It is one of the most sought after and highly valued designations in the world of fine watches yet how many of us really know what it actually means? Does it mean the entire watch including case, movement, strap and so forth have all been lovingly constructed in Switzerland? Its a fair assumption to make, however, unfortunately the reality is quite different.
What Does It Mean To Be ‘Swiss Made’ Watch
According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH:
“Swiss made” embodies a concept of quality that has been forged over the years. It includes the technical quality of watches (accuracy, reliability, water-resistance and shock-resistance), as well as their aesthetic quality (elegance and originality of design).
Essentially it is deemed to be the ultimate stamp of approval for quality made, precision craftmanship thus making it highly desirable. But how hard is it really to get this accreditation? Under Swiss law, a watch can only be affixed with the label ‘Swiss Made’ if it satisfies the following criteria:
- its movement is Swiss and,
- its movement is cased up in Switzerland and;
- the manufacturer carries out the final inspection in Switzerland.
At first reading these requirements seem quite robust but in reality they are not. Although it may not be considered common knowledge quite a few Swiss companies have been known to have watches assembled in China for export to North America, Asia and even Europe. Whilst powered by a Swiss Movement these watches may consist of a Chinese-made case and crystal, a Taiwan-made dial and metal bracelet and Japanese hands. As long as it is all put together in Switzerland then it will satisfy the requirements for ‘Swiss Made’ approval.
Its important to note though that the law does not so much define Swiss made as it pertains to wrist watches, but rather it sets a minimum standard of what is required for a watch to be considered Swiss made. Often the inherent ‘Swissness’ of a watch is largely dependent on the brand and its reputation.
The Industry’s Take
In a world of increasingly shrinking borders it is not surprising that each country is doing everything they can to protect their own unique skills and services. The Swiss watch industry is no exception with many notable brands joining forces with the FH to decry the perceived laxness of the requirements for the ‘swiss made’ accreditation.
In 2007 the FH sought political involvement on a new proposal which stipulated that any mechanical watch in which at least 80% of the production cost can be attributable to operations carried out in Switzerland would be considered as a mechanical Swiss watch. For other watches, particularly electronic watches, this rate would be 60%. Technical construction and prototype development would moreover need to be carried out in Switzerland. Raw materials, precious stones and the battery, however, would be excluded from the production cost. This proposal received a favourable reception from the Federal Authorities who have praised the industry’s determination to safeguard the reputation and credibility of the Swiss made label in the watchmaking sector.
Although steps are starting to be taken to increase the robustness of the accreditation no final agreement has yet been reached.
The Final Word
Arguably the ‘swiss made’ designation is as valuable if not more valuable than the brand name itself. However, it is important to note that the two work in conjunction together to bring their value offering to the end consumer. Although the above certainly suggests there is some room for further improvement and the value of the label may be more perceived than real, it cannot be denied that this still offers consumers a degree of certainty over the quality of manufacture. As previously mentioned though, the inherent ‘Swissness’ of a watch is often largely dependent on the brand and its reputation and so to ensure that you are getting the best quality product possible its up to you to do your research.
Reading this article was a great start!
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