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ETA SA
Type Member of the Swatch Group
Founded 1856 (1793, 1896)
Headquarters Grenchen, Switzerland
Industry Movement manufacturing
Products Blank watch movements
Website http://www.eta.ch

ETA SA (full business name ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse) is a Swiss producer of mechanical and quartz watch movements. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Swatch Group.

Contents

Overview

ETA SA is a Swiss producer of mechanical and quartz watch movements. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Swatch Group. The company specializes in the production of ébauche movements which are used in a number of mechanical watches. ETA has owned several important Swiss watch movement companies including Valjoux, Peseux (see:[2] ) (and [3] (translation) and Lemania, for a number of years . In fact the company is the result of successive consolidation of the Swiss watch industry. ETA manufactures quartz movements, hand wound movements and mechanical movements powered by self-winding mechanisms. Because ETA maintains vertical control over the manufacturing of all of the components required to create a watch movement (save for the hairsprings which are made by its sister company Nivarox) ETA may be considered a true manufacturer.

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A Brief History

ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse is one of the world's largest manufacturers of watches and movements.[1] In 1856 at Grenchen, Urs Schild, a schoolmaster, and Dr. Girard set up a watch movement (ébauche) factory which eventually became Eterna. In 1926, ETA AS (the movement branch of Eterna, founded in 1896) and FHF (founded in 1793) took part in the creation of Ebauches Ltd. In 1978 AS and ETA merged and in 1985 ETA took in all the activities done before by Ebauches Ltd and FHF (both part of SMH/Swatch Group).[2]

In 1998, SMH Swiss Corporation for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries Ltd, founded in 1983 through the merger Swiss watchmakers ASUAG and SSIH, was renamed the Swatch Group.

At the time, both SSIH and ASUAG held a number of well-established Swiss watch brands. ASUAG had been founded in 1931. ASUAG expanded through the purchase of companies that made movement-blanks and a number of finished watch manufacturers that were subsequently brought together under the subsidiary GWC, General Watch Co

SSIH was founded in 1930 through the amalgamation of Omega and Tissot. By consolidating companies that produced high-quality movements and a number of watch brands, SSIH gradually established a strong position in the Swiss watch industry.

In the 1930s, both ASUAG and SSIH entered into complementary research and development programs to combat a severe economic crisis. Following repeated crises in the Swiss watch industry, by the 1970s both ASUAG and SSIH were again in trouble. Foreign competition and the mass production of cheap new electronic products were taking over the market. Eventually, both ASUAG and SSIH faced bankruptcy.

In 1983, critical steps including the merger of ASUAG and SSIH into SMH and the launching of a low-cost, high-tech, artistic and emotional “second watch” - the Swatch. Invented, developed and launched by Ernst Thomke and his team.[3]

During all those years of crisis, and restructuration, since 1978, Dr. Ernst Thomke had been at the helm of ETA SA, and also had become CEO of Ebauches SA and appointed on the Board of Directors of ASUAG. He became SMH's first CEO, position he held until 1991. At that time, Nicolas G. Hayek, as newly elected Chairman of the Board and main shareholder had already become the only person of reference.

Workhorse mechanical movements

In recent years there has been an increase in interest in mechanical watches. ETA supplies the overwhelming majority of mechanical watch movements found in Swiss watches. As such, the ETA movements are considered the workhorses on the industry. Moreover, ETA has come to control a virtual monopoly over the production and supply of watch movements, more on that issue below.

ETA 2824-2

One workhorse of the ETA mechanical line is the ETA 2824-2, The 2824 is an automatic winding, twenty-five (25) jewel movement, available in four executions or grades: Standard, Elaborated (improved), Top and Chronometer[4]. The key components which differ at the line of demarcation between Elaborated and Top are the barrel spring, shock protection system, pallet stones, balance wheel & hairspring and the regulator mechanism. IN CONTRAST, SINCE THE ADDITION OF THE "-2" AT THE END OF THE MOVEMENT NUMBER, THERE HAS BEEN NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE STANDARD AND THE CHRONOMETER GRADES IN TERMS OF THE REGULATOR MECANISM, BOTH BEING ETACHRON. To illustrate the differences in accuracy garnered by the successive grades, consider the following specifications:

  • the Standard grade is adjusted in two positions with an average rate of +/-12 seconds/day, with a maximum daily variation of +/-30 seconds/day;
  • the Elaborated grade is adjusted in three positions with an average rate of +/-7 seconds/day, with a maximum daily variation of +/-30 seconds/day;
  • while the Top grade is adjusted in five positions with an average rate of +/-4 seconds/day, with a maximum daily variation of +/-10 seconds/day.

The Chronometer grade must meet strict standards prescribed by the COSC. Chronometer grade movements are serial numbered as that is a requirement of the certification authority. Moreover, it should be noted that the degree of decoration on the movement's parts, generally only an aesthetic improvement, increases as well with the grade.[5]

As a footnote, when servicing these movements please check the barrell teeth for wear and replace if worn, correctly lubricating the mainspring to allow the clutch to slip when under tension may help to improve the life of the barrell teeth.

ETA 2892

The ETA 2892.A2[6] is however, widely considered the more upscale of the basic ETA movements, and it certainly a newer design dating to the 1970s where as the 2824 traces its roots back to the 1950s. The 2892 is fitted with top quality components. The 2892 is an automatic winding, twenty-one (21) jewel movement, available in three executions or grades: Elaborated, Top and Chronometer. The key components which differ at the line of demarcation between Elaborated and Top are the pallet stones, balance wheel & hairspring, and the regulator mechanism. To illustrate the differences in accuracy garnered by the successive grades, consider the following specifications:

  • the Elaborated grade is adjusted in four positions with an average rate of +/-5 seconds/day, with a maximum daily variation of +/-20 seconds/day;
  • the Top grade is adjusted in five positions with an average rate of +/-4 seconds/day, with a maximum daily variation of +/-15 seconds/day.

The Chronometer grade must meet strict standards prescribed by the COSC: an average rate of -4/+6 with a maximum daily variation of +/-5 seconds/day. The wider range for the Chronometer grade is designed to take into account the differences in a watches rate between static positions, as when the tests are performed, and the dynamic positions as when a watch is actually worn. Chronometer grade movements are serial numbered. Moreover, the degree of decoration on the movement's parts, generally an aesthetic improvement, increases with the grade.[7]

The 2892.A2 is regarded by many horologists as being in the same 'quality' range (accuracy and reliability) as the in-house produced Rolex movements.[8] Insofar as accuracy is concerned any movement which is expected to be COSC-certified, or is in fact COSC-certified, must meet the same standards. The ETA 2892.A2 is usually found in the more expensive and prestigious watches and brands. Owing to its relatively slim height of 3.60 mm, the 2892.A2 is a favorite of watch brands that market complicated movements such as Breitling with its trademark chronograph (stop watches). Given the slim dimensions of the 2892, it provides a good platform on which to add or build a chronograph complication. It is also used in IWC's Portofino line without complications simply for its small size.

The Omega Co-axial based upon an ETA movement

Omega's popular Seamaster line of watches currently use an embellished version of the ETA 2892.A2, which is known as the Omega 1120. As an adjunct, some versions of the Omega watches may be fitted with the proprietary Co-axial escapement invented by George Daniels, an English horologist and exclusively marketed by Omega a sister company of ETA. The movement with the co-axial escapement is known as the Omega 2500 series and is derived from the ETA 2892.

Valjoux 7750

ETA/Valjoux 7750.

The Valjoux 7750[9] a/k/a ETA 7750 is a widely used chronograph (stop watch) movement operated by cams integrated into the movement. The traditional mechanism used in the chronograph is known as the Column Wheel. With the advent of the Valjoux 7750, the column wheel was abandoned for a three (3) plane cam system. The three plane cam system is properly known as the Coulisse Levier mechanism. The system and movement were developed by Edmond Capt in 1970, as a fully integrated self-winding mechanism with quick-set day/date based on the Valjoux 7733.[10]

The movement is an automatic winding, twenty-five (25) jewel movement, which can be fitted with a variety of features including the triple date (day, date, month and moon phase) or a variety of two and three register models with totalizers or counters for minutes, seconds and hours. It is available in three executions or grades: Elaborated, Top and Chronometer. The key components which differ at the line of demarcation between Elaborated and Top are the pallet stones, balance wheel & hairspring and the regulator mechanism. To illustrate the differences in accuracy garnered by the successive grades, consider the following specifications: the Elaborated grade is adjusted in three positions with an average rate of +/-5 seconds/day with a maximum daily variation of +/-15 seconds/day; while the Top grade is adjusted in five positions with an average rate of +/-4 seconds/day with a maximum daily variation of +/-10 seconds/day. The Chronometer grade must meet strict standards prescribed by the [COSC]: an average rate of -4/+6 with a maximum daily variation of +/-5 seconds/day.[11]

Monopoly allegations and investigations

In the Swiss watch industry, there was a two-year investigation[12] into certain aspects of the business practices of ETA SA. The investigation was concluded in November 2005 by the Swiss Competition Commission with the finding that ETA was abusing its dominant market position. ETA had had the intention to discontinue its supply of ébauches (movement blanks) as of January 2006 and thereafter to supply only fully assembled watch movements and its own brands (the so-called “phasing-out”).

ETA argued that it was overwhelmed with orders and that its ébauches were sometimes ending up in fake (a/k/a replica or trademark pirated watches).[13] ETA also warned that there could be another crisis in Swiss watch making unless there was more innovation and investment. Nicolas Hayek, then the CEO of Swatch, the parent of ETA observed,

"[t]ere was no innovation, no new development, and when I pushed them to start doing new production, everybody started shouting... I said I was not going to deliver any more of my movements unless they try to do their own production... Otherwise the Swiss watch industry will suffer exactly the same problems it had before and it will go down.

However, the investigations revealed that ETA held a dominant position in the market for Swiss made mechanical ébauches up to a unit price of CHF 300. The regulators determined that stopping deliveries to third parties would have threatened the future of many small watchmakers in Switzerland and the termination of supply was to be regarded as an unlawful refusal to do business and therefore as an abusive practice. For numerous competitors, the implementation of the phasing-out within such a short time meant in practical terms that they had been deprived of the basis for their business activity, as there was no alternative supplier.

In an amicable settlement, ETA committed to supply the ébauches until the end of 2008 at the current volume and thereafter for two additional years at a reduced volume. This will create a situation in which alternative production plants may be set up. The regulators said the agreement gives small watch making companies in Switzerland enough time to adapt to the market and find new producers.[14]

This has spurred on progress in the watch movement circles with several brands developing proprietary movements, for example Panerai. Another discrete movement maker, Progress Watch Corp. also came into the market for a period of time. ETA movements have also been duplicated by various enterprises including Asian manufacturers and are usually being produced without license[15].

References

  1. ^ Watches, Movements and Components - the swatch group
  2. ^ ETA web site at "ETA": "History" on January 11th, 2008.
  3. ^ Company Info History The Swatch Group today the swatch group
  4. ^ levels of component quality
  5. ^ Manufacturing Information, ETA 2801-2 through 2836-2, ETA, Grenchen May 2006
  6. ^ Description of Calibre ETA 2892-A2; for a description in English see [1]
  7. ^ Manufacturing Information, ETA 2892A2, ETA, Grenchen June 2006
  8. ^ Comparison between Rolex 3135, ETA2892-A2 and Valjoux 7750:"Having said that though there is absolutely no question in my mind, that I prefer the ETA 2892-2A over the other two."
  9. ^ Fonctionnement du calibre Valjoux 7750
  10. ^ John B. Holbrook, II, In Synch Magazine, December 2006.
  11. ^ Manufacturing Information, ETA 7750 through 7760, ETA, Grenchen September 2006
  12. ^ http://www.allbusiness.com/retail-trade/apparel-accessory-stores-womens-specialty/4249189-1.html investigation
  13. ^ Hayek warns of impending crisis in watch industry - swissinfo
  14. ^ Did you know that?
  15. ^ Mass Market Tourbillon = New 'Quartz Crisis' Ahead

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