The Watches of Switzerland – the Be All and End All?

So far in our (literal) journey through time, we’ve covered the history of the wristwatch, as well as the technological and mechanical advancements watchmakers have made over the years. What we haven’t covered is watch nationalities – frequently the industry, bloggers and horology writers mention the word ‘Swiss’ in the same breath as ‘watch’. But why are the watches of Switzerland so well-respected?

Are Swiss Watches Really the Major Players?

To start with, we’ve included a table below showing the beginnings of a variety of luxury watchmakers. Some are of significant historical significance, such as Vacheron Constantin, one of the world’s oldest watchmaking companies. Others have been mentioned in our previous blogs (Patek Philippe, Cartier, Glashütte Original) while we have also included some of the world’s newest, most groundbreaking watchmakers (Greubel Forsey & Franck Muller):

Watch manufacturerDate founded – city, countryToday’s HQ
Audemars Piguet1875 – Le Brassus, SwitzerlandLe Brassus, Switzerland
Breguet1775 – Paris, FranceVallée de Joux, Switzerland
Breitling1884 – Saint-Imier, SwitzerlandGrenchen, Switzerland
Cartier1847 – Paris, FranceParis, France
Franck Muller1991 – Geneva, SwitzerlandGeneva, Switzerland
Girard-Perregaux1791 – La Chaux-de-Fonds, SwitzerlandLa Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Glashütte Original1845 – Glashütte, GermanyGlashütte, Germany
Greubel Forsey2004 – La Chaux-de-Fonds, SwitzerlandLa Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
IWC1868 – Schaffhausen, SwitzerlandSchaffhausen, Switzerland
Jaeger-LeCoultre1833 – Le Sentier, SwitzerlandLe Sentier, Switzerland
Patek, Czapek & Cie.1838 – Geneva, SwitzerlandGeneva, Switzerland
Piaget1874 – La Côte-aux-Fées, SwitzerlandLa Côte-aux-Fées, Switzerland
Rolex1905 – London, UKGeneva, Switzerland
Tag Heuer1860 – Saint-Imier, SwitzerlandNeuchâtel, Switzerland
Tissot1853 – Le Locle, SwitzerlandLe Locle, Switzerland
Vacheron Constantin1755 – Geneva, SwitzerlandGeneva, Switzerland

 

What is evident from this list is just how prevalent Swiss watches really are. Only 4 were founded outside of Switzerland and of those, 2 have since relocated to the country. This clearly demonstrates that Switzerland has, is, and as far as we can see, always will be the centre of the watchmaking industry. But why?

Why Swiss?

The Swiss are known for precision. They were also the first to pioneer watches, starting with the pocket-watch and later developing the wristwatch. At every point in the horological timeline they were there, and one cannot deny that this has had a significant positive impact on their watchmaking credentials.

And there is a reason that it all gathered momentum in Switzerland. In 1541, reforms implemented by Presbyterian theologian Jean Calvin banned the wearing of jewels. Therefore, jewellers, goldsmiths and craftsmen needed to find a new line of business – and they focussed this on watchmaking. Already by the very beginning of the 17th century, there was a whole industry dedicated to the craft, culminating in the creation of “The Watchmaker’s Guild of Geneva” in 1601.

It was this “watchmaker’s club” that began one of the most successful marketing ploys of all time. Many of us have heard of Swiss watches, but what we really mean is “Swiss Made”. Legally, to be Swiss, 60% of the production costs must be labelled “Swiss”. Of course, as more technically advanced watches are made, and as we can see, the more are based in Switzerland, the further ingrained the Swiss watch tradition becomes. And manufacturers are wily of this fact, recently proposing an even more stringent rule than that of the Swiss government: asking to up the production costs to 80% Swiss. This makes it all the more obvious why manufacturers such as Rolex and Breguet do move to Switzerland.

The Watches of Switzerland – in Conclusion

In summary, the history of the Swiss watch, their renowned reputation for precision and excellent branding, backed up by the now Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, make Swiss watches the most sought after and valuable in the World.

You can obtain a free valuation on your Swiss watch today from borro – just see our valuation page for more.

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