Meeting Recap: Project A11: How Can A Small Family Business Afford to Design and Produce A Proprietary Watch Movement?

Maria & Richard Habring, Founders of  Habring Uhrentechnik OG Völkermarkt, Austria
October 7, 2019

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Coming all the way from Austria for the October lecture at the Horological Society of New York, Maria and Richard Habring, founders of Habring², gave their perspective on how an independent company like theirs manages to establish a proprietary mechanical movement.

Habring² was able to purchase small orders of movements and spare parts that were graciously provided by ETA. However, when ETA decided to stop selling their product, more specifically spare parts, Habring² was taken by surprise when they asked ETA to explain their public stance on selling spare parts only to ‘brands’. Here is Richard’s brief rendition of the conversation:

H2: Why are you not selling parts to us?
ETA: It’s simple…you’re not a brand.
H2: Okay. What makes for ETA a brand?
ETA: A brand buys at least a hundred movements of one type per year at ETA. Whether it is a mechanical movement or a quartz movement.
H2: Yes, but you don’t sell us mechanical movements.
ETA: Yes, but you can buy quartz movements.
H2: But why should we buy quartz movements?
ETA: That’s not our problem.

So, Habring² had to look for alternatives. Even though Sellita had the parts that Habring² could use, Sellita’s capacity had yet to be established - it would take 18 months and full payment made up front. Naturally, the Sellita arrangement was not going to fly with Habring². It was then that Maria decided that the company would create their own movement.

It needs to be noted that the consequences of ETA’s decision also affected suppliers. For example, one of ETA’s former partners, Ultra, reached out to Habring² to establish a reliable partnership and expand their skills since they no longer supplied winding stems for ETA. Ultra now makes all of Habring²’s rotating parts such as the pinions. The importance of supplier partnerships is extremely important for Habring². There are about 25 suppliers that work with the brand, so much so that the partnerships are described as The Habring² Suppliers Family with the following principles: Sustainability, Reliability, Responsibility, Short distances (between Austria, Switzerland, Germany), Fairness, and “Give and Take”.

Finally, Habring was able to create its first movement: Calibre A11. The movement then evolved into the Calibre A11B which had a total of 99 components. To date, the A11 movement has brought about eight configurations to the Habring² collection:

  • A11B (Base) in the Felix

  • A11S (Second) in the Erwin

  • A11F (Foudroyante) in the Foudroyante Felix

  • A11C (Chrono) in the Chrono-Felix

  • A11COS (Chrono COS) in the COS Felix

  • A11R (Rattrapante) in the Doppel-Felix

  • A11P (Perpetual) in the Perpetual-Doppel

  • A11D90 (Repeater) in the Felix-Repeater

HSNY thanks Maria and Richard Habring for their fascinating lecture!

Photography by Atom Moore
Submitted by Melody Benloss, HSNY Librarian & Recording Secretary