An ebauche (“blank”) is a basic, unfinished watch movement kit. Originally just the rough machined plates and pillars, ebauches in the 20th century included wheels and other components. Today, the escapement assortiment, balance and hairspring, barrel and mainspring, and shock absorbers are sometimes included in the term, though often still sourced from other companies.
Before the advent of industrial-scale watchmaking and power production, it was necessary to obtain all of the components of a watch from different specialist producers. A few companies (notably Japy in France and FHF in Fontainemelon) produced standard plates and pillars on which a movement could be built using these components. Thus, the basic design of the watch movement standardized according to the various calibres offered by these firms. By the turn of the 20th century there were dozens of ebauche makers in Switzerland, and many watchmakers produced their own ebauches in-house. The independent factories were consolidated under the firm Ebauches SA starting in 1926, which evolved into today’s ETA within the Swatch Group.