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There is a common conception or better to say a misconception in the world of mechanical watches that every luxury watch brand make their movements. Although the brands are themselves significantly responsible for perpetuating this conception for some apparent reasons, it is not entirely true. Many watch brands indeed outsource their movements from a third-party. However, if a brand is a member of a larger group, it may also borrow movements from their fellow members.
While some of the outsourced movements are altered to suit the specific needs of the brand, others are not. The fact is that it is not always possible for a watchmaker to produce each watch part that is fitted in their vast range of models. Eventually, in many instances, some components including the movements are typically sourced from outside. Nonetheless, some of the premier luxury watches in the industry have been known to use outsourced movements.
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is ideally the most popular mechanical chronograph ever produced by Rolex. However, it might be hard for you to believe that Rolex would ever rely on outsourced movements. But, yes it did. The Rolex Cosmograph was introduced in 1963, and it took on the moniker ‘Daytona’ the following year. At that time, this reliable and popular chronograph was powered by an outsourced movement, named as Valijoux 72 calibre.
Until 1987, this externally-sourced Calibre 72 was used in the Daytona watches. However, the movement had only one drawback – owners have to wind the Daytona manually watches every day. And, the 80s people were undoubtedly too busy to wind their timepieces. Especially after the arrival of affordable quartz timepieces, sales of Rolex Daytona gradually declined.
To restrain this, the Rolex Daytona 16520 was introduced featuring a self-winding movement –Zenith El Primero. It is known that Rolex modified this outsourced El Primero movement extensively (nearly 200 different alterations were made). The manufacturer swapped out over 50% of its original elements and fitted it with new ones, including new escapement and Glucydur free-sprung balance wheel. Ultimately, the El Primero mechanism (renamed as Calibre 4030) retained only half of the actual Zenith components.
The Omega Speedmaster was initially a tool watch, designed specifically for engineers, scientists as well as for others who had to keep track of time to the exact second. However, maximum people in the 1950s yet wore dress watches. The Omega Speedmaster was launched in 1957 with the Calibre 321. The manufacturer also equipped the renowned Lemania 2310 movement as a base.
The fact is that Omega and Lemania teamed up to make a 27mm chronograph having a 12hours register. In 1942, the Lemania 2310 (popularly known as Omega Calibre 321) was launched. The movement flaunted a column wheel design along with a screwed balance that oscillated at 18,000A/h and also, a wishbone-shaped bridge. The brand used this hand-wound movement in many more iterations of the Omega Speedmaster, as the original Moonwatch. Later in 1967, the Calibre 321 was replaced the new Calibre 821.
Patek Philippe is one of the most prestigious and popular brands in the horological world, known for its perpetual calendar chronograph timepieces. If the fact that Rolex has utilised outsourced movements at a time makes you surprise, you would possibly be shattered to know that Patek Philippe has also done it. Until 2011, the brand did not indeed manufacture its in-house perpetual calendar chronograph movement.
Before that, the company equipped significantly revised Lemania movements. One such example with this movement is the Patek Philippe Reference 5970. The watch was fabricated by the CEO Thierry Stern and had the shortest production run from 2004 to 2011 of any perpetual calendar chronograph of Patek.
The Patek Philippe Reference 5970 also employed the Lemania 2310 calibre as a base, just like the Omega 321 calibre. However, the timepieces significantly vary in the degree of complexity. The brand indeed heavily revised the base movement before adding the perpetual calendar module on top. Even with the externally-sourced base movement, the Ref. 5970 became a coveted collector’s asset.
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