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How Sellita is Making Swiss Movements More Accessible

Let's talk about our favorite movements.

For watchmakers, watch lovers and collectors alike, one of the most revered components of any watch is its movement. The history of watch movements is as fascinating as the history of horology itself. A watchmaker like LIV Watches must ponder the same question that any watchmaker must ask itself: which movement should be used for a particular model?

This article will seek to provide insight into two of the largest and most well-known movement manufacturers in the world, ETA and Sellita. And we will explain the reasons why we at LIV Watches have staked our belief in movements made by Sellita.

The time when it was ETA or nothing

ETA: A Prestigious History

ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse is a movement manufacturer based in Grenchen, Switzerland. Interestingly, that is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland; most Swiss watch companies are located in the French-speaking of the country. Although founded by Eterna in 1856, ETA can trace its production of ébauches and movements back to 1793, with the founding of Fabriques d'Horlogerie de Fontainemelon (FHF) by David Benguerel, Isaac Benguerel, François Humbert-Droz, and Julien Humbert-Droz.

The ETA monopoly

ETA had established itself as the leading movement manufacturer by the mid-20th century. However, it was in the 1980s that the company consolidated itself to the point of being a de facto monopoly. How did this happen? Three reasons contributed to this: the Japanese, convenience, and costs. Firstly, by the 1970s, the watchmaking industry had been ravaged by the advent of the far cheaper and very efficient quartz movement technology from Japan. Many watch companies, some of them dating back to the 18th century, went bankrupt. The Swiss watchmaking industry was reeling.

Japanese Seiko quartz watch movement

Changes to ETA's direction in the early 2000s

The huge Swatch Group buyout of ETA only consolidated ETA's hold on the market in watch movements. However, ETA's monopolistic position in the watch industry soon got the attention of Switzerland's Competition Commission (Comco, as it is usually called in French-speaking Switzerland, or WEKO by German-speaking Swiss). The Swiss competition agency ruled that, since ETA clearly had a monopoly in the market, so it would be forced to supply any watchmaker with ébauches, movements, and other components it required. Failure to do so would result in anti-trust violations and enormous fines for ETA and The Swatch Group.

By 2011, Nicolas Hayek, the co-founder and CEO of The Swatch Group had this to say in a New York Times article: "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." It was a fair point, monopoly or not.

That explains why ETA had been making cuts to all three of its main profiles (i.e., manufacturing ébauches, movements, and key components) since 2002. By 2010, ETA had decided to stop shipment of ebauches to watchmakers not within The Swatch Group. ETA then informed the watch industry in 2013 that it would no longer provide any movements to watch companies outside The Swatch Group beyond 2019. ETA's promise came into effect on December 31st, 2019. The row between ETA/The Swatch Group and the Swiss anti-trust agency continues into 2020.

La-Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland

The rise of Sellita

Enter Sellita, an alternative to ETA. Sellita was founded in La-Chaux-de-Fonds in 1950, a town located in the canton of Neuchâtel in what is the heart of the Swiss watchmaking industry. Sellita is today one of the largest mechanical movement makers in Switzerland. The company produces more than 1 million movements each year. Unlike ETA, Sellita is fully independent, which means the company is free to produce movements for any watch manufacturer in the world, be it to the client's exact specification or off the general catalogue. Sellita does everything from a simple three-hand up movement to a complicated chronograph with multiple variations.

Today, Sellita is one of the largest mechanical movement makers in Switzerland.

A cutting-edge company

One of Sellita's strengths is its in-house, cutting-edge expertise. It boasts dedicated engineering, process engineering, machinery development, and movement development departments. This internal expertise allows Sellita to produce its own machinery, which enables the precision, high-volume manufacturing of movements. It also has a laboratory engaged in, among other things, the testing of oils/lubricants needed in movements.

The principal focus of Sellita is on collaborating with clients to produce fully-made, decorated, and delivered movements.

According to Sébastien Chaulmontet, Head of Innovation and Marketing: "...we have a key role to play [in the international watchmaking industry]. We have a single Swiss owner, it's a very clear structure for our clients, we have no conflicts of interest."

Chaulmontet goes on to say how Sellita is actively working on the development of the next generation of movements with different functions and different power reserves, but which nevertheless remain in a competitive price range. In his opinion, it is all about watches that are both reliable and affordable to a broader global market of watch aficionados. The company is certainly in expansive mode, having increased the size of its Swiss factory by 16,404 feet (5,000 square-meters) in 2019.

The Sellita-ETA connection

It is worth noting that Sellita was one of the biggest movement parts manufacturers and assemblers for ETA for over 30 years. ETA also used to send movements to Sellita for extra finishing work, such as pearling and decorative detailing.

One only has to look at how many reputable, high-end watch companies rely on Sellita movements to appreciate how well-respected Sellita movements are. The list of Sellita clients is endless and includes quality brands from Oris, Eterna, Deep Blue, Mondaine, and Tag, to IWC, Montblanc, Hublot, Graf Zeppelin, Invicta, Edox, Porsche Design, and Breitling, to name but a few!

Sellita's most popular movements

The Sellita SW200 movement

Sellita's first effort with the dedicated manufacture of its own movements was in 2003. Its first movement was the SW200, which many acknowledge being a similar copy of the ETA 2824 movement, which has long been the 'workhorse' best-seller for ETA. One of Sellita's innovations was the addition of an additional jewel. The placement of this jewel--just below the ratchet wheel--reduces the friction associated with automatic winding ever so slightly.

The Sellita caliber SW200 quickly became the ETA 2824's main competitor, thanks to both its lesser cost and the aforementioned threat by The Swatch Group from the early 2000s onwards to limit sales of its ETA movements to brands outside the group.  

The SW200 movement has four Grades (as does the ETA caliber 2824-2, coincidentally). These four Grades are:

  • Standard: adjustable in two positions, with an accuracy of approximately 12 seconds/day to approximately 30 seconds/day.
  • Special (Elabore): adjustable in three positions, with an accuracy of approximately 7 seconds/day to approximately 20 seconds/day.
  • Premium (Top): adjustable in five positions, with an accuracy of approximately 4 seconds/day to approximately 15 seconds/day.
  • Chronometer: as per the rigorous criteria of the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC), the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute.

Sellita SW200 movement

The Sellita SW200-1 movement

Sellita's SW200-1 movement may be very similar to the SW200, but they are not technically the same. The SW200-1 is considered an evolution in the movement, both in terms of design and component functionality.

According to a press release issued by Sellita on August 19th, 2008, the key differences between the SW200 and SW200-1 movements include:

  • Improved gear design, which provides power transmission equal to the SW200, with stronger tooth geometry. This reduces the risk of damage due to strong shock, which the company admitted was a recurring glitch with the SW200;
  • Minimization of the wear and tear of the wheels in the automatic chain, thereby changing the tooth profile; and
  • Changes in the axis of the reduction wheel and ratchet wheel.

 

Hardcore watch techies who want to know more about the technical aspects of the SW200-1 movement, can do so here.

Other movements by Sellita include the SW240 [with a day/date wheel], and the SW300 and SW500 automatic chronograph movements. The SW500, for example, is essentially the ETA 7750, which anyway used to be partially manufactured by Sellita. However, the SW200-1 is by far the company's most popular movement on the international watchmaking market today.

LIV Swiss Made watch production sketches

As a brand, we're proud to add our vote of confidence to the quality of Sellita's movements.

    --Chaz

Why we choose Sellita for the movements of our watches

There are many reasons why we at LIV Watches have chosen Sellita to be our manufacturer of customized movements.

Necessity is the mother of all movements

The first compelling reason why LIV Watches chose to opt for Sellita movements instead of those manufactured by ETA was a case of simple expediency. For some years now The Swatch Group has made it patently clear that it no longer wished to supply movements to brands outside its group (which comprises a sizable stable of watch brands, it should be noted). LIV Watches had little choice but to search out another sustainable movement supplier.

Sellita provides quality

A second compelling reason is that we at LIV Watches firmly believe that there is no difference in quality, performance, or durability between Sellita and ETA movements. We should note yet again that for many years, Sellita was one of the leading suppliers of movement parts to ETA (including the latter company's leading families of the 2824, 2892, and 7750 movements). That is why we were comfortable in forging our collaboration with Sellita.  

Sellita's quality is proven

A third reason why we choose Sellita movements is because the quality of their movements has been independently proven. It is true that ETA is often referred to in the watch industry as denoting 'Excellent Timing Accuracy.' We respect the excellent and well-deserved prestige and reputation that ETA enjoys. However, that is not to undervalue the excellent timekeeping qualities of Sellita movements.

Respected watch review blog, Watch Flipr, did a comparative analysis between the SW-200-1 and ETA 2824-2 movements in terms of accuracy of timing in 2013. The test found that the Sellita movement actually tested better for time accuracy. The opinion of the blog was that the secret of the SW200-1 was its hairspring technology, which is microns thicker that the ETA movement. The result is better accuracy due to the hairspring's high beat caliber. Furthermore, the study noted how Sellita had secured exclusive use of the hairspring manufacturer's products for many years to come.

Sellita SW200-1 movemen


About the Author

Esti Chazanow, Co-Founder at LIV Watches
Esti's passion for men's watches led her to co-found LIV Watches—a microbrand dedicated to connecting watch collectors with high quality, limited edition, Swiss Made timepieces at prices they can afford—and the rest is horological history.

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