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The Workhorses: A Guide to Common Automatic Watch Movements


August 21, 2018 Guides & How-To's : Primer By

A watchmaking company that designs and produces its own movements in-house is referred to as a manufacture and given a good deal of respect in the industry. Many watchmaking concerns, however (and especially many micro-brands), rely instead upon a small number of tried-and-true movements from several companies whose specialty is in producing movements themselves, rather than complete watches.

Utilizing these commonly available, outsourced movements allows the watchmakers to keep costs down and introduce a known quantity into the equation of watchmaking; these movements are relatively inexpensive, commonly available, and comparatively hassle-free to service.

What follows are some of the most well-known and commonly utilized automatic watch movements available today, along with a brief list of watches that use them:

ETA 2824-2

Perhaps one of the most ubiquitous and well-known automatic calibers available today, the ETA 2824-2 is based upon the Eterna 1247, which was first produced in 1955. The 2824-2 itself has been in production since 1982 and is available in four grades: Standard, Elaboré (improved), Top and Chronometer — as the grades increase, so does the movement’s accuracy, finishing level and price (by way of example, a Standard 2824-2 is accurate to within an average rate of +/-12 seconds/day, with a maximum daily variation of +/-30 seconds, while the Chronometer grade must meet COSC standards and is individually serial-numbered, and accurate to +/-4 seconds a day and maximum positional variance of 15 seconds). ETA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Swatch Group, is slowly phasing out the availability of their movements to non-Swatch Group companies.

Features: Hours, minutes, sweep seconds, date window
Diameter: 25.6 mm
Height: 4.6 mm
Jewels: 25
Vibrations Per Hour: 28,800 (4 Hz)
Hand-Winding Possible: Yes
Hacking: Yes
Power Reserve: 38 hrs
Country of Manufacture: Switzerland

Notable Examples:
Khaki Field Automatic by Hamilton Learn More
Beagle by Farer Learn More
Type 5 by Ressence Learn More

Sellita SW200

Sellita originally operated as an outsourced assembly operation for ETA, receiving near-complete 2824-2s and adding wheels, screws and other parts. When the Swatch Group (and thus ETA) decided to phase out supply of the 2824-2 to companies outside of the Group, Sellita decided to produce their own clone of the movement, which they could do legally as all the IP on the 2824-2 has long since expired. Though the company added an extra jewel to the SW200, it is otherwise identical to the 2824-2.

Features: Hours, minutes, sweep seconds, date window
Diameter: 25.6 mm
Height: 4.6 mm
Jewels: 26
Vibrations Per Hour: 28,800 (4 Hz)
Hand-Winding Possible: Yes
Hacking: Yes
Power Reserve: 38 hrs
Country of Manufacture: Switzerland

Notable Examples:
Clifton Club 10378 by Baume & Mercier Learn More
Super Kon-Tiki by Eterna Learn More
Klassik 39 by Archimede Learn More

Swiss Technology Production STP1-11/3-13/5-15

Established in 2008, Swiss Technology Production is the Fossil Group’s answer to ETA, and produces movements both for Fossil Group brands and third parties. The STP1-11 is the company’s base movement and has been engineered to fit anywhere a 2824-2 would, effectively making it a Swiss-made clone. While the movement is produced in several grades, including the STP3-13 that is used in many of Zodiac’s latest offerings and the STP5-15 which has an “open heart” view of the balance wheel, the base caliber itself features perlage decoration, an aesthetic feature not found on many of the other movements featured on this list. Several modules also exist that can be added to the base STP1-11 in order to give it added calendar information and functionality. While STP headquarters is, in fact, a movement assembly facility, many of the movement components are produced by the Fossil Group or by other Swiss manufacturers, meaning that the STP family of movements is in compliance with the stringent “Swiss Made” standards in effect since 2017.

Features: Hours, minutes, sweep seconds, date window
Diameter: 25.6 mm
Height: 4.6 mm
Jewels: 26
Vibrations Per Hour: 28,800 (4 Hz)
Hand-Winding Possible: Yes
Hacking: Yes
Power Reserve: 44 hrs
Country of Manufacture: Switzerland

Notable Examples:
Commuter Automatic (STP5-15) by Fossil Learn More
Super Sea Wolf (STP3-13) by Zodiac Learn More
Jetomatic (STP3-13) by Zodiac Learn More

Miyota 9015

Similar in feature set to the 2824-2 and the SW200, the 9015 is an automatic movement made by Miyota, which is part of the Citizen Group. First produced in 2009 and developing upon the 8215 caliber, the 9015 differs from the 2824-2 in the number of jewels, the length of the power reserve, height and the absence of multiple grades. Due to its relatively low price and wide availability, the 9015 is often utilized by micro-brands.

Features: Hours, minutes, sweep seconds, date window
Diameter: 26 mm
Height: 3.9 mm
Jewels: 24
Vibrations Per Hour: 28,800 (4 Hz)
Hand-Winding Possible: Yes
Hacking: Yes
Power Reserve: 42 hrs
Country of Manufacture: Japan

Notable Examples:
Combat B 24 Carbon by Lum-Tec Learn More
Vektor by Defakto Learn More
Kerrison by Martenero Learn More

Seiko NH35A

The NH35A is a Japanese automatic movement made by Seiko both for their own watches and for third parties. Inexpensive and relatively robust (though not nearly as accurate straight from the factory as some of the Swiss offerings on this list), the NH35A is another Japanese alternative to the Swiss-made 2824-2 and SW200. It features both hand-winding and hacking and is only available in one grade.

Features: Hours, minutes, sweep seconds, date window
Diameter: 27.4 mm
Height: 5.32 mm
Jewels: 24
Vibrations Per Hour: 21,600 (3 Hz)
Hand-Winding Possible: Yes
Hacking: Yes
Power Reserve: 41 hrs
Country of Manufacture: Japan

Notable Examples:
Retrospect by Nodus Learn More
SKX007 by Seiko Learn More
Orion 1 by Orion Learn More

Valjoux/ETA 7750

Originally produced by Valjoux (and since absorbed by the Swatch Group) beginning in the 1970s, the Valjoux/ETA 7750 is perhaps the most widely-used automatic third-party chronograph in the world. Relying on a comparatively inexpensive and easily manufactured three-plane cam system in place of the classic column wheel, the 7750 automatic chronograph movement can be modified to display a date window, the day of the week, one less sub-dial, and a moon phase complication, rendering it incredibly versatile. It is also available in three grades, including Elaboré, Top and Chronomètre.

Features: hours, minutes, small seconds, 2 push-button chronograph (30-minute counter, 12-hour counter), possible date, day, moon phase
Diameter: 30 mm
Height: 7.9 mm
Jewels: 25
Vibrations Per Hour: 28,800 (4 Hz)
Hand-Winding Possible: Yes (but not recommended)
Hacking: Yes
Power Reserve: 40 hrs
Country of Manufacture: Switzerland

Notable Examples:
Clifton Club 10403 by Baume & Mercier Learn More
Lord Hamilton Auto Chrono by Hamilton Learn More
103ST Chronograph by Sinn Learn More