In-House Watch Movements Part I: What & Why?

Ariel Adams explores the value of in-house versus bought-in movements powering today’s luxury watches.

An in-house movement is a watch movement that a brand produces by themselves. To be honest what “by themselves” means is a fluid definition as mechanical watch movements are made up of many small parts. Often times some or a lot of those pieces are produced by outside suppliers. Let’s just suppose for a moment that “in-house made” actually meant 100% in-house made. The alternative of course being that a brand purchases entire movements from someone else. This is more or less how it works in the Swiss watch industry – with plenty of shades of grey.

Watch collector’s typically prefer to invest in watches that come from brands which make their own movements. The reasons for this are a prime example of why people say that collecting watches is often more an exercise in emotion as opposed to pure logic. I will try to explain. There is a very popular movement maker called ETA in Switzerland. ETA is owned by the Swatch Group and produces a large number of both mechanical and quartz watch movements. They produce very high quality movements for the price, and many brands have historically gone to ETA to buy movements and place them inside of their own watches.

A fair number of brands today are trying to produce their own watch movements from the ground up. Either they are new to this side of the industry, or are trying to expand their existing production. The collector would see these independently made movements as being more exclusive and valuable. They would be right, but logic and practice often shows that movements produced in mass quantities by movement makers tend to be more durable and reliable – even though they may not be as attractive, rare, or complicated. This proves that the seasoned watch lover values exclusivity and uniqueness more than sheer practicality. And so will you if you are new to the watch game.