The A-Z of Watches: E is for.. ETA

By Jessica Diamond

I t’s hard to underestimate how much is required to manufacture your own watch movement. Aside from the technical know how required, the sheer resources needed to machine individual components is immense. From the tiniest wheels punched from sheets of metal by computer guided robots to individual screws hand finished under the lens of a microscope, those watch makers who can claim an in-house movement are quite rightly proud. For those who can’t they must buy-in from elsewhere, and for reliability (and the lions-share of the Swiss market) ETA is the go-to place for quartz, hand-wound and automatic movements.

Hamilton Watch Co, A Stainless-Steel Automatic Centre Seconds Wristwatch with Date Containing the First ETA Co-Axial Movement circa 1996. Lot Sold for £8,750.

Two things that may come as a surprise – first ETA isn’t some new kid on the block – it can trace its watchmaking heritage back to 1792 with today’s production sites firmly set within the Swiss manufacturing heartland of the hills of Jura and the Swiss cantons of Valais and Ticino. Second, ETA is owned by The Swatch Group, that behemoth parent company of the watch industry that includes Omega, Breguet, Harry Winston, and (unsurprisingly) Swatch.

Cartier, An 18k Pink Gold and Diamond-Set Automatic Centre Seconds Wristwatch with Date and Bracelet Case 132192nx Ballon Bleu, circa 2009. Lot Sold for CHF 30,000. Jasper "Yogi" Gough

Not only does ETA supply movements for its own Swatch Group brands, but it has also distributed extensively outside the group – to amongst others IWC, Breitling, Girard Perregaux, Panerai, Tag Heuer and Oris. So despite not being a household name and not selling direct to the consumer it’s certain that the Swiss watch industry as we know it would surely collapse without them.

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