The New Ronda Automatic R150
By Aaron Recksiek, CW21
Hidden within all the hype and fanfare of Baselworld 2016 was a little nugget of news that has the potential to change the industry in more ways than any other release or announcement.
RONDA AG, of Lausen, Switzerland, released details of their first in-house, Swiss-made mechanical movement in nearly 30 years. Ronda produced their first mechanical caliber in 1961, but didn’t stick to it very long. In the 1970s Ronda started dedicating resources to the new quartz technology that was sweeping the industry. They eventually discontinued all mechanical movement manufacturing in the late 1980s. This new movement has been in development for the last four years.
The Ronda caliber R150 was designed to be a replacement to the size and dimensions of the ETA 2824-2, 11.5 ligne (25.6mm diameter) and 4.4mm thick. It is a high-beat, 28,800-vph, three-hand with date, ball-bearing automatic. The movement contains 25 jewels, Incabloc anti-shock settings, Swiss lever escapement, and a micro-regulator adjustment system. It is capable of a 40-hour power reserve, bi-directional automatic and hand winding, and hacking seconds. However, the performance leaves a little to be desired. The average rate can vary by ±12 seconds/day, and the maximum variance in all positions (delta) is 30 seconds/day. With an estimated final price of about 66 CHF or $68.30, the movement performs and prices out to be very comparable to the Japanese-made Miyota 9015 automatic. The Miyota 9015 has been a well-performing mechanical movement for many years. However, it still poses a problem for any brand chasing that elusive “Swiss made” label—a label that requires over 50% of the watch parts (by value) to be manufactured in Switzerland with final assembly and inspection also done in Switzerland. This “Swissness” requirement is set to increase to 60% on January 1, 2017.
The new Ronda R150 is part of a new line of movements named Mecano. This new line of movements is planned to expand beyond basic automatics and become an entire family of mechanical calibers that are so desperately needed by the Swiss watch industry. There has been no word on which types of calibers are the next closest to being announced, but we can be assured that at each Baselworld from now until then, microbrands will be expecting something more out of Ronda.
Some of the best news about this announcement is Ronda’s projected production goal: 100,000 units per year. Early delivery is set to begin in 2017. It is speculated that most, if not all, of the initial production is already spoken for. Ronda hopes to be at their production goal before December 31, 2019, when ETA has announced they will not be supplying movements or movement parts outside of the Swatch Group umbrella.
There has been a slew of new “Swiss made” movements being developed in recent years to help replace the void that will soon be left by the ETA SA movement manufacture. This was the original vision of Nicolas G. Hayek, to eventually wean the highly dependent watch industry off the movements and components produced by the Swatch Group. Some see it as trying to force other brands out of business, but let’s remember it was Nicolas G. Hayek who was brought in to help save the spiraling Swiss watch industry in the 1980s. When you first look at the surface of the problems that might come from a stoppage in distribution, things may seem a little scary, but there is always fear of the unknown. There has not been this amount of independent research and development dedicated to providing the industry with different options since the 1970s. This continued competition for market share will only increase the quality and keep prices reasonable, which helps the small, independent watch brands.
Aaron Recksiek is an independent watchmaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was a graduate of the 2008 WOSTEP class at the Lititz Watch Technicum.