Article By: Logan Hannen

What is up, watchfam?! Today, we’re going to take a look at the two titans of off-the-shelf Swiss movements – ETA and Sellita.

Story time: when I was first getting into this hobby of ours, I didn’t know a damn thing about movements. Upon picking up my first automatic watch, an Invicta Pro-Diver, I couldn’t rationalize the difference between the movement powering that piece and one powering a Rolex (which, at the time, I had assumed was as high grade as things got – oh, to be that blissfully unaware once again, the damage that may be spared on my wallet). It took three years and some hardcore cramming of information to finally wrap my head around how movements could be so different, yet still accomplish the same fundamental task.

About halfway through that journey, I came across the two most standard Swiss movement manufacturers in the industry – ETA and Sellita. What took me about these two companies from the start, though, was the fact that they seemed, in discussion, to be inextricably linked to one another, yet with wildly different reputations in the community. Naturally, inquisitive soul that I am, I had to figure out what the deal was with these two mammoth movement suppliers.

ETA 2824-2 Compared to Sellita SW200-1
Source: Christopher Ward

As the Christopher Ward photo (above) demonstrates, the base calibers that each company produce are, well, physically almost identical. Sure, the rotors are different, but otherwise the aesthetic differences are minimal. That being said, that physical appearance doesn’t do much to explain any potential differences in mechanical integrity and performance.

So here’s your snapshot of the history between these two companies, as it does become relevant to the discussion of their mechanics. ETA, for a number of years, had used Sellita as an outsourced assembly company for their movements. They would ship Sellita the parts, minus a few which Sellita would receive direct from the manufacturers, and then Sellita would assemble them and sell them to brands as ETA movements. Not a bad gig, all things considered. One day, ETA decided not to outsource their movement assembly anymore, and Sellita was in essence out of a job. They reasoned that their only real option was to begin assembling movements of their own, and so they did.

ETA (left) vs Sellita (right)
Source: Nodus Watches

Once Sellita decided to make their own movements and sell them to brands independently, a couple of important things happened, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on the big one: the copyright on the ETA designs had run out, and brands were free to use the designs as they saw fit. Knowing not only the design by heart, but having strong relationships with many of the part suppliers who were not under the ETA/Swatch umbrella gave Sellita an edge over most other caliber manufacturers, and like that, the company as we know them today was born.

Alright, cute little history lesson over; let’s get into the nitty gritty of this one: which performs better? The general consensus is that these movements are nearly identical, not only in aesthetics, but in performance as well. Obviously, this depends on the grade of movement, how much the watch brand themselves modifies or regulates the movement, and things of the like that can make all the difference.

Sellita SW200 Found in an Oris vs. ETA 2824-2 Found in the Hamilton Khaki King
Source: WatchFlipr

Now, Sellita has stepped up their game in recent years with movements such as the SW300 and SW500, clones of the ETA 2892 (ETA’s higher grade movement) and the ETA/Valjoux 7750 (a chronograph movement). In so doing, they’ve positioned themselves firmly as a direct competitor to ETA, and a serious one at that. So whether or not you like one movement over the other ultimately doesn’t matter, because both companies are here to stay and, with ETA’s insistence on supplying predominantly to Swatch Group brands only (at least with movements that are not fully assembled) in order to quit supplying “the competition,” it seems that soon your favorite non-Swatch Group Swiss brands may very well end up converting to Sellita movements in their effort to help you keep it classy, watchfam.