Quick. Tell me something about your watch. Don’t look at it. Just think about it. Chances are that the first thing you’re going to tell me is the brand. And then maybe the model, that is, “I wear a TAG Heuer Monaco that I bought two years ago on Diwali…" Then you’ll tell me what it looks like, where you bought it from, and then maybe a little bit about what it does. And depending on what kind of person you are, you’ll probably tell me how much it costs.

Time keeper: Chopard’s L.U.C Engine One Tourbillon.

Do you really even care?

If you are an auto enthusiast, I am pretty sure you’ll be able to reel off a long list of obscure data about your car’s engine. Valves and torque and what not. But would you buy a Porsche if you knew that the engine inside was also used in Swifts and Citys and Palios?

No? Then you might want to be a little careful when you buy your watches.

Many of the world’s most popular watch companies don’t make the movements that power their watches. They might design the straps and cases and dials. They might hire the brand ambassadors. And they might even show you advertisements about their impeccable watch-making heritage.

But the movements, the engines at the heart of their timepieces, are often made by one of several large companies that produce millions of them each year. One of the world’s largest such companies is ETA, which belongs to the Swatch Group. Their clients could include anybody from mid-range names such as Hamilton, to luxury marquees such as Chopard. Not only that, it is entirely possible that you might pay $10,000 (around Rs4.6 lakh) for a watch that uses the same movement as a $1,000 one made by a cheaper brand.

It might be worthwhile to look up details of two particularly popular movements: the ETA 2894-2 automatic chronograph movement and the Valjoux 7750 chronograph movement.

There is nothing terrible about them. Part of the reason these movements are so popular is because they meet a high quality standard. Also, there is rarely subterfuge. Most brands openly declare the source of their movements.

Yet I would think twice before buying a watch that has an assembly line movement inside. Especially if I am expected to pay an astronomical sum for it.

But many buyers, of course, don’t care. They buy the watches for the brand, the decoration, the look and feel, and the softer, more emotional aspects of the purchase. They will probably never care about the movement as long as the bloody thing tells time.

For instance, look at the Chopard Classic Racing Superfast Chrono watch that was just launched in India. From a purely aesthetic perspective I love the piece. It is sporty and quite macho without being too big or trying too hard. I love the screws on the face of the case, and the strap that evokes a tyre tread.

Thanks to the monotone colours, you could wear it with a suit or with jeans and T-shirt. Overall this is a watch that, if I had the resources or the royal family in my ancestry, I would buy—the official Indian price is around Rs6 lakh.

But what about the little voice in my head that keeps reminding me that the movement inside is the excellent but mass-produced ETA 2894-2? It is hard to becalm that voice.

Am I better off buying a watch with a more exclusive in-house movement? For instance, one of the pieces from Chopard’s L.U.C Chronograph range?

But that answer strikes at a more fundamental question: Why do you buy your watch? Because of what is inside it? Or what is outside it?

Write to Sidin at watchman@livemint.com