In the watchmaking industry, the name of ETA is everywhere, but what exactly is it? A: More than just a movement manufacturer. Experts in the industry often think of it as a word-Eta-rather than E.T.A. ETA is not the Spanish armed separatist organization Eta (Basque Euskadi ta Askatasuna, abbreviated as ETA), but an affiliate of Swatch, the world’s largest watchmaking group.
ETA manufactures movements, including quartz and machinery; there are complete assembly and spare parts; both supply the group’s brands, and serve external customers of the group. It is a powerful, largely independent, and diverse company, and it is difficult to accurately define size and scope. However, it is certain that ETA is ubiquitous in the watchmaking industry and its status cannot be doubted.
Of the many Swiss watchmakers, only more than 50 have the ability to make their own movements, and most of them cannot be said to be completely autonomous. Hundreds of other participants can only seek professional vendors, and ETA is by far the largest of them. Most brands under the Swatch Group do not make their own movements. Tissot, Longines, Mido, Swatch, Radar, Hamilton and Flik Flak are all ETA customers, all of which can reach tens of millions . ETA also manufactures most of the movements for Omega, some of which are exclusive to the brand. Like all other movement manufacturers, ETA has an off-the-shelf product catalog, but it also accepts custom orders.
ETA supplies movements for Swatch, including entry-level automatic movements
The product catalog covers all the most popular movement models, including six legendary models: 2824, 2892, 2894, 6498, 7001 and 7750. Then there are large variants designed for modern super-large watches, as well as other variants that integrate complex functional modules. On the topic of mechanical movements, there are also some models with smaller sizes or smaller audiences. ETA also produces more than 100 different quartz movements, most of which use analog displays and a few use digital displays.
The advantage of ETA comes first from history. In all the turbulent and turbulent crises of the 20th century, many movement makers merged with other watch parts makers or were forced to merge to survive. ETA is the integrator of Valjoux, Unitas, Peseux, Tavannes and Ebauches SA (a fusion of FHF and A. Schild), these manufacturers are famous in the field of antique watches.
ETA headquarters in Granges, Switzerland
Another advantage of ETA is the complex industrial structure. By taking over the assets of other companies, ETA has mastered multiple production sites. This is not a problem, but an advantage. The company has a strong appeal in all Swiss workforces, so it can hire high-quality, productive and geographically stable employees. This is why remote areas like Franches Montagnes and Vallée de Joux can become centers of excellence in global watchmaking.
The third reason why ETA is strong is that it is itself a core component of the Swatch Group’s industrial framework. ETA can be self-sufficient through sister companies, which are often the result of continuous mergers and acquisitions, such as Nivarox FAR (balance, hairspring, escapement and screws), Comadur (gems, magnets), EM Microelectronic (integrated circuits) and Micro Crystal Electronic oscillator).
ETA is a product developed by Swatch Group brands on demand. For example, this movement (equipped with column wheel) is ETA specially designed for Longines.
Like all other large-scale physical industries, ETA has a ‘weight’ culture. ETA’s profits and prices are a direct result of high output, which enables it to overview the industry’s big data from an unprecedented perspective in the short, medium and long term, and find defects and bottlenecks in the production chain. This analysis goes all the way back to the movement designers, who will rely on their extensive experience to continuously improve and ultimately improve the reliability of the product. At present, ETA can provide movements certified by the official COSC Swiss Observatory for less than 500 Swiss francs.
However, the true influence of ETA comes from its technological heritage. When mechanical watchmaking began to recover in the mid-1990s, ETA was the only manufacturer capable of providing relatively inexpensive mechanical movements in large quantities, which won the company many customers. Before the Swatch Group reached its heyday in the 2000s, management decided to exercise some power with its tentacles stretching out. They announced that ETA will reduce the supply of blank movements (unassembled movements). A blank movement is the foundation of the watchmaking industry and a raw material for watchmakers. On the basis of the blank movement, the watchmakers each excel, leaving their own unique marks. As a result, ETA movements have become more and more expensive, while maintaining market competitiveness and market share.
Unitas 6498 standard movement retouch example
ETA has de facto standards for the Swiss watchmaking industry: 2824, 2892 and 7750. In the public domain, ETA has extensive experience and specialized tools to produce movements better and faster than other competitors. ETA mechanical movements have a variety of different retouchings, from entry-level simple retouching to sophisticated refining, even with the help of machines rather than manual means. If required, almost all movements can pass the tests of the COSC Swiss official observatory.
The ETA movement was cloned and improved by competing manufacturers, among which Sellita was the best. The difference between the two is small, and this is the key to the problem. Customer brands can be replaced based on supply and price without changing dials, cases, hands or craftsmanship. Today, although alternatives exist and other manufacturers ensure the supply of basic movements, these suppliers always regard ETA as the industry standard and a model for movement manufacturers.