Return With Us Now, To Those Thrilling Days Of Yesteryear Dept:
Out of morbid curiosity, I decided to go to the very first place I ever expressed an opinion about a watch on the Internet: the alt.horology usenet newsgroup (remember those, kids?)
The oldest attested use preserved (I checked with Google’s newsreader) is from a thread from 1996 (the newsgroup was actually started around November of 1994 by Ian Crocker in the UK) in a post by a gentleman who mentioned that the movement in his $750 Oris was apparently the same in a $199 Swiss Army. This in response to an OP who had noticed that his Oris watch had a movement made by “a company called ETA in Switzerland.”
Usenet itself is a non-centralized Internet discussion system that was designed in 1979 and was first publicly used in 1980.
Here is the post:
“ETA probably supplies the majority of the world’s mechanical and quartz
wristwatch movements. Relatively few manufacturers still make their own
movements in house; Jaeger-LeCoultre and Patek come to mind.
Most manufacturers buy “ebauches”– unfinished watch movements– from ETA
or Valjoux or other companies and add their own specific features. Oris,
for example, probably modifies the date mechanism to drive their pointer
date hand as opposed to to more common disk.
I notice in a recent Herrington’s catalog that Wenger, one of the
companies that makes “Swiss Army Watches”, has a mechanical watch with a
glass back for $199…and from the photo in the ad the movement seems to
be the same ETA movement in my $750 Oris!”
The oldest use of the term preserved in the Timezone.com archives is from a discussion started by Richard Paige in 1998, in which he says that watch manufacturers who extensively finish an ebauche to their own specs feel they should be entitled to call it “their own caliber.” It’s worth noting that Mr. Paige describes this as “an old subject.”
Could the Usenet post be the ur “in-house” thread? The humble spore from which a contagion of discourse, dissent, spilled tears, soul-searching, creative spin-doctoring, and hurt feelings spread across the Internet?
(NOTE: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that the earliest archived mention of the term “in-house” on Timezone.com dates to 1996. The actual date of the post is 17 July 1998. Revolution Magazine and Revo-Online.com regret the error. The persons responsible have been sacked.)