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Discussion Starter #1
Recently I've been pondering about ETA movements in Swiss watches. There's been a lot of discussion on brand recognition and status with those who have in-house movement accomplishment. That's another topic altogether but I'd like to share some thoughts regarding Swiss watches that are ETA powered.

Pros;
1) Lowered cost for Swiss watch ownership, making it accessible to larger market; fueling the fire for automatic watch revival.
2) Remarkable standards and specification for entry level movement.
3) ETA movements are very reliable and can be regulated to COSC standards by a talented watchmaker.
4) ETA movements and parts are widely distributed in existing watchmaking part/tool sellers.
5) Repairs/replacement and maintenace not restricted to brand control.

Cons;
1) Perceived to be second class then in-house movement as far as prestige goes.
2) Difficult to market an ETA base watch at higher price.
3) No new development to produce new movements for ETA. Stuck with existing technologies.
4) Everyone have got one so exclusivity isnt spunned.

On the whole, I think ETA based watch has more pros then cons going for it. Not such a bad thing, right?
 

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Recently I've been pondering about ETA movements in Swiss watches. There's been a lot of discussion on brand recognition and status with those who have in-house movement accomplishment. That's another topic altogether but I'd like to share some thoughts regarding Swiss watches that are ETA powered.

Pros;
1) Lowered cost for Swiss watch ownership, making it accessible to larger market; fueling the fire for automatic watch revival.
2) Remarkable standards and specification for entry level movement.
3) ETA movements are very reliable and can be regulated to COSC standards by a talented watchmaker.
4) ETA movements and parts are widely distributed in existing watchmaking part/tool sellers.
5) Repairs/replacement and maintenace not restricted to brand control.

Cons;
1) Perceived to be second class then in-house movement as far as prestige goes.
2) Difficult to market an ETA base watch at higher price.
3) No new development to produce new movements for ETA. Stuck with existing technologies.
4) Everyone have got one so exclusivity isnt spunned.

On the whole, I think ETA based watch has more pros then cons going for it. Not such a bad thing, right?
Some comments.

Re: Entry level movements and standards.

For the 2824, I'm not sure it's entry level anymore. A new ETA mechanical equipped watch costs at least $4-500 MSRP today. $500 can buy a really good Swiss quartz watch with very nice specs and movements. I really doubt it costs that much more to mass produce a mechanical movement vs. a quality quartz module, given the MSRP of a Seiko 7S26 or a Miyota.

There is that monkey business with all those different grades that's not upfront information on model specs. Sometimes I think the Swiss are milking the cow too enthusiastically because people tend to associate chronometer performance with the 2824 and the 289x. Then again, how does a couple of standard parts and some time under a watchmaker's loupe justify a >$300 price difference between a COSC chronometer and a non-certified movement?

Any sunk cost such as R&D, tooling, land etc are long since paid out. ETA movements don't have a product life-cycle it seems whereas Seiko retires a calibre every decade or so. Yet prices of mechanical watches rise every year, outstripping the rate of inflation and wage gains, as do the cost of servicing the watch.

Re: Repairs.

Say I buy a "cheap" 2824 powered watch for $500. I wear it for 5 years, by which time the accuracy becomes unacceptable. I send it in for service, $100 w/o parts, more to change the seals etc. Parts may be widely available but spending 20% the cost price of the watch every 5 years doesn't sound attractive at all.

I believe parts availability shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath with entry level Swiss ETA watches because not many owners will take up that option.

Re: Exclusivity.

It's natural for someone to look for a watch that sets it apart from the competition. Again ETA's various grades for movements comes back to haunt them in the high-end of the market. It horrifies a non-Wis to realize that a $100 Gruen has the same 2824 as his $3500 chronometer rated diver, other than decorative finishing, plating and upgraded hairsprings, balance etc. Maybe that's why I know quite a few disgruntled Tag owners who realized there's nothing more than a garden variety quartz powering their $1000++ watches.

Cost cutting may have been critical during the 80s for the Swiss, but sticking to 2 main products to cover every price point for decades on end makes little sense to me. Perhaps Swiss Made has more charm than I give credit for.

Inhouse movements may not necessarily be better but definitely gives more bragging rights to the owner.

Re: Difficult to market high-end.

True, but Omega and IWC have been able to sell modified 2892's for very decent prices. I agree that it gives both companies less credibility than say, Rolex.

Re: Stuck with existing technology.

There's not much going on in the mechanical world. Designs have remained basically unchanged for the last 200 years. What has improved is material science and manufacturing techniques. Co-axial and lube free operation is the way to go but the way forward is painfully slow. There's little competition today for the fine watch market for the Swiss. Perhaps we'll see more interesting development when the Chinese join the game.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Some comments.

Re: Entry level movements and standards.

For the 2824, I'm not sure it's entry level anymore. A new ETA mechanical equipped watch costs at least $4-500 MSRP today. $500 can buy a really good Swiss quartz watch with very nice specs and movements. I really doubt it costs that much more to mass produce a mechanical movement vs. a quality quartz module, given the MSRP of a Seiko 7S26 or a Miyota.

There is that monkey business with all those different grades that's not upfront information on model specs. Sometimes I think the Swiss are milking the cow too enthusiastically because people tend to associate chronometer performance with the 2824 and the 289x. Then again, how does a couple of standard parts and some time under a watchmaker's loupe justify a >$300 price difference between a COSC chronometer and a non-certified movement?

Any sunk cost such as R&D, tooling, land etc are long since paid out. ETA movements don't have a product life-cycle it seems whereas Seiko retires a calibre every decade or so. Yet prices of mechanical watches rise every year, outstripping the rate of inflation and wage gains, as do the cost of servicing the watch.

Re: Repairs.

Say I buy a "cheap" 2824 powered watch for $500. I wear it for 5 years, by which time the accuracy becomes unacceptable. I send it in for service, $100 w/o parts, more to change the seals etc. Parts may be widely available but spending 20% the cost price of the watch every 5 years doesn't sound attractive at all.

I believe parts availability shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath with entry level Swiss ETA watches because not many owners will take up that option.

Re: Exclusivity.

It's natural for someone to look for a watch that sets it apart from the competition. Again ETA's various grades for movements comes back to haunt them in the high-end of the market. It horrifies a non-Wis to realize that a $100 Gruen has the same 2824 as his $3500 chronometer rated diver, other than decorative finishing, plating and upgraded hairsprings, balance etc. Maybe that's why I know quite a few disgruntled Tag owners who realized there's nothing more than a garden variety quartz powering their $1000++ watches.

Cost cutting may have been critical during the 80s for the Swiss, but sticking to 2 main products to cover every price point for decades on end makes little sense to me. Perhaps Swiss Made has more charm than I give credit for.

Inhouse movements may not necessarily be better but definitely gives more bragging rights to the owner.

Re: Difficult to market high-end.

True, but Omega and IWC have been able to sell modified 2892's for very decent prices. I agree that it gives both companies less credibility than say, Rolex.

Re: Stuck with existing technology.

There's not much going on in the mechanical world. Designs have remained basically unchanged for the last 200 years. What has improved is material science and manufacturing techniques. Co-axial and lube free operation is the way to go but the way forward is painfully slow. There's little competition today for the fine watch market for the Swiss. Perhaps we'll see more interesting development when the Chinese join the game.
Hi Vandice,

You certainly make some interesting points. Always enjoyed your postings. The ETA 2824 for an example can be bought (signed or unsigned) for a couple of hundred bucks. I would say it is still an entry level Swiss movement. In the context one looking to ownership of a Swiss auto/mech watch, it does present value although some brands retail a lot more on their more fashionable or iconic designs.

I do agree that that ETA's disparity of grades are exploited by some but not all. A couple of German watchmakers offer very reasonable prices for COSC movement upgrade - about $150 the last I enquired.

If not for ETA, modified or not, the bliss of owning a Swiss Made watch may pass many. Yes, the Swiss made charm is still potent. :tongue_smilie:
 

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3) No new development to produce new movements for ETA. Stuck with existing technologies.
ETA has in fact developed some nice new movements in the past few years. The Valgranges movements specifically for larger watches and the 2824-based Big Date movement come to mind.
 

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At the moment, I'd rather have an ETA movement than most other offerings.
Time tested, which is a good thing. In fact, my favorite movement is the 2892-base, ultra slim, reliable.

I think the ETA modification thing - to produce a brand-name calibre by a few tweaks - is simply a marketing slight of hand.

Good posts, bull and van!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
ETA has in fact developed some nice new movements in the past few years. The Valgranges movements specifically for larger watches and the 2824-based Big Date movement come to mind.
Hi Jeremy,

The 2824 big date is a nice variance. I did not know that the Valgranges is new ETA development. Thought it was another Swatch buy over like Valjoux, Pesaux and Unitas. Always learn something from you. :D In any case my point is that I am fine with the proven 2824. No big deal if my Ball watch comes with it so long as it is factory regulated if possible to original RR standard created by Webb C Ball. :tongue_smilie:

Cheers!
 

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ETA has in fact developed some nice new movements in the past few years. The Valgranges movements specifically for larger watches and the 2824-based Big Date movement come to mind.
The 2826 does not qualify as a new movement. It's basically a modified date wheel (dual layer). It has the same relationship to the 2824 as the 2836.

As for the Valgranges, it harks back to the days of pocket watch movements. New but not so much a challenge to increase the size of things, is there?
 

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Agreed, Vandice. I suppose I am looking at it more from the design perspective. The adjusted dimensions & features will surely allow for new, more pleasing designs in the future.
 

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It was interesting to see the Valgranges...one of the thoughts I has as watches get larger and larger is are these 25mm movements the right match for a 46mm+ case.

I am curious to see if we start seeing some interesting complications on this movement base. I do believe that the Longines new series of triple and quad retrograde movements are based on the Valgranges.
 

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Well the valgranes seem to be a just another Bigger and better dressed self-winding ETA movement.:sneaky2: But with bigger surface area, whose know what will be added to the watch dial next time.(P/calander with moon face,Triple chrono module,Tourbillon, opening wheel balance power reserve display and TMT all in one watch.) Super cool. :001_wub::thumbup1:
 

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P/calander with moon face,Triple chrono module,Tourbillon, opening wheel balance power reserve display and TMT all in one watch.) Super cool. :001_wub::thumbup1:
Hahahahahahaha. I will love to see such a super watch in production. :scared:
 

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Well the valgranes seem to be a just another Bigger and better dressed self-winding ETA movement.:sneaky2: But with bigger surface area, whose know what will be added to the watch dial next time.(P/calander with moon face,Triple chrono module,Tourbillon, opening wheel balance power reserve display and TMT all in one watch.) Super cool. :001_wub::thumbup1:

I am sold IH. I have to admit, I have been thinking about this alot, and you are right, why not make a very special, single or low double digit run of something very special. I think you are right, it would promote the brand, grab press everywhere, and provide an opportunity to display all of the fascinating Ball products.:thumbup1:

Now I can't afford one, but I could dream
 

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Those of my mechanical watches that provide reliable and accurate performance turns out all to be ETA powered. I personally prefer an inhouse manufacture movement but have to say that reliability, predictability and accuracy are my first and foremost requirement of a watch. I used to discriminate against ETa movements but don't anymore. Also, you don't see the movement all the time, but you see the style, the case, the strap, ie the externals. Ball makes good timepieces, but I'd be thrilled if they can spend more time on aesthetics, on the strap, on the case (look at the Anonimo San Marco...it's got a legend behind it. Can't Ball do something similar?), on sponsoring events, on cobranding (how about a crossover?), and add these to the already great movements they are using, then they'll sell more. Look at how Montblanc teams up with Minerva, can Ball pull something like this and move 'up there'? I don't think raising the price (which is what they are doing now) and getting more 'upper class' distributors will cut it. Ball needs to spend more time thinking about marketing. Don't just be engineers. Be sales oriented. About the discussion on complications, Ball needs to research into the market potential of complications, and balance it against R & D investments. Personally, I don't like complications....too complicated to repair and chance of breakdown is higher; also more friction between the parts. I prefer easy to read dials...read at a glance stuff. I think tourbillons on a Ball will be a nice to know, and perhaps justified to buy one (depending on how much); I would not buy a tourbillon for its accuracy, as friends who have tourbillons say that they are not more accurate. Anyway, all my watches are tourbillons in a way....my wrist is a natural tourbillon. The idea of an alarm is more practical...I will definitely get a Ball with an alarm. Somehow, the light tube feature is wearing out for me and I'm looking for something different.

Oliver
 

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The 2826 does not qualify as a new movement. It's basically a modified date wheel (dual layer). It has the same relationship to the 2824 as the 2836.

As for the Valgranges, it harks back to the days of pocket watch movements. New but not so much a challenge to increase the size of things, is there?
The real art of watchmaking is in smaller and thinner
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Those of my mechanical watches that provide reliable and accurate performance turns out all to be ETA powered. I personally prefer an inhouse manufacture movement but have to say that reliability, predictability and accuracy are my first and foremost requirement of a watch. I used to discriminate against ETa movements but don't anymore. Also, you don't see the movement all the time, but you see the style, the case, the strap, ie the externals. Ball makes good timepieces, but I'd be thrilled if they can spend more time on aesthetics, on the strap, on the case (look at the Anonimo San Marco...it's got a legend behind it. Can't Ball do something similar?), on sponsoring events, on cobranding (how about a crossover?), and add these to the already great movements they are using, then they'll sell more. Look at how Montblanc teams up with Minerva, can Ball pull something like this and move 'up there'? I don't think raising the price (which is what they are doing now) and getting more 'upper class' distributors will cut it. Ball needs to spend more time thinking about marketing. Don't just be engineers. Be sales oriented. About the discussion on complications, Ball needs to research into the market potential of complications, and balance it against R & D investments. Personally, I don't like complications....too complicated to repair and chance of breakdown is higher; also more friction between the parts. I prefer easy to read dials...read at a glance stuff. I think tourbillons on a Ball will be a nice to know, and perhaps justified to buy one (depending on how much); I would not buy a tourbillon for its accuracy, as friends who have tourbillons say that they are not more accurate. Anyway, all my watches are tourbillons in a way....my wrist is a natural tourbillon. The idea of an alarm is more practical...I will definitely get a Ball with an alarm. Somehow, the light tube feature is wearing out for me and I'm looking for something different.

Oliver
Oliver, well said, I am with you. :thumbup1:
 
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