Watches

Eight watches with in-house movements for under £5,000

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What is an in-house movement? Why are they important? And should you spend your hard-earned cash on one?

If you’re a regular visitor to The Jackal and find your eye drawn to our watch pages, you’ll recognise we frequently refer to watches with in-house movements. This, like so many other terms in watch appreciation, is jargon at best, and affectation at worst. But by and large, it does mean something.

In fact, it means a lot, particularly to those who obsess over watches. An in-house movement – a true in-house movement – is bespoke to the dial name. That means the brand behind the watch designs, develops, produces and assembles the movement inside it. Rolex, as an example, is totally vertically integrated and produces every part of a watch and its movements in its own factories. The likes of Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre are similarly endowed.

Now, without wanting to complicate matters, there is no agreed definition of ‘in-house’ (or manufacture, the sometimes used French synonym). Brands use the term liberally, and sometimes not always justly (woe betide any who get caught with their hand in the in-house jar), because not all claiming in-house status will produce every part of a watch movement. The most commonly imported part is the hairspring, the delicate spiral that sits on the escapement wheel – the one that oscillates and gives a mechanical watch its ticking sound.

But let’s not split hairs too finely. Most would agree that an in-house movement is designed and made to be specific to a watch company and sometimes a single watch, the alternative the one used by the broad majority of mechanical watch companies, which outsource movement production to Swiss companies such as a ETA and Sellita, or Japan’s Miyota. It’s a bit like automotive groups sharing engines and chassis. There’s nothing wrong with those third-party movements (in fact, they tend to be more reasonably priced, very reliable and easier to service), bar their universality. The joy of a watch with an in-house movement is in its relative novelty.

Over the last 10-15 years, lots of Swiss watch companies have sunk many millions of their Swiss francs into developing not just their own movements, but also the facilities and machinery required to make them. With interesting results. Many are more accurate than the off-the-shelf models; many have bigger power reserves; others have unusual, but useful characteristics.

They join that elite group of brands that have long-since mastered the many skills required to make a watch in-house – many of whom create exquisitely decorated movements that are as much works of art as triumphs of engineering.

But those are for another day. For now, here are eight watches with in-house movements for under £5,000.