The Art Of The Movement

I read an incredibly interesting article in the NY Times this week on the Swatch Group. The watch manufacturing company is unable to meet the current demand for its products. To combat that problem, Swatch is looking to add 2,000 employees and expand their factories.

The statistics mentioned in the article are astounding. Exports of mechanical timepieces increased 32 percent in terms of units from 2009 to 2010. Meanwhile, Swatch group’s net profit in 2010 was a record 1.08 billion Swiss Francs.

The most interesting part of the article for me was reading how Nick Hayek, the Swatch Group CEO, wants to change what it means for a watch to be “made in Switzerland.” Swatch has supplied the base movements for watches manufactured by brands outside of their group for years and controls 70 to 80 percent of the industry’s current overall watch movement production.

As Hayek says, “We are in a ridiculous situation that would be like having BMW supply all the engines for Audi and Mercedes. In no other industry do you have one company supply all the critical parts to the people who then compete directly with it.”

Patek Philippe, Rolex, Zenith, Girard-Perregaux, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Glashutte are all true manufacturers that make all of their watch movements in house. While numerous other brands produce some of the movements for their watches entirely in house, most of them outsource movement parts from Swatch and other manufacturers.

The threat of Swatch no longer supplying movements to various watch brands is what has led brands like Breitling into investing millions upon millions of dollars towards producing in-house movements. If Swatch decides to completely stop supplying other manufacturers with movements, it would certainly stir things up in the watch industry. Each brand would have a much stronger individual identity.

Some watch collectors and enthusiasts are very particular about the movements used in their watches. Others care more about aesthetics and case materials. What matters the most? I think the answer varies depending on whom you talk to. We all have our different values. Regardless, I think it is crazy to undervalue the art of watch movement production. Nick Hayek clearly agrees.

New York Times Article


Zenith is Back.

I know many Breitling enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the company’s first in-house movement to be put in an exhibition caseback, and I can tell you that it’s coming and it won’t be long…  A brand that already has their extremely reputable in-house chronograph movement visible through an exhibition caseback is Zenith, a brand that has really reemerged onto the scene in the watch industry.

Zenith is one of the few true manufacturers in the Swiss-watch world today, meaning they make all of their movements themselves.  A couple other true manufacturers are Rolex, Patek Philippe, Glashutte, Girard-Perregaux and Jaeger-LeCoultre.  Zenith’s famous El Primero movement is arguably the best chronograph movement in the world; in fact, Rolex used it in the Daytona until they went completely in-house in 2002.

The El Primero movement beats 36,000 times an hour, while the average chronograph watch operates at 28,800 vibrations per hour.  Frequency is what creates accuracy, so the El Primero movement is therefore supposed to hold time better.

Zenith’s legendary El Primero calibre was the world’s first automatic chronograph to beat at a rate of 10 vibrations per second.

Anyway, for a couple of years, Zenith was coming out with watches in their Defy series that were outrageously overpriced.  I mean we are talking $27,000 titanium chronograph watches on rubber straps…  You should only make your price tag that high if you want to end up like Wyler

Understanding that those watches are not what people are looking for in today’s market, they decided to change it up and get back to their roots.  The new El Primero 36,000 stainless steel chronograph now retails for $7,900.  Not only is it an extremely sharp looking watch, it showcases the movement that defines who they are in an exhibition caseback.  Now that’s what I’m talking about….

If you have yet to see the new El Primero Striking 10th Chronograph, you absolutely have to.  This timepiece is limited to 1969 pieces worldwide and has a large red central 1/10th of a second counter hand that makes a full revolution every 10 seconds, once the chronograph is activated.  Talk about sick and innovative.  I love it.  Congratulations Zenith, you are back on the map.