The hairspring of a mechanical movement is perhaps the most critical component, without it a watch would stop immediately. Yet this two milligram component is ridiculously difficult to make with consistent quality repeated millions of times, the composition of hairsprings are also a closely guarded metallurgical mystery. At present, over 95% of the Swiss watch industry (and many non-Swiss ones) rely on one manufacturer for their hairsprings -Nivarox FAR (a subsidiary of Swatch group). The majority of 'in-house' movements (even at the Patek Philippe level) infact use Nivarox hairsprings (and some Nivarox mainsprings as well), and most watch brands do not have the kind of equipment, R&D or time to develop their own. There are other companies that supply hairsprings such as Concepto, Altokapa and a small number of other German companies, but the price of such hairsprings are over 10 times the price and just not economically feasible since they all lack the decades of expertise Nivarox possesses and may even be of lower quality as well.
We are all familiar with the hullabaloo surrounding ETA (Swatch)'s decision to limit ebauches supplies to watchmakers outside the group around 2011 and a lot of watch brands that used ETA movements have switched to other alternatives such as Sellita or Soprod offerings and many have conceded that the crisis is over. But what is often skimmed over is the similar decision to reduce movement parts supply(such as hairsprings, mainsprings, shock absorbers etc). This is a far bigger problem, especially since even the Sellita 'Clones' utilize hairsprings from Nivarox. In response to that i know that TagHeuer has decided to switch over to Seiko (which raises questions about the statement Swiss made), Federique Constant (and 9 other 'in house' brands) have initiated legal action surrounding Comco's (Swiss anti-trust regulator) investigations over the legality of such reductions. And Sellita has temporarily extended delivery contracts with Nivarox, despite a 20% reduction in supply just last year. The future looks bleak, the only options at this point (of the near future) would be to use much more expensive German alternatives or to use sources from Asia, or to persuade vertically integrated watch companies like Rolex to provide their hairsprings, which is extremely unlikely.
Is this Swatch's way of saying(to practically all except the highest end watch brands) if you want to survive as a watch company build your own friggin parts? Should people have seen this coming or have they simply compromised on a simpler and lazier solution to pocket more profit? But such R&D is out of the reach of many, especially one of my favourite - Nomos, which happens to use ETA hairspring, mainspring and incabloc shock absorber...
EDIT: Just for perspecive, Nivarox FAR's hairsprings are around 10 dollars a piece, similar German counterparts are nearly 100 dollars, and will likely double the cost of a movement using them. I know the discussion will likely turn to Japanese and Chinese manufactures but think again, decades ago 100% of a Swiss made watch was made in Switzerland, that situation has changed greatly and many parts are now outsourced and only the final assembly is done in Switzerland, to comply with Swiss law. Thus far, the most important parts of a watch, the mainspring, hairspring and balance wheel are made in Switzerland but with that set to change, where does the outsourcing chain end? Why not just abolish 'Swiss made' all together?