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Are in-house movements better?


Watch expert Ariel Adams ( answers some of your most most popular watch questions…

If you aren’t intimately aware of how luxury watches are priced or segmented, then the idea of an in-house made versus sourced movement can be confusing and illogical. Indeed many things in the luxury industry are illogical, but that is ok because we lust for these items with our emotions.

Watches contain small mechanisms to power them, which we refer to as “movements.” These movements can be purchased from separate companies, or produced in-house by the brand. It is often said that the best watch makers in the world produce their own movements. Furthermore, watches with in-house made movements are able to command a higher price, as well as a level of prestige. Brands, such as Jaeger-LeCoultre, Rolex, IWC, Audemars Piguet and Zenith are renowned for manufacturing their own in-house movements.

Having said that, not all in-house made movements are better than those which can be sourced by companies who specialise in making movements to sell. In fact, the companies who make movements sourced by others produce a lot of movements and have an interest in ensuring that they are very reliable. They also have an economy of volume, which helps make good watches less expensive.

In recent years, many of the bigger commercial brands have created their own in-house movements. Breitling spent over five years developing its in-house made, automatic chronograph movement and TAG Heuer unveiled its re-named Calibre CH80 in-house movement at BaselWorld this year. Both feature in select models.

The short of it is that simple and durable mechanical movements are best when they are made in a high-volume, and using tried and true designs. The bottom line is that for money and value it is sometimes best to get a watch with a sourced movement, if it is a relatively simple one.

When it comes to more complex movements you get into the area of much more expensive, and thus prestigious watches. In this realm you should be looking for a watch with an in-house made movement. This means that the company can service the watches themselves, and because the movements are less common they are inherently more collectible. It is also true that collectors seek out in-house made movements in watches because of their inherent rarity. They feel that spending a lot of money on a watch should be for something more exclusive than a movement a dozen of brands use.

So an in-house made movement isn’t inherently better than something produced in bulk by a supplier, and it can even be worse. Though when it comes to complex or collectible movements, something in-house is always going to be more attractive.