I was discussing watches with my brother last night at dinner. He is not a watch person, so I was trying to explain differences between different companies, some of which he knew and others not. I began to think of ways to categorize companies based on manufacturing volume, finishing methods and movement technology.
I divided the market into 4 major categories based on combinations of this criteria to describe companies products. The categories obviously overlap. I wanted to see if this made sense to you WIS in this forum.
1) High-Volume, Machine Finished Watches based on ETA, ETA COSC or ETA customized movements
Examples: Breitling, Longines, Omega, Sinn, TAG Heuer
2) Low-Volume, Machine & Hand Finished Watches based on ETA Custom & In-House Movements
Examples: IWC, Panerai, Omega, Ulysse Nardin
3) High Volume, Machine Finished Watches based on In-House Movements
4) Low-Volume, Machine & Hand Finished Watches based on In-House Movements
Examples: A Lange & Sohne, Audemars Piguet, Blancpain, Choppard, Girard-Perregaux, Glashutte, Jaeger-Lecoultre, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Zenith
What struck me (I think graphically) is now Rolex stuck out. If you picture the X-axis being movements: ETA, ETA COSC, ETA Custom, In-House from left to right, and the Y-Axis as high-volume machine finish, Low volume machine & hand finish to Low-volume hand finish from bottom to top.
Categories 1, 2, and 4 progress from lower left to upper right diagonally (I hope you can picture this). Only category 3 (High Volume, Machine Finished Watches based on In-House Movements) stands out in the lower left region of this chart. It really made me think what a unique animal Rolex is from all other watch companies. No one else makes high-volume machine finished watches based on custom technology like they do.
There are some small watch companies/individual makers that may comprise a 5th category (Low-volume, machine-hand finished based on ETA movements) Companies/Makers like Jorg Schauer, Rainer Brand, Sothis etc. fall into this niche arena. This category is located in the upper left region of the chart.
The point here is not the "rate" who is better, but to find common manufacturing philosophies that are useful for grouping companies. The categories obviously overlap and some manufacturers span into two categories with some models.
Do these generalizations make sense as a way of categorizing watch manufacturers to you? It makes sense to me, but I wanted to see what you thought.