Article By: Logan Hannen

What is up, watchfam?! Today, we’re going to dive into the world of residual value between watches with in-house versus “off-the-shelf” movements!

Before we get into the residual value that can be found in pieces with either of these movements, it might be important to discuss what the difference between them really is.

An in-house movement is a watch movement that is produced, (nearly) 100%, by the same manufacturer as the rest of the watch.

An “off-the-shelf” movement, by contrast, is one produced by a different brand, typically of lesser finish quality and made at a cheaper cost. ETA SA is the largest producer of Swiss movements in the world, as well as producing other watch parts, and produce both mechanical movements and quartz movements. The separation here that warrants the “off-the-shelf” designation is that ETA, as a company, does not produce and assemble their own line of watches. As the largest Swiss supplier of them in the world, though, you are just as likely to see them in your Victorinox Alliance for $350 as you are in your Bell & Ross BR126 (at $4,500). There are different grades of ETA movements, designed with higher performance and higher quality finish in mind as the price of them increases, so the Bell & Ross has a higher grade (read: a well-decorated but non-chronometer ETA 2894-2).

There is often debate around what truly constitutes “in-house”, especially for brands that are under, for example, the Swatch Group. The reason for this is that the Swatch Group is also the owner of ETA. On the other end, several brands use other high end brands’ movements in their watches.

ETA vs. In-House Movements
Source: The Critical Gentleman

Now that we have those working definitions in order, let’s get into the world of residual value. When we talk about residual value, we have to put aside the fact that we’re watch geeks for a second and consider the market at large. For a lot of brands, the primary consumer base is what we consider “the watchfam” (Journe or Breguet, for example). In reality, the majority of consumers aren’t buying those brands – they’re buying Rolex, Omega, Tag, Tissot, Patek, the brands that they see on the wrists of their favorite actors, athletes, and talk show hosts named Ellen. Those people often don’t particularly care about the difference between in-house and off the shelf, sometimes because they probably don’t know the difference even exists.

For that entire segment of the market, residual value is largely dependent on brand and design. Watch geeks, like myself, have a bit more respect for an in-house movement for varying reasons. For me, it’s because it demonstrates at least some level of wanting to go the extra mile. Make no mistake, it isn’t cheap to get together all of the equipment and manpower to produce each and every movement component. Doing so, especially in a shift from an ETA or Sellita movement, certainly shows a commitment to bringing handcrafted, careful, more thoughtful construction and finishing to your customer. Others, however, might fall into the “it doesn’t matter” camp. Others still might even prefer ETA or Sellita movements to in-house because, ultimately, unless you’re doing something super unique with the movements in-house, there isn’t enough of a difference in quality to justify the massive premium. With that in mind, an off the shelf movement simply provides more value.

Then, you get to talking about Tudor. Tudor really is kind of the odd-one-out in this scenario, for one, very important reason – their older Black Bay models, in particular, used ETA movements, and somehow, those models are demanding a higher premium on the second hand market than the new, in-house models. There are probably a number of reasons for this, but the reason I’m seeing most on the forums comes down to serviceability. Ultimately, though, ETA or other off the shelf movements are, for want of a better phrase, “generic,” which is good for the buyer insofar as they are more easily serviced by a local watchmaker, whereas an in-house movement most often needs to be sent to a specialized service center of some kind.

Tudor Black Bay ETA Version
Source: Hodinkee

Tudor Black Bay In-House
Source: Watches by SJX

As you can see in the photos above, there is actually a visual cue as to which version of the Tudor Black Bay (just as an example model) you are dealing with. The ETA version features curved text along the 6 o’clock position of the dial that reads “Self-Winding,”- whereas the in-house version features straight text, touting its chronometer certification and water resistance, and nothing else. The words “Self-Winding” have been removed entirely on the in-house model, and the curvature to the text has been altered to be completely straight. There is also a cue in the logo. On the ETA Black Bay, the logo featured above Tudor is the classic “Tudor Rose”, a rose shaped icon done in the same golden print as the rest of the dial. On the in-house Black Bays, that logo has been replaced with the newer Tudor Shield logo. So, if you’re ever unsure which you have in front of you, just remember that bit about the curved text and the logo.

So to wrap this back around – ultimately, there isn’t as much an impact on residual value from in-house versus off the shelf, and certainly not to the degree some watch geeks might expect. While to us it’s something that might matter, the general public isn’t nearly as interested. All they really care about, after all, is being able to keep it classy, watchfam.