ETA SA

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ETA SA Swiss Watch Manufacturer
Native name ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse
Type Private (subsidiary of The Swatch Group Ltd.)
Industry
  • Watch movement manufacturing
  • Ébauche manufacturing
  • Watch parts manufacturing
Predecessor(s) Ebauches SA
Founded Grenchen, Switzerland 1856 (1856)
Founder(s)
  • Urs Schild
  • Josef Girard
Headquarters Grenchen, Solothurn, Switzerland
Key people Pierre-André Bühler, President
Products ETA 2824-2 movement
Valjoux 7750 movement
Parent The Swatch Group Ltd.
Website eta.ch

ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse (ETA SA Swiss Watch Manufacturer) designs and manufactures quartz watches and both hand-wound and automatic-winding mechanical ébauches and movements. Commonly referred to as ETA, the company is headquartered in Grenchen, Switzerland and is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Swatch Group Ltd.

Though ETA was founded by Eterna in 1856 some part of its production line can be traced back to the 1793 founding of Fabriques d’Horlogerie de Fontainemelon (FHF) by David Benguerel, Isaac Benguerel, François Humbert-Droz and Julien Humbert-Droz.

Although ETA specializes in ébauches, ETA is capable of making all components necessary for a completed watch and is therefore considered a manufacture d'horlogerie. ETA movements and ébauches are used both in watches of other Swatch Group subsidiary brands and in the watches of competitors.

Through a series of mergers, ETA has become the largest manufacturer of Swiss watch movements and controls a virtual monopoly over their production and supply. ETA has undergone several Swiss government investigations due to its market position. To resolve the concerns of Swiss government regulators, ETA has entered into an agreement that governs certain business practices.

Description[edit]

ETA designs and manufactures mechanical and automatic watches, watch movements and watch ébauches. ETA is headquartered in Grenchen, Switzerland and is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Swatch Group Ltd. Although the company produces finished watches and movements, ETA specializes in the production of ébauche movements used both in watches of sister Swatch Group subsidiary brands and in the watches of competitors, including brands owned by Compagnie Financière Richemont S.A. and others. With the exception of hairsprings manufactured by sister company Nivarox, ETA maintains vertical control over the manufacturing of all of the components required to create a watch movement and therefore is considered a true manufacture d'horlogerie.

History[edit]

ETA is the result of successive consolidation of the Swiss watch industry, a combination of several former Swiss watch movement manufacturers including Valjoux, Peseux [1] and Lemania.

In 1856 at Grenchen, Urs Schild, a schoolmaster, and Dr. Girard set up a watch movement (ébauche) factory which eventually became Eterna. In 1926, ETA AS (the movement branch of Eterna, founded in 1896) and FHF (founded in 1793) took part in the creation of Ebauches Ltd. In 1978 AS and ETA merged and in 1985 ETA took in all the activities done before by Ebauches Ltd and FHF (both part of SMH/Swatch Group).[2]

SSIH was founded in 1930 through the amalgamation of Omega and Tissot. By consolidating companies that produced high-quality movements and a number of watch brands, SSIH gradually established a strong position in the Swiss watch industry.

At the time, both SSIH and ASUAG held a number of well-established Swiss watch brands. ASUAG had been founded in 1931. ASUAG expanded through the purchase of companies that made movement-blanks and a number of finished watch manufacturers that were subsequently brought together under the subsidiary General Watch Co (GWC).

In the 1930s, both ASUAG and SSIH entered into complementary research and development programs to combat a severe economic crisis. Following repeated crises in the Swiss watch industry, by the 1970s both ASUAG and SSIH were again in trouble. Foreign competition and the mass production of cheap new electronic products were taking over the market. Eventually, both ASUAG and SSIH faced bankruptcy.

In 1983, critical steps including the merger of ASUAG and SSIH into SMH and the launching of a low-cost, high-tech, artistic and emotional “second watch” - the Swatch. Invented, developed and launched by Ernst Thomke and his team.[3]

During all those years of crisis, and restructuring, since 1978, Dr. Ernst Thomke had been at the helm of ETA SA, and also had become CEO of Ebauches SA and appointed on the Board of Directors of ASUAG. He became SMH's first CEO, position he held until 1991. At that time, Nicolas G. Hayek, as newly elected Chairman of the Board and main shareholder had already become the only person of reference.

In 1998, Swiss Corporation for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries Ltd (Société de Microélectronique et d'Horlogerie or SMH), founded in 1983 through the merger Swiss watchmakers ASUAG and SSIH, was renamed the Swatch Group.

Products[edit]

Because ETA supplies the overwhelming majority of movements found in Swiss watches, ETA movements are considered the workhorses of the industry.[citation needed]

ETA 2824-2[edit]

Hamilton Khaki Field Officer H70615133 with Swiss ETA 2824-2 movement

One workhorse of the ETA mechanical line is the ETA 2824-2, The 2824 is an automatic winding, twenty-five (25) jewel movement, available in four executions or grades: Standard, Elaborated (improved), Top and Chronometer.[4] The key components which differ at the line of demarcation between Elaborated and Top are the barrel spring, shock protection system, pallet stones, balance wheel & hairspring and the regulator mechanism. In contrast, since the addition of the "-2" at the end of the movement number, there has been no difference between the standard and the chronometer grades in terms of the regulator mechanism, both being Etachron. To illustrate the differences in accuracy garnered by the successive grades, consider the following specifications:

  • the Standard grade is adjusted in two positions with an average rate of +/-12 seconds/day, with a maximum daily variation of +/-30 seconds/day;
  • the Elaborated grade is adjusted in three positions with an average rate of +/-7 seconds/day, with a maximum daily variation of +/-20 seconds/day;
  • while the Top grade is adjusted in five positions with an average rate of +/-4 seconds/day, with a maximum daily variation of +/-15 seconds/day.

The Chronometer grade must meet strict standards prescribed by the COSC. Chronometer grade movements are serial numbered, as that is a requirement of the certification authority. Moreover, it should be noted that the degree of decoration on the movement's parts, generally only an aesthetic improvement, increases as well with the grade.[5]

ETA 2892[edit]

The ETA 2892.A2[6] is however, widely considered the more upscale of the basic ETA movements, and is a newer design dating to the 1970s where as the 2824 traces its roots back to the 1950s. The 2892 is fitted with top quality components. The 2892 is an automatic winding, twenty-one (21) jewel movement, available in three executions or grades: Elaborated, Top and Chronometer. The key components which differ at the line of demarcation between Elaborated and Top are the pallet stones, balance wheel & hairspring, and the regulator mechanism. To illustrate the differences in accuracy garnered by the successive grades, consider the following specifications:

  • the Elaborated grade is adjusted in four positions with an average rate of +/-5 seconds/day, with a maximum daily variation of +/-20 seconds/day;
  • the Top grade is adjusted in five positions with an average rate of +/-4 seconds/day, with a maximum daily variation of +/-15 seconds/day.

The Chronometer grade must meet strict standards prescribed by the COSC: an average rate of -4/+6 with a maximum daily variation of +/-5 seconds/day. The wider range for the Chronometer grade is designed to take into account the differences in a watches rate between static positions, as when the tests are performed, and the dynamic positions as when a watch is actually worn. Chronometer grade movements are serial numbered. Moreover, the degree of decoration on the movement's parts, generally an aesthetic improvement, increases with the grade.[7]

The 2892.A2 is regarded by many horologists as being in better 'quality' range (accuracy and reliability) than the in-house produced Rolex movements.[citation needed][8] Insofar as accuracy is concerned any movement which is expected to be COSC-certified, or is in fact COSC-certified, must meet the same standards. The ETA 2892.A2 is usually found in the more expensive and prestigious watches and brands. Owing to its relatively slim height of 3.60 mm, the 2892.A2 is a favorite of watch brands that market complicated movements such as Breitling with its trademark chronograph (stop watches). Given the slim dimensions of the 2892, it provides a good platform on which to add or build a chronograph complication. It is also used in IWC's Portofino line without complications simply for its small size.

The Omega coaxial based upon an ETA movement[edit]

Omega's popular Seamaster line of watches currently use an embellished version of the ETA 2892.A2, which is known as the Omega 1120. As an adjunct, some versions of the Omega watches may be fitted with the proprietary coaxial escapement invented by George Daniels, an English horologist, and exclusively marketed by Omega, a sister company of ETA. The movement with the coaxial escapement is known as the Omega 2500 series and is derived from the ETA 2892.

Valjoux 7750[edit]

ETA/Valjoux 7750 automatic movement

The Valjoux 7750[9] a/k/a ETA 7750 is a widely used chronograph (stop watch) movement operated by cams integrated into the movement. The traditional mechanism used in the chronograph is known as the Column Wheel. With the advent of the Valjoux 7750, the column wheel was abandoned for a three (3) plane cam system. The three plane cam system is properly known as the Coulisse Levier mechanism. The system and movement were developed by Edmond Capt in 1970, as a fully integrated self-winding mechanism with quick-set day/date based on the Valjoux 7733.[10]

The movement is an automatic winding, twenty-five (25) jewel movement, which can be fitted with a variety of features including the triple date (day, date, month and moon phase) or a variety of two and three register models with totalizers or counters for minutes, seconds and hours. It is available in three executions or grades: Elaborated, Top and Chronometer. The key components which differ at the line of demarcation between Elaborated and Top are the pallet stones, balance wheel & hairspring and the regulator mechanism. To illustrate the differences in accuracy garnered by the successive grades, consider the following specifications:

  • the Elaborated grade is adjusted in three positions with an average rate of +/-5 seconds/day with a maximum daily variation of +/-15 seconds/day;
  • the Top grade is adjusted in five positions with an average rate of +/-4 seconds/day with a maximum daily variation of +/-15 seconds/day.

The Chronometer grade must meet strict standards prescribed by the [COSC]: an average rate of -4/+6 with a maximum daily variation of +/-5 seconds/day.[11]

Cartel investigation[edit]

In 2003 the Swiss Competition Commission launched an investigation into the business practices of ETA SA after Nicholas Hayek, then chairman of ETA parent The Swatch Group Ltd., announced in 2002 that ETA would shortly stop supplying ébauches (partial watch movements) to companies outside The Swatch Group. Competitors complained that this would effectively put them out of business. Hayek countered that Swiss watch making companies must begin to invest in their own movement-making capabilities because it was detrimental to the long term health of the Swiss watchmaking industry to rely on one supplier, ETA, for the bulk of ébauche and parts production. The Swiss Competition Commission ordered ETA to continue supplying ébauches to companies outside The Swatch Group during the investigation.[12]

In 2005 the Swiss Competition Commission concluded its investigation and ordered ETA to continue delivering ébauches and parts at the then current levels until 2008, after which ETA was allowed to gradually reduce deliveries until 2010. The Commission had found that for ébauches in the price range up to US$250, there were no real alternatives and ETA's decision to stop deliveries was a breach of Swiss law pertaining to cartels.[12]

Although the 2005 decision has spurred some watchmakers to invest in the personnel and equipment necessary to produce movements in-house, heavy reliance on ETA continues to the present day. The original finding has been extended, with the Swiss Competition Commission ordering in July 2012 that based on 2010 supply levels, ETA may reduce the level of supplied movements by 30 percent in 2014-2015, 50 percent in 2016-2017 and by 70 percent by 2018-2019. The number of Nivarox products that must be offered will be reduced gradually, dropping by 70 percent by the year 2023. ETA hopes to eventually reach a market position where they are allowed to freely choose to supply or not to supply parts and ébauches to competitors based solely on ETA's discretion.[13]

See also[edit]

List of ETA Movements

References[edit]

  1. ^ "D'Ebauches S.A. à ETA S.A. : 75 ans de mouvements suisses" {French) (and "From Ebauches SA to ETA SA: 75 Years of Swiss Movements" (translation into English)
  2. ^ ETA web site at "ETA": "History" on January 11th, 2008.
  3. ^ Company Info History The Swatch Group today the swatch group
  4. ^ levels of component quality
  5. ^ Manufacturing Information, ETA 2801-2 through 2836-2, ETA, Grenchen May 2006
  6. ^ Description of Calibre ETA 2892-A2; for a description in English see [1]
  7. ^ Manufacturing Information, ETA 2892A2, ETA, Grenchen June 2006
  8. ^ Comparison between Rolex 3135, ETA2892-A2 and Valjoux 7750:"Having said that though there is absolutely no question in my mind, that I prefer the ETA 2892-2A over the other two."
  9. ^ Fonctionnement du calibre Valjoux 7750
  10. ^ John B. Holbrook, II, InSync Magazine, December 2006.
  11. ^ Manufacturing Information, ETA 7750 through 7760, ETA, Grenchen September 2006
  12. ^ a b Greene, Barbara (2005-01-16). "ETA must supply other Swiss watchmakers". All Business. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Archived from the original on 2008-03-11. Retrieved 2012-11-05. 
  13. ^ "Swatch approved to reduce movements supply". National Jeweler. The Nielsen Company. 2012-07-17. Retrieved 2012-11-05. 

External links[edit]