In-House is Superior
A recent trend in the Swiss watch industry has been the switch to in-house movement production:
- Breitling recently released its first mechanical watch featuring in-house movement production:
the Chronomat B01
- Audemars Piguet recently acquired Renaud et Papi (a producer of movements)
- Rolex has stepped up recent efforts at marketing the fact that they feature in-house production
If the Swiss watch companies are switching from their long held “ebauche” tradition, is that a sign that in house-production is superior?
It would be difficult to prove that in-house movements are of a superior quality from this vantage point alone (strategic reasons behind diversifying suppliers complicate the issue). However, the trend of Swiss companies attempting to incorporate in-house movement production is a clear sign of recognition that the watch community has deep respect and interest in watch companies that do use in-house movement production. After all, the mechanical watch is more than just an instrument for keeping time.
Distinctiveness: Japanese vs. Swiss
If the Swiss have centered their quality control around the idea of accountability being tied to quality, then the Japanese should be just as well-known for producing high-quality mechanical watches. The majority of Japanese companies do feature in-house movement production, and hence, are directly accountable for more than the average Swiss company. What the Japanese lack, particularly new entrants like Orient, are the marketing budgets that the Swiss possess.
To create quality mechanical watches with in-house movements for a much more reasonable price, they rely on:
- Economies of scale
- Lean operating budgets
There is no doubt that both the Japanese and the Swiss make top-of-the-line mechanical watches.
The Swiss Industry relies on the “Ebauche tradition” which focuses on the utilization of mass-produced movements that are assembled by the various Swiss watch companies. This may have the advantage of allowing more focused concentration on pure movement-making as it is limited to one company that is only in the movement business.
However, the most expensive watches coming out of Switzerland generally do feature in-house movement production, and why not?
One of the great allures of a mechanical watch is its distinctiveness. Why pay a premium for a product that is a rehash of thousands of others?
The Japanese companies have used lean marketing budgets and large economies of scale to mass produce mechanical watches featuring distinctive in-house movement production. Something which Swiss companies seem to admire, and in their recent trends of production, wish to emulate.
Which nation produces the best mechanical watch is a complicated, and perhaps, ultimately unattainable question to answer; however, who produces the most affordable quality mechanical watch with in-house movement production, is not.