Watch movements nowadays are either made in-house or sourced from manufacturers. Though in-house watch movements are becoming more popular among bigger brands, more affordable watch brands still use mass-produced movements. With the vast amount of movements by different manufacturers like ETA, Miyota and Ronda. Watches without a proprietary movement are generally renamed to a different code chosen by the brand where the base ETA/Sellita/Soprod, etc. movement is modified by the company that purchased it though the customisation comes about in the embossing of brand onto the rotor. In this next part, you can learn more about what the different movements mean and their value to help you determine if your watch is worth its price.
Known by many as the Swatch subsidiary, ETA - Switzerland’s largest movement maker with countless small and major brands relying on them, has been making excellent movements since 1859.
Some popular movements by ETA are:
A three-hand automatic movement with a date display with an approximately 38 hours power reserve. [Learn more about this movement here]
Despite its more expensive price range, ETA 2892 has large central rotor bearings and is flatter than the 2824-2. With 21 jewels as its ball bearings, it helps to reduce friction during its motion while adding aesthetic value to the watch. [Learn more about this movement here]
Valjoux 7750 / ETA 7750
The most popular mechanical chronograph classic movement. [Learn more about this movement here]
First two digits of the model number categorise the movement family while the next two digits indicate any additional complications. For example, 2836-2 offers day and date function while the 2801-2 has no date display.
ETA Movements are typically available in different grades of refinement: standard, elaborated, top, and chronometer, where higher grades ensure extravagant finishes. Sometimes, it even comes with enhanced precision or chronometer certificate.
Standard (adjusted in two positions and the highest variation of +/- 30 seconds per day)
Elaborated (adjusted in three positions, average rate of +/- 5 seconds per day)*
Top (adjusted in five positions, average rate of +/- 4 seconds per day)*
Chronometer (must meet strict COSC standards with a maximum variation of +/- 5 seconds per day).
Keep a lookout for these grades whenever you are looking at ETA movements.
*Both the Elaborated and Top grades can vary by as much as +/- 15 seconds per day.
Established in the 1950s, Sellita only became an independent and self-marketing Swiss movement manufacturer until 2003 - the suspension of ETA’s deliveries to third parties. However, Sellita is used to produce movements from ETA prototypes and since the associated patents expired, their bestselling Sellita SW 200 is the improved version of ETA 2824-2, the SW 300 was made from ETA 2892 and the SW 500 is an exact replica of Valjoux 7750.
Though Sellita’s movements are not the original ETA ones, its functionality and reliability are on par. However, movements are not constantly supplied and this leads to some watch manufacturers only offering either ETA or Sellita. With increased innovation and development, Sellita’s movements are becoming closer and closer towards ETA’s movements where they are 99% as good, according to Professional Watches.
One of the few fully integrated watch manufactures, Seiko is known as Japan’s maker of watches, clocks and time. Boasting accurate timekeeping, Seiko’s movements are found beyond just their watches. Commonly found amongst affordable mid-range automatic watches from countless international brands, Seiko’s movements are widely used.
One of Seiko’s subsidiaries is Time Module (TMI). Unknown to many, TMI distributes Seiko movements to third parties under designations that make identification of Seiko movements in watches more challenging. TMI’s bestseller is probably the NH35 or the 4R35 in Seiko models.
Three-hand automatic movement with a date, stop-seconds, and the potential for manual winding, NH35 is cost-effective and all-encompassing. Its extremely low costs even puts it on watches selling at double-digits.
Seiko 72S6 Automatic
One of the least expensive automatic movements from Seiko is this 72S6 Automatic. On the Seiko 5 Military SNK809, the clear caseback allows you to peer into your timepiece and get a close look at the mechanics and jewels.
The most common and widely used movement would be accurate to say is provided by Citizen Miyota. Associated with quartz movements and its Eco-Drive series, it would come as a surprise that Citizen mass-produces mechanical movements.
Some common Citizen Miyota movements:
Caliber 8200 series
Three-hand automatic Miyota 821A or 8215 are options that have stuck around for microbrands and lower-range watches throughout the decades.
Without the stop-seconds mechanism, Citizen Miyota movements face strong competition with Seiko’s signature NH35 movements.
Miyota 9015 (2009)
Stop-seconds Mechanism. Classier appearance. Power for additional complications.
Miyota 9015 surpassed its predecessor, meeting higher industry standards.
Known for their beautiful watch movements, Miyota prides on their balancing wheel being the apple of your eye. The exquisite balance wheel that moves steadily, the finest metal mechanical parts and its premium intricate design reflects the high quality blueprint behind this outstanding movement.
For the longest time, China-made movements have not been the most desirable movements due to the very fact that they are often replicase of Swiss movements. However, with recent and rapid improvements in their manufacturing capabilities and increased quality assurances, China watch movements from TianJin Seagull are beginning to break through the watch industry. Tianjin Seagull, world’s largest mechanical movement manufacturing company contributing to a quarter of global production (2018), sells quality watch movements at an affordable price range.
Some of the popular movements by Seagull:
Both Seagull’s own models, as well as those of young brands like Baltic Watch, have had success in the West with this retro movement.
This hand-wound movement is very similar to Unitas/ETA 6497, making it a relatively good and more affordable substitute. [Learn more about the movement here]
Following ETA’s footsteps, STP - a Fossil subsidiary, has developed its business model beyond quartz movement for fashion watches to mechanical movements for third parties.
Some common STP movements:
The STP1-11 automatic mechanical movement could easily fit anywhere the ETA 2824-2 or the Sellita SW200 would - making it a strong competitor and substitute for them.
Many Zodiac watches carry STP movements and they are priced around a comfortable range of $1000 for the excellent quality and performance they offer.
Zodiac Jetomatic Watch Image Credit: ABlogToWatch
If you have ever seen an “open heart” view of the balance wheel, you would understand the beauty of looking at the watch movement from the watch face. [Learn more about the movement here]
At only 15 years in the making, STP does not offer the prestige and value of the historical watch movement makers. What STP does is it produces high quality movements made with little human interference to ensure absolute measurements and precision in its making.
Found within watches from well-known brands - ranging from elegant, sporty timepieces, to stylish fashion accessories to luxurious models, Ronda is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of mechanical and precision electronic quartz watch movements of innovative design.
Known for the precision in their Swiss Quartz Watches, Ronda combines manual craftsmanship and process automation to deliver exceptional quality and innovative products. Ronda’s efficient ISO 9001 quality control system ensures that every movement meets the most rigorous standards in design and quality terms.
Some of the popular movements by Ronda:
Ronda Mecano R150
With its innovative and fresh design, the 11.5 inch R150 made its debut at Baselworld 2016. Mostly used by Luxury watch brands, the R150 is not one for the wild. [Learn more about the movement here]
Used in our flagship Tidal Moonphase, the Ronda 708 - an analog quartz watch movement with moonphase and date features, is the ideal movement for it. With a high average battery life span of 5 years and a -10/+20 accuracy per month, Ronda 708 serves as a reliable movement for an everyday timepiece.