worker just did some final adjustments that cost more than 50+% of the whole value? Is this also 'Swiss Made'?

1,854 Posts
The 50% does not include labor. But that does not preclude starting off with a really cheap movement and replacing some components.

I used to believe that Swiss Made means a watch that has at least 50% of it's component value being made in Switzerland.

I've come to understand that is incorrect.

According to the FH, the 50% rule applies only to the movement. So long it's assembled in Switzerland, it qualifies as a Swiss Movement.

A Swiss movement automatically qualifies any watch assembled and inspected in Switzerland as Swiss Made.

Note that the rest of the watch can be entirely foreign in composition.

To take an example of the economics involved, let's imagine we're using a rebranded Chinese movement such as the Claro Semag 888 (a Seagull ST16). I imagine the movement can be obtained for $5-10 each (ST16 powered Alphas sell for $50 or less). That means by swapping out a $2.50-$5 part (mebbe blued screws or a stamped/engraved rotor) in a Swiss factory, the movement qualifies as Swiss Made.

A $3-1k watch ends up having less than 1% in Swiss parts.

It took a while for me to accept these numbers, even if they're ballpark figures.

Premium Member
5,502 Posts
50+% by value is quite inaccurate IMHO. What if all the components, or even the whole movements were already made elsewhere, and an expensive Swiss worker just did some final adjustments that cost more than 50+% of the whole value? Is this also 'Swiss Made'?
If I'm not mistaken, I believe the answer is 'YES' and therefore the smoke & mirrors. I bet a few more watchmakers will be using this approach in the future. :-|


Quote from a German watch magazine (Uhrenmagazin):

...."Das Semag & Claro 888 ist ein eher selten zu sehendes Kaliber. Es basiert auf dem TY 2806 der chinesischen Tsinlien Sea-Gull Co Ltd., wird "swiss made" verkauft...."

Translation: The Semag & Claro 888 is a movement which isn't seen that often. It is based on the TY 2806 of chinese Tsinlien Sea-Gull Co Ltd, sold as "swiss made".....

The NZZ (Neue Züricher Zeitung) wrote in march 2005 that Indtech is closely working together with der Burg family. The Burg family owns the Biel firm SEMAG Manufacture (busy in marketing) and Claro Watch in Bellinzona. Here are quartz movements produced as well as "Von Burg" chronographs. In China they run a firm "Swissebauches" with about 3000 employees. The quartz movements produced here consist of components delivered by Indtech (formerly known SFT). These movements are sold at day-market-prices at the Hongkong stock exchange or are mounted into cases. Some other Claro watches are designated for the chinese market.

The "swiss movement" of the Askania Quadriga come to my mind.
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