MADE BY HAND
The trend for making parts in-house has developed in recent years for two main reasons. First, traditional suppliers were unable to keep up with demand amid rapid expansion of the watch market, leading to many brands developing in-house production. Second, the ability to produce parts in-house, which requires significant investment in technology and skilled artisans, elevates the brand into an exclusive club.
Historically, though, even the most illustrious brands have often used external suppliers, primarily for the ébauche—the base movement in an unfinished state, almost like a kit. It’s what the brand does with the ébauche, with hand-finishing or the addition of functional modules, that separates the wheat from the chaff. The level of handfinishing is also a key factor in determining haute horlogerie status. Modern technology and production techniques have enabled tremendous advances in even the most traditional watches, with watchmakers having access to better, more consistent and more precise parts with which to build ever more complex mechanisms and complications. But there are certain aspects of the finishing where the human touch is crucial—for example, the level of polish or the particular angles on a component that even the most elaborate machine is not capable of replicating. Machines can’t replace the dexterity of the human hand or years of experience at the workbench.
The quality of hand-finishing is one of the aspects of watches that I personally find fascinating. You only need to attend the most basic watchmaking workshop to understand how challenging it is to put a