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Swiss Watches

Watch-Making in Switzerland

History of Swiss watches

Rolex WatchesLuxury watch making in Switzerland began in the 16th Century when the Calvinists prohibited people from wearing jewels.  Jewellery-makers were forced to make watches instead in order to survive.  By the end of the century, watch makers in Geneva had already gained a reputation for making fine watches.  By the year 1790, Switzerland was exporting 60,000 watches per year.

But it was during the 19th Century that some of the most well known watch brands were born.  The companies that made Tissot watches, Omega watches and Patek Philippe watches all began between the 1830s and 1850s.

Protecting the Swiss watch brand

The Swiss watch industry is very interested in protecting their highly regarded watch brands.  All watches produced in Switzerland carry the mark ‘Swiss made’.  But for the watch to carry this marking it must adhere to several rules:

  • The watch’s movement* must be made in Switzerland.
  • The watch’s movement must be cased up in Switzerland.
  • The final inspection of the watch must be done in Switzerland.

(*The movement of a watch is the watch’s internal mechanism)

In the 1970s, the watch industry in Switzerland suffered a severe downturn and was considered near death.

This was due to two factors.  One was an economic crisis within the country.  The other was that they had missed the electronic watch revolution.  In the 1970s, the first mass-produced digital-electronic watches came on the market – and Swiss companies missed the boat.

It took a significant downsizing and restructuring of the industry before it began to recover.

Now, 30 years on, exports for Swiss luxury watches such as TAG Heuer watches, IWC watches and Bulgari watches have reached over 17 billion Swiss francs per year, up from 4.3 billion francs per year 10 years ago.