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Which Movement is Best? ETA vs Sellita

ETA vs Sellita Movement

No discussion of watches can go on without discussing the movement inside, the part that actually makes it a timepiece. Some are cheap, mass-produced numbers; others are haute horology masterpieces, all with their own brand names and calibre numbers. But invariably two names loom over the rest like the Swiss mountains they call home: ETA and Sellita. 

But while the two are often cursorily compared by collectors, it’s worth drilling a little deeper into the two movement-makers. So, let’s dive deep, and fingers crossed, you’ll surface with a bit more understanding about what actually makes the two best-known movement makers in the world what they are.

ETA

ETA Manufacture

ETA’s production facilities in Grenchen, Switzerland.

What is today, ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse was founded in Fontainemelon, Neuchâtel in 1793 by four master watchmakers. Prior to becoming a single enterprise in 1985, the ETA SA brand consisted of a number of movement factories across the Swiss Jura arc under the name Ebauches SA. This multiplicity allowed Ebauches SA to offer a wide range of products, as each company specialised in a particular type of movement, including, simple watches, chronographs and small watches for women.

Today, the company’s headquarters are in Grenchen, Solothurn where they develop and produce quartz, mechanical and Swatch watch movements. It was over 20 years ago that ETA, Swatch Group’s movement maker, announced that it would be reducing deliveries of ébauches (a basic movement with parts, such as the movement plates and bridges, and mainspring barrel), ceasing completely a few years later, and supply only finished movements.

Longines Caliber L899.2 (Base ETA A31.L91)

Longines’ calibre L899.2 (based on the ETA A31.L91)

This well documented and reported upon, dispute dragged on for many years with the Swatch Group arguing that it was anti-competitive to supply movements to its direct competitors, such as Tissot, Hamilton, and Omega, to name a few. During this time, the Swiss Competition Commission (COMCO) became involved and in 2013, the two parties agreed that Swatch Group could decrease the number of ETA movements it supplied to third parties up until 2019. After that time, Swatch Group would be able to sell its movements to anyone they chose.

This decision has left some with a ‘bitter taste in the mouth’ and has generally been seen as an extremely negative step by one of the ‘big three’ watch groups in flexing their muscles. They even annoyed the Swiss government, which didn’t seem possible outside of the banking sector. However, this protracted battle left something of a vacuum for others to fill. Having faced the risk of going under from their former business partner, the main beneficiary of this situation looks to have been the Swiss movement maker Sellita.

Ming 17.06 Copper

The Ming 17.06 Copper is equipped with a ETA calibre 2824-2. The movement is slightly modified to remove the ghost date position.

The most popular movements, include the ETA 2824 which includes hours, minutes, seconds, date with a 42-hour power reserve and often referred to as the ‘robust all-rounder’ and one of the most well-known and widely used automatic mechanical movements in the watch industry.

The ETA 2892 is a premium self-winding automatic movement, and has a flatter structure than the 2824, used for brands in the upper pricing segment. The Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement was first introduced in the 1970s and used by premium manufacturers. It’s extremely robust and offers excellent value for money. The ETA 2671 is an automatic three-hand, with 38-hour power reserve and used for women’s watches.

More details at ETA.

Pros

  • Quality: ETA movements are well known for their high quality. They undergo rigorous testing and quality control measures to ensure accuracy and durability.
  • Reliability: ETA movements are renowned for their reliability. They’re designed to withstand the rigours of daily wear and provide accurate timekeeping over long periods.
  • Versatility: ETA produces a wide range of movements, including both mechanical and quartz varieties, with a range of various complications and functions.
  • Established Reputation: With a long history of watchmaking expertise, ETA have built a solid reputation in the industry. Consumers and brands trust ETA movements due to their proven track record.

Cons

  • Dependence: Some watchmakers may rely too heavily on ETA movements, leading to a lack of innovation or differentiation in their products. Overdependence on ETA can limit creativity and brand identity.
  • Limited Customisation: While ETA offers a variety of movements, the customisation options may be a little limited when compared to in-house movements.
  • Availability Issues: In the past, ETA have limited the supply of movements to external customers, which has caused difficulties for some watchmakers in sourcing movements for their watches. This dependency on ETA’s production capacity can be a drawback for certain brands.
  • Perception of Mass Production: As ETA movements are widely used across various watch brands, some enthusiasts perceive them as mass-produced components rather than exclusive or unique features of a watch.

Sellita

Sellita Manufacture

Sellita’s production facilities in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Sellita are the worst-case scenario for ETA. Where the latter have withdrawn their services from many brands, Sellita have surged ahead to claim that territory for themselves, often with less expensive ‘ETA Clones’, calibres based on the same architecture.

Sellita offers movements like the SW200-1, which is less expensive than its ETA counterpart, the ETA 2824-2, yet provides comparable precision and reliability, making it a cost-effective alternative for watch manufacturers.

Based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland since 1950, founded by Pierre Grandjean, they have become the ‘go to’ movement supplier for a myriad of brands and independent makers. Today the company’s owner and CEO is Miguel García, who began his career as a production employee in 1987, before becoming a director in 1995.

Christopher Ward Oracle Time C65 Dune Shoreline Caseback

The Oracle Time x Christopher Ward C65 Dune Shoreline uses a Sellita SW 200-1 COSC-certified movement.

They have established themselves as a major player in the Swiss made movement industry, producing more than 1.5 million movements a year. This is primarily down to Miguel’s drive, guidance, and management, with Sellita becoming a prominent supplier for the industry, if not one of the most essential companies in the watchmaking business. It’s hard to overstate that many watch brands simply couldn’t exist without them. Sellita have now become the leading alternative to ETA movements. They have developed their own calibres – often mirroring ETA calibres – currently numbering 11 movements in total.

The most popular movements include the Sellita SW200 – one of their most popular automatic movements – for all types of watches, from sports to classic. Then there is the SW300, a high-end automatic with 56-hour power reserve with complications, such as, day/night, second time zone, moon phase, pointed date and can be skeletonised. The SW500 is an automatic chronograph with day-date, stop-second, and 62-hour power reserve, and SW100 is an automatic with three-hands, date, with a 42-hour power reserve and generally used for women’s watches.

More details at Sellita.

Pros

  • Quality: High-quality construction and craftsmanship. They undergo stringent quality control measures to ensure accuracy and reliability.
  • Compatibility: Often designed to be compatible with ETA movements, making them a popular choice for watchmakers who may be looking for alternatives to ETA due to supply chain issues or other reasons.
  • Availability: Sellita movements are readily available, providing watchmakers with a reliable source for their movement needs.
  • Versatility: Sellita produces a range of movements with various complications and functions, offering flexibility in their designs.
  • Competitive Pricing: Sellita movements offer competitive pricing compared to ETA movements, making them an attractive option for brands looking to manage costs without compromising on quality.

Cons

  • Perception: Some watch enthusiasts may perceive Sellita movements as alternatives to ETA rather than unique offerings, which could potentially affect their perceived value.
  • Limited Customisation: Sellita movements may have limited customisation options compared to in-house movements. Brands seeking highly customised movements may find Sellita’s offerings somewhat restrictive.
  • Brand Recognition: Sellita may not have the same level of brand recognition and reputation as ETA, which could influence consumer perceptions, particularly among those who are more brand-conscious.
  • Innovation: While Sellita produces reliable and well-made movements, some critics argue that they may lack the same level of innovation as some other manufacturers.

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.