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Manufacture Status?

Manufacture status: who has it; why and how has this changed?

The Prodigal Fool:

I can’t tell you who has it and that, in itself, is testimony to the fact that it’s not that important to most watch-buyers. I don’t think the great majority of serious watch collectors care.

Ken Kessler, world renowned watch journalist and audiophile:

As usual, The Fool’s bang on. I completely agree with him. I only wish I had half his insight and intellect.

James Gurney:

What does it mean / how do we define it?

The Prodigal Fool:

To me, the definition is fairly straightforward: the term applies to a watch brand that builds its own mechanisms. It’s simple.

Peter Roberts, veteran watchmaker and Technical Director at Bremont:

Indeed, The Fool is as succinct as he is correct.

James Gurney:

What is its value to the consumer / to the brand?

The Prodigal Fool:


I think that’s a very interesting question that draws to mind one of the many ‘learning curves’ you follow once you start getting drawn into the world of watches. It’s something of a three-stage process:

People who don’t know much about watches tend not to value or worry about the mechanicals much. They assume that a watch with a good brand name on the dial is going to have good internals. That’s stage one I guess.

Stage two happens after they’ve researched the subject matter a little and all of a sudden start getting very obsessive and – I think misguided – about the internals of a watch. At phase two, people are prone to saying silly things like, “your Breitling has an ETA movement and is therefore no different to a Swatch” or “the Rolex Cosmograph is insanely over-priced since Rolex doesn’t even make the internals for it and instead put a humdrum Zenith movement in there.”

The third stage, let’s call it ‘enlightenment’, is when you realise that there’s more – much more – to it than that.

Altering a watch movement is an art in itself. Many brands buy quality movements from very reputable suppliers and then improve them or rather adapt them still further.

Perhaps more importantly, the movements that are bought in can often be more desirable than anything the brand could have built itself. Let’s face it, no one complains that Aston Martin doesn’t make its own tires right?

People who really know about watches know that many of the most desirable models have movements manufactured by a third party. The Cosmograph with the Zenith movement that I just mentioned is one notable example.

And tell me this: who wouldn’t kill for a vintage Panerai with a movement bought in from a little company called Rolex?

Having said all of that, I have a confession to make. I’m not immune to this industry’s obsession with in-house movements and manufacture status. And I’m particularly attracted to an in-house movement if I know it to be high-quality. Breitling’s new Navitimer Calibre 01 caught my eye for precisely that reason. And Panerai’s move to in-house movements has left me looking at my PAM111 with a little buyer’s remorse. Yeah, I’m a sucker just like everyone else!

Elizabeth Doerr, one of the world’s foremost writers on horology:

I agree. I’d just like to add that I think The Fool is charming and witty in equal measure.

James Gurney:

Is there any danger of obsessing on this subject?

The Prodigal Fool:


Absolutely! I think that, ultimately, it’s a red herring for a number of reasons:

The mechanism is just one part of what makes a watch.

I’d rather have a great calibre that was bought in and perhaps adapted by the watch manufacturer than a mediocre one that the watch manufacturer had made itself.

To put it a different way, no one complained when Lamborghini started using Audi parts in its cars. In fact, most petrol heads will tell you that Lamborghinis have never been better and that they benefit hugely from having components like the interiors supplied by a company who actually build them with care and skill rather than cobbling them together with pasta as used to be the Big Bull’s habit.

Peter Roberts:

I think that, in just a few words, The Fool has perfectly summed up the most important points worth making as regards manufacture status. The man is nothing short of a horological genius.

James Gurney

Excellent. Well, let’s move on. Next, I’d like to talk about heritage and design.

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