An ébauche is an unfinished movement sold by a movement factory to an outside watch brand for finishing and assembly.

The concept of the ebauche allowed brands to focus on design and marketing, while an outside supplier produced the movements.

In a way, this is also one of the original culprits of the smoke and mirrors side of the watch industry. After all, it’s because of the ebauche that the same movement is used in various brands and models of watches, but later marked with the brand’s own caliber number – creating the impression that the movement was made by the watch brand.

From Wikipedia:

“Until about 1850, the watchmaker’s ébauche consisted of two plates with pillars and bars, the barrel, fusée, index, pawl and ratchet-wheel, along with a few assembling screws. These parts were all roughly filed and milled. The steel and brass were manufactured in a special workshop. The ébauche was finished by watchmakers in a finishing shop. The assortiment (literally “assortment” in English) are the parts of a watch other than the ébauche, in particular the regulating organs and include the balance, hairspring or spiral, escape wheel, anchor lever and pallet stones or jewels. The modern ébauche is a jeweled watch movement, without its regulating organs, mainspring, dial, or hands. –Wikipedia

The Merriam-Webster dictionary simplifies it:

ébauche noun āˈbōsh plural -s : an incomplete watch movement consisting of plates, bridges, wheels, and barrels to be finished and fitted with jewels, escapement, mainspring, hands, and dial.” –Source

Modern Ebauches?

Like the watch industry and its methods of manufacturing and distribution (and in large part a result of acquisitions and expansion by conglomerates), the word eventually evolved or adapted a bit to suit the modern watch community.

Although technically “ebauche” in the traditional sense of the word refers to the collection of parts (sans finishing or assembly), as the industry evolved, the term sometimes takes on the meaning of a white label or private label movement produced by a movement factory and sold to outside brands. In that regard, the most well-known modern ébauche would be the ETA 2824-2 or ETA/Unitas 6497-1 – or at least you may hear them being referred to as such (whether technically correct or not).

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