How much does Breitling modify their ETA movements in comparison to Omega, Tag Heuer, IWC?
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Thread: How much does Breitling modify their ETA movements in comparison to Omega, Tag Heuer, IWC?

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  1. #1
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    Confused How much does Breitling modify their ETA movements in comparison to Omega, Tag Heuer, IWC?

    Dear all,

    First of all, Season's Greetings to all of you!

    With reference to the topic matter, I have the following query:

    I know this issue has been touched on before, but I would like to have a definitive answer once and for all.
    How much does Breitling modify / add to their ETA sourced ebauches in comparison to brands like Omega, TAG Heuer, IWC, Panerai etc? I am asking this query after reading some threads pertaining to this matter on various forums, some of which got me worried.
    Actually, some of the TS of these threads claimed that Breitling merely finetunes the movements so that they meet COSC requirements but doesn't add any of their own components to the ebauche. These aforementioned TS allege that, hence, Breitling actually operates on a similar level as TAG in this regard (they even went as far as to label Breiting a purely marketing driven brand!) and does not match Omega nor IWC, which do add their own components and rebuild the entire movement from scratch, respectively.

    Being a staunch Breitling supporter and a proud owner, this reasoning set out above seems highly unlikely to me and far from factual.

    Please could you, the more knowledgeable WISs, shed some light on this matter?

    Many thanks in advance.

    Cheers,


    Pieter
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  2. #2
    Breitling Forum Moderator SnapIT's Avatar
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    Re: How much does Breitling modify their ETA movements in comparison to Omega, Tag Heuer,

    The research project you need to undertake is to determine why Breitling acquired Kelek in the late 1990s. Once you have that understanding then you will have a sound basis to judge the commentary espoused elsewhere.

    As a starting point

    Kelek Watches

    and further more...

    Forum Horloger, forum sur les montres • KELEK, un peu d'histoire
    Last edited by SnapIT; December 31st, 2010 at 22:48.
    Cheers,
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    Re: How much does Breitling modify their ETA movements in comparison to Omega, Tag Heuer,

    ETA used to sell ebauches (unassembled movements) to a wide variety of other watch companies. Former president of Swatch Group, Nicolas Hayek (who passed away a few months ago) changed all that a few years ago by announcing that after a two year grace period (which was extended by the Association to the end of 2010 - like, now), ETA would henceforth only be selling fully assembled movements to other watch companies and those supplies would have annual caps. The result (perhaps actually intended by Hayek; perhaps not) was that, starting in 2007, all of our favorite watch companies that didn't already have in-house movements began developing them, acquiring other companies which already had their own movements, investing in small movement makers and so on. It's been great for the watchmaking world.

    Breitling has never simply purchased ebauches, assembled them with custom made rotors, and then tossed 'em into Breitling cases. Breitling has always put its unique imprint on every movement used - adding a swan-neck to a hairspring, using better quailty bearings in the rotor shaft, poising the balance staff, regulating the movements for COSC qualification, decorating bridges, sourcing and adding modules for a wide variety of complications, replacing and in some cases adding jewels and any number of other customizations. Some third-party movements get a light treatment, some get so much customization they're almost unrecognizable compared to the original stock movement.

    The next 3-5 years will be interesting indeed as more and more in-house and collaboration movements make their appearance.

    The biggest problem with watch collecting or an interest in horology that results in a bit of watch collecting is, I think, that we can sometimes become very sensitive to disparaging criticism of a favorite watch maker. The fact is, while we all have to communicate our interests to watch makers - what we like about a particular model, what works for us, what doesn't work for us, our perceptions of durability and suitability of design and so on - all of the watch makers have always worked very hard to differentiate themselves from competitors. The moment one of the watch makers starts to feed us off-the-shelf products containing little else besides cosmetic changes, they'll be called out here and in a dozen other forums, watch magazines and reviews. Breitling has never tried to fool its customers or the legions of collectors who avidly pursue rare models. Breitling has screwed up from time to time, but it has never tried to hand us unmodified junk.

    I can characterize a saint as a sinner if I attempt to politicize the saint's actions. Similarly, Breitling (and Omega, Rolex, Panerai, Tag Heuer, etc., etc., etc.) can be characterized by critics as just a bunch short-cutting know-nothings who just drop some average old movements into different case designs each year. It's nonsense. A tour of the Breitling facilities in Switzerland will cure you of any belief in that sort of nonsense. Breitling and its competitors spend enormous amounts of money on successful R&D each and every year, just as most of these companies have done for generations.

    All that said, Breitling and other watch makers look for movements (from development partners, in-house, third-party makers and independents) that are versatile. Just as car makers latch onto the best engine designs they can find at various price points and use the most successful designs in several of their models, so too do watch makers try to settle for many years running on a successful, accurate, versatile and manageable stable of movements to which modifications and modules can be reliably added in a high-tech, high volume manufacturing facility. This is a smart thing to do if a company is going to operate profitably. Some critics view such a situation as a lack of year over year innovation. I disagree, rather refering to it as long term movement reliability - movements which should only be replaced with a new model that is demostrably better. Change for its own sake is foolish except for that echelon of watch buyers who can afford to put down $15K or $20K of $80K a few times a year for the latest exotic innovation.

    Simply talking about the need for innovation, as most critics do, blithely ignores the fact that an innovative watch movement or an interesting and unique modification to an existing movement must also be workable in a Manufacture production environment. Sure there are enormous amounts of hand assembly at all watch makers today, as there will be in the future. Toss in some of the critical demands of the more mendacious pundits though and you could end up with another new Superocean unfortunately costing $12K or more because of the amount of time needed to make and assemble each complex component.

    I think that each watch brand establishes itself with respect to both lifestyle and economic associations, along with a range of somewhat less obvious intentions for the way in which the brand's products should be worn and used. Breitling has irrevocably associated itself with pioneering aviation. Rolex has associated itself with business success and travel. Omega has associated itself with adventure. All three brands have also separately associated themselves with luxury and bling markets. So we get to choose what we associate ourselves with too. If the watch takes a licking and keeps on ticking, and is made of materials that can withstand for decades whatever it is that each of us happens to call "a licking" then we bond with the mechanical watch and its brand. That every single component of the movement - or even the smallest majority of its components - weren't designed and manufactured in-house by the particular brand is almost completely irrelevant.
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    Re: How much does Breitling modify their ETA movements in comparison to Omega, Tag Heuer,

    Well said ")

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    Re: How much does Breitling modify their ETA movements in comparison to Omega, Tag Heuer,

    “”Actually, some of the TS of these threads claimed that Breitling merely finetunes the movements so that they meet COSC requirements but doesn't add any of their own components to the ebauche.””



    You cannot merely “re-work” an ebauche. An ebauche is simply a movement in kit form, but importantly it does not include mainspring, mainspring barrel or any of the escapement. If you add the missing pieces to an ebauche then you have a chablon, still in kit form.


    Breitling does not reveal the specifics, but it is widely known they are starting with an ebauche and then add a new glycodur balance and the new hairspring is a nivarox 1 (1 being the highest grade, lowest is 5) or even anachron. The mainspring in the new barrel is also a nivarox (nivaflex) or anachron assumedly. Some screws in the ebauche are replaced by blued versions. The oscillating weight is decorated with "Côtes de Genève" and signed in 18K gold. Even the raw ebauches Breitling begins with are top grade ( 3 ) also which is obviously a better base for the modifications.
    Also, well before the cessation of supply of ebauches from Swatch, Breitling began producing a number of additional pieces of components of these movements in house (through the subsidiary company Kelek) which removes the need for any reworking / refinishing because they can simply produce them to their own specifications initially. (NOT referring to the completely in-house 01 movement) This was possible as the patents/copyrights on the various ETA/Valjoux movements had long since expired.


    OT a bit, but the expiration of the patents coupled with in house production of many of the parts that comprise the ebauche actually retained in the finished movement, made the Swatch Group decision less damaging than many believe.
    A finished Breitling Caliber is an excellent movement. On the other hand, IWC has elected to go a different route – on their non-in house pieces, they are purchasing fully finished Chronometer Grade movements from Swatch and installing them untouched (by IWC) in the watches.


    Bottom line – Breitling does not apply window dressing to outside movements. A Breitling caliber is an excellent movement even if it doesn’t claim full “in house” recognition like the 01.
    SHARKMAN1234

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    Re: How much does Breitling modify their ETA movements in comparison to Omega, Tag Heuer,

    Quote Originally Posted by sharkman1234 View Post
    OT a bit, but the expiration of the patents coupled with in house production of many of the parts that comprise the ebauche actually retained in the finished movement, made the Swatch Group decision less damaging than many believe.
    I don't think it's OT at all. I think you've reminded us about an important very important business point which is often overlooked in these discussions.
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    Re: How much does Breitling modify their ETA movements in comparison to Omega, Tag Heuer,

    Sharky and Howard, you gentleman have articulated very well the definitive answer to this most often asked and discussed question. I"m thinking I will be editing some of these posts after the thread is finished and I'll place the information in our archives above the main forum. Thanks so much from all of the Breitling forum members.
    Best,
    Ron
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    Re: How much does Breitling modify their ETA movements in comparison to Omega, Tag Heuer,

    Ron, some of the info in my post came from you on a different forum.
    SHARKMAN1234

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    Member helderberg's Avatar
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    Re: How much does Breitling modify their ETA movements in comparison to Omega, Tag Heuer,

    Ron, how about a consolidation of this, credit given, and posted as a sticky at the top of the Forum. This question has been asked for years and this, and your additional input, would put it to bed once and for all. Thank you for this information. If I may speak for 99% of the forum, outstanding post.
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    Re: How much does Breitling modify their ETA movements in comparison to Omega, Tag Heuer,

    Very informative and educational!

    It sparked an interest in me to find out how elaborate other Manufacturers have done to the ebauches to meet their specifications and who are those that opt the route that IWC took.

    Many thanks!
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