A close look at watch dials today reveals a lot. Some wear their country of origin like a badge of honor — with labels such as “Swiss” or “Swiss Made.” Sometimes, however, these labels can be misleading. Exactly what governs whether a watch can bear the words “Swiss Made” has been the subject of much debate for years in Switzerland.
Granted, at the very high end of the luxury spectrum, where most brands are fully integrated Swiss Manufactures, the concept of Swiss Made leaves nothing to interpretation or nuance. Most of these Manufactures make every component in house or rely on nearby specialists for parts (like hairsprings) that they may not be able to produce.
However, at the more affordable level — where watch brands might buy components from one place, assemble movements in another place, purchase bracelets, cases, etc., from still other places, and then finally assemble the entire watch — many variables come into play. Let’s face it, in today’s global economy, many products we believe are made locally are often produced in China, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and other countries. While that may be fine for a phone, a computer, a motorcycle or car, it is not necessarily acceptable for fine watchmaking.
Granted, not all customers care where a watch is made; not all customers want or need a timepiece made in Switzerland. Granted, too, many great watches are made outside of Switzerland. However, watches made in Switzerland are usually more highly valued and, generally, a Swiss Made label translates into a hallmark of quality.
The words “Swiss Made” are protected trademarks for the watch industry, and are defended by the Swiss Watch Federation. To be labeled Swiss Made, a watch must contain a movement made (parts, assembly, inspection) in Switzerland and cased up in Switzerland. What's more, the manufacturer must carry out the final inspections in Switzerland. A movement is considered Swiss if it has been assembled in Switzerland, inspected by the manufacturer in Switzerland and the components of Swiss manufacture comprise at least 50 percent of the value of the movement itself.
To the consumer, these very strict guidelines offer protection against lesser standards and act as a seal of quality. It should be noted, though, that many affordable Swiss brands source movement component parts, cases and even bracelets from Japan and Hong Kong, and several have even established their own companies overseas to not only supply these parts to the Swiss manufacture sibling, but also to ensure their quality. By doing so, these brands are able to keep the retail price of Swiss Made watches in check — yielding affordable, fine-quality Swiss timepieces.