August 23, 2023 8 min read
Well, think of it as the powerhouse of a timepiece, the core at its very heart. Typically, it can be either a quartz movement (powered by a battery) or a mechanical movement (either self-winding or manual-winding). The world of watch movements is vast and varied, ranging from well-known, widely-produced ETA and Sellita movements to those meticulously crafted in-house by watch brands themselves. In this article, we'll delve into some of the most popular watch movements and shed light on the unique advantages each brings to the horological table.
ETA, a stalwart in Swiss watch movement manufacturing, traces its origins back to 1856 when it was initially established as Eterna in Grenchen, Switzerland by Urs Schild and Joseph Girard. This movement factory thrived initially but faced hardships due to the aftermath of World War I. To survive, it forged partnerships with Fabrique d’horlogerie de Fontainemelon (FHF) and Adolphe Michel SA (AMSA), eventually becoming Ébauches SA.
Operating under this new identity, the company grew into one of Switzerland’s premier producers of watch movements and semi-assembled movements, known as ébauches. These semi-assembled movements allowed watch brands to customise them according to their aesthetics, like adding an oscillating rotor engraved with their logo. Following the Great Depression in 1929, Ébauches SA and other Swiss watch movement manufacturers restructured, giving birth to ASUAG (Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG), partly backed by the Swiss government to safeguard Switzerland's leadership in movement production. Before Eterna joined ASUAG, it split into two entities: Eterna, the watchmaker, and ETA SA, the movement-making division.
Phalanx Gen-01 (ETA2824-2 Movement) - Credit Geckota
From this point onward, ETA SA emerged as one of the pioneers in crafting automatic watch movements. This pivotal step elevated them to one of Switzerland's most esteemed movement manufacturers. In 1948, ETA even established its own watchmaking school to train horologists interested in movement production. They also introduced the ball-bearing mechanism into their automatic winding movements. Today, ETA is a part of the Swatch Group, one of the globe's largest watch conglomerates. Their widespread usage has greatly popularised Swiss-made watches and enabled smaller micro-brands to access high-quality movements without the need to develop their in-house counterparts.
As of 2020, ETA Movements are no longer available for third-party watch manufacturers to buy in. Switzerland’s Competition Commission (COMCO) ordered Swatch Group to stop all sales of watch movements due to allegations of Swatch creating a monopoly where there was an unacceptable dependency on their products. Nevertheless, you will find their movements in many watches pre-owned and even new (as yet unsold).
Considered by many as the quintessential Swiss mechanical watch movement, the ETA 2824-2 finds its way into timepieces by watch brands around the world. Part of ETA's Mecaline series, it offers four movement grades (Standard, Elaboré, Top, and Chronometer). Descended from the 1950s' Eterna Cal. 1247, this tried-and-true movement is revered for its quality and reliability. It's often regarded as one of the best ETA movements, prized for its dependability and affordability.
Pioneer Movement (Seiko NH35) - Credit Geckota
Another prominent ETA movement is the Valjoux 7750. It ranks as one of the most widely used automatic-winding chronograph movements in the industry, stemming from the manual-winding Valjoux caliber 7733. Part of ETA's "Mecaline" line introduced in the 1970s, it boasts the distinction of being the first watch movement partially designed with the aid of a computer. Watch brands such as IWC, TAG Heuer, Breitling, and Sinn have all embraced this movement.
Moving across the globe to Japan, we encounter Miyota, a manufacturer renowned for producing dependable and budget-friendly Japanese movements. Miyota's history dates back to 1959 when Citizen Watch Co established a subsidiary exclusively dedicated to movement production. However, it wasn't until the early 1980s that the company started supplying movements to external firms, launching notable calibres like the quartz Calibre 2035, Calibre 2215, and the 8000 and 900 series. Many well-known watch brands, including Laco, Marloe, Geckota, and SevenFriday, rely on Miyota's affordable movements.
Introduced in 2009, the Miyota 9015 is one of the Japanese manufacturer's premium movements. An enhanced iteration of their basic yet reliable 8215 calibre, it boasts an ultra-slim profile at just 3.9mm and offers a 42-hour power reserve. Smaller watch brands often favour this movement due to its accessibility and desirable hacking function.
Miyota 9015 Movement - Credit Geckota
2023 is the year of the GMT and this movement which was developed in 2022 is largely responsible for the popularity of GMT movements and affordable watches. The 9075 is a cost effective automatic “true” GMT movement with 24 jewels and 28,800 vph. As part of the 9100 family (9 series) it is considered a “Premium Automatic” movement.
Ocean Scout Movement - Miyota 9039 - Credit Geckota
Ronda's story begins with William Mosset, who, after training as a precision mechanic during his teenage years and overseeing the production of movement components for Oris, founded Ronda SA in Liestal, Switzerland, near Basel. The name "Ronda" draws inspiration from the French word "arrondir," referring to the rounding off of the pivot in a watch movement. Initially, Ronda SA manufactured movement components such as stems, pivots, and balance staffs before venturing into producing its first ebauche in 1952. Ronda SA is primarily known for crafting Swiss quartz movements, a specialization that helped it navigate the quartz crisis of the 1980s. However, in recent times, Ronda has returned to mechanical movement production with calibers like the R150 'Mecano' calibre.
Ronda Movement - Credit Geckota
The Ronda 515 represents one of the company's most sought-after analog quartz movements. It finds wide usage in affordable Swiss-made quartz watches from brands like Luminox, Victorinox, and Invictus, thanks to its cost-effectiveness and dependable components. Although the 515 is the workhorse, Ronda also makes the 715Li which takes a lithium battery for a much longer operational life.
Sellita SW216-1-Elaboré Grade - Credit Geckota
Sellita, Switzerland's second-largest movement maker after ETA SA, embarked on its journey in 1950 as an assembler of watch movements. During the 1980s, the company experienced substantial success through collaboration with ETA. ETA outsourced the production of their 2824 movement to Sellita for several years, with Sellita believed to have produced even more ETA movements than ETA itself during this partnership. However, in 1990, ETA began assembling its movements entirely in-house, thereby becoming a direct competitor to its longstanding partner.
In 2002, ETA issued warnings to rival movement makers like Sellita, hinting at restrictions on certain components' availability. This posed a significant threat to Sellita's future, leading its original founder, Pierre Grandjean, to sell the business. Fortunately, Miguel Garcia acquired Sellita and repositioned the company as a premier Swiss movement manufacturer. This transition coincided nicely with the expiration of copyrights on some of ETA's movement designs, enabling Sellita to create its version of the ETA 2824, known today as the popular Sellita SW200 movement.
ETA’s 2020 decision to cease supplying third-party movements played into Sellita’s hands, and now they are prolific in many mid-higher-end watches.
In the wake of ETA ceasing outsourcing in 2003, Sellita responded by introducing its version of the ETA 2824 movement in 2004, branded as the Sellita SW200. This reliable and budget-friendly Swiss movement closely resembles its predecessor, with the design's intellectual property already in the public domain. It shares the same 28,800vph frequency and offers a 38-hour power reserve.
Another notable "ETA clone" from Sellita is the Sellita SW500, which replicates the Valjoux 7750 movement with chronograph complications. Distinguished by its integrated chronograph mechanism, it encompasses small seconds, a 30-minute counter, a 12-hour counter, date, and day displays. Additionally, it provides a power reserve of 56 hours.
W-02 Movement as seen HERE - Credit Geckota
The Soprod Odyssey
Our final chapter on movement makers takes us to Soprod SA, founded in 1966 in Tramelan, Switzerland's Jura region. Soprod was born out of a collective effort by brands including Arly SA, Béguelin & Cie SA/Damas Watches, Willy Chofat & Cie SA/Rila, Dulux SA, Hoga Watch SA, A. Reymond SA, and Spera SA. Soprod's mission was to produce mechanical watch components for these companies on an industrial scale. Over the years, Soprod SA crafted blank movements and assembled movements for various watch brands and other movement manufacturers, including ETA.
In 2005, Léman Capital acquired the company and merged it with quartz specialist SFT Group. At this juncture, SFT Group had licensed Seiko's 4L movement design and announced its intent to create a Swiss-made version, the Alternance 10, designed to compete directly with the ETA 2892. Subsequently, Soprod was purchased by Festina in 2008, and since then, they have introduced several movements that rival ETA's offerings.
In recent years, one of Soprod's frequently encountered movements is the automatic Alternance 10 (A10 or A-10) base movement. While Soprod asserts that it matches the ETA 2892, it is not a direct clone but rather takes inspiration from Seiko's 4L calibre. Introduced in 2004, the Soprod A-10 remains one of the brand's most widely utilised movements, featuring in watches by Sinn, STOWA, and the Orange Watch Company.
So, from Switzerland to Japan and beyond, this brief overview introduces you to some of the well-known, affordable watch movements. Remember that this isn't an exhaustive guide, as there are countless others worth mentioning. We hope this information sheds light on watch movements and some of the most sought-after calibres available today. If you believe a brand or movement is deserving of greater recognition that we haven't covered, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
About the Author: Charlotte Harris
About the Author: Charlotte Harris
Writing and watches are two of my biggest passions in life so being able to unite them on a daily basis is a wonderful thing. I hope through my writing that I can bring a fresh, feminine perspective on the watch space and encourage more men and women to get excited about all that’s happening.More Articles by Charlotte Harris