On first read, I was a bit sad to read how Omega has managed to streamline and automate so many of its manufacturing tasks. Even oiling can now be performed by a machine–gasp! Final assembly is still done by hand, by a handful of dedicated watchmakers in Switzerland.
What this article hints at, but largely misses, is the larger change taking place in the Swiss watch industry as the Swatch Group has decided to phase out selling ebauches through its ETA subsidiary. For many years, ETAs Valjoux 7750 movement, for example, has powered the insides of many high end brand’s chronographs. Breitling, for example, has stepped up their game and now produces at least one of their chronograph movements in house. Girard-Perregaux has done the same.
Words cannot emphasize how monumental this change will be for the industry. It’s an exciting time, however. As each manufacturer brings design and production back in house, it will usher in an era of unprecedented creativity and technological advances to the venerable mechanical wristwatch. We’re on the cusp of that now. It will be exciting to see this develop over the rest of the decade. It also raises a whole host of after sales servicing and parts availability concerns that the industry has been largely unwilling to fully address. As thing stand now, when these new in house movements need servicing 10, 20, or 30 years down the road, you won’t be able to take them to your neighborhood watchmaker for a Clean, Oil, Adjust. Rather, you’ll be tied to the manufacturer’s authorized serviced centers with their inflated rates and inflexible policies. More on this topic another day.