Manufacture Made Movements: Are They Always Better?

So often you hear supposed watch collectors ask, “does that brand make their own movements?” The general idea being that any company that makes a entire movement (or 90% plus) in-house is defined as a true manufacturer and therefore a more collectable brand. I used to think this way but I’m starting to modify my position on this. Here’s why…..

Most brands do not make their entire movements in-house….. even some of the finest brands. Patek, Vacheron, Ulysse Nardin, Girard Perregaux, IWC make in-house movements but also used base calibers from companies such as ETA, Frederic Piguet and Valjioux. These base calibers are in most cases highly modified and almost unrecognizable once finished. Is this good or bad? After buying a number of watches with new manufacture movements, I’ve come to the realization that for the first couple of years, many of these movements can have problems and be rather unpredictable.

In the last 5 years you seen and heard more brands talking about bringing their movement manufacturing in-house. Overall, this is a positive trend for watchmaking. However, many of these companies have financial realities that shorten product development cycles, R&D and allow less time for quality control. It takes time to work out the kinks on something as technical as a mechanical watch movement. Even the finest cars have recalls on things the automobile manufacture realizes needs to be remedied, problem is, when you send a watch in for repair, it can take weeks or month to get fixed.

In short, a collector looking for that next watch with a complete in-house movement may be right, it may be more collectable, but not always. And if it is a new or recent in-house movement then proceed with caution or go with a brand known for their quality control and reliability.

However, as a collector who has been down road of focussing on buying only watches with in-house manufacturer movements, my humble advice is don’t be to quick to dismiss a timepiece with the tried and true base calibers they can be the ones that are the most reliable.