The Pro View

An In-house Movement is Essential For a 21st-century Watchmaking House.

The motion–that in the 21st century every watchmaking company should have an in-house movement– is one that I whole-heartedly support. I will put forward my side of the argument with the following three points: in-house movements ensure independence in the watchmaking industry; the ability to produce in-house movements demonstrates a watchmaking company’s technical skills; and in-house movements enable companies to control the quality of the timepieces they produce.

Firstly, in-house movements have now become essential for a company’s independence in the watchmaking industry. For example, when the 2015 uncoupling of the Swiss franc and Euro currencies negatively impacted all the watchmaking companies that source parts or entire watch movements from Switzerland, Nomos Glashütte remained relatively unaffected. This is because we produce our own movements and indeed almost all the parts for them and, therefore, do not depend on third-party suppliers. Another recent case is when Nivarox started to reduce deliveries of essential watchmaking parts in 2012, which has shown just how important this self-reliance can be for the health and future growth of watchmaking companies.

Nomos Glashütte’s independence in production has a strong foundation in our company’s independent ownership. We are not part of any corporate group but instead owned by five partners, who are personally responsible for strategic decision-making. While we are in the minority with this independent approach to business, it has certainly served us well to date. In 2016, we once again enjoyed growth of well over 20 per cent–this simply would not have been possible had we been restricted by parts quotas from monopoly suppliers in the watchmaking industry.

Secondly, the development and production of our own calibers shows that Nomos Glashütte is capable of the finest mechanical watchmaking and outstanding engineering.

To maintain this position, it is very important for us to have an in-house research and development department dedicated to advancing our capabilities. It has allowed us, for example, to develop 10 in-house movements over the years and achieve a production depth of up to 95 per cent.

Our 10th and latest caliber, DUW 3001, is not only an incredibly slender automatic, it also features our proprietary escapement, the Nomos Swing System. Both these technical innovations involved major investments and years in research and development to achieve, and are not only groundbreaking in a technical sense. This also gives Nomos a huge boost with regards to growth, as customers appreciate mechanical timepieces that are genuinely innovative, from a brand with proven expertise.

Finally, using mechanical movements that are developed, designed, and produced in-house means that a watchmaking company can control the quality of its timepieces from start to finish. This has been one of Nomos Glashütte’s top priorities from the very beginning: to produce mechanical watches of the highest quality. Personally speaking, I am sure that technical innovation, independent production and exacting quality assurance will ensure the company’s success for the years and decades to come. Customers demand outstanding quality, especially when it comes to investment purchases such as mechanical timepieces. How better for a watchmaking company to ensure this than with in-house quality assurance down to every individual piece of the movement?

To conclude, I believe that an in-house movement has become essential for any watchmaking company worth its salt in the 21st century. Ensuring independence, demonstrating technical skills, and underpinning quality, these are the prerequisites that Nomos Glashütte considers essential to create the finest timepieces. That’s why we take this notion a step further and have only in-house movements.

by Theodor Prenzel
Deputy Head of Research and Development, Nomos Glashütte

Theodor Prenzel

The Opposition View

An in-house movement is often a marketing trick to justify the unaffordable prices of watches.

The term “in-house” is not an easy one to fully understand. Of course, the idea of seeing a project through from sketch to a finished working watch seems appealing, but is being fully in-house really beneficial, and if so, at what cost in terms of infrastructures, reaction time, production capacity and, of course, price?

One problem today is that the term “in-house movement” is trendy and rather over-used. In fact, it seems to be as unclear and woolly as the term “manufacture.” I think it is important to question whether it is simply a marketing trick to add value and justify the unaffordable prices of actual watches.

According to Berner’s–the watchmaker’s Bible–the term “manufacture” can be used to describe “a large industrial factory [where watches] are manufactured almost completely.” For me, “in-house” and “verticalization” are new ways of saying the same thing. Therefore, “in-house” cannot be considered as a label of quality in itself, but as the ability to master the complete process of fabrication in what are necessarily large and complex structures. And, since “in-house” needs large manufactures, surely we should be asking whether manufactures help solve the main problem facing horology today, which is arguably mass overproduction.

At this point I feel it would be interesting to try to understand what makes Swiss Made watches so renowned and why people are willing to pay anything up to the price of a car to buy a Swiss watch. One reason is that they successfully fulfill criteria like rarity (or at least small productions), perfect execution by qualified watchmakers, technical inventiveness, great artistic value and last, but not least, respect for tradition and patrimony, meaning that they can be serviced and repaired for generations to come.

This is all possible thanks to the passionate watchmakers that reside in the small towns and villages of the Swiss watch valleys–their respect for and deep knowledge of mechanical watches–and to the incredible density of subcontractors able to produce the numerous very specific, complex and hyper-precise micromechanical components.

All of these small and specialized factories are in competition with each other, which leads to a great rivalry resulting in the desire to push boundaries and achieve extraordinary innovation.

Over decades, the Swiss watch industry has worked in harmony thanks to a fabulous and coherent industrial network involving hundreds of interconnected, independent factories –each one of them capable of producing sophisticated parts at short notice for good prices. It saddens me greatly that this desire for verticalization is seriously weakening Switzerland’s network of independent subcontractors and, in so doing, reducing the chances of a dynamic renewal of the watch industry.

My own business, Agenhor, is a good illustration of what I would call a traditional “non in-house” producer of movements. The company is a subcontractor specialized in the development and production of new complicated modules and movements. Respecting the functional wishes and designs of the brands, Agenhor has to imagine the movement, develop it, draw the technical plans, order the parts, control and assemble them in order to deliver functional movements. Respecting the highest standards of craftsmanship, the movements pass strict homologation tests.

Despite its small size, Agenhor is capable of developing and producing a completely new movement every year, as well as some more simple modules. Such achievements are made possible by the use of the know-how and development skills that Agenhor masters better than anyone else. All the other technical achievements are entrusted to a large range of very competent subcontractors.

In conclusion, I am convinced that clients of high-end watches want and deserve watches made by qualified watchmakers, in quantities and with finishing related to their abilities and at a correct price. I think that completely “in-house” movements are more suitable to large industrial series watches, while traditional production methods are the best solution for exclusive and high-end watches. In my opinion, automated assembly is something that should be reserved for mass production.

by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht
Master-watchmaker and Co-founder of Agenhor

Jean-Marc Wiederrecht