Smoke and Mirrors - part 1 (ETA grades explained)
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    Smoke and Mirrors - part 1 (ETA grades explained)

    We all learn early on in our watch collecting careers that it's common practice for companies to rename an ETA movement with their own model number after they modify it. It's an exercise that's been going on for years with more than just ETA products. Longines used Valjoux 72 chronograph movements under their code of 330 or 332, Cyma 380 automatics were renamed the Longines 480, and Marvin 700 series became their caliber 490. Omega used a Lemania chronograph movement for their famous calibers 321 and 861, and still use one as a base for their modern 1861. Breitling also employs Lemania movements for some of their modern manual wind watches, calling it the B12; they also used various Valjoux chronographs including the Valjoux 72 in their early Navitimers. So it's a fact that many brands are using 'customized' ETA movements inside their watches nowadays..... but what do they really do to upgrade them? Let's have a look.

    Valjoux 7736 inside a vintage Breitling


    But before we get into individual companies and movements, there's some basic information you need to know. ETA sells their ebauchés in 4 grades, and not all of the grades are offered for every movement. They are Standard, Elaboré, Top, and Chronometre. The Valjoux 7750 does not come in the Standard Grade. Each grade has set performance parameters, and 95% of the ebauchés delivered in a lot must be within these limits.

    Standard
    - adjusted in 2 positions: CH and 6H (click HERE for details on positional timekeeping terminology)
    - average daily rate: +/- 12 seconds
    - maximum positional variation: 30 seconds
    - isochronism between 0 and 24 hours: +/- 20 seconds

    Elaboré
    - adjusted in 3 positions: CH, 6H, 9H
    - average daily rate: +/- 7 seconds
    - maximum positional variation: 20 seconds
    - isochronism between 0 and 24 hours: +/- 15 seconds

    Top
    - adjusted in 5 positions: CH, FH, 6H, 9H, 3H
    - average daily rate: +/- 4 seconds
    - maximum positional variation: 15 seconds
    - isochronism between 0 and 24 hours: +/- 10 seconds

    Chronometre
    - adjusted and timed per COSC specification (see above link under Standard) which is not much different from Top Grade


    There are also upgraded parts made with different alloys and materials in the higher grades. The Standard and Elaboré calibers use Etachoc shock protection, a nickel balance wheel with a Nivarox 2 alloy hairspring, a Nivaflex NO mainspring, a steel pallet lever and escape wheel, and polyruby pallet jewels. The Top and Chronometre calibers use Incabloc shock protection, a Glucydur balance wheel with an Anchron alloy hairspring, a Nivaflex NM mainspring, a Nivarox pallet lever and escape wheel, and ruby pallet jewels.

    Explaining the advantage of a Glucydur balance over a nickel balance is simple: Glucydur (or beryllium bronze) resists deformation from temperature change or abuse much better than nickel so the balance wheel stays in balance and therefore keeps more consistent time.


    Glucydur balance wheel


    As far as the hairspring materials, there are 5 Nivarox versions - 1 being the highest grade, 5 being the lowest. The difference lies in the consistency of the timekeeping performance due to small changes in the alloyed metals. Nivarox hairsprings consist of cobalt (42-48%), nickel (15-25%), chromium (16-22%), and small amounts of titanium and beryllium. Anachron is said to be a better performing alloy than any Nivarox incarnation which is why it's used on the Top and Chronometre grades. What metals Anachron consists of is another mystery. I've asked watchmakers here and in the real world and searched the internet for days without finding any information. ETA does also offer the option to upgrade from a Niravox 2 to a Niravox 1 hairspring with the nickel balance wheel on the lower two grades. (click HERE and HERE for more information on the balance & hairsping assembly)

    Explaining the variance between Nivaflex NO and Nivaflex NM mainsprings is more difficult - the alloy formulation changes are a trade secret so information is scarce even to watchmakers. I'm not sure if there is much of a change between the two since both Nivarox alloys are listed as 45% cobalt, 21% nickel, 18% chromium, 5% iron, 4% tungsten, 4% molybdenum, and 1% titanium. Do the math and that leaves 2% unaccounted for and who knows what elements fill that void. The difference in the NO and NM might only be tempering the end of the spring and bridle, but that would be an educated guess. (click HERE for more information on mainsprings)

    The difference between polyrubies and rubies is based in the manufacturing process. Polyrubies are made from powder that's heat pressed into shape. They're translucent, almost foggy. Rubies are cut from a man-made crystal that's formed in an electro-chemical process. They're completely transparent with better consistency. (click HERE and HERE for more on jewels and shock protection)

    The change in shock protection from Etachoc to Incabloc is mostly about price. Incabloc costs more... but for a good reason. The Incabloc system is made entirely to in-house parameters instead of assembled from off the shelf pieces which is a real advantage on the quality control front. Even the jewels are custom made by Sietz (who have practically monopolized the jewel making industry) to Incabloc's specifications. It's also easier to service the Incabloc system. ETA does offer an upgrade to Incabloc on Standard and Elaboré calibers.

    .Etachoc......................Incabloc

    pictures by Johnny P


    If you're curious, you can see illustrations of the dozens of different shock protection systems HERE.

    If any watchmaker or other industry insider would like to clue us in on some of the other secretive alterations in materials we'd certainly like to hear from you.
    Last edited by ulackfocus; October 7th, 2010 at 21:43.

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    Re: Smoke and Mirrors - part 1

    Thanks for this. This is the kind of fun and informative post that keep me coming back.
    Beating up on, say, Bell & Ross is fun and very right and proper, but these threads where watch knowledge is shared are great.
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    Re: Smoke and Mirrors - part 1

    Wonderful post there, Dennis. Great idea, and I laud your effort to share the information/knowledge you have unearthed from your experiences, from reading-up, talking to watchmakers, etc. I really look forward to Part II of this thread!
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    Re: Smoke and Mirrors - part 1

    Interesting information about the various movement and component grades. However the term Smoke and Mirrors is a nice way of describing an intent to deceive.Surely you are not saying that Omega, Breitling, Mido and all the other companies that re-label movements or don't disclose that components are made by others are guilty of deception and maybe fraud? Have you considered how many other consumer product companies relabel components and entire products made by others as their own?

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    Re: Smoke and Mirrors - part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by John MS View Post
    Interesting information about the various movement and component grades.
    Thanks, it was fun to compile and sort out.

    Quote Originally Posted by John MS View Post
    However the term Smoke and Mirrors is a nice way of describing an intent to deceive.Surely you are not saying that Omega, Breitling, Mido and all the other companies that re-label movements or don't disclose that components are made by others are guilty of deception and maybe fraud?
    Fraud? No. That's a legal term implying a criminal offense. If a brand does one small change they can get around that charge. Deception? Yes. Otherwise they'd call their movements the Valjoux 7750 instead of the Omega 1164 or Breitling B13 - but that will be discussed in part 2 in a few days. I've talked with 3 watchmakers while doing this - all of them do or have worked for VERY large brand names. The title "smoke and mirrors" is actually a direct quote from one of them when asked to sum up what most of the manufacturers do to improve ETA movements.

    Quote Originally Posted by John MS View Post
    Have you considered how many other consumer product companies relabel components and entire products made by others as their own?
    There are plenty of other industries that do it. Canned food goods, appliances, and electronics come to mind - but seeing this is a watch forum, I don't think we'd be too interested in talking about groceries.
    Last edited by ulackfocus; October 7th, 2010 at 17:58.
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    Re: Smoke and Mirrors - part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by John MS View Post
    Interesting information about the various movement and component grades. However the term Smoke and Mirrors is a nice way of describing an intent to deceive.Surely you are not saying that Omega, Breitling, Mido and all the other companies that re-label movements or don't disclose that components are made by others are guilty of deception and maybe fraud? Have you considered how many other consumer product companies relabel components and entire products made by others as their own?
    This has confused me for years. If you care/know enough about movements to check out the movement in a prospective purchase, you won't be fooled. If someone doesn't care - then why try to decieve that person? "I think it's a marketing issue as companies want to feel they have done something to justify a certain price.
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    Re: Smoke and Mirrors - part 1 (ETA grades explained)

    A few nits to pick...

    1) Glucydur is usually described as a beryllium bronze alloy. It is an alloy of (primarialy) three elements - beryllium, copper and iron, brass alloys are defined as having a zinc content, therefore are softer than bronze alloys. Nickel is just as amagnetic as Glucydur, but Glucydur is harder and has a lower coefficient of thermal expansion....

    The Glucydur balance on ETAs can be identified by the radiused spokes (as pictures above), the nickel balance has straight, tapering spokes.

    2) The "ETAchoc" system shown is the same as the Novodiac shock protection system. Both are made by Incabloc, which is owned by SWATCH Group.

    There was a second major shock protection system available on ETA movement (but no longer an option), and is often confused with the Novodiac/Etachoc, and that is the KIF system. (see below) The two are similar in assembly in the plate/cock, spring design and dismounting procedures but are made by different companies. KIF is owned by Rolex.

    The major advantage of the Incabloc over the Novodiac and KIF can be seen in the two advertisements below. The KIF is a pressed in setting, while the Incabloc is held in place by a "U" clip on the bottom. This and the fact that the spring is captive in the Incabloc make it more "maintenance friendly."







    Quote Originally Posted by Donf View Post
    This has confused me for years. If you care/know enough about movements to check out the movement in a prospective purchase, you won't be fooled. If someone doesn't care - then why try to decieve that person? "I think it's a marketing issue as companies want to feel they have done something to justify a certain price."
    You have put the onus on the wrong group.

    "I think it's a marketing issue used by companies to allow their customers to justify the higher price they have paid for their watch."

    "It's not an ETA 7750, it's a Omega 1155!
    Last edited by lysanderxiii; October 7th, 2010 at 20:49.
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    Re: Smoke and Mirrors - part 1 (ETA grades explained)

    Quote Originally Posted by lysanderxiii View Post
    A few nits to pick...
    Thanks! Corrections are exactly what I was hoping for. Maybe somebody will come along with the alloy formula for Anachron too.


    ps - I went back and corrected the mistake on brass and bronze
    Last edited by ulackfocus; October 7th, 2010 at 21:21.

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    Re: Smoke and Mirrors - part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Donf View Post
    This has confused me for years. If you care/know enough about movements to check out the movement in a prospective purchase, you won't be fooled. If someone doesn't care - then why try to decieve that person? "I think it's a marketing issue as companies want to feel they have done something to justify a certain price.
    The list of companies (including watch companies) that do not rebrand entire products or components purchased from others as being their own is very short. Thus I do not see the value of labeling as smoke-and-mirrors a common practice that should be common knowlege for most consumers.

    I think there is something to be gained from a comparison of movements showing how manufacturers enhance what is the same basic movement. But the initial message goes well beyond just being informative and attempts to use sensationalism to draw attention to the article. The article really does not need to be inflated with that kind of nonsense - the technical information is interesting by itself.

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    Re: Smoke and Mirrors - part 1 (ETA grades explained)

    Not so much a nit, just some more information...

    Most movements are not made in all four grades. Just like not all movement come in the low grades, some movements are available in the high grades (Top and Chronometer) .

    Most of the manual movements, 2660, 2801, 2801, 6497-1 and 6498-1 are not available in Top and Chronometer grades.

    (However, the 6497-2 and 6498-2 are.)

    At least one movement is only available in one grade, the 1727-1 only comes in the Top grade.

    Of their current line-up, only the 2671, 2678, 2681, 2824-2, 2834-2 and 2836-2 are available in all four grades....
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