Together with ETA, Sellita is the most important and well-known watch movement manufacturer. Popular watch brands like TAG Heuer, Sinn, and Oris trust in these movements designed and produced in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Chrono24 Magazine was lucky enough to interview Dr. Sébastien Chaulmontet, Sellita’s head of innovation and marketing, and ask him the questions YOU shared on our social media and YouTube channels. Find out what Sébastien Chaulmontet has to say about whether Sellita movements are as good as those from ETA, and whether the movement makers copy one another. The chronograph enthusiast, who owns more than 1,000 watches himself, also describes Sellita’s newest innovations and challenges in the watch world.
Which innovative watch technologies did Sellita invent?
Dr. Sébastien Chaulmontet: Sellita is 70 years old, so a full history of all the patents and innovations we’ve created would be a bit too long. But what is special about Sellita is that we are not only talking about innovations in the movements themselves, but also in the means of production. A very recent innovation I’m quite proud of is our flyback column-wheel chronograph. This is really unique in the industry. It allows watchmakers to regulate the smoothness of a movement after it is already put into the case with all its hands on. This is very useful because you can adjust a movement that is already working. A common problem with mechanical chronographs is that you always have to adjust between the power reserve and the smoothness. With our system, you can do slight adjustments and adapt the movement to meet the personal taste of the client.
Why are some ETA and Sellita movements identical? Did Sellita copy ETA?
Chaulmontet: Let’s start with a bit of history to get an idea of why Sellita might be known as an ETA copy. The company was founded in 1950. At the time, ETA was a kit producer, which is not the same thing as a movement producer. A kit comes unassembled, and the buyer has to do some work and add additional parts, e.g., an escapement, before using it, whereas a movement supplier delivers finished movements that can be built into watches without further adjustment. Prior to the early 2000s, ETA produced the kits and Sellita built and sold the final movements from these kits. Then, the Swatch Group decided that ETA should become a full-service watch movement producer, which it was not previously. This left Sellita with some difficulties. We lost our major kit supplier (ETA), but we still had the clients and knowledge of the industry which helped us to change our business model fundamentally. So, former Sellita movements were not copies of ETA movements, but we were finishing the parts that ETA delivered to us. Now, we are a completely independent full-service watch movement supplier.
Are Sellita products the same quality as ETA movements?
Chaulmontet: In terms of quality, we are nearly one hundred percent on par with ETA. But our clients can order whatever they want – it’s not up to us which quality levels our clients choose. We have many different levels of execution, meaning we offer some standard movements with slightly rougher finishing, but also some higher-end models. The level obviously has an impact on the price. If some watches contain Sellita movements with a slightly rougher execution, it doesn’t speak to our general level of manufacturing quality. Some of our clients have had the tendency to order rougher executions in the past to get the lowest prices.
Is Sellita going to compete with ETA on upping the power reserve of their movements?
Chaulmontet: We are always working on the power reserve of our movements. The SW300 now has a power reserve of 56 hours instead of 42, and our automatic chronograph now has 62 hours instead of 40, so we are continuously improving our movements and trying to get the best power reserves possible. Most of the newest movements that we are working on have a power reserve of at least 80 hours. We are also trying to increase the power reserve of our standard movements like the SW200 to a minimum of 62 hours instead of the current 40.
Where are Sellita movements produced, and where will watchmaking take place in the future?
Chaulmontet: Sellita produces its products in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Hopefully, watchmaking will remain in Switzerland. This doesn’t mean that the watchmakers themselves have to be Swiss, but Switzerland has remained important in watchmaking over the last few decades, even though many other industries have moved to other countries. We have been able to attract people from all over the world who have a passion for watchmaking and preserving the same quality and values.
ETA’s Powermatic 80 is one of their most popular calibers used by Hamilton, Tissot, and more. Does Sellita plan on developing a caliber with similar features to the Powermatic 80 in the future?
Chaulmontet: The answer would be yes and no. Of course, we do have several automatic movements, and we are continuously working on the power reserve of our calibers. The ETA Powermatic 80 has made watches with long power reserves quite affordable for entry-level customers, but we are not planning on creating a copy of the ETA Powermatic 80 or anything similar. While our focus is also on power reserve, we have a completely different aesthetic. Our plan is to create a new generation of movements, showcasing what a modern movement should look like.
What are the next challenges in watchmaking in general and for Sellita in particular?
Chaulmontet: The biggest challenge is to bring different priorities together: On the one hand, our clients are always looking for more affordable movements. On the other hand, we are always trying to improve quality, not only in terms of power reserve but also precision. In addition, we are working on a more sustainable production model and trying to recycle more. I would say that innovation is our daily business. We are either looking for how to create new complications or how to make the existing ones more reliable. We also focus a lot on the use case of a watch and look for ways we can solve industry-wide problems.