Since 1793, Swiss movement manufacturer ETA SA has been the motorist of time. The company has dedicated its entire activity to developing and producing innovating and incredibly durable calibres for the watch industry. At the moment, it is one of the largest manufacturers of movements and watches in the entire world. Their products are uniquely precise, reliable and functional.
Most of today’s luxury brands rely on ETA SA when it comes to equipping their watches with high quality calibres. You see, the name that’s on the dial is not the same as the name that’s on the inside mechanism and in order to know how good a watch really is you first need to know what makes it tick, what type of mechanical self-winding movement sets it in motion.
The founders of ETA were dr. Joseph Girard and the 28-year old school teacher Urs Schild. At first, the company was an ébauche(semi-assembled movements) factory called “Dr. Girard & Schild“. In 1905, the name of the firm was changed to Eterna and its main activity was focused on assembling watches. Because of the negative economic environment, in 1932, the management decided to merge the company with ASUAG/Ébauches SA which produced only ébauches. Because of this partnership, Eterna was split in two parts: one that joined Ébauches SA holding and that continued to assemble watches, and a new one that was called ETA SA and made complete movements.
As the industry kept changing, ETA SA followed new directions for shaping its business. Even though manufacturers like Valjoux and Venus were creating chronographs, ETA was more concerned about building automatic movements, something that was revolutionary at that time. During the ‘50s and ‘60s the industry was expanding rapidly so ETA came with another innovation: movements that were fitted with ball-bearings in the automatic winding mechanism. Furthermore, they also developed high-frequency movements that had 36,000 vibrations per hours.
As the decades went by, ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse (ETA SA Swiss Watch Manufacturer) evolved into one of the most famous and appreciated company that designs and manufactures high quality quartz watches, hand-wound and automatic-winding mechanical movements and ébauches. Today, the Grenchen, Switzerland based brand is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Swatch Group Ltd and its name is synonymous with excellence.
The very interesting thing about the products created by this company is that they come in two main forms: ébauches and complete movements. These are being sold in large quantities to the most important brands on the market. And each brand personalizes the movements as to reflect the image and performances that define its name.
Indeed, there are many mid and high-end brands that offer their in-house movements, but those who want to offer the best there is opt for modifying an ETA base calibre. The mechanism is modified by the company that purchased it by adding unique parts that are meant to increase the performances, durability and functionality of the movement. Still, in many cases the only thing modified in the mechanism is the rotor that has been embossed with the brand’s name.
ETA SA was founded by Eterna in 1856, but some essential parts of its production line were first manufactured in 1973 by the Fabriques d’Horlogerie de Fontainemelon (FHF) which was founded by David Benguerel, François Humbert-Droz, Isaac Benguerel and Julien Humbert-Droz.
ETA specializes in designing and making ébauches, but the company is capable of producing an entire range of parts needed for building a complete watch. Because of this very important aspect, it is considered a manufacture d’horlogerie. Its ébauches and ETA movements boost both timepieces of its competitors and timepieces of other Swatch Group subsidiary brands.
ETA is an essential element of modern horology and an element without which watch making would never be what it is today. Through a series of ups and downs, ETA SA has become the most important manufacturer of Swiss watch movements. Basically, it controls the trends and evolution of the industry, and in the end it defines contemporary timepieces as we know them.